Thursday, August 31, 2006

Friday Five*: Deep-Fried and on a Stick

The State Fair is in full swing now, which has me unjustifiably annoyed for several reasons. First, it means that summer is essentially over. Excuse me, but how is this possible; how did this happen? I know I have no one but myself to blame, but I have not done nearly enough fun summer stuff for it to be Labor Day already. I'm sorry, September, but you're just going to have to wait a while; I'm not quite ready for you yet. Second, the dumb Fair is the reason I was ten minutes late to my haircut appointment tonight and the reason it took me over 20 minutes to drive the two miles from the salon to the SuperTarget shortly thereafter. Three-fourths of the State Fair Park & Ride locations are within a one-mile radius of each other in Roseville, and naturally, that's the area I was dumb enough to drive straight into, because I underestimated the draw of a deep-fried Pronto-Pup.**

I typically feel compelled to visit the Fair only once every four years or so. Since I was there two years ago (and actually went the year before that as well), I figured I was set for at least another half-decade. My friend Amy twisted my arm the other day, however, so I found myself agreeing to brave the crowds and the calories and head to the Fair tomorrow night.

I've never actually experienced the Fair at night before. For me, it's always been a daytime event. I expect that the Fair after dark will offer a whole different breed of freaks and weirdos and a whole new set of inappropriate wardrobe choices to observe. Frankly, despite my initial reticence, I can't wait. I imagine the Fair at night also involves fewer strollers and small children around which to navigate, so really, the pluses just keep adding up. Besides that, I missed Grand Old Day this year, so I've yet to have the requisite summer corn dog or cheese curds, and really that is something I need to remedy before the leaves start falling. When I consider all of this, it's pretty clear Amy is doing me a favor and a service by dragging me there.

With all of this in mind (and because little else is on my mind***), I present you with a preview of my anticipated activities for the kickoff to this holiday weekend...

Five things I plan to do at the State Fair tomorrow night:

  1. Eat a corn dog. This is a no-brainer, frankly. You have no idea how lame I will feel and how disappointed in myself I'll be if I somehow fail to scratch this off the list.

  2. Eat a cheese curd. Or, more likely, several cheese curds. We shall see.

  3. See the taping of this week's Prairie Home Companion. This may or may not happen, but a few minutes ago I found out that we have possible access to some free tickets, offered up by a magical boy with seemingly all sorts of inexplicable connections, useful talents, and remarkable charms. This boy has already gone on a date with two of my friends, but seriously, I think we may need to keep passing him around until it finally "sticks" with one of us, because someone needs to date this guy and keep him in our social circle.

  4. Check out the Freak Show. Yes, that's right; we've got a good old-fashioned Freak Show at the Fair this year, for the first time in nearly two decades. Gotta love any abrupt and offensive nod back to the simpler times when political correctness didn't get in the way of pointing and staring at a 500-pound lady, a lizard-boy with scales and a forked tongue, or a full-grown set of conjoined twins. I'm not promising I'll pay a hefty admission fee to actually enter what is surely just a trailer full of disappointing so-called delights, but I do intend at least to check out the presumably enthusiastic signage right outside.

  5. Eat whatever deep-fried dessert thing is being advertised most ardently this year. For whatever reason, I never did try the deep-fried Twinkies, Oreos, or Mars bars I heard so much about in years past, and this might be the time to remedy that. Is there a problem with having three food-related things on this list one week before I have to squeeze like a sausage into my bridesmaid's dress? Fine, then. Scratch the deep-fried dessert. Maybe I'll look at the Princess Kay butter sculpture instead. Only in Minnesota, folks. Don't you wish you were here?

* Oh, I know I am posting this on Thursday, but just pretend you didn't notice that, OK?

** I knew there'd be an entry for that. Sweet Jesus, I love Wikipedia.

*** Little else except how cute my hair looks right now and how I wanted to take the tiny stylist home in my pocket with me because I'll never get it to look this good again on my own.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

I wonder if the UN peacekeepers ever hit snags and roadblocks like this

This is one of those Simpsons-style posts, in that it starts in a totally different place from where it ends. And if your stomach is particularly queasy at the moment, you may want to just quit halfway through. The end may be more than you want to know.

The other day, while trying [unsuccessfully] to fight off a Taco Bell craving, I started thinking about the comment Nabbalicious left in response to my "five things" post last week. "Why would you have Taco Bell," she asked, "When you can have Chipotle?"

This isn't the first time I've been chided over my refusal to slight the Bell. It's a recurring point of contention that clearly isn't going away. We are a nation divided into two extremes, and for once, those extremes aren't Republican vs. Democrat. No, what we have here is a Chipotle vs. Taco Bell camp. It's a polarization I simply do not understand, and friends, I feel it's high time we came together across the aisle to seek out the middle ground.

Why would I want Taco Bell when I could have Chipotle, you ask? The answer is really quite simple, in fact. Because the two cannot be compared or contrasted against each other as though they fill entirely equivalent needs. To say that Chipotle in all cases trumps the Bell is like saying there's no need for hamburgers in a world where there is steak. It's like asking why I'd eat a Hostess cream-filled chocolate cupcake when I could seek out a slice of Cafe Latte's famous turtle cake. It's like asking why I'd ever watch a cheesy and light-hearted romantic comedy when I could see a serious and award-winning drama. People, there is a time and a situation for everything. Sandra Bullock and Meryl Streep can coexist; one doesn't cancel out the place of the other. Likewise, I can appreciate the bold flavors and fresh ingredients of a Chipotle burrito and still veer over to Taco Bell when I want a familiar and convenient snack at a fraction of the price.

I was preparing this peace-seeking argument in my head earlier tonight--deciding just which fluff-movie actress would best demonstrate my point (I'm still not entirely sold on the Sandra Bullock example, but Jennifer Aniston is actually doing critically acclaimed films now, and Drew Barrymore is annoying as often as she's not). I was considering all of this and deciding how best to make my case when suddenly I realized I may have an entirely different reason for my Taco Bell love. Maybe I'm just disgusting.

The evidence for that argument is mounting, I fear. I lick the inside rim of my yogurt cups (only when I'm alone, of course). I pick my scabs. I like McDonald's Filet-o-Fish sandwiches. I don't remember the last time I swept or vacuumed my floors. And tonight, when I looked inside the cup of water from which I was drinking, I saw three patches of mildew. Say it with me; it's OK. Eeewww.

I can explain how the mildew happened in a way that seems entirely innocent and reasonable... I live alone, and I drink a lot of water. (No, those two thoughts are not necessarily related. Stay with me, OK?) Rather than dirty a new cup each time I want a drink, I simply refill the same cup repeatedly and stash it in the fridge between drinks. Every several days, I swap it out--put the current cup in the dishwasher and reach for a clean one to take its place. And usually this plan works just fine. Usually. I honestly don't remember how long the current cup's been in use, but apparently I've found its limit. I wonder if I've also found the source of the near-crippling stomach ache I'm suddenly developing at the moment. Ugh.

Seriously--ingesting mildew... I can't actually die from that, right?

Monday, August 28, 2006

Stefanie Says: Now it's pink (and extra-girly)

Do not adjust your monitor. If you're looking for Stefanie Says, I assure you you're in the right place. A new look can be alarming, I know (particularly since I've had the old one since the early days of the second Bush administration), but I was more than overdue for a change.

I hope my three male regulars are not offended by the floral girliness (girlyness? why does neither of those look right?) of the new template. Considering how indecisive I was in picking this one, I wouldn't be surprised if I rotate it out again before too long. For now, however, I'm liking the retro flowery thing, so I hope you're OK with it as well.

Many thanks to the talented Miss Zoot for the lovely (and better yet--free!) design. Go see all the other pretty things in her collection---just do me a favor and pick something other than this if you're looking to snag a new template yourself. That old green "Rounders" one was anything but unique (I knew it was time to switch when I saw a blog by the same name using it as well), and I'd like to pretend I'm special for just a little while at least, OK?

What's that about the road to hell? They say it's paved with what now?

On Saturday, I spent approximately $142 and consumed in the neighborhood of 1,327 calories and 10 or 11 alcohol units, all as part of my dear friend Lisa's bachelorette party festivities. I fully intended to post (or at least return some long-neglected emails) yesterday, but that would have involved being vertical for far longer than my body felt capable. Instead, I spent the full day bonding with my couch, watching movies and consuming the four basic hangover-friendly food groups: water, grease, carbs, and more water.

To counteract all this excessive spending and gluttony, I vowed to go to the health club each day this week and to avoid opening my wallet for several days unless absolutely and entirely necessary.

How is this plan going so far? Well, I forgot my bag with my workout clothes--which I realized, conveniently, once I'd already reached the club's parking lot (yay me). I then decided that I didn't want the sad little Lean Cuisine entree I had stashed in the freezer at the office and I spent $5.59 on a Wendy's Mandarin Chicken Salad instead.

It's good to have goals. Maybe one of these days I'll even start to keep them.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Five food-related things you will never hear me say

  1. You know, I really don't like Taco Bell very much.*

  2. No thanks; I don't want any cake.

  3. Let's go to Hardee's!

  4. Mmmm... pickled herring...

  5. We really should bake that cookie dough first. I hear salmonella's a real bitch, after all.

  6. (I'm doing six because I just thought of one more...) That doesn't come with mushrooms? Well, can you add some anyway?

* Note: Before either of you starts in on me for this one, remember that I'm totally with you on the Chipotle love, but there's room in my heart for the Bell as well. (Can't we all just get along?)

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

My meMarmony story

I did the math recently--consulted my saved e-mails and my "Closed Matches" list and came up with an actual number. In the past seven months, I have gone on twenty dates, three maybe-dates, and one pre-established non-date with a total of 13 different men. That is, unquestionably, more dates than I had in all of high school, college, and probably most of my 20s combined. It is more dates with strangers than most of my married friends have had in their entire lives. And yet, for all of those awkward drinks and meals and walks around lakes, I find myself no closer to the elusive happy, carefree coupledom that I see pictured on TV and laid out in the pages of the IKEA catalog than I was when I began.

Don't get me wrong. It's surely been an interesting experiment, and it's made for some amusing blog-fodder. But lately, I've found myself thinking like a mad scientist of some sort, wishing, "Oh if only I could have taken Jeff's height and financial status and smartass sense of humor along with Adam's love of movies and live music and combined it with Mike's conversation skills and passion for liberalism and Ken's love of travel... If only I could just order up an amalgam of all the best in each of them... THEN we would really have something!" You can't pick and choose, folks. I do realize this. And no one is perfect, of course. (I'm not even looking for perfect, really--just perfect for me in some way.) The fact that I'm breezing through all of this with the unconscious assumption that "Well, there's more where he came from" means perhaps it's time to take a break for a little while.

I'm exaggerating, of course, on all counts. I'm not honestly tossing guys aside for minor infractions with the thought that someone better will undoubtedly come along in a moment. And I'm not giving up the search entirely; I'm just thinking I might go it on my own for a while, without Dr. Warren's help.

Dr. Warren, for the 95% of you who likely don't know, is the mysterious "man behind the curtain" in the land of Oz that is the site where I found 10 of these 13 men. He's also the guy whose name and face displays on all the emails I've been ignoring lately, reminding me that it's time to renew my subscription. Some of you already know which site I'm referring to. (I mentioned it myself in item 2 of a recent Friday Five.) But I'm not going to note it here, simply because I've had a Sitemeter account long enough to know about search engine activity, and I do not want Stefanie Says to become the unofficial and unwelcome authority on this topic. Therefore, in much the same way Darren pseudo-disguises the name of his former employer (Menguin Mooks), I shall hereafter refer to this particular site as meMarmony.

I've been meaning to talk about my experience with meMarmony for months now, but the whole topic just seems so daunting that I've simply never gotten very far. Where should I begin and what should I include? Should we talk about the suddenly all-pervasive ad campaigns that have taken meMarmony out of the Christian singles groups and into the mainstream? ("meMarmony: it's not just for religious zealots anymore!") Should I explore whether I really believe that Dr. Warren and his band of Internet yentas* are truly matching me only with the men they deem compatible or if it's all smoke and mirrors and they're sending me everyone in the bucket? Perhaps I should just talk about the almost bizarrely constrictive "guided communication" process, where I can't just send off a quick note asking, "Hey--did you go to UW-Eau Claire?"; I first have to answer five multiple choice questions and trade lists of "must haves" and "can't stands" and write a thoughtful response about what color crayon I'd be in the Crayola box of life. Oh wait. That last part may have been an e-mail meme I received recently and not actually a meMarmony question, but you get the idea nonetheless.

* Wikipedia says it's erroneous to use yenta to mean "matchmaker," but I didn't think anyone would get it if I said shadchan instead.

My point is there is much to talk about, and I'm not sure where to begin or how much to include. I'll start with why I picked meMarmony. I picked that site over Match or any of the other popular date-finding sites for several different reasons. Maybe I was actually sucked in by the advertisements claiming it to be where to go when you're ready to find the love of your life. Maybe I wanted to believe in the social science behind all those "dimensions of personality." Maybe I just thought that any man willing to take the time to answer the 346-item personality questionnaire surely must be serious about finding something real and meaningful. Largely, though, I will admit that I simply didn't like the idea of anyone with an Internet connection being able to browse through profiles and locate me. I'm not ashamed of being online; I know almost no one who's been single in the past five years who has not given Match or some similar site a try. But I also know there are a lot of us who lurk, who shop through the profiles just to see who's there, and who can't help but feel a little giddy when we run across a co-worker, or an ex-boyfriend, or a friend-of-a-friend who's always seemed a little "off." I didn't want to be that co-worker, ex-girlfriend, or "off" friend.

With meMarmony, you cannot shop through page after page of profiles. I can see only the men that meMarmony has mysteriously decided are compatible with me, and I see them at the same time as they see me. I actually receive a friendly little email when a new match is available--a form letter with pertinent details filled in as a way to introduce us to one another. It always reminds me a bit of how Jude and Shazzer coached Bridget before the Kafka's Motorbike launch event: "Introduce people with thoughtful details..." For example, "Stefanie, this is David. David lives in St. Paul and enjoys cooking and painting. David, meet Stefanie. Stefanie lives in Minneapolis and likes board games and independent films."

These helpful little details are actually laid out within the profiles I can view... Near the top of the page, beneath the vital stats about the match (you know--name, city, height, shoe size), there's a heading that says "Below are some of the important interests that you and [insert name here] share." This list is followed by three bullet points somehow pulled from our respective questionnaires and resulting personality profiles. Sometimes, it is actually a valid starting point for communication or interest. ("He likes live music? OK..." or "He camps? That's cool...") Other times, I have to wonder why meMarmony even bothered to try finding any common ground at all. "Friendship"? That's an important common interest? Are there people who don't like friends? "Conversation"? Oh, well good. So he's not opposed to speaking to me. And then there are my personal favorites: "Solitude" (maybe we won't talk after all) and "Eating" (hmmm). Not "Dining out," mind you. Just eating. I'm sorry, but to say we both eat food is about as relevant a common ground as to point out that we both wear shoes or breathe air. More important, I wish I could remember what question on the many-item form actually identified this important fact about me. And which possibly fabulous guys am I not being matched with simply because they don't enjoy food like I do?

The remainder of the profile is part questionnaire-drawn and part fill-in-yourself. meMarmony picks three life skills they think you have, for example, and you choose whether to go with their selections or to pick the ones you deem more relevant. Somehow this format seemed entirely less daunting to me than the free-form boxes on Yes, I had to write a few sentences about what I'm looking for and what people do and don't notice about me upon first meeting, but I didn't have to craft a clever 300-word response illustrating just how smart and witty I am.

Also less daunting is the casual step-by-step communication process that meMarmony requires. Yes, I referred to it earlier as "almost bizarrely constrictive," but in truth, I kind of like easing into things with a few multiple choice questions and a list of what's important to me, as opposed to facing the stress of sending strangers a charming and compelling email right off the bat. True, this often means that I don't find out for quite some time that a guy can't spell worth a damn or is far too free with the exclamation points, but maybe that provides some benefit to me. Perhaps it encourages me not to be so quick to judge. Oh, who am I kidding; it does neither of those things, but it does at the very least provide some starter topics for the first free-form email, I suppose.

Another fun aspect of meMarmony is the "Close Match" button that displays at each point of communication. I just click the button and he goes away--removed from my list and my view! No "Wait; give me another chance!" No "Hey bitch, that's OK; I can do better than you." No emailing me repeatedly until I agree to see him again. (OK, none of these things has ever happened to me, actually, but there is a first time for everything, don't you think?)

I shouldn't imply that there's no possibility for feedback when I click the handy "Close" button, though. In truth, the rejected match can send a message back to me, but his message is limited to a checkbox beside a Dr. Warren-sanctioned plea or reason. My explanations for closing the match are also similarly restricted. I can check that "I think the physical distance between us is too great" or "I don't think the chemistry is there," but I cannot say, "I'm sorry, I'm sure you're quite interesting, but 5'5" is just too damn short for a tall girl like me." More importantly, when meMarmony played the cruelest trick of all and matched me with my ex-boyfriend, I couldn't check a "reason for closing" box that said "Because he already broke my heart and is currently screwing someone two-thirds his age." (Yes, meMarmony really matched me with him. No, I didn't even know he was a member. Yes, it was horrifying at the time, but in some way it maybe gave me a shred of faith in the system. We obviously were compatible in many ways or we wouldn't have lasted as long as we did. The fact that meMarmony thought we'd be good together is maybe a reason to believe they know what they're doing. Or maybe not. It's all a crapshoot, I'm sure. I'm going to get out of these parentheses and move on now, OK?)

I've been closed seemingly unreasonably too, of course (I didn't mean to imply I was all in-demand and infallible in the ranks of the meMarmony grid), and in those cases, I guess I've thought it would be nice to have a fill-in-the-blank option as the final checkbox in the list. I realize there's no fill-in because the Doctor wants to keep things from getting ugly, but when a man two years older than I closes the match because "the difference in our ages is too great," I think a retort of "What??" is surely more than reasonable.

I could go on and on about the many amusing things I've seen on meMarmony in the past several months, but I expect you've likely heard enough of my complaints about these men to last for quite some while. Do you want to hear more about the profile typos I've seen? About the guy who was an editor for "a poliical magazine" in town? About the one who said the quality he's most looking for is "a woman who will threat me the same way I threat her"? Or the one who said that the feature people notice first about him is "my intelect," because "people that I've met have always commented on how smart I am"? What about the choices some of them go with for the "most influential person" in their lives? Elton John? Is that a valid choice? Would that make you raise your eyebrows just a tad? (Incidentally, lest you think I am entirely too quick to judge, I did go out with that one despite that bit of info. He's the one I mentioned here and here, and though he was very pleasant and nice to me, I just wasn't feeling it with him.)

I should really stop with the enumerating of offenses, however. I must admit that, for all my stories of absent social skills and superfluous punctuation, I honestly have met several perfectly nice, considerate, intelligent, and sincere men. All of this means nothing, of course, if there's no chemistry or excitement--if we don't make each other laugh or if I'm not thinking about him while at work and feeling anxious about when I'll get to see him next. I haven't found that elusive connection yet, and so the search goes on, even if I take a little break from it now and then. And rest assured that when I get back out there, I'll keep telling you all about it (whether you want me to or not), so you can suffer right alongside all the way.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Inquiring minds want to know...

So my call for questions wasn't a complete and disastrous crickets-chirping failure, and for that I thank you much. Some of your questions made me laugh; some made me say "whew; that's an easy one"; and some I am still pondering and may never be able to decide how to answer. (That's right, Stinkypaw, with your crazy Scott Adams-inspired alien question; I'm looking at you right now.) I'm not sure I will get to all of these Qs and As in one sitting, so if there's something you're still dying to know, feel free to send it my way. Meanwhile, here's Round One...

Q: Which (if any) is a bigger dating dealbreaker for you: the guy has a child, the guy has a pet snake, the guy is unemployed, or the guy uses bad grammar?
A: This is like one of those no-good-option games, like "Who would you rather sleep with: Dick Cheney, Steve Buscemi, or your 12th-grade weasel of an Economics teacher?" I'll try to play along, but my problem is I want to know situational details. Is the unemployment obviously temporary, or is he just a lazy moocher? Is the bad grammar just via email, or does his in-person communication include phrases like "I don't got none" and "I ain't gotta do nothing I ain't wanna do"? In that case, a father with a pet snake would start to look not so unappealing...

Q: What's your favorite potato chip?
A: When I buy chips, it's usually Baked Lay's (KC Masterpiece BBQ flavor, to be precise), just because I can delude myself into thinking they're not entirely bad for me. If I'm eating with reckless abandon and caring not about fat or calories, however, just about any flavor of kettle chips will do.

Q: Do you read any magazines regularly? If so, which?
A: For some reason, I'm not much of a magazine person. If I'm going to take the time to read something, I'll reach for a book instead. If I just want to sit and not think too hard, I'll typically turn on the TV. I seem to regularly forget that I don't read magazines, however, which is why I ended up with a Rolling Stone subscription (free with my membership), a Budget Living subscription ($1 with a purchase from Bed Bath & Beyond) and a pile of Sierra Club magazines (included with my apparently membership-granting donation). I will likely never read the seven magazines currently stacked on the lower shelf of my coffee table, and yet, I can't just throw them away. Incidentally, when Budget Living went defunct, they replaced my subscription with a Redbook one instead, and I've been successfully ignoring those as well. I do not know what's wrong with me.

Q: Do you own any work clothes that you have to force yourself to wait at least a week to wear again? If so, describe the outfit.
A: I work in a very casual office, so my "work clothes" are basically my regular clothes. I hate (or am at least entirely bored with) most of my regular clothes, so... no. Sometimes I buy something dressier than I really need to wear for work (like the very cute dotted dress that Guinness Girl and I both snagged at Target), and I enjoy wearing it just for a bit of variety, I guess, but people look at me funny if I wear a dress more than once a week, so again, this is not a problem for me.

Q: What's your favorite hair product?
A: I rarely find anything I love enough to rave about (that's really more Red's domain), and I hate spending money on things I end up not using, so I don't generally experiment all that much. Recently I decided I really like John Frieda's Brilliant Brunette shampoo and conditioner, but I often find I can't use the same shampoo for months or years on end, so who knows how long the love will last. As for styling products, Aveda's Light Elements and a spritz of hairspray is my regular routine at the moment.

Q: If you made it a goal to do something "daring" (meaning outside your comfort zone) this month, what would that thing be?
A: This is a tough one, as I'm generally content to live quite passively in my comfort zone, so I don't think about being daring all that much. If money were no object, maybe I would take off for a trip all on my own--no traveling companions, just me and my independent self. Thinking less daring but more practical, I should really break out of my familiar and comfortable routine and find another place to work. Writing cover letters and going on interviews isn't daring, but it is for some reason still something I'm terrified of (or at least entirely averse to) doing.

Q: What color is your living room?
A: It's a not-very-bright-or-interesting pale gold/sand color. I went for color with the furniture instead (I have a purple chair and couch and olive green drapes), and I couldn't decide on a coordinating color for the walls, so I just repainted a couple shades darker (and a lot less glossy) than it was when I moved in.

Q: What is your favorite color to wear?
A: The last couple of answers really don't make me sound very interesting or adventurous, but I'm going to have to go with basic black on this one nonetheless.

Q: What color is your hair?
A: Brown. (Hence #5 above.) I have been wondering lately if it's poor blogger etiquette never to post a photo of myself. I know what most of you look like, and I know I like being able to put a face with the name, so maybe it's unfair not to reciprocate. Most of you who post photos, however, also blog under aliases, and I wonder if it's easier to put your face out on the Internet if your name is semi-disguised. I'm not the only one struggling with the line between identity and anonymity, am I? Discuss amongst yourselves.

Q: Have you ever met Paul Westerberg? If so, I'm jealous.
A: Have I met him? No. Have I seen him in concert? Yes. But I could do that even if he didn't live in my city, so that's not particularly notable, I know. At one show in town, however, he told a story about taking his dad to buy sandals, and I thought, "How crazy would it be to come across Paul Westerberg and Mr. Westerberg Senior comparing styles in the shoe department at the Marshall Fields in Rosedale?" That would be a much better story if I actually had seen them, of course...

All right; I think that's enough Q and A for one night, so the rest will have to wait until later. Oh, but first, if you're wondering about my own answers to the questions I posed to all of you, here you are:

  1. Among the many foods I do not trust myself around, the first that come to mind are mashed potatoes, Freschetta pizzas, chocolate chip cookie dough, and sweet & salty Honey Nut Chex Mix. Seriously, if you lack willpower as I do, save yourself the guilt and trauma and do not buy Honey Nut Chex Mix. You will not be able to stop until the entire bag is gone. The entire sweet, salty, tasty bag.

  2. Years ago, I harbored a slightly-secret Elimidate addiction (it really is a terrible show, but it's such a train wreck that it's impossible to look away). I've since learned that many, many people share this same guilty pleasure, however, so I'm not so embarrassed anymore. Plus, they moved it to a later time slot, meaning I rarely run across it now. More recently, I have found myself actually tuning in on purpose for the WB's What I Like About You, and I really can't explain that one successfully.

  3. I've already mentioned my mutant pinky toe before, so that was the source of that question.

  4. I shouldn't have asked about recent CD purchases, as I can't even remember my own. I haven't bought anything lately, so Rhett Miller's latest and KT Tunstall's debut (both of which I purchased a couple months ago already) may be the most recent acquisitions.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Friday Five, or "Hey now. I haven't written about this place in at least six weeks."

Wing Chun (who many of you probably know from Television without Pity) has this recurring feature on her blog that she calls "Things I think at, but do not say to, people at the gym #[insert increasing number here]." I'm really trying to come up with a title for this list without blatantly copying that one. Nevertheless, that is the theme, so here we go.

  1. "Exactly how self-conscious do you have to be to put your sports bra on over your regular bra and then pry your underwire out from beneath it? I mean, yeah, I'm not so crazy about whipping my girls out in semi-public, either, but you're just making things unnecessarily difficult for yourself, and life's hard enough as it is."

  2. "Just because you're a child does not mean you are cute and precious and I will smile at you. See that little girl over there? She is cute and precious, wearing her pink tutu over her pajama pants and quietly eating a sandwich. You, on the other hand, with your screaming and staring and running around the locker room, are just an insufferable brat. I feel it's time someone told you that."

  3. "This is my dance space; this is your dance space. I don't go into yours; you don't go into mine. In other words, if you don't get to class early enough to snag an inconspicuous back-row spot, you're just going to have to suck it up and go to the front, not place your step two inches from mine and crowd right in."

  4. "Well now. I'm not crazy about going back to work with what I refer to as 'health club hair' either, but that certainly is a unique way of addressing the problem. Do you wear the perfectly coifed red wig all the time, or solely post-workout?"

  5. "Wasn't this the song that Bart, Nelson, Ralph, and Milhouse sang in that episode where they joined a boy band? You know, the one that turned out to be a subliminal Navy recruitment ad? No? Well, it sure sounds like it."

I'm off to the wilderness for the weekend (and by "wilderness," I mean a fairly well-outfitted state park only minutes outside of the metropolitan area, but whatever). I'm still taking questions if you feel like sending them, but I won't be posting answers until I get back. Have a great weekend, everyone.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Where you lead, I will follow*

I've been working on a post that I've been meaning to write for a couple months now already, and I hope that when I'm finally done with it, it's not so damn long that you all say, "Seriously, girl? I'm not reading that." Perhaps I should make it a series--split it up into various elements. We shall see.

Meanwhile, I'm going to follow and copy the "Q&A and/or random-tidbits-about-me" theme that's been surfacing here and there lately.** Perhaps it is hopelessly self-absorbed of me to assume that anyone out there has a burning question he or she is dying to ask me, but if I weren't at least a teensy-tiny bit self-absorbed, I wouldn't have a blog, right?*** Beside that, I have actually enjoyed reading the clever questions and interesting answers that everyone else has been posting, so I am deluding myself into thinking it might be enjoyable over here at Stefanie Says as well. Humor me, won't you?

By the way, I share GG's fear that this could backfire tremendously and I will get no questions at all, but I've decided that is a risk I am willing to take. So ask away. Oh, and all you lurkers out there? The lovely folks who I'm happy to see stop by on a pretty regular basis but who are too shy to say Hi in the comments? Feel free to take this opportunity to step up and make yourself known. (Or not. You know; whatever. No pressure.)

And just as GG did, to start things off, I have a few small questions for you...

1. What food are you really not to be trusted around? (And I don't mean in any sort of sick and dirty American Pie sort of way; I mean because there's just no telling when you'll find the "enough" point and stop eating already.)

2. What TV show are you embarrassed to admit that you watch?

3. Is it true that everyone has one bizarre, freak-show body thing? You know, like an elbow that bends in an unnatural fashion or an eyeball trick that would scare small children or a toe that should be covered at all times? (Only one of those is me, incidentally.) Yeah? What's yours?

4. And OK, fine, an easy one: what was the last CD you bought?

* And with this subject line, I keep the Gilmore Girls references going for three posts in a row. How much longer should I keep it up??

** I know I have read more of these than this, but I am too lazy to go hunting around for more links at the moment. Surely you understand.

*** Actually, I don't think this is particularly true, as wanting people to read about my life was really not at all the reason I started this blog. But it seems to come with the territory.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Go-Go Gadget, Problem Resolution!

I'm realizing lately that clearly I'm not what you'd call a problem-solver. I'm more a problem-observer with no follow-through, a "Hmm. I should do something about that..." sort of gal who just assumes that the problem, if considered often enough, will somehow solve itself.

Case in point--here are a list of things I have paused upon recently and yet done nothing whatsoever about:
  • The window that I broke when I flipped it inward for cleaning last fall (now that's a fine reward for actually cleaning something when necessary...), which I now need to prop with a block of wood when I want to let fresh air into my room. This is particularly notable given my fear of windows slamming shut on my arms, and yet, have I called a handyman (or woman) with window expertise to attend to the matter? No.

  • The large, spreading cracks across the foundation of my garage. The home inspector I hired before I bought this house assured me that "Oh, that's nothing to be worried about," but each year, the concrete on each side of the cracks shifts a bit, making it more uneven and likely more structurally unsound. Since I do quite often have an overactive and paranoid imagination, I have considered the possibility that my garage was built on the Hellmouth and the demons of the underworld are trying to free themselves through its floor. More likely, of course, it's the ants, but still, I should probably have a professional present my options.

  • My inability to fully turn off my water main without a bit of water still trickling out through each tap. This is really a problem primarily just because it's prevented me from installing the lovely silver replacement faucet I spent approximately 70 hard-earned dollars* on damn-nearly a full year ago, but I suppose in the event of a gushing-water sort of emergency, the lack of a proper shutoff valve would present other very real issues as well.

I could go on and on with home-ownership woes, but since my laziness covers all aspects of life, I should really move over to other aspects...

  • The fact that, every Monday through Friday morning, I pull into my office's parking lot and say, "I really don't want to be here," and yet, the comfort and security of the familiar daily routine (and the fact that I would rather read blogs and watch bad TV than polish my resume or write cover letters) prevents me from remedying the situation in any way.**

  • The way that I dread making a haircut appointment because I know it means uncomfortable small-talk with a not-very-interesting young woman who was likely trading Pogs and Pokemon cards when I graduated from high school, and yet, have I done anything about finding a new salon to which I would relish going? No.

  • Dialup. Land line. Are these things that I should banish from my home? Survey says yes, and yet, I'm hesitant to reassess and shift all my home services.

  • That maid-of-honor speech I have to give less than a month from today. I really don't want to pull a drunken Lorelei and slur a weepy "Know when I'm not getting married? June 3!"*** and yet--if I don't come up with something soon, who knows what will spill out of my mouth on the big day.

On the upside, I did finally make the call and set an appointment to have my dress for said wedding fitted, which means that the bust area won't be a gaping target for a game of pop-a-shot at the reception.**** And on the home-ownership front--remember this? Well, all I have to say is, two bags down, six to go. How'd I do it? That's another post entirely, and a not very impressive one at that. So never mind.


* OK, just as likely they were 70 dollars not-so-hard-earned but in fact earned while surfing the Internet or sending e-mails to my friends, but still, the point is there.

** This is the sort of comment Thou Shalt Not Publish on the Internet, but is exactly the sort of thing one needs to get out every now and then nonetheless.

*** I was thinking how entirely lame it is to plant a Gilmore Girls reference in two posts in a row, and then I remembered that my little sister actually emailed me on June 3 to tell me that she remembered it was supposed to be Lorelei's wedding day, and I realized I really could be much, much worse.

**** Ironic, considering I'm actually a pretty busty gal. Clearly bridesmaids dresses are the one item of clothing where they give extra leeway to fit all sizes. If only jeans lengths would similarly accommodate the upper range.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Friday Five, or "Five crappy little non-posts does not a proper post make"

I could provide several good or lame reasons why my blogging's been even more sparse than usual lately, but none of them are terribly interesting, and I don't suspect anyone cares to hear me rattle off excuses or explanations anyway. The past week or so, however, it seems my main problem is that every thought that comes to me as a potential blog post is just that: a thought. Sometimes, it's entirely possible to take a single thought and run with it (hello, Darren managed to pull one of his best stories yet out of the simple and yet fascinating discovery of a box of nudie pens in his new desk; surely I can work a blog post out of the fact that my substitute yoga instructor hoisted and man-handled me into a pose in a most indelicate and graceless way...); other times I get out the single thought and realize, "Huh. Guess that's all I've got to say about that."

In keeping with the shoddy blogging that's been my norm of late, then, here are five things I almost wrote about recently but didn't (until now, of course)...

  1. The fact that a certain friend of mine's job is hopelessly and immeasurably more interesting than mine. A single example should suffice, I think... One of us, as part of her employment last week, edited a proposal trying to convince someone to hire her company for a public safety consulting project. Another of us had drinks with a couple who wrote a book about Tantric sex. Want to take a wild guess which was which?

  2. The bizarre ways my subconscious is trying to mess with me in my sleep. I don't think I'm eating any more poorly than usual lately, and yet I cannot in any way explain the absurd dreams I've been having in recent weeks. It started with this gem starring one of my recent eHarmony rejects. Then last week, I had a dream that I was kissing a good friend's ex-boyfriend--an ex-boyfriend who, no offense to the fabulous woman who used to kiss him herself, is a scrawny little thing that I have never felt in any way amorously drawn to. Don't get me wrong--he was a fine person and a lovely addition to our social circle for a while. But kissing him? No. Not something I was planning to do. Finally, the other night, a college friend I haven't seen or heard from in likely six or seven years showed up in my dream. In the dream, I hadn't seen her any more recently than in real life, and yet, the first thing she asked me was if I could take off of work to give her a ride to the airport. The hell??

  3. My car died after work the other night, leaving me stranded, 23 miles from home, in the health club parking lot. Luckily, the one person I know in that town who is not my ex-boyfriend was home when I called, and I was able to stay with her for the night and get a ride to a service center the next morning. As I waited for my car to be towed in and the mechanics to tell me what inconvenient malfunction they'd be overcharging me for that day, all I could think of was how annoyed I was that I didn't have my book (or even one of the many magazines that's been piling up and collecting dust on my coffee table) with me. When I left the house the previous morning, I hadn't anticipated sitting anyplace where I'd have time to get in some reading. Didn't Rory Gilmore teach me anything?? (aside from "don't sleep with your married ex-boyfriend," I mean?) That girl brought a book with her to the Chilton semi-formal dance, for fuck sake. Rory Gilmore would never be caught at the GM dealership for three hours without her own reading material. I shall add this to the list of TV lessons immediately.

  4. Since I am, apparently, not quite sick of this dating nonsense just yet, I had two dates last week. Both were named Mike. Both are IT managers by trade. Both ride motorcycles and enjoy martial arts. Both seemed to lie about their height by at least an inch, although that is really neither here nor there and not particularly important to the comparison. I fairly quickly eliminated the Tuesday Night Mike, which is most definitely a good thing, as my Inbox was getting to be entirely too confusing a place. Incidentally, the elimination had nothing to do with the fact that he tried to order a Smirnoff Ice and, when told the bar didn't carry it, instead nursed a pink lemonade for two hours. I promise that was unrelated to my disinterest, though I can't say it helped his case a whole lot.

  5. And finally, perhaps the most pointless and non-post-worthy of all these random and disjointed thoughts, have you seen the ads for Keebler's new Town House Toppers? The one where a cracker with a raised edge goes careening aboard a roller coaster as a means of proving that the tiny bumper will quite safely keep your cheese spread intact? Has this really been a problem up to now? Is anyone actually off-roading it with their crackers in extreme-speed environments and shouting "Cheese overboard!" left and right? Are not-so-steady-handed snackers really demanding an advanced cracker innovation as their remedy? Even if this had been an issue up to now, would that one-eighth inch guardrail really solve this little conundrum? I can think of no more ridiculously and unnecessarily over-engineered product than the Town House Topper, and this comes from someone who has regularly perused both the SkyMall and the Lillian Vernon catalog. Clearly I need to stop thinking about it, however. There is a reason I rejected this as a possible post, after all.

Monday, August 07, 2006

GG says "jump"; I say "how high"?

So apparently I got tagged. It doesn't happen terribly often, so I feel somehow compelled to comply when it does. Besides that, our Girl Guinness is such a lovely, charming gal; who wouldn't want to obey her every command? (Yes, GG, you can tell Wilman I said that, OK?)

Anyway, it's time to be all bookish and readerly. Off we go...

Name one book that has changed your life
Well, Dianetics surely had a significant impact... Just kidding. Books as a whole have enhanced my life in many ways, but I'm having a hard time coming up with one that I'd say really changed my life somehow permanently. The first time I read Ishmael, it definitely shook up my thinking about the world and our place in it, but the last time I read it, I found it frustrating. I'm sure I will come up for a better answer to this question within hours of posting this, but for now, I guess Ishmael's the best I can do.

One book that you have read more than once?
Naturally I have childhood favorites that I read (or had read to me) nearly every day for years (e.g., Tikki Tikki Tembo, Goodnight Moon, an old Little Golden Book called Baby Dear that seemed to aim--unsuccessfully, in my case--at creating a whole new generation of pretty little domestic engineers). If we're talking grown-up novels, however, Animal Dreams is just as beautifully written each time I come back to it.

One book that you would want on a desert(ed) island?
I'm with GG on this one: definitely some sort of instructional manual for surviving and getting the heck off that island... maybe that Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook, or perhaps Time-Life's Guide to Making Rafts and Radios Out Everyday Outdoor Objects?

One book that made you laugh?
If you haven't read Shannon Olson's Welcome to My Planet yet, you really must. (I was tempted to go with Bridget Jones's Diary here, but I doubt Helen Fielding really needs any more plugging.)

One book that made you cry?
For whatever reason, I'm very, very rarely a book-crier. I know I cried a bit the second time I read Why Girls Are Weird, but I'm pretty sure that had nothing to do with the tone of the book and everything to do with my frame of mind at the time.

One book you wish had been written?
How about The Lazy Girl's Guide to Making a Million Dollars and Finding the Love of Your Life All without Really Trying? (Anyone except me interested in reading that one?)

One book you wish had never been written?
American Gods was my own personal albatross for way too long a few months back, but I know there are a lot of Gaiman fans out there, and for their sake, it's not really fair to wish this one out of existence. If I'd heard Nancy Pearl talk about the Rule of 50 while I was fighting my way through it, however, I very likely would have tossed it aside for good.

One book you are currently reading?
As noted over there in the sidebar, I'm still working on Never Let Me Go. Reading's been slow-going this summer. I've been furiously knitting instead.

One book you've been meaning to read?
I can think of many a book to list here, but the first one that comes to mind is On the Road. I've heard extremely mixed opinions as to whether it's worth my time, but never having read Kerouac leaves a hole in my cultural literacy, I think, so perhaps that's something I should remedy.

Now tag five people
Nope, no tagging for me. If you want to play along, though, be my guest.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Five ways to make me quickly dismiss your online profile

  1. Show no respect whatsoever for proper spelling and grammar. Yes, yes, I do realize I am likely more particular about this than most people, but I assure you that I honestly am reasonably forgiving when it comes to simple typos within e-mail and other informal correspondence. Your online profile is essentially a resume, however--a resume you are submitting as your application for the position of my boyfriend. You wouldn't send a resume without giving it at least a brief once-over to proof for obvious errors, would you? More specifically, you wouldn't send a resume that has a typo in your actual NAME, correct? Sorry; maybe Rnady really is your true and given name and it was overly presumptuous of me to assume that you're a Randy who has simply no attention to detail. Even if that is the case, I'm guessing you didn't really mean to boast about your "clam exterior," though, did you? I can't imagine why you'd think clamminess would be a selling point to potential mates, so I can only assume that you meant "calm." And finally, can we all just learn to spell "friends" already? Repeat after me: "i before e except after c or when sounded like ay as in neighbor or weigh." Learn it, live it, spell it right, OK?
  2. Post a wholly unflattering, inappropriate, or bizarre photo of yourself. I know it's not always easy to find a sharp, clear, recent picture of yourself for use in scenarios such as this. For that reason, I can accept the obviously set up and self-timered pictures of you posing in a suit and tie in your own living room or kitchen. I can even get past the pictures where you've quite obviously cropped out the ex-girlfriend attached to your shoulder. (Better to crop her out than to publish the unsuspecting girl's face on the Internet without her permission, which I've also seen more times than seems reasonable.) I'm not even going to complain if all three of your pictures feature you with a beer or mixed drink in your hand, because I'm well aware that most home photos come from social occasions, and many social occasions involve alcohol. What I cannot, on the other hand, understand, is why, if you're unable to locate an appropriate photo within your personal stash, your next best option would be to use the photo from your ID badge at work. Thanks for captioning it "My work badge photo," because at least that set it apart from a possible mug shot. You could have done worse, I realize. You could have been the guy who posted a possibly naked shot taken in what appeared to be his living room. I don't even care if there actually were pants below the level where the camera cut off. Naked torso in a beach photo is acceptable. Naked torso in your living room is not. It's really a pretty simple rule, I think.
  3. List "Conservatives" as one of the three things for which you're most thankful. That's right, Steve from Prescott, I'm looking at you. Adding "I just don't get those liberals" was an especially nice touch. I'm going to do us both a favor and just close this match right now, OK? Something tells me we probably wouldn't see eye to eye on much.
  4. Tell me that Harry Potter or The Da Vinci Code was your "last great read." OK, maybe this one is a little unfair. I actually won't dismiss you immediately just for listing one of these, but it doesn't exactly highlight your originality or interestingness. Unless you can come up with a remarkably clever way to tell me why either of these was so meaningful to you, you'd be better off mentioning the back of your cereal box.
  5. Include the word "sex" in three separate places within your profile. I'm not saying it's not a valid priority, but can we leave a few things unspoken at least until I know your last name? That'd be great. And less creepy. Thanks.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

The Heat Bin

I was all set to write this big long whiny post about just how damn hot it is here, but it's so damn hot everywhere, and it's already been covered by him and her and everyone else, so I realize that really there is no point. I have nothing new to add and no original way to talk about the subject. I was searching and searching for a better analogy to describe a 101-degree day with not a cloud in the sky than "It's like standing in a fully-preheated oven," but really that's simply the best I could do. Brain cells have probably vaporized in the heat; how can I possibly expect creativity under those circumstances?

Besides that, the good, sweet weather gods have finally granted some reprieve and given us a break for one brief day. I truly never thought that 85 degrees would feel refreshing, but it turns out I was wrong. It's kind of like the relief we feel when the temperature jets up to 15 degrees after a week or more of sub-zeros. Fifteen degrees is, under normal circumstances, far from balmy, and yet, when it follows several days of minus 12, I've found myself leaving my coat unbuttoned and only casually pulling on gloves.

But I wasn't going to go on and on about the weather, remember? Sorry about that. I am a Midwesterner, you know, and talking about the weather is apparently in our blood. Moving on (or, at least, over to the side just a bit)...

The summer I was fourteen, my family went to Florida for a week. Despite it being one of the few "real" family vacations we took, my memories of the trip are hazy and limited. My primary recollection of that week is simply of being hot and annoyed. The hot part was to be expected, of course, it being Florida in June and all. As for the annoyance? Well, I was a moody and petulant teenager, so I likely spent most of the trip wishing my parents would stop talking to me and simply let me spend my days sleeping in, watching Days of Our Lives, and relaxing by myself at the pool. Instead, they wanted to pile all five of us into the vinyl-seated station wagon with the broken air conditioner and take us to Disneyworld and Gatorland. Shocking, I know. Someone should have called Social Services.

Since we spent each day sweating and burning in the sun, my father felt the need to recoup each night by setting the air conditioner in our rental condo to a frigid 42 degrees. I may be exaggerating a tad, but I do think it's quite possible we could see our breath as we reached for an extra blanket to wrap around our already sweatshirted selves. It's entirely likely that, had we left the milk carton out on the kitchen counter all night, it would still have been fresh and safe for drinking in the morning. Maybe my father really felt comfortable with the crisp air whirring around him; maybe he was just mad with excitement at the opportunity to run an air conditioner without being responsible for the electric bill. Regardless, the only reprieve my sisters and I had from the refrigerated condo was the screened-in porch situated off of the living room. We called this area the Heat Bin.

The Heat Bin was essentially a sauna, without aid of any coals or coils or other unnatural heating element. The air was thick and hot and almost hard to breathe. And yet, after an hour or two in the meat locker that was our living room for the week, the Heat Bin was oddly calming, for few brief moments, at least.

Despite how little else I remember of that trip, I think of the Heat Bin every summer, nearly every day. Last weekend, the Heat Bin was every area of my house, but on a normal day, it is simply my car. Some days, the stifling warmth of my sun-baked car actually feels good after nine hours in an overly air-conditioned office. But lately? Lately, not so much. Lately, the first 20 minutes of my drive--while the AC in my eight-year-old Saturn slowly struggles to cool the 90+ degree air from outside--have been downright uncomfortable. And when I'm uncomfortable, I'm likely to get cranky, and anyone who knows me knows I typically don't need any help with that.

Anyone who knows me also knows I'm not generally the type of person who's apt to buy something from an infomercial. Sure, I may grudgingly endure a Magic Bullet promo when there's absolutely nothing else on TV, but I've yet to pick up the phone and provide my credit card number. Last week, however? Last week I was so weary of enduring the Heat Bin every day that this actually looked like a brilliant solution. So brilliant, in fact, that I wanted one right away. None of that shipping time nonsense. What I'm about to admit is something of which I'm not proud. I own up to this only because I'm among friends (right?). The truth is, I wanted an AutoCool, and I wanted it now, so I made a special trip to the Mall of America (you know--that mall I avoid at all costs?) specifically for the "As Seen on TV" store.

What's worse is this was not the first time I've entered the As Seen on TV store with a particular purchase in mind. Several years ago, I actually purchased an Ab Slide because I honestly believed it would be as fun and effortless and effective as the infomercial promised. The woman behind me in line was clutching an Ab Slide box as well. I wonder if her quest for a six-pack was any more successful than mine.

Sadly, the As Seen on TV store let me down this time. Perhaps the AutoCool is too new to the market, or perhaps there's no room on the shelves with all the Floam and urine-stain remover they're stocking (and enthusiastically advertising in the windows).

It's probably just as well that I didn't waste my money. I'm not very science-minded at times, so it didn't initially occur to me that, on a 95-degree day, blowing 95-degree air into a 110-degree car really won't do much to keep the temperature at bay. On a regular mid-80s summer day, though? Am I crazy to believe it could work? The Internet knows everything, so I'm posing the question to you. AutoCool: real or hoax? I don't think Snopes is on this one, so clue me in if you're in-the-know.

Incidentally, my trip to the Mall of America was not entirely fruitless, as I did snag a pair of Tevas for $23 on clearance. It doesn't help my Heat Bin situation at all, but at least my feet will be cool and comfy on my next canoe outing later this month.

Quite possibly the worst earworm ever

Hearing The Macarena thumping from the spin class studio while I was changing after my workout was probably more than sufficient to embed that song in my head for the rest of the day. Just in case that wasn't going to do the trick, however, the trio of preteen girls who came rushing in from the pool had it covered. Have you ever heard this ever-so-clever alternate version?

(Sing it in your head to the tune of Macarena, of course)

Hamburger, cheeseburger, lettuce and tomato
Hamburger, cheeseburger, lettuce and tomato
Hamburger, cheeseburger, lettuce and tomato
Pleeeease pass the ketchup.

Yeah, that pretty much guarantees it'll be stuck there for the next three to four hours. I love my brain sometimes. And for sharing the pain with all of you? You're welcome.

More later, perhaps. (And by "more," I do not mean more mind-numbing dance hits of the past decade. Surely I can come up with something else to ramble on about instead. We shall see, I suppose.)