Thursday, May 31, 2007

What I did on my pre-summer vacation: an essay in multi-list form

So is anyone still waiting for some sort of Austin recap? Sorry about that; it's been another one of those weeks where I somehow manage to forget that the Internet exists. I would like to say this means I've gotten all sorts of productive and satisfying things done at work and home, but frankly that is just not the case. Even without the Internet, I can still find ample ways to distract myself, it seems.

Anyway, I thought maybe I'd do a trip recap in list form, ala -R-'s recap of her weekend in Chicago, but if I did that, the whole post would look something like this:

  • Walking
  • Walking
  • Yet more walking
  • A little more walking
  • Eating
  • Drinking
  • Getting scoped out by a smarmy guy in an elevator
  • Walking, walking, walking
  • Eating
  • Eating
  • Extremely unimpressive hotel bar
  • Watching School of Rock in my hotel room
  • Walking
  • Horrible shin splints (legs and feet feeling like hobbled, bloody stumps)
  • Drinking
  • Walking

Sounds thrilling, I know. You all want to travel with me now, right? So instead, how about I start off by comparing my actual trip with my preview of fun facts before my trip? OK? Here we go.

  1. First off, I mentioned Austin's live music scene, and my fake boyfriend Bob Schneider in particular. Well, since hanging out in bars was the one part of traveling solo that I didn't quite manage to embrace on this trip, my time in live music venues was sadly minimal. As for Bob, he actually was in town during my stay in Austin, but he was playing somewhere not within walking distance of my hotel and on the night before my 5:00 a.m. wakeup call for my flight home, so I decided I would have to pass on the show this time. I did, however, see a guy who I am convinced must have been Bob's brother working as a waiter at Gueros' Taco Bar. Sadly, he was not my waiter, and I got no photo to serve as proof. You just have to trust me that a younger, possibly more clean-cut and innocent-looking version of Bob is roaming around Austin, and you might just spot him at Guero's. Yum.*

    * "Yum" serves in relation simultaneously to Bob, his maybe-brother, and the tacos and margaritas at Guero's. Did I really need to footnote that when the reference is actually right there directly above? Whatever. I thumb my nose at MLA and make my own rules, obviously.

  2. Despite being happily encapsulated within the "blueberry in the tomato soup," I still ventured over to the Capitol, mainly because it was within walking distance of my hotel** and because an indoor tour sounded like a good idea on an inconveniently rainy day. I also got a glimpse of the Governor's mansion on my way over, and I amused myself with the question of whether King George walked the mere block and a half to work during his stay there or if he rode over in an enormous and inefficient HUMV every day. You know my guess, obviously. Happily, it seems dissent is not unheard of, even in Texas. Yay.

    ** This trip actually proved, however, my long-standing statement that anyplace is within walking distance, if you have the time.

  3. Austin is, in fact, weird, but only in select pockets, I think. The pocket where you can buy a head in a box, for instance. That's just a little bit weird to me.

  4. Lack of sports leagues. Right. I actually don't have anything else to say about that. Does walking 13 miles in one day count as a sport? Is it in the Olympics yet? Likely not. OK then. Moving on...

  5. The bats. Yes. Let's talk about the bats, shall we? Supposedly, 1.5 million Mexican free-tailed bats emerge from under the Congress Avenue bridge every night. I saw about 20 of them. I remain convinced that the bats are an elaborate hoax stirred up by locals to give themselves something to point and laugh at every night. Hundreds of tourists, on the bridge, waiting pointlessly for a natural spectacle. I suppose I can't blame them for having a bit of fun with us, but I do think the signage is a bit much.

Well then. It seems that list format really is the best option for me tonight. Here are a few other lists, then, to round out this recap.

Cool things about traveling solo:
  • There's no worrying about what anyone else wants to do; it's all at my own pace, and all decisions (about where to go, where and when to eat, how late to sleep, etc.) are mine.

  • In the hotel room, all the hangers and all the bathroom counter space is mine! ALL MINE!! [*evil laugh...*]

Not-so-cool things about traveling solo:
  • Going to bars is really a "with friends" sort of activity, so a town that is very much about the bars and nightlife would maybe be more fun with a friend.

  • I can't let anyone else worry about orientation and map-reading skills; the not-getting-lost responsibility lies with me and me alone. (Though actually, this was rather a good thing as well. I am fully capable of being the map-reader on my own, and I could use more opportunities to force myself to go ahead and take that role.)

Cool things about my hotel (possibly the swankiest in which I've ever stayed):
  • The adjustable-comfort bed, which, set to the softest and highest-number setting, was about the squishiest and dreamiest sleeping surface ever.

  • The clock radio with the MP3 input, which worked even with my iFraud! (Nifty!)

Fun (and, in some cases, not-so-fun) things about Austin (and Texas) in general:
  • Just to prove they are the live music capital of the world, Austin greeted me with a live band even in the airport.

  • Everything really is bigger in Texas. The onion rings at Hut's were the most enormous I've ever seen. I really must get over my self-consciousness about taking photos on my own in public, because those "big as half of my face" rings really ought to have been documented.

  • That whole "Lone Star" thing is really just a fallacy. Texans will put stars absolutely anywhere they can.

  • Pens are not allowed in the Blanton Museum of Art. You know, because one of them might just leap out of my hand and subsequently irreparably damage a painting. To be fair, the nice guard who caught me scribbling in my travel journal on a bench did offer me a tiny mini-golf-style pencil to use instead, but still. Come on. Ridiculous.

  • Stefs-with-an-F really are everywhere, after all. The night before I stopped in, someone named Stefanie Fix played at Flipnotics. Who knew?

  • The Whole Foods at the Austin headquarters is bigger and more magical than any I've ever seen before. They have no fewer than eight sit-down restaurant spots! IN the grocery store! Some with beer on tap! In a grocery store! Plus, free wine tasting! And a lovely outdoor courtyard with a stream running through it! At a grocery store! Oh my.

Memorable quotes (or, rather, overheards, since "quotes" would imply conversation):
  • Lady on her cell phone in the seat behind me at the airport: "No, we don't watch Dancing with the Stars... I didn't even know there was a show called that... No, we watch Idol..." [and then, a mere 45 seconds later]: "Yeah, we went through a lot of that when Tom was getting sober."

  • Guy on the Flipnotics patio: "Puff the Magic Dragon is not about smoking pot."

  • Lady outside Magnolia Cafe: "Really?? I thought they were real, and she had a reduction..."

  • Kid next to the Congress Avenue Bridge, sticking his head inside his shirt to hide himself from the bats: "Now they can only get my hair... They don't really like my head, because it's mostly skull..."

  • Lady who remained as unconvinced as I was about the whole bat-surge phenomenon: "I have not seen ONE. DAMN. BAT." [and later...] "I want my money back. Where's that guy I gave $5 to?" and: "People are booing!" (Hee.)

So. In summary. Austin: cool town. Lots of bars. Lots of music. Lots of walkable streets. Not so many bats. C'est la vie.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Intermediary post of sorts...

Hello, friends. Hope you all had a lovely long holiday weekend. An Austin recap is forthcoming. Maybe. My brain is still hesitantly coming out of vacation mode, unfortunately. I've actually done lots of things since my return (things like enjoying dinner and drinks on a local rooftop patio, finally switching my closet contents from winter- to summer-ready, watching the Netflix movies that have been sitting in my living room for three weeks or more, and, of course, perhaps most importantly, seeing a good friend get ENGAGED in front of an audience of approximately 60 or more). Yet, despite all these goings-on, I still feel that fuzzy not-quite-here thing that comes from spending a few days away from home. I'm also feeling more than overwhelmed by the 134 unread posts waiting for me in my Bloglines list. (Poppy, you want to just help me out and let me know which of your 21 recent posts I should read first?) I'm anxious to see what you've all been up to, but I may not make it over to your comments any time too soon.

Meanwhile, if you're interested in some not-so-interesting Austin pics, I've got a set up over at Flickr. Unfortunately, Flickr is down for maintenance right now, so I can't even link to those. In a couple hours, you can likely find them via this post, I presume. I'll try to update with a proper link later. Fair enough? Have at it.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Packing and music and bats (oh my)

As I don't plan to be on a computer anytime Friday, this week's Friday Five is a bit early. Not as early as I'd planned, however. Maybe someday I will finally learn to pack for a trip in less than three hours time. I will make a proper list and pack in some logical order, rather than running from room to room nonsensically without any semblance of a well-thought-out plan. I will remain focused on the task at hand, rather than getting distracted by the television and the Internet and various other nonproductive diversions.

Of course, barring any of these responsible and reasonable solutions, I could perhaps at least finally remember that I cannot pack for a trip in less than three hours time, and therefore start my ridiculously disorganized and highly distracted packing process a bit earlier in the evening. Until then, however, here I am again at 1:14 a.m., thinking what a very good idea it was to take off of work the whole day tomorrow instead of just half of it. I've learned that much, at least. Baby steps, I always say.

In any case, I am finally almost packed for my mini-break to the Lone Star State. One more run to Target for some quart-sized Ziploc bags (Damn you, TSA, and your silly bag size restrictions, too) to hold my non-explosive three-ounce bottles of shampoo and other toiletries, and I should be all set.

To get myself ready for my trip (and to share some terribly useful information with the rest of you as well), here are five fun facts about Austin, Texas (courtesy of my friend Wikipedia, since perusing my Austin guidebook is yet another thing I'd planned to do much earlier but haven't quite gotten to yet).

  1. Austin has more music venues per capita than any other U.S. city. No wonder the list of artists hailing from there actually rivals that of Minnesota. Personally, I am hoping to run into my fake boyfriend Bob Schneider. I'm not too concerned about the rest.

  2. Because it is a center for liberal politics in the middle of a largely conservative state, Austin is sometimes referred to as "blue in a sea of red," or, better yet, "the blueberry in the tomato soup." (Ew. But also... hee.)

  3. The slogan "Keep Austin Weird" has become a local motto to promote the city's diversity and eccentricity and to bolster support of local and independent businesses. I can get behind that. The Twin Cities could stand to be a little weirder, actually.

  4. Austin is one of the largest U.S. cities without a franchise of any of the four major sports leagues. (Honestly, I am starting to think I should move to Austin, and I haven't even been there yet.)

  5. Tourists often gather on the Congress Avenue bridge at sunset to watch the Mexican free-tailed bat population emerge for the night. (Yeah, I won't be doing that. Not a chance. Also, if bats are prevalent enough to be a tourist attraction, we can just scratch that "maybe I should move there" thought after all.)

Have a great holiday weekend, everyone. I'll catch up with you again next week.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

By the way...

I haven't forgotten about all your questions about my (sometimes) mad-dating self. I fully intended to get to those this past weekend, but obviously I had other things to do. Things like planning trips, and eating sushi, and looking at local art, and counting lip glosses, and drinking heavily, and staying up way too late with boys of questionable morals, and moving furniture and heavy boxes for a friend. And now I am off to see a nearly four-hour movie that I've been told is wholly overrated and irritating, despite its well-established status as a classic.

Anyway, I'll get to it. Promise. It just might not be until after I return from Austin. Meanwhile, if you want to add any more questions to the list, please, feel free.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Has the bandwagon left already, or can I still hop on?

Note: This is a superfluously girlie post. To my five male readers out there, you've been warned.

Last week, Hola Isabel told a charming little story detailing how her love of lip gloss almost won her a free plane ticket some years back. Lip gloss love is well documented around these here Internets, but I do believe that's the first I've heard of it ever paying off with any monetary or tangible gain. Frankly, I was impressed. It made me reconsider, if only for a moment, that my mother's giant, well-stocked, Let's Make a Deal-worthy purse might not be as ridiculous as I've always thought. It also made me wonder if the number of lip glosses, balms, and sticks in my purse at any given moment might make me a contender in a similarly ridiculous contest myself. So I counted. Turns out both Isabel and Metalia have me beat. I had no idea who I was dealing with, obviously.

Consider the contents of my purse right now. I travel lighter than these ladies, it seems.


(Annotated version is here.)

Frankly, I'm a little disappointed in myself. I knew I was carrying around more lip glosses than necessary, but I really thought that number was at least six. If I'm going to be obsessively over-prepared for any possible lip glossing or coloring emergency, I might as well go all the way.

Of course, at home and work, I am significantly more well-stocked. Consider the evidence.

I have lip stuff in my desk drawer at work...
I finally figured out how to get pics off my camera phone!

on my desktop at home...

on my dresser...

in my bathroom drawer...

and in my linen cupboard...

Not pictured is the lip balm always stashed in my jeans pocket, nor the two or three typically distributed in various sweatshirt and jacket pockets, nor the one on my bedside table, beside my book. All told, I currently have no fewer than 45 lipsticks, glosses, and balms on hand. And that's after a deliberate lip-stuff clean-sweep a few moths ago.

(More fun with Flickr notes here. I would also like to note that I found three more glosses and balms missing from this photo only after I'd already put all of these away. You'll just have to imagine them included above.)

It's a sickness, really; I'm sure it is. Luckily, it's a sickness I know many of you share, and there's safety in numbers, right?

Friday, May 18, 2007

Five things I probably don't need to worry about (but why should that ever stop me?)

The other day, Mimi Smartypants wrote about her likely unfounded fear that she will one day end up in prison. It could happen, I suppose, even if one is not particularly planning to break any particular law. Didn't you read Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason? What do you mean, "No"? I promise you the book sequel was better than the movie one. Of course, neither actually lends much credence to the prison scare, I realize, as it is fiction, after all. Anyway, moving on. My point is I think we all have a set of mostly irrational and inexplicable fears tucked away somewhere in our pretty little heads... things that will likely never happen but that terrify us routinely anyway. Right? I thought so. Here are five of mine.

  1. That I will have a stroke and lose the functioning of my [obviously always sharp and brilliant] brain.

  2. That I will go blind (or, nearly as frightening to me--deaf).

  3. That I will fall down the stairs to my basement and break my neck or crack my skull and no one will notice I am missing or break in to find me until the neighbors begin to complain about the stench of my rotting body. (You are welcome for that imagery--er, smellergy? So sorry about that, actually.)

  4. That, when I'm parked next to a van in a parking lot (or when a van pulls up alongside me while I'm walking down the street), someone is going to open the door and pop out to grab me, take me away, and do horrible things to me somewhere. I don't recall being at all worried about abduction as a child, but now that I'm all grown up, apparently I think it's an entirely likely thing to happen.

  5. That my house is haunted by the ghost of its prior owner.

I am curious what sorts of irrational fears the rest of you are carrying around with you, but I almost don't want you to tell me, actually. We all need to sleep tonight, after all. Share at your own risk (or, mine, rather!), I suppose.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Just insert your favorite Texas cliche here

In some strange but happy mix of leftover inspiration from Eat Pray Love combined with a desire just to get the heck out of town for a little while for the first time in months, I spontaneously booked myself a brief getaway for next week. This morning around 11:00 I started thinking about what cities I've never been to that I've always wanted to visit, and at 10:30 this evening I booked myself a flight and a hotel in Austin.

That's Texas, not Minnesota. You know, just in case you thought I was just dying to see the Spam Museum.

I have never traveled all by myself before. I'm feeling possibly unjustifiably bold and adventurous. And also, just a little bit nervous.

So. Where are my Austin peeps (or, at least, my peeps with some Austin knowledge)? Where must I go? What must I see? What should I do if is right and it actually does rain the whole time I'm there? I need some help. Clue me in. Thanks!

P.S. I'm staying downtown (near the Capitol) and will be there less than three days. Do I really need a car, or is there plenty to see and do in the area on foot?


Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Where you lead, I will follow

I promise this entire post won't be about the last new episode of Gilmore Girls I ever get to see. I realize that not all of you ran into your living room this evening as soon as you heard the words, "Previously, on Gilmore Girls..." coming from your TV. I know that not all of you danced around your coffee table during the theme song for what will presumably be the last time ever.* And surely not all of you had to get up to grab the Kleenex box from your bathroom at approximately 7:45 Central time because that damn show had made you teary-eyed and sniffly for the third time in under an hour.

* What? You think I'm really the only one who does this??

I realize all of this, of course, but... Wait. What was my point? Actually, I don't think I had one. I did want to show you this, however. Just in time for the series finale, I got myself a shirt proclaiming my new mantra.


It's just in time, too, because I am finding myself more kayak than ever. Date #2 with the very nice man who I'm unfortunately not at all attracted to was last night (in case you're wondering, he was the guy I met at that "Learn to be a Liquorologist" class a while back), and that second date will be a last date. I'm just not feelin' it, all his fine points be damned.

On top of that, I have recently been Miked for the second time in less than a year. I suspect you might not be familiar with that term, since I just made it up myself today. My friend Amy would understand, as she's been burned by men named Mike so many times that she refuses ever to date one again. She has often encouraged me to adopt this same boycott, and I've always replied that it's ridiculous to write anyone off solely on the basis of his name. Well, unless his name is Barry. Or Larry. Or, maybe, actually, Gary. (Sincerest apologies to any Barrys, Larrys, or Garys out there. I've just never been a fan of the "-arry" names.)

Now, however, I am beginning to suspect some possible credence to her theory. Hence, the new vocabulary word. "Mike" as a verb could have many meanings, to cover a wide range of being jerked about and mistreated by a man with that unfortunate name. In my case, however, to be Miked is to have a man flirt with me, express interest in me, tell me how very much he likes me and would love to date me, but then follow it with a "but I'm dating someone else at the moment; so sorry about that, really."

So enough with the Mikes. Amy's a wise woman, obviously. Too bad I actually owe one of those Mikes an email reply yet tonight...

Since I'm in a bit of a funk about my second Miking and actually don't have much else to say, I thought maybe I'd try something that the Funky Brown Chick did recently. She writes about dates and dating even more than I do**, and last week she decided to put out a call for questions about her dating life. Anything we wanted to know, she would answer. Maybe it's presumptuous of me to assume you want to know anything about my dating life, but since I do from time to time get e-mails and comments asking, "What ever happened with...?" perhaps there might be at least something on your minds. So ask and I shall answer. What do you want to know about my dating life? Put a question in the comments or an email, and I'll answer it later this week.

By the way, it does occur to me to place some disclaimer here, reserving the right not to answer anything I deem just too personal, but I can't really imagine too many questions that would fall into that group. That wasn't a challenge, mind you. Go at least sort of easy on me, OK?

** Which I would like to think is not all that often, as I never really intended to create a dating blog, but based on the number of dating-related search engine results I see in Sitemeter, it's obviously a frequent theme.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

This weekend could get better, but I'm really not quite sure how

  1. Had some tasty home-shook margaritas and fun conversation with two good friends.

  2. Accidentally obliterated one of said friends with aforementioned margaritas, and thereafter got to witness a friend who I have never seen hammered (in all of the sixteen years that I've known him) ask us to pull over on Central Avenue so he could vomit out the car door. Gross? Yes. Unfortunate? Certainly. But also? Awesome. (Hello, yes, we are 33.)

  3. Walking in very, very late to the Andrew Bird show (see above), I ran into a high school friend who has lived in this city the whole time I have and yet who I'd never crossed paths with before. I can think of no more than four people from my graduating class whom I would genuinely like to see and talk to again, and this guy has for years been at the top of that list. Yay!

  4. Missed most of the Andrew Bird show (see above), but thoroughly enjoyed the three and a half songs I did hear. Will have to try again next time he's in town. No margaritas first, however. Live and learn.

  5. Saw an unattractive and portly threesome dressed in Renaissance garb staging a photo shoot in a park near my house. As if that wasn't absurd and awesome enough, one of the three was wearing Renaissance gear only from the waist up. Below the waist? Tight, too-short black cotton athletic shorts. On a pasty-skinned and overweight man. Priceless.

  6. Found an excellent gift for a birthday that's months from now yet, but which I had to buy anyway, because hello--Librarian Tattoos? "I heart the Dewey Decimal System"? Tell me you don't know a nerd who'd love those as a gift.

And now I'm off for a pair of back-to-back parties. One's a housewarming for NotDanny Tanner. (No, we are not dating. But we're trying a friend route.) The other's a birthday party for my pal Amy. As an added bonus, both parties are less than two miles from my house. In a perfect world, all my friends would live in a five-mile radius from each other. It is not a perfect world, obviously, but this weekend is shaping up pretty well.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Two weeks late and lots of dollars short

Roughly a hundred years ago now, Anniina tagged me for a meme. I don't get tagged for those sorts of things too terribly often, so I generally have no problem obliging when I do--particularly when it's a pretty easy meme and particularly when it involves enumerating something in five-point form. I have no good excuse for why I ignored this one so long, and Anniina's probably even long since forgotten about it by now, but here it is, for what it's worth...

Five Reasons Why I Blog

  1. To encourage myself to write. This was really the only reason I started a blog, many moons ago. It's probably the reason most of us started, and it remains a big part of why I'm still here.

  2. To feel a part of an ever-growing and always entertaining online community. I have some friends who still don't understand "the blog thing," who think it's self-indulgent to publish details about your life online and voyeuristic to read the details other people post about theirs. And maybe it is, to some extent. But mainly it's given me friends and kindred spirits. It's introduced me to people all over the country and the world, and it's taught me that, in the simplest terms, in the most convenient definitions, each one of us is a brain, and an athlete, and a basket case, a princess, and a criminal. OK, so I just stole that from The Breakfast Club and it's not even fully true (I am not an athlete even a little bit), but there's a shred of the sentiment I'm looking for in there, anyway. (Did I mention I am writing this well after midnight and two and a half margaritas with friends, under the assumption that it is still Friday somewhere? Perhaps I should mention that right now.)

  3. For valuable product recommendations, book and music reviews, and important news that you won't see on The News. A review from a stranger on Amazon never means as much as a passionate endorsement from one of my blog friends. I love the sharing of knowledge and favorites that happens from blog to blog to blog. I love posting tips myself in the hopes that they're useful to someone. Oh! Here's one, by the way! Did you know that Target is now carrying select Philosophy and Kiehl's products?? Really! I was as surprised as you. No sight of the infamous $11 deodorant yet, but they do have the cucumber eye cream that certain people have mentioned more than once. You know, just in case that sort of info is helpful in any way.

  4. For advice on my often sad and fumbling love life. Really, I'm actually so glad that if I'm going to navigate the often frustrating paths of online dating, I at least have a place to go to document all of it. And I love that when I'm looking for someone to back me up or lend some opposing constructive viewpoint, you people are all over that as well. Hell, it's not even just advice about my love life. Want to know whether potentially-tampered-with instant latte is in fact still safe to drink? Want some easy recipes to facilitate new and exciting adventures in domesticity? The Internet knows everything, and is all too eager to help. (And I thank each and every one of you for that.)

  5. To make new friends. This ties in with #2, of course, but I have to mention it again anyway. I never thought when I started a blog that a year or so later I'd be in regular email correspondence with near-strangers in New York or Virginia or Maryland or Pennsylvania or California (or hell, even right in my hometown--Hi, R!). But here I am, with more than a handful of connections I now consider true and legitimate friends. That is what I'd miss most if I stopped blogging, I'm sure, so that's another big reason I'm still here.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Who needs sleep?

I got approximately four and a half hours of sleep last night, thanks to the Peter Bjorn and John show at First Avenue, which was very entertaining and enjoyable but which started (or rather, ended) far too late for an old thirty-something like myself on a Wednesday night. Ordinarily I'd be able to make it through the day by simply focusing on the countdown of hours until I can go home and crash for the night. Tonight, however, I have to rush home, change clothes, and immediately head to dinner and a play with a man I might consider dating, and since I might consider dating him, I'd sort of prefer to be my usual sharp and witty self (read: not babble incoherently or repeatedly trail off into unfinished sentences any more than is already the norm for me). I'd also prefer to remain awake for the duration of the play, and the way my eyes are burning, that might be a tall order.

In the past, on days like this, I've spent my lunch hour hiding out in my car on an unpopulated street or parking lot, reclining in my seat for a power nap. It's an unseasonably warm 83 degrees here today, however, and baking in a heatbin isn't exactly conducive to rest and relaxation. (I never did get that "As seen on TV" AutoCool.)

So instead, I walked a few blocks to the relatively quiet and tree-shaded park near my office in search of a comfortable spot to rest my eyes. I picked the rear side of a picnic bench at the far end of the park and I rolled down onto my back on the bench. About two minutes later, I realized that (A) a rubberized coating on a metal grated bench does not, in fact, adequately cushion your head from the fact that it is still pressed against a metal grated bench and (B) it is hard to lie comfortably on a 12-inch wide plank, as there's no logical place for your arms to go. I considered moving down to the grass, but I hadn't brought a sweater or blanket to put under my head, and the fear of ants and gnats in my hair is even less conducive to rest than my 80-plus-degree car was. Hence, I stuck it out on the bench.

It took a while, but about twenty minutes later I jerked to consciousness aware that I had, in fact, fallen asleep for at least a few minutes. And then I realized something. I slept on a park bench. In a city park. In the middle of the day. I am a modern, urban hobo!

The evidence goes beyond today's lunch break, actually. I can quickly think of at least four previous occasions when I've taken a nap in a public park. It's usually been with my friend Sarah, during a vacation in another city or on the return route from a camping trip. Sometimes we've even taken our Slumberjack sleep mats out of the car to nap properly on the ground in the park.

The uncomfortable metal grate benches are no accident in this particular quiet suburb, I think. It's a hobo-thwarting plan, if ever I saw one. And on behalf of would-be suburban hobos everywhere, I am hurt (or at least, my poor skull temporarily is).

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Not-so-targeted demographic

I've been wondering... Do you think we all get the same ads in the banners and sidebars of the sites we all use, or are they maybe actually targeted in some way or form? I definitely hope it's the former, and not just because of the creepy Internet Big Brother implications of Sitemeter and Yahoo profiling me based on my surfing behavior and serving specific ads up in return, but also because I am simultaneously both offended and amused to imagine the sorts of reactions all the college boy bloggers likely had during that two-week period when Sitemeter really, really wanted us to know about the plus-sized lingerie at Lane Bryant. Ah, college boys. Surely almost universally a sensitive and inclusive bunch, if I remember correctly.

Anyway, I don't really want to talk about plus-sized lingerie (or any lingerie, for that matter). Know what else I don't want to do? See Breaking and Entering. I had never actually heard of that movie up until three days ago, possibly because MGM seems to have spent its entire marketing budget for the film on web ads for the DVD release. The esteemed Tomatometer gives Breaking and Entering a certifiably rotten 33% rating, but the constant barrage of sidebar ads assures me it is a well-crafted and compelling must-see drama. Really, who am I going to believe? A sidebar ad surely wouldn't lie.

Know what else banner and sidebar ads want me to do? Become a mystery shopper. But not just any mystery shopper... a sexy mystery shopper!

Personally I thought mystery shoppers were supposed to blend into a crowd, so as to be, you know, mysterious. I had no idea that ample cleavage and exposed midriffs were in fact the norm. Actually, what particularly confuses me about these ads is just to whom they're supposed to appeal. Will sexy, scantily clad women see these ads and think, "Oh, sweet! My pseudo-career options aren't limited to phone sex operator and phony mySpace profile writer! I can be a mystery shopper now, too!"? Are single men supposed to see them and think, "Huh. By virtue of the job description, I can't imagine mystery shoppers really have coworkers, but I'm sure if I sign up, I'll meet these chicks somewhere"? Really, I'm perplexed.

And it's not just mystery shoppers. Apparently sexy product testers are in high demand as well.

If you're a wholesome girl, I guess you can apply too, but your mystery shopping might be a tad less interesting or successful, as it will occur out in a wheat field somewhere. (The hills are alive, little lady. Now go buy a drill and report back.)

In other news (or rather, other portions of my online accounts that I can exploit in lieu of a proper and legitimate post), I would like to know why Yahoo's pool of spammers seems so convinced that I want to "mingle with other Latino singles." I suppose it's not such a stretch to suspect they might have monitored a bit of my browsing activity and figured out that I'm a single girl. But to assume that I am a "Sexy Single Latino"? I'm not sure from whence that idea came. I'm equally confused as to why they might guess I'm a Hot Black Mama (I can't wait to see the search engine hits I get from typing that out), but that one showed up only once that I recall. And frankly, it's not nearly as worrisome as the repeated messages urging me to meet other "Big Beautiful Singles" in my area. I may have put on a few extra pounds in the past year by virtue of my ever-slowing 30-something metabolism, but I'd like to think it's a stretch to put me in the "Big and Beautiful" category just yet.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Idle mind, devil's plaything. Isn't that how it goes?

I have never been in any sort of twelve-step program, but I'm well aware that the first step in addressing any potentially destructive (or just plain ridiculous) behavior is to admit you have a problem. When Maliavale wrote the other day about coming to terms with her teensy little anxiety issues, I laughed not because I thought her tendency towards mental gymnastics was insane but because I am possibly a little too familiar with the sorts of thought loops she described.

Case in point: remember this? How proud I was of myself for finally declaring a one-timezone house after years and years of a crazy bedroom clock game? I actually told that story on a date the other night. (Why? I can't recall. I'll readily admit that I share lots of questionable things on dates; are you really wondering at this point exactly why I am still single?) The date smiled politely and pretended to be amused, but I remembered how Malia relayed these sorts of exchanges and I beat him to the punch by saying, "Obviously I've put a lot of thought into this."

Still, I hold on to some clearly ridiculous idea that this sort of in-depth analysis of life's minutia is charming and endearing somehow. I am not a control freak. I don't overanalyze because I need things to be a certain way; I do it just because what else is my brain supposed to do with its down-time? Seriously, what do the rest of you think about when your brain's idle and unoccupied? I say there's nothing wrong with a little mental exercise, a bit of scenario-playing for preparation sake.

Every now and then, however, I'm reminded that mental gymnastics are not the norm; that not everyone over-processes the way Malia and I routinely do. Consider the scene at the Roseville SuperTarget the other night...

Cashier: Do you want paper or plastic?

Me (surveying the assortment of grocery items on the conveyor belt): Paper for the jars and boxes; for the rest, I don't care.

Cashier: [confused look as she glances from the bag choices on her left to the merchandise on her right]

Cashier (stops to decide whether my Lean Cuisines should go in the plastic bag hanging on the peg rack or in the paper one propped in front of that): So, basically, you want all the frozen stuff in plastic? Is that what you said?

Me: Um, no... [Brief pause as I try to decide just how much of my completely logical-to-me rationale to explain]... I want the stuff in boxes and jars in a paper bag... See, the boxes always poke through and rip the plastic bags, and cans will just roll around and spill out all over my trunk.

Cashier: ...

Me: But, you know... it's no big deal... I didn't mean to be all picky or demanding over grocery bags or something.

But the thing is, I did mean to be picky and demanding... because my logic makes perfect sense to me. Has this cashier never gone grocery shopping herself? Has she never had a pizza box pierce its way through a plastic bag, rendering the bag useless when carrying it into her home? Has she never had spaghetti sauce jars and yogurt cups roll out of a flimsy plastic bag and scatter themselves across her car's trunk? These are minor inconveniences, sure, but if they're inconveniences that can be avoided, is there anything wrong with thinking them through?

And by the way, for my friend Jamie (and any other environmentally minded souls out there), thinking that I wouldn't have this dilemma at all if I'd simply bring my own bags to the store, I'll say that I'm thinking about that, too. Buying or making my own grocery bags has been on my to-do [someday] list for over a year now, I think. Really, though, if the cashier at SuperTarget is thrown off so easily by an unconventional answer to the "paper or plastic" question, don't you think I'm doing her a favor by not adding more complexity to the mix? I mean, if she can't handle "Paper for the jars and boxes," might not her head explode if presented with foreign cloth bags bearing no UPC?

You don't have to say it. I'll say it for you. "Wow. You've really put a lot of thought into this."

There are some things, however, that I do not think through in detail. Like my carefree "I'm making no plans" outlook for this weekend. I do not particularly like being the plan-maker among my friends; I'd just as soon let someone else be the social engineer the bulk of the time. This weekend, I thought, "I could use some down-time. I won't propose any plans, but if plans find me, that'd be fine, I guess." I wasn't particularly anticipating this being a "test how popular I am based on whether my phone rings at all" sort of scenario, but I guess it's what it turned out to be, anyway. The result of this impromptu experiment was two Netflix evenings on my own, a near-futile solo clothes-shopping afternoon at the mall, and an aborted movie outing with The Magical Boy (the one plan I did have for the weekend, which he canceled via voicemail Saturday afternoon). On the plus side, I did actually mow my lawn for the first time this season (it was damn-near shin-height thanks to the recent day-after-day of rain), and I finally painted my interior hallway, the one portion of my home's main level that I had not yet painted in the three-plus years I've lived here.

The hallway-painting endeavor is yet another thing I maybe didn't think all the way through. Or rather, it's something I did think through, but found that all my thinking may have been in vain. I hadn't painted that hallway because, despite its being the smallest "room" on my main level, it has five doorways in it. Have you ever painted around doorways? It's a pain in the ass, I say. All that taping? All that cutting-in detail work? Not a task to be relished, in my book. But I wanted some color in that hallway, something to tie things together, I suppose. So I tried to pick a color that would coordinate nicely from all angles... that would go with the yellow in my bathroom, the sage green in my kitchen, the golden tan in my living room, the lilac in my bedroom, and the rust color in my office/library. I considered all of this, and I decided that navy blue (more specifically, "Blue Cosmos," according to the sample chip) would be a good choice.

And it is a good choice... in the daytime, anyway. As I finished the second coat this afternoon, I thought, "Good job, Stef. That wasn't so hard, was it?"

Now, however, the sun is down, and I'm gazing into my hallway and realizing it's rather unexpectedly dark and cave-like out there. I'm sort of expecting the Sleestaks to come in and take me away into the night. It will probably just take some getting used to, however, much like so much else in life. And since my over-thinking is routinely overshadowed by my tendency towards laziness, I won't be repainting it anytime soon. Perhaps I'll just have to use my hallway light more often... a light I turn on so infrequently that I've yet to change the light bulb since I moved in...

You don't have to say it. I'll say it for you, OK? "You've really put some thought into this, haven't you?"

Yes. Yes, I have. Do you have a problem with that? No? OK.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Cuatro de Mayo

Photo posts would be more compelling if I had a better camera. Really my only point in posting this is to show you that I took the advice of the popular vote and went with Fiesta Casserole.

Since I'm letting near-strangers from the Internet make my choices for me, however, tell me--what would all of you like to decide on my behalf next?

Friday, May 04, 2007

Five questions no one can really answer for me

  1. If you have a date with a very nice man who is well-mannered, kind, smart, outgoing, and interested in an admirably wide range of fun activites, but whom (despite all of those very good and promising qualities) you find yourself not physically attracted to in the slightest, is there any chance whatsoever that an attraction might develop, or is it best to save his time (and your own) and decline the second date?

  2. For my own private Cuatro de Mayo festival this evening, should I make the tasty-sounding Swiss Enchiladas I saw when I was on Cooking Light's Web site the other day, or the delightfully retro "Fiesta Casserole" (featuring crushed Fritos, just like all good Midwestern hotdishes should) that The Other Girl sent me in reply to my call for super-easy recipes recently?

  3. How long will this entirely uncharacteristic cooking kick last? Am I just temporarily amused by the novelty of it or actually trying to make a legitimate life change? And what will be my trademark element of charming ineptitude if I manage to make "real" cooking be routine? These are important questions, people (or rather, three important questions in one).

  4. Will I ever do the meme that Anniina tagged me for days upon days ago? That was actually going to be my Friday Five for today (anyone who offers a topic I can enumerate in five-point form really should know by now that it's bound to become a Friday Five for me). Instead, I apparently decided I had far more pressing things to ponder at the moment. (See #1 and #2 above, which surely don't fit into an itemized "Why I blog" list.)

  5. Why did I request Tully from Netflix? That disc has been sitting in my living room for so long that I don't even remember why or when it got there. Was it a Netflix recommendation based on something else I chose, or was I clicking from page to page on IMDB and found myself in a Julianne Nicholson mood somehow? I really don't remember, but I do hope it doesn't suck.

Bonus question (#6): Will my Internet connection be working again when I get home? I certainly do hope so, but if you don't hear from me for a few days, you'll know why. I'll admit I'm a little curious just how many productive things I might get done if forced to spend an entire weekend offline, but since the weather forecast predicts rain, I don't know that this is the best weekend to find that out. (So fingers crossed, Qwest; fingers crossed!)

RIP, Loreleis

It's official. Goodbye, Stars Hollow. Thanks for the memories.

Guess I'll need to find a new set of imaginary friends and neighbors to fill the void.

P.S. Rory, please don't marry Logan. You're too young.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Kiss your loved ones goodbye...

...because I'm pretty sure that the end is nigh.

People, I have news that may alarm and frighten you.

Are you ready? OK, here goes.

I used my oven three days in a row.

No, I have not forgotten (or worse--somehow never quite learned) what an oven is. This is not like the time when I was three and my mom asked my dad to go put some clothes in the washer, and he stood in the laundry room for a solid five minutes staring at the machines before finally calling back up the stairs, "Which one is the washer?!?" No. I know what an oven is. I have not confused it with my microwave or my toaster or my new printer/scanner thingie. I know how to work my oven; I just don't generally do so more than once a week. And that's actually a pretty optimistic estimate. Twice a month might be more realistic.

Not only did I make something using legitimate ingredients and oft-neglected cookware three days in a row, but I actually planned a meal based on things I already had on hand! I am well aware that many of you people do this sort of thing all the time, but frankly, it's a pretty foreign concept to me--one of those "easier said than done" sorts of endeavors. I never have things on hand that can be made into other things. Aside from my newly acquired leftovers, I currently have the following items in my fridge: milk, cranberry juice, deli turkey, swiss cheese, cinnamon bagels, salsa, baby carrots, and Kozy Shack low-sugar tapioca pudding. You just try combining those in some new and fun way to assemble a proper meal of any kind. On second thought, no. Don't. I don't even want to play that game.

Anyway, since I am far more impressed with myself than I probably should be, I am going to pretend this mild feat of wonder is interesting to other people and therefore explain how this small miracle transpired.

It started with last weekend's quesadilla adventure, which left me with three-quarters of a bag of spinach in my freezer that I decided to use on Sunday to make Darren's spinach, artichoke, and feta stuffed shells. Then I had extra spinach and artichoke hearts left over, so on Monday I went online to seek out recipes by ingredient and came up with a cheesy spinach & artichoke casserole thing that looked like a reasonably good option as well. (Note to self: I am really feeling done with spinach and artichoke for a while.) I had to buy eggs for the casserole's sauce, and since I do not dig eggs on their own, I had to find a way to use those, too. Because the stars are aligning in my kitchen in a most unusual and fortunate way, I also happened to have three overripe bananas on hand, so I continued the cooking madness last night by making a loaf of banana bread. With chocolate chips. (Which I always have on hand.) Yum.

I'm a bit concerned that all this cooking and general domesticity from such an unlikely source may have disturbed some delicate balance, however. Perhaps the world can't bear such a radical shift in momentum. I may be exaggerating, of course; I may be erring on the side of caution; but if it's possible I could in any way be able to affect the fate of the world, then I really shouldn't take any chances. Or, that's what I'm telling myself, anyway, to explain why tonight's dinner was a bowl of Peanut Butter Puffins. Can't be too careful, after all; wouldn't you agree?

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Good news and bad news

(in bulleted and numbered list form, just the way Malia likes it)

The bad news:

  • The construction-related road closure I was so worried about a month ago has finally begun. (I was wrong about the dates initially. The construction began weeks ago, as I reported, but the "thou-shalt-not-pass" road closure took effect today.)

The good news:

  • The appointed detour actually isn't much more time-consuming than my usual route is! I thought I was going to have to get up two snooze presses earlier every day for months on end (the horror! Oh, the horror!)... thought I'd finally have to learn how to put podcasts on my iFraud just to get through my suddenly 50-minute commute (not a bad thing for me to learn, of course; I just don't like a longer commute being my impetus for doing so). As it turns out, all leaving earlier this morning did was get me to work fifteen minutes ahead of schedule. (Whoo!) Also,

  • This less-inconvenient-than-I-thought road closure will last only until fall, not until next spring, as I originally heard. Yes, five months of detouring is a long time, but in comparison to ten months, it's a whole lot easier to endure.

So. What have I learned from this? Several things, actually.

  1. The universe does not, in fact, hate me (or, the MN Department of Transportation doesn't, anyway).

  2. I really should check my sources better before I get all worked up and fraught with angst over what could be just minor hiccups in my routine.

  3. I should probably smile and wave as I drive past the traffic cameras on the detour stretch, as the traffic engineer I had two dates with last summer said he'll be watching intently to see how the displaced drivers fare during the reroute.

I'm going to assume it was that last item that made me dream about this road construction project last night. I know I was dreading the road closure, but not so much that it should have actually consumed my in-sleep thoughts. (I mean really. Does my subconscious have nothing more interesting to dwell upon than that??) I got an email from the traffic engineer just before I went to bed, however, and I think that message (in combination with my paranoia that my tired and groggy self wouldn't remember in the morning that I couldn't press snooze as many times today) was what made me actually dream about my commute. Because seriously, I know that's not the best my brain can cook up while I sleep. After all, just last week, I dreamt that Rory Gilmore was my sister and I was in New York helping her pick out an apartment for next year. I'm not saying I'm proud of how often TV people invade my dreams, but it's better than dreaming about traffic, is it not?