Wednesday, August 27, 2008

In which I'm full of absurdity and uncharacteristic optimism (it must be the long weekend ahead)

My friend Amy sent me one of those "Amy wants to be your friend on Facebook" messages today. Apparently she wanted to notify me that hell had in fact frozen over, since a friend of hers who touches a computer only when necessary had just signed up, and she thought maybe it was finally time for me to join the party as well. (You know, since in her words, "Satan's home is getting chilly.")

"It's weird seeing all our friends on there except you," she wrote. "You're usually such a joiner!"

First off, a joiner? Me? I am averse to and terrified of attending any event that might add my name to a membership list. Remember when 3Carnations suggested the Jaycees might be a good place for me to find a man? Yeah. Still haven't even looked up meeting times. Joiners worry me. I got joining out of my system in college, thank you.

I'm pretty sure what she meant, though, is that I'm social and such. You know, with friends. Not with strangers. I usually need liquor to talk to strangers. In fact, since I don't know most of you, I'm actually drunk right now. (Kidding.) Anyway, if we look at it that way, she's right. I do hate to be left out. And it's true: it is a little weird that purportedly ALL of my friends are someplace that I, for whatever reason, am not.

Lord help me, friends, I may finally cave.

Tell me again... Why is it I've resisted Facebook for so long? And how exactly will my life be enriched if I join?

Speaking of joining, I did actually lose myself in optimism and probable foolishness long enough to type my credit card number into the aforementioned dating site last night. And miracle of miracles, when I perused the "Interested in you" profiles that they wouldn't let me see as a non-paying member, I actually found THREE that didn't make my skin crawl! Moreover, when I clicked the button to indicate I am interested in Mr. Arty-Looking IT Guy, he clicked the button to say he's interested back! Within 24 hours, even! He is real and is online; he didn't just fill out a profile months ago and then decide not to pony up the cash to participate! Whew. Mind you, I am not picking out china patterns (do people still pick out china patterns?), but it is refreshing not to play the waiting game with presumably imaginary future boyfriend candidates, wishing that the particularly unhelpful wizard behind the curtain who runs the site would just tell me, "Um, dude over there hasn't visited in months. Your clicks are futile here."

If you have never treaded into the waters of this nonsense, I realize that last little bit probably won't mean anything to you, but if you HAVE sent messages or winks into the ether, never knowing if they were even received, can I get a "Word" on this?

In completely unrelated news, it is raining. Hard. For the third time in less than 24 hours. And to everyone in the Twin Cities whose lawn was as parched as mine, who was waiting for tumbleweeds to roll through the streets in our dry, late summer dustbowl of a town? You're welcome. I made it rain, you see. Yep. Because I finally gave in and watered my lawn last night, for the first time since mid-July (which is, coincidentally, probably the last time it rained as well). If I can control the weather, surely several other powers must be within my reach as well. Stopping time so I can sleep in every day? That's just around the corner. Picking the right line at the grocery store and Target? Soon I'll have that one down as well. And frankly, with all this power and talent, a relationship can't be far behind.

Say it with me: Year of Stef! It's not too late, I say.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Oh no. Not this again.

Have I mentioned recently how very much I love the Internet? Because I really, really love the Internet. I am old enough to remember life without VCRs and other fancy television recording devices (I actually remember my older sister once using a cassette recorder to tape a PBS "Wonder Works" movie that I was disappointed I wouldn’t be home to see, supplementing the audio from my parents' giant wood cabinet TV with her own commentary describing what was happening on screen), and yet routinely I marvel at the horrifyingly difficult and cumbersome lives we must have led before the Internet was commonplace. I think I have actually blocked out all memory of those more arduous and complicated times as though it were an event warranting post-traumatic stress. The Internet has made me a spoiled, lazy girl. Poor Laura Ingalls Wilder had to get by without indoor plumbing or a microwave, and I can't imagine having to drive all the way to the library to request a hold on the next Twilight book. The horror.

Anyway, online library reservations, recipe sites, and driving directions aside, I now have the Internet to thank for the newly re-functioning air conditioner in my car as well. Specifically, I have Steve and Google Image Search to thank for the newly re-functioning air conditioner in my car, because Steve told me what easily obtainable $17 product would likely fix my problem, and this picture told me exactly where to insert that product. Yay! I am certain the Saturn service center goblins would have charged me far more than $17 plus tax for the same repair, and I wouldn't have nearly the same sense of satisfaction at the result. In fact, if you know me in real life, I apologize for this entire paragraph, as I know I have already bragged about this to everyone and anyone I've spoken to in the past three days. I am woman; hear me roar. (Or, rather, I am woman with helpful resources, whose commute is finally back to only the usual levels of annoyance and frustration, sans crankiness-inducing blast furnace blowing in my face. Either way, WHOO.)

Of course, now that I know how to add refrigerant to the low pressure port on my air conditioner, I am even less likely to ever have a boyfriend again. After all, if that book Liz read recently is to be believed, I am supposed to be a helpless and delicate flower, and I'm pretty sure delicate flower types don't even deign to pop the hood of their cars. If it helps at all, I could admit that pressing the button on that can of refrigerant down for ten solid minutes made my weak and girlie thumbs more sore the following day than they've been since my mom bought my sisters and me our first Super Mario Brothers cartridge back in 1989. But that's probably not something to be proud of either. Moving on.

Speaking of my boyfriendless self, Lord help me but I am actually contemplating giving the absurdity of online date-finding yet another try. Why would I do such a foolish and frustrating thing?? Have I not read my own archives?? Sigh.

I really am quite fine on my own, and I really would like to sit back and let fate run its course, trusting that someday (finally SOMEDAY) I will actually meet an interesting man in real life and in person, the old-fashioned traditional way, and hence, I can stop wasting time with this Internet matchmaking nonsense. Unfortunately, once every four months or so, I wake up on an otherwise average and uneventful Saturday or Sunday morning feeling out of sorts and out of pace with the world, and in a panic of melancholy decide that I MUST FIND SOMEONE TO LOVE ME AGAIN. It matters not if two days prior I was marveling at just how content in my independence I am, how very much I enjoy my space and my free time and my ability to do what I please when I please. It matters not if three weeks prior I was sitting on yet another very boring date with yet another perfectly nice but uninteresting man dreading writing yet another "It was lovely meeting you, but I just don't feel a connection" follow-up message. No, on those once-a-quarter out-of-sorts days, I forget all of that and I convince my weepy, inexplicably fragile self that maybe THIS time will be different. THIS time, it will be worth all the wasted evenings of inane small talk. THIS time, Mr. Right-for-Me will be out there.

That most recent once-a-quarter day of melancholy was yesterday. Hence, instead of going outside on a beautiful, sunny, late summer day to take a walk or a bike ride or finally finish preparing my garage for repainting, I ended up spending damn near the whole precious day filling out yet another series of psychology-related questions and summing myself up in yet another little white box in the hopes that THIS time, I will end up as one half of one of those maddening smiling couples on the login screen. Ha.

I haven't actually ponied up for membership at this latest venue. I'm still trying to decipher just how the unfamiliar system works and whether the crop of potential future boyfriends is any more promising and worth my hard earned dollars than the frightening trolls and perverts I could meet for free on Craig's List are. (Disclaimer: I know that some of you met the love of your life on Craig's List. I still feel like I need to take a shower every time I peruse those listings.)

As usual, however, what has happened is that I have received several matches that I immediately dismissed due to a visceral reaction (the usual groan followed by a shudder followed by an audible, "Gah. NO!"), and ONE match that made me gasp with optimism, eyes wide, crying "Him! Yes, him! THAT one I would like to meet!"

I know better by now, however. I know that when ONE perfect-seeming man prompts me to hand over my credit card number, that man will either ignore my request for communication or will flake out with lame apologies after a seemingly very good date or two. Hrmph. Hence, I am waiting... basically lurking around the site, saying, "What else ya got?? Huh?" If Mr. Arty-Looking IT Guy really is my soul mate, then surely it is worth $50 to meet him. On the more likely chance that he's not, however, I want to ensure the per-prospect cost is a bit more reasonable.

Of course, this could all be wholly unnecessary, as my friend Carrie and I have grand plans to infiltrate the crowds around the RNC next week and either bond over drinks with like-minded curious and possibly devious liberals or engage in some light-hearted sparring with buttoned-up, misguided Republican boys. That would be just my luck, wouldn't it. My soul mate could be a Republican. And not just any Republican, but a visiting one. From Texas. Or Florida. Gah. Nevertheless, the Republicans are coming (I keep saying that over and over in my head, Paul Revere style: "The Republicans are coming! The Republicans are coming! Aaaggghhh!"), so we might as well have fun with it, I say. Fear not; I will report back. Surely there'll be an interesting story or two to share.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Nerd Meter

I have been unusually busy at That Place Thou Shalt Not Blog About this week, and it's particularly annoying given that the things I've been unusually busy with are not even my OWN things at That Place Thou Shalt Not Blog About. Instead, they are the things that someone ELSE would be doing if someone else weren't on her second vacation this summer. Mind you, I wish that someone else no ill will. She's an impossibly nice woman and she deserves even more vacations for the things she puts up with when she's there. I just wish I hadn't somehow silently and inexplicably gotten nominated to do those things on the days she's not. Also, I wish there weren't a hole in my damn shower, so I could perhaps justify taking a vacation myself. Grr.

None of this is anything I should be any less vague about, however, partly because there is a reason we don't blog about the place in question and partly because it's really just not all that interesting a series of complaints. Instead then, I'll shift gears and take the lazy way out with a "Just Post a Link"* entry.

* TM Noelle

This article may be sort of a nerd meter... I'm well aware that not everyone is a punctuation enthusiast, but surely at least a few of you are like me and find that passionate and sincere discourse on the topic warms your geeky little heart.

If so,'s "Is the semicolon girlie?" might be of interest...

To me, the semicolon has a certain elegance, like a vodka martini; I don't whip it out every day, but on occasion, and with great relish.

. . . .

Seems to me they're arguing that complex thoughts and nuanced self-expression are chick things, and I'm not touching that one.

. . . .

Not only do I use semicolons, but when I see someone else use them (correctly) I elevate that person to a private pantheon... It's a very nuanced thing -- a test of ear and eye -- but delightful when done right. I haven't read it in 20 years, but in "The World According to Garp," I believe Garp warms to another character when she uses a semicolon in her letters.

I would never consider myself inordinately girlie, but my love of the semicolon is well documented. As for whether real men use semicolons? Well, I think we've already covered that.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

In which you either wish I watched the news more often or you thank your lucky stars that I don't

Some people are under the misguided notion that I'm one of those responsible, socially conscious adults who actually makes a point to know what's going on in the world. Some people are obviously wrong. In truth, I'm slightly ashamed to admit that if it's not listed on's home page or rattled off in the 30-seconds of news highlights between song sets on The Current, there's a good chance I won't hear about it. Oh. Unless it's a day when I actually catch The Daily Show. If Jon Stewart mentions it, I might hear about it, too. (What? Jon Stewart is a totally valid form of “real” news. The Internet says so.)

What I'm saying is it's entirely possible that something very big could have happened in my city, my nation, or the world today, and I would know absolutely nothing about it. I do know, however, that the dolphin show at the Minnesota Zoo has been temporarily canceled because one of the dolphins is pregnant and another dolphin is, and I quote, "acting as though she is." I do know this, because MPR told me this morning.

I realize my imagination might sometimes get the better of me, but when I heard that story, I immediately envisioned Mrs. Krabappel pointing at those dolphins just like she once pointed at Santa's Little Helper and cackling "Ha! She thinks she's people!" And then I thought of that US Weekly column, "Stars! They're just like us!" (They drink coffee! They go shopping! They ignore their kids' temper tantrums in public!) Except instead of stars, it's animals, and instead of "us," it's other people... More specifically, the people on the Jerry Springer show.

Come on... tell me you can't see it... Young dolphin faking a pregnancy to hold onto her man... Subtitles across the bottom of the screen to decipher the dolphin clicks and squeaks: "He my baby daddy, bitch. He don't want you, uh uh!"

Um, yeah. I may need to work on my Jerry Springer guest dialect. Also, I may need to rethink the two-martini breakfast. (Kidding.)

It gets better, though. Not only are the two dolphins in question both "gettin' wit" the same dolphin playah (Seriously, who am I trying to fool with my ridiculous attempts at ghetto slang? I'm as convincing as Ned Flanders in the Springfield Elementary School Fire Safety skit: "What a great pot party! Now for a regular cigarette to make the night complete."), but the pregnant one is actually the not-pregnant one's mother. Come on; you know that's trashy talk show gold right there. "Is your man diddling your mom? Call Jerry now!"

Ahem. It's entirely possible the heat may be getting to me. Or maybe this is just my brain's way of telling me not to watch the news, to relax into a life of blissful ignorance instead.

While I'm on the topic of the absurd ways my brain works, have I mentioned that my sometimes trusty Saturn's air conditioner died recently? It's been rather uncomfortable driving around during the heat wave this week, pleading with the black plastic vents as they shoot slightly warmer than oven-ready air at me, crying, "PLEASE, get cooler?? Please? Please? PLEASE?!" I've decided I refuse to take it in for service just yet, however. Not because I am cheap, lazy, or broke (although I am all, to some degree), but because I am convinced without a doubt that having the air conditioner fixed now will essentially guarantee that my aging Rubbermaid bin on wheels won't make it through the winter. That's an entirely logical rationalization, is it not? I thought so; thank you.

Unfortunately, being trapped in a heat bin for 70 minutes a day makes me cranky (not to mention, if this whole dolphin nonsense is any indication, slightly insane). So let's cross our fingers for a cool front over Minnesota soon, shall we?

Friday, August 15, 2008

There's the rub

So then. I went for that massage you all encouraged me to get. Tell me: why in my head was I assuming the massage therapist I might cry in front of would be a woman? I don't know. Probably because the one and only other time I got a massage, it was a tiny, tiny blonde woman who administered it. In movies, of course, massages are always given by suave, impossibly good-looking and exotic men named Jean-Luc or Eduardo, but I know enough to know that movies are not real life; hence, tiny blonde woman was the reference point I had in mind.

Instead, when the door to the reception area opened and I heard my name called, the person standing there waiting for me was a giant black man. Now, I don't mean "giant" as in burly and menacing. More like "giant" as in portly. Rotund. Also, middle-aged. Giant middle-aged black man was somehow not the profile I had in mind when I imagined getting nearly naked for a stranger this evening. But hey, I can adjust. Right? Right? Sure.

I think the giant middle-aged black man was on to me, however. Our introduction went something like this:

Him: Hello, Stefanie. My name is Giant Middle-Aged Black Man. I'll be your massage therapist today.
Me: Oh. [...] OK.

I am nothing if not subtle. I am tremendous with the poker face. Oy.

As he walked me back to the massage room, I rationalized my possibly sexist and/or racist unease. It's not just a massage thing; I'm mildly unsettled at the thought of a male gynecologist as well! Why is it I prefer that the people who get up close and personal with my lady parts just for sport be male, but the ones who are in the area on business be female? Puzzling.

I realized I was being ridiculous, of course. The giant black man was a professional. Nothing unseemly or inappropriate was going to happen in that room. Still, in my head, the phrase "Giant black man" played over and over, growing ever more amusing in its inappropriateness each time. My inner monologue went something like this, in fact.

Giant black man. I am getting massaged by a giant black man. I am a mostly straight-laced snow-white girl in a Midwestern suburban strip mall, and I am on a table nearly naked beside a giant black man. How seemingly scandalous. (In a 1950s June Cleaver way.)

I cannot believe I keep saying "Giant black man." What if he can read my mind? What if he can hear my thoughts, like Edward in those crazy "Twilight" books? Or Mel Gibson in that terrible movie with Helen Hunt?

Hmm. Mel Gibson, or Edward the vampire? Which one is less creepy to imagine while naked? Edward is supposed to be impossibly beautiful... Also, however, he is seventeen. And a vampire. But Mel Gibson? I'm gonna have to say that one is worse.

Great. Now I am thinking about vampires. Why am I thinking about vampires during a massage? At least I'm not thinking about the giant black man. Giant black man. Giant black man. OK. Vampires.

I should think of something completely different. Something nice. Neutral. Pleasant. Meadows! I'll think about a meadow.

Great. Now if the giant black man can hear my thoughts, he's wondering why I'm thinking about a meadow. Why is a meadow the go-to tranquility and safety place? When was the last time I was ever actually IN a meadow? Would I even feel safe and tranquil in one?

I suppose it depends where the meadow is. Maybe it's Edward's meadow. Ooh. The meadow with scary Laurent. Great. Now I'm thinking about vampires again. Get OUT OF MY HEAD, crazy Mormon vampires! Out of my head, I say!

What am I SUPPOSED to be thinking about during a massage, anyway? Does anyone else think about whether what they're thinking about is appropriate when a stranger is rubbing them down?

[Note: Overshare ahead] This is just like when I'm on the receiving end of [two words I can't bear to type on the Internet]. Why can't I just be in the moment instead of thinking about whether I'm reacting correctly to the moment? And damn. Now I'm thinking about [words I can't bear to type on the Internet]. The giant black man and [words I can't bear to type on the Internet]. I do not want to think about the giant middle-aged black man and [words I can't bear to type on the Internet].

What book was it where the main character transcribed her full thought process during [words I can't bear to type on the Internet]? "PopCo"? No. "Calamity Physics"? No, that wasn't it. It was something with a high school girl, though... "Prep"! It was "Prep." I totally related to that part.

Is it normal to think about books while getting a naked rub-down? I suppose it's better than thinking about work. Should I be thinking about work?? No. I'm pretty sure work is the last thing I should be thinking about right now. Well. Second-last thing. [Words I can't bear to type on the Internet] slides in behind that.

Why was I so wary of the giant middle-aged black man, anyway? See? He's doing a perfectly OK job. Friendly. Professional. Not at all creepy. He's like a big giant teddy bear. OK, not a teddy bear. But maybe like a character of some sort. He's someone I do not know in my daily life at all, and isn't that the best option, really? I mean, if he had been Greasy Middle Aged White Guy with a Comb-Over, I'd be thinking about my co-workers, and I'm pretty sure THAT would be far, far, far worse. Great. Now I'm thinking of Milton from "Office Space." Why am I thinking about Milton from "Office Space"? No one I work with looks anything like Milton from "Office Space." Man, am I glad Giant Black Man isn't Milton from "Office Space."

I think that was about the point where I realized I was not-so-live blogging this, and I decided it was best to work my very hardest to zone out before I instead asked the giant middle-aged black man for a pen and paper to take notes.

In all, I'm not so sure it was a fantastic massage, not that I have a whole lot to compare it to. The tiny, tiny blonde woman was only a student and yet I remember feeling more drunk-with-relaxation then than I did tonight, but I suppose I'd need to try this experience more than twice to have any sort of objective baseline.

So. In summary, I might be a sexist and possibly racist massage client, but I am happy to acknowledge it when I've seen the error of my ways. This is what I have learned this week. What else have I learned? Oh yes. That children apparently don't fear me. In fact, some of them even like me. In the past week, after all, the following transpired:

  1. A three-year-old I had only just met toddled over of her own volition to hug me goodbye. "Wow. She never does that," her mother said. "She's usually shies away from people she doesn't know well."

  2. The father of a one-and-a-half-year-old who repeatedly brought me his toys to share looked at me and said, "That's what they call a Natural." Um, me? A "Natural"? With children? I doubt it.

    and finally...

  3. I learned that the eight-year-old who only recently upgraded me from a friend of her mom's who she barely remembers to "The one with the glasses" has since not only learned my name but has decided she's excited to see me again, too. Last week I went to her house for a periodic gathering with my married suburbanite friends and learned that this child had apparently asked all week "Is Stefanie coming?" When I walked in the door, she hugged me. I have known the child since she was born, and she has never hugged me before. She hugged me again four more times before I left, and asked, "When are you coming over again??" And when she and an equally small friend came into the room and observed me knitting the socks I mentioned previously, she beamed with weird pride by association when the friend exclaimed, "Woah. You're really good!" The dual sets of circular needles can look impressive, I guess. I just didn't realize eight-year-olds would see it as such.

That same eight-year-old came to my house with her family last night--part of the gathering of grown-ups with giant houses whom I felt compelled to tidy up for earlier this week. She and another friend's daughter are in the same day care (their day care provider is my eight-year-old admirer's mom), and apparently I was an unexpectedly popular topic at day care all week. "We get to go to Stefanie's house on Thursday!" they kept saying. They both made me presents as well.

I have no idea where this sudden popularity with the little people came from, but I promise it won't go to my head. Kids are a fickle bunch, I know, so I don't expect the displaced worshiping will last. Then again, it IS the Year of Stef. I just can't say this sort of attention is exactly what I had in mind.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Obligatory "I'm still alive" check-in

Yikes. I just logged in to Bloglines for the first time since Friday, and I'm a wee bit overwhelmed by the number in the "Unread" brackets. Apparently I decided to take an unofficial break here. Frankly I hadn't even noticed it had been longer than usual since my last post until I got an email from my good friend Lara today. "I just popped over to your blog and saw you haven't posted in ages," she wrote. "Is everything OK?"

Apparently six days equals "ages." Wow. I had no idea I was such a prolific poster! (I kid, Lara; I kid. It's lovely to know anyone's concerned about me.)

Anyway, all is fine. I've just been busy with largely uneventful things and for some reason entirely unmotivated to write about any marginally eventful things. I'm very much hoping the late-summer malaise that seemed to hit so many of us last August isn't rearing its ugly head again... I haven't felt particularly out of sorts lately, but I found myself abruptly near tears twice today, and neither time was prompted by anything typically deemed worthy of a good cry, so perhaps I'm more inexplicably fragile at the moment than I thought.

The first spontaneous tears incident? Traffic. No; really. I'm ashamed to admit that myself. I really would like to think that when I finally do snap and lose it, I will have something far less mundane and predictable than commuting to blame for it. But you see, I am convinced that the construction on Minnesota's Highway 36 this summer is nothing more than an extremely elaborate (and presumably expensive) social experiment, and I'm not proud to admit it's gotten to me. That's right, MnDOT. You've broken me. I'm like the emotionally damaged lab rats who get an electrical shock every time they reach for a food pellet, except that I didn't attempt to reach for any proverbial food pellets. All I've done is try to get to work each day. And all you've done is thwart my efforts with periodic lane closures that sprout up as unexpectedly and confusingly as the village of Brigadoon. The weeks-long construction at the intersection of 36 and 35W? That part I could deal with. You installed temporary cement guard rails and porta-lets in the area, clearly indicating "We've set up shop. Sorry folks, but we're gonna be here for a while." And that "Single lane ahead. Expect major delays." sign near 35E? That one I could cope with as well! You gave me precise dates for the anticipated lane closure, after all. "Single lane July 18 to 29," you said. I could tick off the days in my head, knowing I would hit a bottle neck in that area but taking some small comfort in the fact that I'd been warned about it at least. Expectation is everything; is it not? But these random, sporadic, one-day lane closures in areas of the road that you JUST REBUILT LAST YEAR?? Areas of the road that you made me detour around for SIX MONTHS while you made it all sparkly and smooth and new? No. That is NOT OK, MnDOT. As our friend Stephen Colbert says, "You are on notice!"

Ahem. Where was I? Oh yes. Tears. Spurred by road construction. I'm not proud.

So what was the other thing that made me whimper? Oh yes. My neck. I've developed a knot near my shoulder blade that is sending a dull ache straight up my neck, where it's growing into a constant headache of the "I actually feel sick because of this" variety. The knot has become a pressure point that prompts an unfortunate reflex. I press on it in a futile attempt to loosen it, and tears well up in my eyes from the pain. I think it may be time to schedule the second massage of my life, but I'm a little worried I will start to sob uncontrollably when the poor massage therapist assigned to me starts her work. Maybe I need that. Maybe that knot is holding all sorts of bad thoughts and life-in-general tension, and working it out of me will release all that negativity from myself as well. (No, I have not been reading any New Age books recently. My imagination just works overtime on occasion, I suppose.)

And that about catches you up on the past week, I suppose. I mean, yes, I went to a barbecue, visited friends in my alma mater town, finally finished the pair of socks I started knitting months ago, and had a furniture-moving misadventure that I could surely milk a paragraph or two from. But I'm pretty sure my not-so-ergonomically-correct desk setup might have something to do with the neck pain I was just complaining about, and I really must get the aforementioned stray furniture out of my living room before the gathering I'm hosting later this week (a gathering of grown-up friends with children and giant houses who've not yet actually seen my cluttered spinster shoebox), so I'd really best get off my computer and start cleaning this place up a bit.

I'm still entirely behind on my Bloglines feeds though, so do me a favor and tell me... Have I missed anything particularly amusing or important lately?

Wednesday, August 06, 2008


Note to self: No more video posts. Give the people what they want, and clearly what they want is not YouTube clips that they cannot listen to surreptitiously while trying to convincingly pretend they are working. Live and learn.

By the way, I would like to point out that somehow I managed to type "surreptitiously" correctly just now, sans any little dotted red line beneath it, on the very first try. Perhaps this shouldn't astonish me (I am an award-winning speller, after all), but I am rather proud of that feat nonetheless. (And now that I've typed that, I am bound to mistype some far simpler word somewhere in this post without actually noticing it. If so, just pretend that didn't happen, OK? Thanks.)

For those of you who may be wondering, I did take the Internet's advice and attend my block's National Night Out party last night. I scored neither a date, a jar of wrinkle cream, nor any potato salad. All was not lost, however. I did partake in reasonably comfortable (if not entirely superficial) small talk with several neighbors, including the couple who lives across the street and always seems ever-so-friendly but with whom I rarely communicate beyond a wave and a few words about the weather when we're both outside shoveling. So that was nice. I guess. I mean, we won't be gathering to play Boggle together anytime soon, but it's comforting to know the people nearby aren't likely rapists or axe murderers anyway, right?

There were exactly two reasonably attractive seemingly straight men in my general age group at the event, and unfortunately both of them had a wife or fiance' at their side. I talked to one couple for several minutes, and they seemed like people I actually wouldn't mind chatting with more regularly, but the barrier of their living an entire block away (rather than conveniently right next door) will likely keep me from ever running into or spending time with them again. It's just as well, I suppose, because given my proclivity for blurting out inappropriate things in unfamiliar situations, I probably just would have revealed some creepy and selfish ulterior motive... I think asking a couple I've just met, "Hey, do you have any single male friends?" might be a bit much so early in our non-relationship.

Miraculously, I think I did get through the event without saying anything alarmingly stupid or unintentionally offensive. This is great progress for me, seeing as I generally become a babbling idiot in situations of forced socialization with strangers. Before I walked over to the party, I ran into my next-door neighbor (you know--"Reed") and asked if he was going. He was not, which surprised me a bit, given that he's generally an outgoing, participatory, enthusiastically neighborly sort of guy. He said he hadn't even seen the invitation. "[Wife's Name] probably threw it away," he said. "She's antisocial." Hmm. I told him I was somewhat terrified to wander into a group of strangers by myself too, to which he replied, "What? You?? You're always bubbly! So outgoing!"

It's disorienting when you get a glimpse of yourself through someone else's eyes and that self is not the one you know at all. "Bubbly?" Me? I'm perplexed. Need I remind you that 90% of my interactions with "Reed" have been while I am doing yard work? Apparently swearing angrily at my stubborn lawn mower reveals a warm and friendly side. Who knew?

All of this is why I think perhaps I do my best socializing via my keyboard. Some of my favorite people are ones I know only through the magical series of tubes of these here Internets. Which is why Lara is right and it probably is a bit surprising that I'm one of the last remaining Facebook holdouts alive. Is it worth it to jump on that bandwagon? Just for a bit of flair from my favorite Philadelphian and perhaps a series of awkward reconnections with people my life has been just fine without? I'm not saying the pressure of National Pick on Stef Day is getting to me. I'm certainly not creating an account just yet. I do need to catch up on my crazy teenage vampire love story reading, however. My pal Lara has a point on that. Back to it, then... As you were.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Sunday Six Musical Mix

Hello, friends. It goes without saying, of course, but how about one more round of applause for our pal NPW and her mad creative vision and organizational skillz? By presumably all accounts, CYOB 2.0 was a rousing success. Wasn't that fun? I thought so. Bravo. Energetic golf claps all around to all involved.

It's been a busy weekend here, and I have a busy week ahead, but I did want to post something to keep you occupied for the next few days. Unfortunately, both my mental and physical energy are a bit drained at the moment. Seems like a good time for a "just post a link" sort of thing. And since Friday's CYOB adventures meant no Friday Five around these parts, how about a Sunday Six instead?

Six Songs I've Been Digging Lately

  1. Haley Bonar - Something Great
    Do those of you not Twin Cities-based know about Haley Bonar yet? She is spritely and adorable and is the songstress behind the latest "I simply must dance around my living room right now" song. Unfortunately, the available videos of this one are scarce, but you can check out her MySpace page for more and clearer photos and clips. Meanwhile, here's the song that's got me bopping wherever I am whenever it comes on.

  2. Billy Bragg - M for Me
    I have been digging the whole of Mr. Love and Justice, actually, but this one in particular is one of my favorites.

  3. Fleet Foxes - White Winter Hymnal
    Um, do I need some sort of commentary for all of these? I'm gonna go with "No." Just enjoy this song in its loveliness, OK?

  4. Aimee Mann - Borrowing Time
    Aimee Mann is one of those artists I very much enjoy seeing live and yet, for whatever reason rarely queue up on my iFraud or listen to on CD. In person, however, she is smart and funny and seemingly very comfortable building crowd rapport, and I highly recommend you check her out the next time she is in your town. Her latest single Borrowing Time might not have struck me significantly, had I not heard her launch into a nearly ten-minute story about the birth of the song when I saw her at the Minnesota Zoo earlier this summer. I can't find an embeddable video of the song online, but a similar version of that ten-minute story is here...

    As for the song itself, click through and listen to a brief advertisement here, and the song should begin momentarily.

  5. Feist - I Feel it All
    What's that I said about no commentary on some of these? Same goes for this one, I guess.

  6. Mika - Grace Kelly
    Like a few others in this list, this song isn't new. I first heard it on a compilation CD my boss got as a holiday gift from a client. She perused the track list and said, "I've never heard of any of these songs," and promptly offered the disc to me. This track was one of my favorites. I'm remembering it lately because my favorite radio station has been playing another Mika song in regular rotation. You should check that one out as well. Perhaps this should be a Sunday Seven. First, Grace Kelly...

    Next up, Love Today...

All right. I'll be back later in the week... after a few more social outings, including maybe or maybe not a neighborhood block party. See, that's the problem with asking the Internet if I should attend some particular event. The Internet says "Go!" and yet wallflower me isn't so sure she has the nerve. We shall see.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Scorpions and aliens and space ships--oh my! (a.k.a. CYOB 2.0)

Note: This post is my portion of the massive adventure in organization that is NPW's Choose Your Own Blogventure. You remember those "Choose Your Own Adventure" books of our youth, right? It's sort of like that. Be sure to head on over to NPW's site to start the story (and to tell her how fabulous she is). The story segment below is my continuation from that intro.

Click here to start the story.

Xinni froze mid-stride. The glowing man at the top of the hill might be her salvation. On the other hand, hadn't her father (and countless televised public service announcements) told her never to talk to strangers? She was on an unknown planet amid unknown inhabitants. How could she know whom to trust?

She glanced to her left, and then to her right, considering her choices if she shifted course. To the right, far off in the meadow, Xinni saw a gleaming mass of metal shining in the sun. From this distance, it looked like her own ship, the one she knew was destroyed on Aguas. That was impossible, of course. But Xinni didn't know where she had landed. Could it be she was on a planet that the Melmacian army had visited before?

Xinni turned right and began trudging towards what she knew might be no more than a mirage. She hadn't had food, water, or even an energy pellet since well before the Sea Scorpion attack the night before. She'd been too preoccupied with thoughts of Jax to eat anything at dinner with her crew. She might well be hallucinating. Still, she kept walking.

As Xinni cleared the next hill, she saw the unmistakable green and gold waves of her crew's crest and the letters UAM in bold type below it. United Army of Melmac. It WAS a ship from her own army! With a new burst of energy, Xinni broke into a sprint towards the ship. Perhaps the transmitter would still work. Perhaps she could send a signal that the Pullers would receive.

The ship had obviously landed in distress. The landing gear hadn't activated; the bottom of the vessel was distorted from the force of the impact, and the windows were shattered in pieces. Xinni stepped carefully over the bits of glass and metal and approached the broken window at the front of the control station. She took a deep breath before she climbed inside, knowing she might be horrified by what she'd find within.

Xinni looked immediately to the center console, hoping that by some miracle, the red light on the transmitter unit was still flashing. But where the transmitter should be was instead just an empty slot, a tangle of wires protruding from it haphazardly. Xinni quickly surveyed the rest of the ship. No signs of either survivors or victims. The ship appeared empty from this vantage point. Then she glanced back out the control station window. How had she not noticed it before? Between the wreckage of the ship and the nearby forest was a deliberate trail of metal and wires, flotsam obviously left to mark someone's way out... or way in.

Xinni stepped out of the ship and examined the trail. Should she follow it? Would it lead her to friend or foe? Just then, she heard a familiar voice calling her name. Jax? It couldn't be. He was still with his own crew, on Dunan. Surely her mind was playing tricks on her... or someone else was.

If you think Xinni should follow the trail (and the mysterious voice) into the forest, click here.

If you think Xinni should stay and examine the ship wreckage more carefully, click here.