Friday, November 16, 2012

*Insert title of 1944 Judy Garland musical here*

When I say I work in Study Abroad the first question people usually have is, 'Oh, do you get to travel?!'. And I say, 'No, not yet. But hopefully that will be part of my position soon.' with an understanding tone because I understand why they're asking the question, but also with much sorrow because there's nothing I would like better than for glorious international travel to be part of my position RIGHT NOW*.

This sorrow all ended just a few weeks ago when I went to Saint Louis, Missouri for an International Education conference!!!!

Oh yes. St. Louis. Perhaps not a glorious, nor international, destination, but the TSA agents might have been less condescending when I asked if I could have a stamp in my passport. 

The conference was fun, and in a cute part of St Louis that I really enjoyed.

 Cool old houses in the neighborhood.

 Considering its proximity to the world's largest chess piece, the conference hotel had surprisingly reasonable rates.
 It was also very close to a chocolate shop that had drinking chocolate!  Do you have any idea how hard it is to find drinking chocolate in the U.S.?  It's hard!

The St Louis Cathedral was also in the neighborhood. The red mosaics were especially pretty.

The arch is a scam. You pay $10 to take this capsule sized elevator (ok seeing the infrastructure of the arch was cool) to the top and peer out of these itty bitty windows at... not much....

*As anyone will tell you, but I feel the need to stress, international travel for work involves working very hard and is NOT a glorious vacation. This is true for int'l educators, not just corporations. So the next time someone you know gets back from their International Education 'sponsored' trip abroad, do not say 'Oh that must have been so fun!'. They are too tired to talk about it.

Friday, November 9, 2012

What you don't get from Restaurant Week

Burgers, fries, onion rings, and ice cream are some of the greatest culinary pleasures known to mankind. Especially when acquired from a malt shop that's existed for no less than 50 years and for which phrases like "restaurant image consultant", "foie gras shabu-shabu", and "we have a reservation" are as out of place as reasonable blood pressure at the state fair.

Is that grease? That delightful aroma gracefully wafting through the air? Savor the heavily breaded onion rings while they reform as an undigested mass inside of you. There is nothing on the menu over $6.25! Phosphates, full of delicious fruity sugar. Admire the french fries gracefully arranged inside greasy little paper pouches. And the burgers, oh the burgers! All cooked one way.

"I'd ask you how you'd like your burger done, but we only do delicious."

The next day you may or may not regret this meal. But your lethargic body will remind you it happened.

I recommend Snuffy's Malt Shop in St Paul.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

DIY : Distraction

Have you ever met a significant other's family for the first time and asked yourself, 'How could I add anxiety to this meeting?' or 'How could I make 'Meet the Parents' seem comfortable?' or 'What are some things I could do to test the emergency preparedness of those present at this gathering?'

Well I have an idea! Get yourself bitten by the family dog!

It's helpful if an outdoor activity such as, say, Botchi ball is initiated and some kids across the street are lighting fireworks. Many dogs are afraid of fireworks and will be put in one of the cars in the driveway. Reach in the car to pet the terrified, trembling dog looking at you with a slightly crazed expression. The dog will surely bite you.

Well done. At this point you can only wish for the great earth to swallow you immediately. Any animal handling credibility you had will have vanished, especially if you deal with shock and sudden injuries by freaking out and nearly fainting. You may ask yourself if there was a definable moment when you disregarded the body language of the terrified, trembling dog looking at you with with a slightly crazed expression and decided, 'I absolutely must pet this dog right now.'

But whatever. Don't let this get you down. Mission accomplished!

Friday, June 22, 2012

Speak real good

We all need to speak and write more better.

Use of good grammar is dear to my heart because I believe it is closely tied to reading of good literature. And we should all definitely be reading more books. My research shows that to speak and write well one must read well which is why the world becomes a more challenging place every time a book store closes.

I'll be the first to admit my grammar and punctuation are not perfect. I have an unreasonable resistance to learning the proper use of the word 'whom' and only say things like 'one would imagine' instead of 'you would imagine' in moments of facetiousness. I overuse commas. My hyphenation is excessive and incorrect 90% of the time. However I'm a merciless snob when it comes to basic grammatical errors made by others, and am very critical of a tone I deem too casual.

Once a (former) boss sent an e-mail that contained the following sentence:

'We will walk over to Macy's for lunch. Macy's have a large selection of food.'

I seriously almost died. We're not exactly questioning the oxford comma here. Subject-verb agreement is not up for debate and is covered in third grade. I spent the next 12 minutes thinking sarcastic thoughts about my boss and forwarded the e-mail to at least 5 people.

Once a friend mentioned a date who asked someone to borrow him a pen. I urged her never to see him again.

Other terrible things include: saying '_____ and I' when it should be '______ and me', incorrect choices between 'there is' and 'there are', and, most seriously, the use of the word 'ain't'.

Some might argue that communicating informally, 'writing like we talk', is the new norm. I read an article in the WSJ today titled Grammar, a Victim in the Workplace that contained the following paragraph addressing communication via social media:

"Sincerity and clarity expressed in "140 characters and sound bytes" are seen as hallmarks of good communication—not "the king's grammar," says Jason Grimes, 38, vice president of product marketing. "Those who can be sincere, and still text and Twitter and communicate on Facebook—those are the ones who are going to succeed."

I don't disagree. However it's possible to sound sincerely and clearly dumb, and a message of just 140 characters leaves even less room for sloppiness. For heaven’s sake, you only have to re-read 140 characters and there could be, at most, 3 grammatical questions to google. How is anyone going to take you seriously if you can't write one sentence correctly?

We don't need to write or speak Dickensian (much as I adore such language and believe its emulation should be a goal under certain circumstances) to be considered good communicators. It's entirely possible to be concise, informal, well-spoken, and smart (oxford comma!). Whether you're on facebook or e-mailing your minions, by all means be casual and brief - just be so correctly.

P.S. While satisfied with the merely correct, part of me will always long for more mainstream use of 'the king's grammar'. Fun example, an old theatre review I came across:

‘It has lately been a practice with one or two of the female performers at Drury-Lane Theatre to refuse appearing on the stage, though much after the time of commencing the play, because the boxes may not happen to be filled with fashionable visitors, regardless of any disapprobation which may arise from the impatience of the audience. When the new theatre is erected for the managers of the Old Drury, it is in contemplation to fix a clock over the stage where the inscription is now placed that if the performance should be improperly delayed and the audience become clamorous the managers may be informed to whom the blame should be applied.’

Friday, June 1, 2012


So I was listening to some techno at work

(I thought this would make me drink more coffee, but techno is actually a caffeine substitute. You just sit at your desk half way *insert-cool-words-to-describe-how-people-move-to-techno*-ing, releasing endorphines and totally forgetting about your caffeine headache.)

and all of a sudden I hear this track.

Tiesto Adagio for Strings

"Is that what I think it is?"

Yes, that is definitely one of classical music's most moving moments, Samuel Barber's Adagio for Strings, woven into a techno track. Or a techno track woven into SBAFS.  Whatevs.

I think it's basically super cool.

True, classical--other-types-of-music fusions are about as new as the hills, but I just discovered this one so the question resurfaces: Artistic license or butchery of a masterpiece?

Samuel Barber's Adagio for Strings - BBC Orchestra

Friday, May 25, 2012

I'll show you some zen

I recently discovered CorePower Yoga and for the past two weeks I've been going to classes before work.

Week One:

Functioning at 6am was an issue. Yoga in a heated room at such an unseemly hour made me angry. I had no inner peace and was really worried about my zen.  I regressed to a 'yoga cynic' status and spent most of class looking scornfully at people doing the loud yoga breathing. When the instructors said, 'release yourself to the experience' I wanted to cut holes in their lululemon outfits and tell them they were being dumb. (Everyone at CorePower wears lululemon like it's the only workout wear on the planet.)

Week Two:

Vast improvement. I'm back to my usual status of 'enjoyer of yoga workouts but no need to meditate like a madman'. When the instructor comes into the room and says, 'Hello yogis', I'm only a teeny bit annoyed by the yoga vernacular. I can't wait to 'set an intention for my practice' and towel off a disgusting amount of sweat. Throughout the day I mention to at least 3 people that I went to yoga that morning and have a lot of zen. Maybe not as much zen as the loud yoga breathers, but still, quite a bit of zen.

The change might be the calming effect of yoga and the power of  'leaving the outside world at the door and focusing on oneself in the present moment'.

It also might be that I'm used to getting up early, and everything mothers say about a regular sleep schedule is true.

Friday, May 18, 2012

News Bulletin

Big Spender
Greece continues to spend more money than they have and the latest word from left party leader Alexis Tsipras is that they intend to keep doing so. 'We're sort of tired of austerity.' he explains. Alexis goes on to say if Europe stops financing Greece, Greece can't make debt payments to Europe. Which, on second thought, 'wouldn't be all that bad because then we could use debt payment money for other stuff.' German Chancellor Angela Merkel keeps insisting prodigal children are only supposed to be allowed to rip off their parents once before taking responsibility for themselves and begging for forgiveness, 'That's what the Bible says.'

To Tell or Not to Tell
U.S. drone strikes are obviously not a secret but they are technically classified. Due to inundations of requests for more information about the strikes, officials are thinking about making more information less classified. Scholars say this could be a good way for the government to demonstrate drone strikes are handled carefully. When pressed for comment al Qaeda representatives voiced reserved support for the initiative saying, 'the American people may feel reassured by details about how carefully strikes are planned. Especially regarding who might be on the receiving end of a carefully planned strike.'

Towards the beginning of the month 29 Chinese fishermen were allegedly kidnapped by North Koreans demanding ransom. According to the Chinese media, China is in complete control of the situation and has been reassured by North Korea that the fishermen are in good health and some have even been sent back to China. Chinese people, however, are not convinced and are getting fed up with North Korea. A concerned bystander said, 'I get we're allies or whatever with [North Korea], but this isn't how you treat your only friend.'

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Just eat it.

Oh my gosh so I went on a diet you guys. When I was last in Iowa I took a book called The Flat Belly Diet from my parents’ bookshelves. I didn’t do this because I thought my belly wasn’t flat, I took it because (here, folks, is the true reason people like diets:) it told me exactly what to do.  People don’t need special diets; they just want precise meal planning instructions. This is why people ‘finish’ their diets, get overwhelmed with the chaos of meal preparation and then are always relieved to say ‘I’m going on a diet’ even if they pretend to be exasperated.

Person A: I’m going on a diet. *sigh*

Person B: Well, it’s true, you’re no Martha Stewart.

I’m no exception. I’ve rotated between the same 5 lunches and dinners since I’ve been responsible for feeding myself, one of which is chips and salsa. So a book that did all the thinking sounded like perfection.

The trip to the grocery store was challenging. I have never looked for ginger root, mushrooms, squash, turkey breast cutlets or mint leaves.
My first question was, ‘what do I do if I can’t find stuff?’
Nothing. As it turns out I didn’t care that much about following the diet super closely. I also didn’t write down the four day shopping list, instead opting to carry the heavy hard cover book around the store, trying to hold it without losing my place while putting produce in bags. I think I was trying not to take full credit for my shopping cart by giving people a chance to connect the dots (‘Look at all the varied items in that cart, how does she know she know what to buy?  Oooooh she has the Flat Belly Diet book, that’s cool’).

My favorite part about the Flat Belly Diet is the Sassy Water.  Oh yes. Sassy Water. It contains ginger root, lemon, cucumber and mint leaves and is quite refreshing.

On my second day of the Flat Belly Diet I realized the book had a sense of humor. Lunch was a piece of rolled up turkey, (ok honestly WTF? A piece of rolled turkey? Not an entrĂ©e. Is rolling it supposed to make us think we’re eating more?) string cheese, cherry tomatoes and Sassy Water. This, clearly being a snack, was treated accordingly (i.e. it was followed by lunch).
After the second day I had some other stuff going on and forgot about the diet. Until I was trying to figure out what to make for dinner one night and took out the book again. I made tilapia, green beans and roasted red potato!  It was probably the most balanced meal I’ve ever prepared, and it was delicious.
FBD is supposed to be a 21 day plan and it will probably take about 6 months to get through it. Which I think is fine. I’ve already bought 14 ingredients for the first time ever and prepared 3 healthy new dishes thanks to this easy as pie book. I’m really pleased with myself.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Arts week

I had another great arts week. Great arts weeks are never planned, they just happen. They're like finding the love of your life, you can't look for a great arts week, they just pop up when you least expect it. In some ways they're even better than finding the love of your life.  Questions like, Is this the love of my life? How sure are we about this? If only they had different parents. Should we take a break to be sure about this? Why do they insist on saying 'will you borrow me this' instead of 'will you lend me that'? cannot be applied to arts weeks.

 On Wednesday I went to Hay Fever at the Guthrie Theatre. This was a hilarious show, I laughed a lot and my cheeks hurt from smiling. Hay Fever isn't Shakespeare or high art, but it's fantastic comedic writing and just all around great fun.  The highlight was Harriet Harris who played Judith Bliss, a recently retired actress and mother of two grown children who call her 'darling'. She did an expert job at being the drama queen who would be fun to have around, the kind of person you watch on stage and think, 'I need to know someone like this.'

Friday I went to the James Sewell Ballet. I like JSB. They can always be counted on for someting creative and different.
I went with a group called Theoroi which goes to shows and then meets with the artists/directors/someone related to the show.  After the performance we went to the super cool JSB rehearsal space for drinks and apps (I ate a very un-ballerina like number of macaroons) and a Q&A with James Sewell and the dancers. It was the kind of thing you go to and think, 'My life should be more like this all the time.'  The best part was when one of the dancers was talking about the second part of the show and said, 'We were changing stuff at 6:30 today. I had no idea what was going on.'

Saturday I went to Madame Butterfly. I forgot how terrible this story is* but the music is just outstanding. Kelly Kaduce's (Butterfly) singing and acting was really moving. I actually almost cried and I always try not to be that pretentious person that is 'just soooo moved by the beauty of opera' that they can't control themselves (people who cry at the opera aren't always pretentious but it's a fine line I'm nervous about and therefore always lean more towards appearing to be an emotional black hole).
*To clarify, the story isn't badly told, it's just a terrible story - Pinkerton is a grade A jerk.

Monday, February 27, 2012


A couple days a go I went to the mall to get a manicure and suddenly found I had told about 5 lies in as many minutes.
I was in a hurry to get home and sit on the couch so when one of the people in there said, 'what you want' and I said 'a manicure' and she said '10 minute', I said, 'Oh ok, never mind, I'm kind of in a rush.'
There was some flurry of activity and chatter and another woman came up and said, 'I do you now, you sit here.'

Usually the people in these drop-in places never talk to you. Other than to tell you to pick out a color if you seem lost. But the woman I had was friendly and chatty.

'Why are you in a hurry?'

'Umm actually I just want to get home and watch my DVRd episode of The Good Wife'

Obviously not going to say that.

'I'm going to meet my parents'

'Do they live in town?'


'Ummm, no, they're flying in.'

'Where are they from?'


'What are you going to do with them?'

'I think we're going to go out to eat and see a movie. They really like the TCs so we have some sight seeing planned for tomorrow, probably the Art Institute and maybe some shopping. We also have family in the area so I'm sure we'll get together with them and maybe go to a pet store because my aunt wants to find a puppy. My mom and I usually go for a walk and out for coffee when they come and ......


After my nails I went to Banana to see if there was anything good. When I walked out there was a guy from the nail place walking down the hallway. He absolutely gave me a half glare. 'Yeah, you're clearly in a hurry you pushy ..... '

Friday, February 3, 2012

Stuff I do not like

After a few posts with compilations of stuff I DO like, is it too negative to do one about stuff I don't? No, it's not.

I state this with confidence because I have impeccable taste and judgement. And there are certain things no one should like.

One: People with overinflated ideas about the importance of their opinions.  Especially regarding taste and judgement.

Just kidding. I'm not one of those people. I don't have impeccable taste and/or judgement.  But I do believe there are things no one should like and have opinions as to what those things are.

One: In case you're still reading. Footwear that is ridiculously ugly yet popular. Namely:

Unless you're a gardener, and IN your garden, or need shapeless slippers that warm your ankles there is really no justification for the appearance of such hideous footwear in daylight. I'm amazed by those with the ability to wear such things and simultaneously make eye contact with others.

Two: There is a muscle in my back that twitches whenever the word 'bubbly' is used for champagne. This is more of a personal preference than a question of taste/judgement so I'm less adamant about this item. But if the phrase 'Break out the bubbly' could be banned, I would vote yes.

Next: huge drink containers. If a modern artist wanted to encapsulate gross excess and disregard for reasonable standards of consumption in an object they might purchase one of these and sell it to a museum. I realize that scenario might sound odd, but it's the only way to bring even a touch of higher thought to such a trashy object.

Seven: Modern art that consists of taking an object and attaching extraneous meaning to it.

Finally: Terrible sitcom comedies.  The popularity of 'Two and a Half Men' is one of the greatest obstacles to faith in humanity. When you add the inappropriately long run of 'King of Queens' it's not unreasonable to start crying.