Sunday, January 30, 2011

A Driving Lesson

Last weekend, Ari and I made an impromptu trip to his parents' house in Chattanooga, Tennessee, to pick up the giant truck they offered to let us borrow for the rest of the winter.  I say "giant" because this truck is named Big Bertha the Behemoth.  They had been planning to bring it to us later, but we realized on Sunday night that it was probably going to snow this week, so when Ari got home from work we threw together an overnight bag and set off on our adventure.

Chattanooga is about three hours away from us.  If you keep going another hour, you'll come to my hometown in Alabama.  Since I moved to North Carolina, I've traveled this route many times.  And every time, I can't help but meditate on the staggering number of crazy drivers lurking between Asheville and Chattanooga.  Especially in Knoxville.  That place is a den of deranged motorists.

That's why, drivers of the world (especially Knoxville), I'm going to give you a free driving lesson, right here on my blog, because I know you're all regular readers of my blog.

First of all, you're going to want to take a look at your dashboard.  You may not have noticed before, but your dashboard is covered in all sorts of blinky, glowy buttons and dials and switches.

Perhaps the most important of these is your turn signal.  It's that thing that sticks out to the left of your steering wheel, unless you're driving some kind of alien space vehicle.  If you push it down, a little light on the left side of your car will blink, and if you push it up, a little light on the right side of your car will blink.  This alerts other drivers when you are planning to turn or change lanes.  No one uses their turn signal anymore, and I can think of only a few possible explanations.  Maybe you don't know what it is, in which case, I just told you.  Many of you drivers out there may be suffering from low self-esteem:  you think the rest of us don't care that you're about to pull over into our lane, or slow down to a near-stop in front of us to make a turn.  Believe me, we do care, and we're here to help you.  A lot of you might think you don't need a turn signal because you're infallible and you have the vision of an eagle.  The problem is, you have this magical area behind your car called a blind spot.  Wizards enchanted these blind spots eons ago so that even something as large as, say, a car is completely invisible once it enters this bewitched territory.  However, the other car can still see you.  If you use your turn signal, the other car can get out of your way.  If you don't use your turn signal, you will sideswipe the other car, and someone will probably die or sue you. 

Turn signals are especially important if you're a truck driver.  I don't know if you're aware of this, truck drivers, but you drive a giant truck.  You have huge blind spots surrounding your vehicle in several places, and you don't corner worth a damn.

(Fun fact:  Ari and I actually saw a truck that had scratched off his "How's My Driving?" number one time.)

Generally, you can't really see anything at all from inside a truck.  Which is why I was baffled when, right outside Knoxville, the truck in the lane to the left of us signaled that it needed to merge right, and then immediately proceeded to merge right, running us all the way off the road.

That completely defeats the purpose of having a turn signal.  Here's a quick breakdown of what a turn signal is supposed to mean.

Luckily, there was a wide, paved shoulder on that stretch of Interstate, so we were fine.  I don't think the truck ever even knew we were there.  He probably wondered why the douche in the black Focus was suddenly blowing his horn at him.

That was actually the second time I've been run off the road in Knoxville.  The other time involved my next driving pet peeve:  people who won't pass you on the right.

I know you're technically supposed to pass on the left.  In some places, it's even a law.  However, in Knoxville there are five lanes and everyone drives like his wife is currently giving birth in the back seat.  Passing on the left is laughable.  The last time a Knoxville driver ran me off the road, I had just managed, through many trials and tribulations, to claw my way across five lanes of traffic to the promised land of the left lane, which is where my exit was.  That's when a giant truck (about the size of Big Bertha the Behemoth) materialized out of thin air about half an inch from my rear bumper. 

I contemplated moving to the right lane so this guy could go about his day.  Then I realized there was a line of cars behind him that stretched into infinity.  If I got over, they'd never let me back in the left lane.  Yet despite the fact that the lane to the right was almost entirely empty, no one would pass me. 

Still, I refused to budge and miss my exit.  Besides, I was already doing five miles per hour over the speed limit.  Why should I change lanes so this guy could indulge in reckless endangerment?  The answer was because this guy was fucking crazy and was now determined to kill me

He finally swerved into the right lane, and for a brief moment I thought I had won the standoff.  Then, just as the trailer he was pulling broke even with my car, he swerved back into my lane, forcing me onto the shoulder.  (I'm beginning to realize why they have such nice, wide shoulders on the Interstate in Knoxville.)  That's when I decided I hate Knoxville. 

The worst thing about Knoxville, though, is the speed limit.  The Knoxville locals have reached an unspoken agreement that the speed limit is 80 miles per hour.  Knoxville city officials, however, have decided upon 55 miles per hour as a fair speed limit, and possibly in an effort to drive the point home, have placed speed limit signs every few feet.  I never know what to make of this.  Is there any conceivable way that speed limit is actually enforced?  Sometimes I wonder if it's some kind of joke the people of Knoxville play on out-of-town traffic.

Just to be on the safe side, I don't drive faster than 60 miles per hour in Knoxville.  Because of this, I always manage to infuriate the entire city whenever I pass through.  One of these days they're going to chase my car out of town with flaming torches and pitchforks.  But I can't afford to take any chances.  Getting a speeding ticket at this point in my life would be like that moment in Monopoly when you've been scraping by so successfully with your last $200, but suddenly you land on someone's hotel, and it's all over.  I don't know how that would pan out in real life.

Driving is fraught with many perils.  At any moment, you could be crushed, sideswiped, or smacked with a bill for several hundred dollars.  When you get your driver's license, they may as well present you with a medal for courage. 

Let's not make it any worse than it already is, okay, guys?

Monday, January 17, 2011

Urgent Update: Who Should You Eat First?


Are your loved ones plotting to eat you?
Created by Oatmeal

I highly recommend this quiz.  If you're going to be the victim of cannibalistic slaughter, you'd best be on your guard.

(If this doesn't make sense to you, that's because it refers to this post.)

(Also, I added a graphic to my last post after I'd already published it, in case you missed it.)

I'm Going to be Rich!

Today I had a life-changing entrepreneurial epiphany.  (I have those a lot.)  Here it is.

Plenty of companies offer services like free credit reports.  These reports tell you 1) how badly you've already screwed up your credit, or 2) what a good job you've been doing with your credit lately.  That's great and all, but some of us need something more.  That's why I'm hereby inventing the credit planner.

Have you ever found yourself prioritizing between a seemingly infinite quantity of payments that are all due at the same time and a depressingly finite available balance in your bank account?  Let's say your student loans and your electric bill are due, but you can only afford to pay one.  You tried to ask for a loan deferment or forbearance, but the website got all judgmental and was like, Screw you, little girl, get a real job.  This is where the credit planner comes in.  The credit planner will be a free online service that allows you to enter your current financial obligations and play out hypothetical scenarios in which you neglect to pay some or all of your bills.  It will then generate theoretical rankings so you can decide which bills to pay this month.

I know it's tempting, but please don't steal my idea.  It's probably worth millions of dollars, and I could really use that money to pay some bills.

Procrastination Always Triumphs

Ari and I realized something about ourselves the other day.  No matter how many conveniences we surround ourselves with, we somehow manage to render them all completely useless.  I can think of only one logical explanation:  we must be geniuses.

The most recent example of this is the dishwasher--or lack thereof.  At first, we were nervous about moving into a house with no dishwasher.  In retrospect, I don't know what we thought we'd be missing.  Our dishwasher in the old apartment basically served as a holding facility for clean dishes.  I'll never understand why we were so repulsed by the prospect of lifting the clean dishes three feet into the kitchen cabinets.  Instead, we piled our dirty dishes in the sink, almost as if we had no dishwasher.  I knew the sink had reached maximum capacity one day when I needed a bowl of water for pasta, but the dishes were piled so high my bowl could no longer fit under the faucet.  That didn't motivate me to do the dishes, though--I just used the little sprayer thing instead.  (Retrieving the sprayer without toppling our precarious tower of dishes was like playing a game of Operation, where the penalty for touching the sides was being splattered with tepid dishwater and food remnants.)  Only when we'd used all the clean dishes in the dishwasher did we dismantle Dish Mountain and start the cycle again.  Honestly, having no dishwasher hasn't been much of an adjustment.

Then there's the Roomba.  Just by looking at the inside of our house, you'd never know we have a robot vacuum that will clean the floors for us at the push of a button.  The Roomba has made the actual task of vacuuming much more convenient, but there's one catch--we still have to maintain reasonably clutter-free floors so that our Roomba can operate.  This is just asking too much.  Are we supposed to believe that when we stomp through the front door and kick off our mud-and-ice encrusted shoes, we should leave our gloves somewhere other than the floor?  Are there really people out there who walk an additional 5-10 feet to the nearest available surface for the sake of maintaining an operable living space?  I always thought that only happened in commercials.  Here's a quick rundown of the junk in our living room floor at this very moment:  several empty cardboard boxes; two bags of bedding that are supposed to be in the guest room; one giant cardboard box that still has stuff in it; a bulging bag of clothes for GoodWill; a box of crackers; a stack of books; Ari's portable DVD player; assorted socks, gloves, and detachable hoods; and our holiday tree, still completely decorated, although I did have the class to move it from the table to the floor.  When we bought our Roomba nearly a year ago, I thought we'd start vacuuming once a week.  We do well to vacuum once a month, and vacuuming, while no longer difficult in itself, is usually accompanied by a massive 24-hour purge in which we return things to their proper places--or at least toss them on top of the furniture so they'll be out of Roomba's way.

Procrastination always trumps technology.  No matter how convenient the movers and shakers of our generation make something, we procrastinators will always find a way to keep it complicated.  It's the one area in which we always manage to be a step ahead. 

A Letter from My Cat: Dieting

Dear Human Female,

I just want to let you know, my diet has been very effective over the past few months.  I've been much more active lately.  I even jumped onto Human Male's desk yesterday from the floor, and I could tell that really impressed you.  So you can probably feed me a little more now.  I can't help but notice you eat three meals a day, and I only eat two.  Maybe Human Male could share some of his lunch meat.  And milk.  Those are good sources of protein and calcium for me.  You wouldn't want me to become malnourished.



p.s.  You know, in some cultures, corpulence is a sign of prosperity.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Thursday, January 13, 2011

A Letter from My Cat: The Candle

Dear Human Female,

I like your candle.  It smells like Ocean Breeze.

Keep it forever.



Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Build Your Own Snowman in 6 Realistic Steps

1.  Find a deep-looking patch of snow and start raking it together into a deformed lump.  Pat it down frequently so the snow will become securely packed.

2.  Once you've got a nice base, start packing more snow on top, covering a slightly smaller area.  This will be the torso.  The torso will probably fall off at least a dozen times.  Try to suppress your mounting rage.  Concentration is key!

3.  When/If the torso seems secure, gradually pack more snow onto it, covering an even smaller area.  This will be the head.  If the torso fell off a dozen times, the head will fall off at least 32 times.  Snowman building is a lesson in persistence.

4.  Add eyes, arms, a mouth, a nose, and maybe a scarf or some buttons.

5.  Step back and admire your creation.  Realize your creation is a lumpy, hulking mass of sheer terror.  It seems to be writhing miserably right before your eyes, rasping, "What have you done?  Pleeeeaaase kill meeee."  You could try to rebuild it, maybe perform some crude reconstructive surgery, but that would only prolong this unfortunate creature's agony.  You know the world will never understand him.

6.  Kick your snowman over and discreetly smooth out the snow.  Calmly walk back indoors.  Never mention to your friends or family that you created a mutant snowman who begged you to end his suffering.


In case you're interested, the actual snowman I built the day I wrote this post looked like this.

Then we got some more snow, which proceeded to start melting, transforming him into Jabba the Snowman.

Monday, January 10, 2011

How to Repeal the 14th Amendment

People have been talking a lot lately about repealing the 14th Amendment, or part of it, or something like that.  Many people are upset because from that point forward, children born in the U.S. to non-U.S. citizens will not automatically be citizens.  However, I feel obligated to come forth and reveal that I have devised a foolproof way to repeal the 14th Amendment so that no one will be unfairly targeted.

1.  Apply the repeal retroactively.  For example, if someone's great-great-grandfather came to the United States and didn't bother to obtain a green card, all subsequent generations of that family will now be illegal aliens.  (Actually, I don't think they were even using green cards back then--lazy immigrants!)  Incidentally, this will solve the long-standing issue of those colonists who thought they could just waltz right in and start populating the place, not to mention all those people who say their ancestors came here on the Bering Land Bridge.  Show me this "Bering Land Bridge" and then maybe I'll believe you.

2.  Actively deport all these new illegal aliens.  The United States population will dramatically decrease, leaving only those currently in possession of a valid green card and their offspring.  The remaining true Americans will find that many of society's pressing problems--such as housing shortages, unemployment, and scarce resources--have miraculously worked themselves out, leaving the foundation for a Utopian society.

3.  Unfortunately, illegal aliens have intermarried to the extent that many of them will not have a single country of origin.  For example, one individual may need to be deported to Ireland, Germany, Sweden, and Norway.  This is the perfect opportunity to reinstate the tried-and-true practice of drawing and quartering.  That way, each parent country will receive its fair share.

Hey, I said no one would be unfairly targeted.  I didn't say no one would be dead.

This post in no way reflects the actual political views of the author.  Unless you consider sarcasm a political view.

Who Should You Eat First?

 Plus:  3 Ways to Avoid Being Eaten

With a major winter storm bearing down upon us here in the North Carolina mountains, I feel like my fiance and I need to have a plan.  People in the Southeast have prepared for the snow in the traditional way, by clearing out the grocery store shelves and buying those little plastic sleds for their kids.  But let's not forget one of the most important questions to ask yourself when faced with imminent snowy doom. Who should I eat first--my significant other or my pets?

This is always a toughie, so I'll walk you through the common pros and cons.

Eating your significant other:
PRO:  You can reason with him so he'll understand he's sacrificing his life for your survival.
PRO:  He's bigger than the average-sized pet, so he'll last much longer.
CON:  Once you put the idea out there, he may turn the tables and want to eat you.
CON:  If your significant other earns more than you do, eating him might not be a good idea.  Always examine your finances carefully before eating your significant other.
CON:  I'm no expert, but I'm pretty sure you will go to prison.

Eating your pets:
PRO:  Again, I'm no expert, but you probably won't go to prison, or at least not for as long.
PRO:  You and your significant other get to live.
CON:  You can't reason with your pets.  They probably will not understand that they are making a noble sacrifice for your survival.
CON:  Even if your pets do understand what you're asking them to do, they probably will not be supportive.  Pets have a much better chance of surviving in the wild than humans, so they'd probably rather just escape and take their chances.
CON:  You really won't get all that much nourishment from eating your pets.  They'll probably taste gamey and awful.  A few hours later, you'll be hungry again, and you'll have to live with gut-wrenching guilt for the rest of your life.  However, the rest of your life probably will not amount to much, since your pets didn't provide enough sustenance and you're still going to starve.

In both cases, there are more cons than pros.  Looks like the best course of action is not to eat your significant other or pets.  But be vigilant in case they aren't as sympathetic toward you.  That brings me to my next winter storm topic.

How to keep your significant other and/or pets from eating you:
1.  Don't hoard food.  This may give you a short-term advantage, but ultimately, you're just fattening yourself up for your housemates' nourishment.
2.  Go easy on personal hygiene.  This shouldn't be too hard, since you'll probably lose power and possibly water as well.  A grimy, smelly person who hasn't shaved in a while is much less appetizing.
3.  Make yourself an asset.  Volunteer to perform tasks like fire-building and scavenging.  Your housemates will be reluctant to eat you if you're useful.

Winter can be a magical time of sledding, ice skating, and drinking hot chocolate.  If you're prepared, being snowed in can actually be a lot of fun.  Just remember:  don't eat anyone, and try not to get eaten.

Friday, January 7, 2011

A Letter from My Cat: The Lamp

Dear Human Female,

I hate your lamp.  It's in my way.



UPDATE:  This is Bogo after he finally succeeded in "accidentally" knocking the lamp off the shelf last night, forcing me to find it a new home.  Look at that smug face.

Ahhh.  That's better.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

The Rats in New York City Love to Dance

Ari and I were watching the Weather Channel late last night to find out exactly how screwed we'd be this week.  As we waited for our local forecast, we were vaguely aware a news story was playing about New York City's handling of the massive snow storm that occurred there last week, but we weren't really paying attention until the news anchor wrapped up by saying, "Hopefully city officials will get to it before the rats."

That's when we knew we'd missed something crucial at the beginning of that newscast.

Ari and I are both reasonably sane--at least, neither of us has ever been known to hear crazy, nonsensical things for no reason--and we concluded we both heard the news anchor on the Weather Channel say something involving New York City officials and "before the rats."

What snow-related shenanigans could rats possibly get into?  Building tiny rat igloos all over the city streets?  Ari suggested the city officials, if they waited too long to clear the snow, might arrive to discover the rats had formed kick lines across the roads and were blaring vaudeville music while doing the can-can.  Then they'd curse their sluggishness and exclaim, "No!  We're too late!"  Ari actually explained this by acting it all out, including the can-can.  Unfortunately, my puny words cannot accurately convey the humor of this.

So instead, I drew a picture.  Then I started adding captions.  Then I started using the captions to make fun of my picture, because it definitely isn't my best work.  I can draw certain things well, but can-can dancing rats and snow plows aren't among those things.  Still, perhaps you can reap some enjoyment from my rudimentary illustrations.

Lately I've been wanting to incorporate drawings into my blog.  I like blogs that have drawings, and I like to draw, and I have a blog.  I face the slight complication of not actually having software on my Mac to draw with, but I'm not above making pen-and-ink drawings and scanning them, or finding free software to download.  Still, before I posted this today, I showed it to Ari, who laughed.  Encouraged, I said, "So you think people will think it's funny?"  Then he shrugged and said, "I dunno," and I was engulfed in a sea of doubt.  People are either going to think, "Hey, that drawing's funny, in a badly-drawn kind of way!  Yay!" or "Wow, this girl cannot draw.  I feel sorry for her.  I'm going to leave a mean comment."  But as you can see, curiosity got the better of me, and I published this post anyway.

By the way:  I shrank the picture so it would fit in this ridiculously narrow template that I am too inept to edit.  If you can't read my sloppy handwriting, clicking the image should make it appear its actual size, which is pretty big. 

UPDATE:  In case any of you were wondering, we found out what city officials needed to get to "before the rats":  trash.  Tons of uncollected trash that had been piled under the snow.  I suppose that's a perfectly feasible explanation for the mysterious rat statement.  Nevertheless, our minds skipped right over it and went straight to the can-can.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Maybe I'll Never Take Anything Seriously

(but Ari loves me anyway) <--- Ari typed that.  Then he said, "I'm helping.  It's better already."  It was originally in the title bar, but I moved it down here.

Lately I've wondered if I'll ever take anything seriously.  I've had an Etsy store for almost a year now, and I've realized most people take their Etsy really, really seriously.  I thought I'd start taking mine more seriously once I was doing it full-time, but no.  Most sellers know just how to make their products and general life philosophies sound enticing.  I'm more like, "Eh, I sell soap. Buy some if you want." Maybe because as a customer, that's really all I expect. As a matter of fact, if someone were honest enough to say that, I'd applaud their honesty and buy soap from them immediately, if I had any money (which I don't, but that's beside the point). I guess that's the difference between me and the rest of the world.  I just can't manage to take things seriously.

There's certainly a dark side to taking things seriously.  I'm not using that as an excuse--I never took things seriously even before I discovered the dark side.  But when you work in retail and witness a middle-aged woman have a meltdown because your store doesn't have a box to hold her three-foot-tall Santa Claus figurine, you start to think, "Wow.  I'm really glad I don't take things that seriously."

That's probably why I never excelled as a retail clerk.  As a sales clerk, you're supposed to bombard the customer with cheer and goodwill the moment they walk in the door.  "Good morning/evening, sir/ma'am.  How are you?  May I help you find anything today?"  And if they show any interest whatsoever in talking to you, you're supposed to keep the small talk going.  "What brings you to Asheville?  Are you enjoying your trip?"  If I walked into a store and someone recited that complex litany to me, I'd suspect they were a cyborg.  I treated all my customers the way I'd like to be treated--I said "Hello" when they walked in and then ignored them unless they needed anything.  By my employer's standards, I was a mediocre clerk.  By my own standards, I was the greatest sales clerk ever. 

It's not just retail, though.  There are lots of other things I don't take seriously:

 - My personal appearance
 - My bank account balance
 - This blog
 - My other blogs
 - My career, or lack thereof
 - Household problems

…Just to name a few. 

People never seem to understand my inability to be serious.  Today my landlord was here fixing our DirecTV, and he asked me how long it had been since we lost our satellite signal.
"Two weeks?" I answered sheepishly.
"Two weeks!" he exclaimed.  "Why didn't you call me?"
"Well… you know… I was out of town for a while, and… I guess we just didn't get around to it until now."
The thing is, it had been even longer than that.  Our satellite stopped working the week we moved in, which was over a month ago.  I guess a normal person who takes things seriously would have responded by thinking, "I deserve satellite service and I'm calling the company right away!"  Ari and I, on the other hand, just think, "Eh, no TV.  I guess we'll just read."

Sometimes I do wonder if I should take things more seriously, like when I recently applied to grad school.  I decided in October that I wanted to go to grad school.  I knew I would first have to take the GRE, so I studied for two weeks and took it in November.  I got my scores back and saw they were decent, so I visited some of my professors from two years ago to see if they'd remember me and write letters of recommendation.

It occurred to me then that most people don't apply to grad school so nonchalantly.  Talking to my former professors about my "plan" was almost embarrassing.  I'd originally planned to apply to only one school that I really, really wanted to go to, which happens to be notoriously selective.  I guess me applying to this school is the equivalent of an overweight, balding man in his forties hitting on a nineteen-year-old model.  Then, I got a blanket promotional e-mail from another school I'd never considered before, and I thought, "Eh, I'll apply there too."  Nonetheless, my professors agreed to write letters for me, so I moved on to the final step:  throwing together a writing sample several days before the application deadline.  One application was due Sunday, and I submitted it at midnight that night.  The other had to be postmarked yesterday, so I dropped it off at the post office at 4:30 PM.  I was so proud of myself for finishing my applications, Ari took me out to dinner.

Rest assured, my lack of seriousness does not reflect a lack of enthusiasm.  If either of those schools accept me this spring, I will be tremendously happy.  I'm always thrilled to make sales on Etsy.  And I did really miss having TV.  Ultimately, I guess not taking anything seriously is just a survival mechanism.  Maybe I should be glad to have such strong built-in defenses.  Taking things too seriously causes stress, which is generally bad and will kill you.

The End.

Monday, January 3, 2011

A Letter from My Cat: The Hand-Sniff

Dear Human Female,

I can't help but notice that you are frequently overcome with a sudden, strong urge to pet me.  While I can certainly understand your desire to bring your misshapen monkey hands in contact with my sheer splendor, I must ask that you do not bypass my cursory hand-sniff, as you so often do.  You must have noticed by now that it irks me to no end when you proceed to paw at me without first undergoing the proper procedure.

The cursory hand-sniff serves a few purposes.  I don't know what you do when you're gone all day (speaking of which, why can't I go out there, again?), and ensuring your hands are clean saves me an extra bath.  Plus, there might be some delicious food left on your hands that I could lick off.  I think that's a fair trade for allowing you to make physical contact with me.

Don't misunderstand me.  I quite enjoy your displays of affection.  I just need you to be more respectful of my personal bubble.


Afterword:  I have finally reached the stage of mental deterioration in which my cats' points of view seem to make more interesting subject matter than my own.