Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Puerto Rico: Totally Inappropriate

For Christmas, one of my friends received a board game called Puerto Rico, which we broke out last night. It's one of those resource-gathering games, not unlike Settlers of Catan, another game to which I was recently introduced.

The game itself is pretty entertaining once you get into it, but I have just one major qualm.

Basically, the game involves settling "Puerto Rico" by building "plantations" and then bringing "colonists" (represented by little brown discs) over from the "Old World" on the "colonist ship" to work your plantations.

Totally inappropriate?


Monday, December 27, 2010

Merry Holiday, everybody!

Well, the presents have been opened, the massive amounts of food eaten, and the eggnog... drunken? Yes, perhaps. Christmas seemed to come and go so fast. I was frantically working on getting things ready up until the moment it happened, and then it was all over and all that's left is the clean-up.

But to continue in the spirit of the holidays, I present to you a Christmas post, just a bit late.

First, to explain today's politically correct title, here is a transcription of one of my favorite SNL Christmas sketches. I wanted to present you with a video, but it is not to be found on the internet. Not by me, anyway. If anyone can find a copy (preferably non-virused), I would be much obliged. But here's that transcription, and I hope that while reading it, you will imbue it with all the comedy of the original.
Tree Re-Lighting Special
Al Roker.....Kenan Thompson
Megan Mullally.....Kristin Wiig
Harry Connick, Jr.....Jason Sudeikis
Donald Trump.....Darrell Hammond
Singers.....rest of cast

(open on Al Roker, Megan Mullally and Harry Connick, Jr. standing in front of a Rockefeller Center backdrop)

Al Roker: Welcome back! It’s a great night out here in Rockefeller Center again. Isn’t it, Harry?

Harry Connick, Jr.: Sure is, Al. And it was great out here last Wednesday, when we lit the tree for the first time.

Megan Mullally: Ya know, tonight, just for fun, we’re gonna turn it off. And then we’re gonna light that sucker right back up again! Hahahaha! It’s either this or four “Earls” in a row.

Harry Connick, Jr.: I tell you, this is my favorite place to be at Christmas time.

Al Roker: You mean “Holiday-Time,” don’t you Harry?

Harry Connick, Jr.: Oops. That’s right. Merry Holiday everybody! Ya know, some people enjoy Christmas songs, Hanukah songs, or even Kwanzaa songs. But everyone can enjoy a holiday song.

Al Roker: So in the spirit of diversity and fear, please welcome the NBC Peacock Singers with and all-inclusive Holiday medley for everyone.

(To SINGERS. Lyrics appear at the bottom of the screen)

Singers: (To the tune of “Silent Night”)
"Silent night,
Regular night
All is calm,
All is bright.
Round the fire
Mother and child
Random infant
Religiously neutral
Sleep in comfortable beds
Sleep in comfortable beds."

Horatio Sanz: (To the tune of “Away in a Manger”)
"Away in a barn box
No bib for their lunch
The donkey and camel
On straw they will munch."

Will Forte: (falsetto)
"The stars in the sky
Shine down ‘cuz it’s night
The lamb and that donkey just got in a fight."

Megan Mullally: (To the tune of “O Holy Night”)
"Oh, Tuesday night
The stars are brightly shining
It is the night
To watch TV and play cards."

Harry Connick, Jr.:
"Fall on your knees
And do a jigsaw puzzle
Just stay inside
Just stay inside
It’s half-past nine."

Megan Mullally:
"Just stay inside."

Harry Connick, Jr. & Megan Mullally:

Megan Mullally: Fine, yeah. Now to narrate the story of the birth of the Holiday, please welcome Mr. Donald Trump.

(To TRUMP in front of Rockefeller Center backdrop)

Donald Trump: Thank you Will and Grace. This place is really snazzed up. I gotta say, of the non-Trump buildings in New York, this property has a whole lotta flash, and it really screams out “Merry Christmas.” (Looking offstage) What? I can‘t say Christmas? Who made that rule? Well what about Chanukaha? (Pronounces it “Cha-nook-a-huh”) I can’t say that? What about Kwanzoo? That’s just great. Alright, Let’s crank this thing out. There were shepherds keeping watch over their flocks by night. Then a civil representative of the town came up to them and said “Here’s the thing-a baby had been born to a lady of undeterminate ethnicity and/or religious affiliation. You’ll find he or she is wrapped in clothes, looking really classy, and lying in a barn box.” What the hell is a barn box? Y’know what? The end. Fa-la-fa-la. Fa-la-la-la. The Apprentice (Grins)


Al Roker, Megan Mullally, Harry Connick, Jr.: Happy Holiday everybody!

All: (To the tune of Handel's "Hallelujah Chorus")
"How ya doin?
How ya doin?
How ya doin?
I’m doin just fine!"

(spoken) "Live from New York it’s Saturday Night!"
My favorite part is the music. I sing those carols every Christmas. And no one has any idea what I'm talking about.

Next, what was the best thing you got for Christmas? Or alternatively, what was the best thing you gave? Because Christmas is all about giving, after all. Anything particularly clever, awesome, unique, etc. that was given or received. Tell me in the Comments section.

Finally, here is one of the best songs from my favorite Christmas movie, The Muppet Christmas Carol. It makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. Plus, isn't Michael Caine adorable?

So Merry Holiday, everybody! I hope it was a great one!

Monday, December 20, 2010

The Sexiest Song I Know

Maybe it's me, but some songs are just plain sexy. Whether it be the lyrics or a smooth bass line or something in the singer's voice, some songs would make the perfect accompaniment to a tastefully-shot movie love scene. For me, the epitome of this kind of song is OK Go's "Skyscrapers" from their latest album Of The Blue Colour Of The Sky. Listen to it and tell me it doesn't get you at least a little hot and bothered.

Or maybe I'm weird. Probably more likely.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Cats need to be taken down a few pegs

If you have trouble reading this (I couldn't make it bigger), here is a panel-by-panel transcription:

Panel 1:
Oh my God Kitty, are you drawing?! That's amazing! Let me see!

Panel 2:
It's a hotdog smiling next to a hotdog bun. And one of them is holding a very tiny balloon.

Panel 3:
This drawing is very poor. I doubt you will ever be successful as an artist.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Burke and Hare's School for the Morally Bankrupt

Are you down on your luck? Need cash now? Tired of the grind of nightly grave-robbing? Do you own a boarding house?

If you answered "yes" to one or more of these questions, then Burke and Hare's School for the Morally Bankrupt may be right for you. At BHSFMB, you will learn valuable skills to catapult you into the career of your dreams. Skills like:

- Luring friendless travellers into your boarding house
- Plying visitors with an excess of alcohol
- Smothering your victims
- Hiding bodies from your other boarders
- Selling corpes to a doctor at Edinburgh University for anatomical research
- Agreeing to testify against your partner in crime
- Being publicly dissected after your execution

With a degree from BHSFMB, you can have the life you've always wanted. Call today! Or visit us on the web at http://www.edinburghserialkillers.edu/.

I suppose some of this bears explanation. Because I am a big nerd, I am signed up for Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day email. Yesterday the word was "burke," a verb meaning "to suppress quietly or indirectly." I could have left it at that, but it was such a non-word-sounding word that I decided to read the etymology of this little beauty, which is provided at the end of the email. I learned that the word "burke" originally meant "to smother" and came from the last name of William Burke, who, with accomplice William Hare, killed 16 or 17 people burgh in the early 1800s. You can read the full story by following the link above, but basically, a man died in Hare's boarding house and instead of buring the body, Hare and his buddy Burke got the great idea to sell the body to a doctor at Edinburgh University for educational dissecting. It worked so well that they decided to do it again. But people don't just drop dead every day, so these enterprising little scamps decided to make their own luck and started killing people. In the name of science! In the end, as always seems to happen, they got sloppy and killed someone that other people were actually interested in looking for. They were caught, and Hare, good friend that he was, agreed to testify against Burke, which led to Burke's execution by hanging. Then, in a beautiful example of poetic justice, Burke's body was publicly dissected at Edinburgh University. His skeleton, death mask, and stuff made out of his skin are on display in the museum there. Charming.

So thank you, Mirriam-Webster, for sending me a word of the day with such a disturbing origin.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

(On the Way to) Work Anecdote of the Day

This is a short one, but I feel like sharing, and I have not had many anecdotes to report of late, so I think you deserve a little something, noble reader.

I have begun walking to work. Not a huge feat as I only live 1.25 miles away, which translates into a brisk 15 to 20-minute walk, though my friends, co-workers, and family have all appeared awestruck when I informed them of my decision. You see, in Florida 40-degree mornings are not considered the ideal setting for a stroll, but I need the exercise, and I know that some of my compatriots in the frozen North are doing the same, so I will stand (err, walk) firm with them.

This morning, however, the wind was a bit brutal, and my nose was running to high heaven. (Should have been running to work, if you ask me.) I was not yet warmed up enough to enjoy my walk, and I had just passed into some dreaded shade, when I was obligated to cross the street in front of a garbage truck that was waiting to pull out into traffic. Out of W&L-bred politeness, I absently waved at the garbage man, and his reaction brightened my day. Huge smile on his face, he enthusiasticly waved back. Surprised by this show of exhuberance, I too smiled and reinvigorated a formerly lackluster greeting. That garbage man's smile put a spring in my step, and the rest of the way, I boldly met the wind that tried to push me back.

'Tis the Christmas season, indeed, my friends, and I love it. This afternoon, I think I will drink some egg nog to celebrate. After a cold walk home, of course.

Also, though I am happy today, I have been known to get pretty mad on occasion. But let me just ask you this question:

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Work Anecdote of the Day

Today a woman came into the office and handed me an envelope, which she said needed to go to 20C. I figured she was too lazy to walk over there herself or she just couldn't find it, and since our office is also the rental office for the whole plaza, I smiled and took the envelope, planning to deliver it to Suite 20C later.

As the morning went on, I came to a stopping point in my work and decided to pop over to that office. I found Suite 20 and then began reading the doors for room C. I found the correct door, but it didn't occur to me right away that the name looked oddly familiar. A receptionist was sitting in the lobby, but unsure which business she worked for, I awkwardly announced that I had come to bring this envelope to Joseph Brown. When she didn't offer any help other than a pointed "Ok", I asked if I should slip it under the door. She then informed me that she worked for him, at which point I smiled, said "Ok, great!" and walked toward her with my parcel. But as I handed her the envelope, it suddenly dawned on me: she was the same women I had seen in my office at 8:30 that morning.

Inside the envelope was their rent check. We are the rental office, after all. Thoroughly embarrassed, I made some awkward exclamation like "Oh that was FROM you TO us!" (with that emphasis). And since I had now proven to be a complete idiot, she wrote "Rent" on the outside of the envelope before handing it back to me.

Oh and that name on the door that looked so familiar? It was printed on the outside of the envelope. Good one, Kimber.

On an unrelated note, here is the fortune cookie my friend Joe got tonight at our local Yummy Buffet. And yes, that is the actual name of the Chinese restaurant.

In bed

Friday, November 12, 2010

GRE Tomorrow

The GRE Subject Test is tomorrow, and I know some of my readers are in the same boat of worried anticipation as I. As I hope to one day achieve a Doctorate in English, I will be taking the Literature test tomorrow. I've been "studying" for it for the past month, though, sadly for me, I just fell into my groove this past weekend. Be that as it may, I'm feeling strangely confident. I think I've studied as much as I'm going to, and now I just have to trust my capacity for recall to bring me safely through this trial by fire.

As taxing as it's been, trying to compress centuries of literary history into a week of study, I've found this process to be oddly energizing. I've actually learned a lot I didn't know about English literature, and I'm excited by my discoveries; among them, Thomas Gray's "Ode on the Death of a Favourite Cat, Drowned in a Tub of Gold Fishes," from whence is derived the famous line "Nor all that glisters, gold" and In Memorium A.H.H., in which Tennyson famously remarked "'Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all." I've also read parts of Elizabeth Barrett Browning's Sonnets From the Portuguese, which, though now somewhat hackneyed, are really beautiful meditations on the growth of love and reread Elizabeth Bishop's "One Art," which is a short but very moving villanelle on the "art of losing."

I could go on, but I wish not to bore my non-English major readers. I suppose my point is that this experience has reminded me, once again, of my calling and my sincere enjoyment of literature. I hope that you, too, experience these moments sometimes, when you realize that the work you're doing is exactly what you wish to do and that really, it's not work at all.

Happy Friday!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Your daily dose of awkward

There is a good reason not to film yourself doing karaoke.

"I make it rain on the horse."

Monday, November 8, 2010

The job I did take

Ok, twice now I've mentioned working for my parents without explaining what I do. I go in at 8 and work until noon, so I can use my afternoons for GRE study and grad school applications. Mostly I'm a receptionist. I answer phones, direct calls, and when applicable, take messages. It's a very glamorous life. My phone voice has gotten great. I also do things like file, send invoices, put stickers on things, and input quotes into our ordering system. None of it is terribly challenging, but I enjoy it. It's kind of peaceful, and I am learning important clerical things. Plus, every now and then amusing things happen that make good anecdotes.

Today's anecdote is about my computer.

My computer is the one in the office that doesn't specifically belong to anyone, the one that salespeople might use when they need to print things, or the one that you might give to the part-timer when she comes in for four hours in the morning. It's effectively mine now, but occasionally I still have to step aside and let someone else use it "real quick." And occasionally, my computer becomes possessed! One minute I'll be listening to Pandora, preparing to start a Word document, and the next, my cursor is moving on its own. My Pandora is paused! My Word doc is minimized! Yes! It is the g-g-ghooost of... Jason the CPA. About once a week he reconciles our books, and he hijacks my computer to do it, using Remote Control. I think he called one time to ask permission, but every time since he's just snatched control away from me. No warning, not even a "by your leave." He is a notorious hijacker who must be stopped! He could at least leave the Pandora running. He can turn off his speakers if it bothers him. It's just a bit creepy for me to sit in silence, watching programs open. I feel like a voyeur, peering into Jason's mind as he clicks the "Reconcile" button, then pauses to read the message box, then hovers over "Yes" before deciding to click "No." I feel like I could learn a lot about Jason by observing how he reconciles our books, and that just feels creepy. Oh, and then today, about five minutes after he logs out of my computer, he calls for Lisa our office manager, and of course, I answer. I wanted so much to say "Oh hi, Jason. Quit stealing my computer, you artless cut-purse!" Who cares if he gives it back? As far as I am concerned he is no better than a petty purse-snatcher, and he should be ashamed of himself. If he wants to borrow my computer, he could just ask.

The Art of Saying No (and Not Freaking Out About It)

So I promised in my About Me section, dear reader, that this year I would work on going outside my comfort zone and then reporting on it. Today I declined a job, and I thought it was going to make me throw up. Allow me to explain...

A few weeks ago, a friend of mine mentioned a holiday job opportunity at the clothing store where he has worked for the past four years or so. To be perfectly honest, the job itself didn't excite me, not least of all because this friend has been complaining to me about his job for almost the entire length of his employ there. What's more, the job involved selling, and I am too much of an introvert to be comfortable with that. Okay, I know what you might be thinking. You're either thinking, "You?! An introvert?", to which I would respond, yes, I just hide it well. Or you're thinking, "But you just said that you would try to go outside your comfort zone. What gives?" To this later query of yours, dear reader, I must admit you have a point. But I will say that turning down this job might have caused me more discomfort in two days than two months' worth of selling would have.

I have never been one to enjoy turning people down. I want people to be happy (unlike all you sadists reading my blog), so when my friend mentioned the job and told me how he sold me to his boss and talked about how much fun it would be to work there together I thought, well, at least he might not hate it so much if I'm there. You see the logical fallacy there? Two people hating a job together is unlikely to make either of them hate it very much less. Yet he was so enthusiastic, and he was practically guaranteeing me that I'd get the job, so I met with the manager and filled out an application. Then I waited a couple weeks.

This past Monday, the manager called me back, and I told him I'd like to sit down to talk about hours, duties, pay, etc. Very professional. We did, and I left the meeting with very mixed feelings. I haven't mentioned this except in passing, but I'm working mornings at my parents' promotional products company. My accepting this second job would mean that I'd be working a full 40 hours a week, which is all well and good, but let me explain how these hours would break down:

20 hours/week = Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to noon, parents' office
Other 20 hours/week = a few days Monday through Friday + Sunday, 1 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. AND/OR Saturday starting at 9 a.m. AND Black Friday, Dec. 7, 14, and 26

Basically, I could set myself up to work 14 hours in one day, or give up my weekends, and definitely give up lots of free time during the holidays when my friends and family come visiting. Plus, I realized, I am currently trying to apply to grad school and study for a GRE Subject Test, but that's a topic for another post. You can probably see how this is not an ideal situation for me.

Ok, so I met with the guy on Monday, pretty much told him I was ready to start working, and made plans to come in Thursday or Friday to fill out the paperwork. On Wednesday, I realized I really really REALLY did not want the job, nor did I have to take it. This initial realization was quite a relief. Then came the nausea.

Telling Jerry the store manager was scary enough, but even scarier, I also had to tell the friend that had told me about the job, made a pretty big deal about us working together, and really influenced Jerry to hire me. I hated to let him down, and all through lunch that day my hands shook and my stomach ached, while I tried to play it cool and find a way to bring up the subject. You can probably imagine how this lunch went: nervous laughing, furtive looking away, and an acute distaste for the spinach and bacon salad staring up at me from an over-sized diner plate. The churning in the pit of my stomach wouldn't stop. I was sure that if I didn't throw up, I would just pass out. This may sound a bit hyperbolic, but it's true; such is my fear of letting people down.

After an hour of this madness, we finally got up to go. It was the moment of truth. As we were leaving the restaurant, my friend said, in an off-hand way, "I don't want to work." There was my chance. In one of the best transitions ever, I said, "Oh yeah, speaking of not wanting to work, I REALLY don't want to work at [insert name of men's store here]." Then I waited for the deluge, certain he'd be crushed or demand an explanation.

His response: "Haha, yeah, I don't blame you." And that was that. The relief was unbelievable.

Now all I had to do was drive over to that men's store and tell Jerry the manager. One problem: he wasn't there and wouldn't be in until the next morning, which, you can probably guess, meant another 24 hours of stress for me. I just had to keep telling myself over and over that I didn't care if Jerry's feelings were hurt. I didn't even know Jerry. If I let him down, so be it.

I spent the rest of that day rehearsing what I would say. It involved thanking him for offering me the job and being so kind as to sit down and talk with me about it, but after sleeping on it, I realized that it wouldn't be a good fit. I practiced this little speech constantly, making sure to add good excuses as to why I didn't want the extra stress. Then I rehearsed all the possible ways he could react and how I would respond to his reactions. Here is a partial list of what I expected could happen:
Trying to sell me on the job (he is a top salesman of men's suits, after all)
Striking me <~ in the event of this one, I planned my escape from the store and chose which of the adjacent stores I would run to for help

These all seem like viable options, right? Well, to make a long story short (too late), I went to that store. He was there, thank goodness, but with a customer, so I waited for twenty minutes, anxiety mounting. I passed the time by doodling pictures of fruit and trying not to shake too much. I started to feel dizzy and feverish before he was finished but I took a few deep breaths and steadied myself. When he finally came over to me, I asked if we could go sit down, not wanting to make a scene in the middle of the store. It's like I was breaking up with him: "Jerry, it's not you, it's me." "I think we should see other regional sales managers." "You're suffocating me."

Anyway, I sat down and did the speech I had practiced. I performed it flawlessly, and Jerry reacted immediately.

He hit me.

No, no, I'm kidding. That would have made such a good story, though. No, actually, not only was he completely fine with it, but he also offered me a job for anytime in the future that I might decide I want it. The relief I've felt since that afternoon I can't quite describe without resorting to cliche.

But now, as I reach the end of my tale, I have to wonder why I spent so much time agonizing over this. Who did it benefit? Certainly not me. Jerry and Jesse definitely did spend so much time worrying about it. In the end, what did I achieve through anxiety? The truth is, stress gains you nothing, but as easy as it is to say that, in practice, you forget. It's like your body revolts and you have no choice but to be nauseated and shaky and sweaty until you confront the thing that's caused you all this pain.

I think it boils down to a theory I've been developing for myself in the past few months. As this story has illustrated, I tend to put other people's feelings (or what I perceive their feelings to be) before my own mental health. So my new personal philosophy is kind of a take on the Eleanor Roosevelt quote "No one can make you feel inferior without your consent": "You are not responsible for other people's emotions." Everyone has a right to their feelings. They have a right to react to things however they want. But that doesn't mean you should drive yourself crazy worrying about how they are going to feel. Sure, be understanding of those feelings, don't intentionally hurt people's feelings, help them feel better if you want, but don't take their emotions on yourself. You're not Jesus. You don't have to be the sacrificial lamb because you want everyone to be happy. Happiness comes from within, and nothing you do can make another person happy if they don't want to be. Similarly, and more pertinently, don't assume people are going to be mad at you for being honest, and if in the end they are, who cares? You did the best you could. You weren't trying to hurt their feelings, and when they're ready, they can build a bridge and get over it.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

All Hallow's Eve

I wish I could say that Halloween was a crazy, crazy night this year. I went a great party at my friends' apartment. We had spooky foods and great decorations and witch's brew, but I fell asleep on their living room floor at 1 a.m. The truth is, getting up early to work in the morning has started to take it's toll on me, and I failed to bring the wild to the party. What I did bring were cupcakes decorated to look like aliens!

Here is my collection of Halloween party pics. See if you can guess what we all are. Check the comments to see if you were right. (Note: the demon doesn't count; that is an inevitable part of playing around in Target during the Halloween season.)

The end of the long hiatus

Greetings, Internet! I'm back. I'm sure you're excited. Sorry it's been so long. A lot has happened in the past month. In this post I will give you a quick overview of what I've been doing with the intention of writing longer posts later. Then I will post something funny at the end to make this post worth it. Ok, enjoy.

List of Kimber's adventures in the month of October:
  • Cruise in the Black Sea
  • Job at the family business
  • Future job at a men's clothing store
  • Co-founding of game design company
  • Halloween

Don't those sound like tasty morsels? I hope so. Give you something to come back for. Now the funny thing I promised:

Monday, September 27, 2010

Daytona is more than a race site. I assume.

This weekend, my adventures took me to Daytona for an over-night stay at the home of one my rocket scientist friends. I know that sounds impressive, but they are literally everywhere in Daytona. They're like kudzu there.

Thanks to Orlando traffic, we didn't arrive until 7 in the evening. Honestly, I should have known better than to plan to drive one of the worst sections of I-4 between 4 and 6 on a Friday evening. In the end, my compatriots and I stayed in, ate pizza, drank beer, and played games, one of which involved shaking our heads really fast and taking pictures. Like so:

Not one of my more attractive moments, I'll admit, but this picture provided many laughs. We also played Charades, which is a low-cost form of fun and one that should really be employed more often. Charades is great! Are great? Eh.

In the morning we ate Denny's, where I was introduced to a monstrosity. I only had one bite, but I'm pretty sure I lost at least a year of my life. After consuming far more calories than are reasonable, I returned home, thereby completely eschewing anything that could be considered Daytona-specific fun. Aww, well, thems the breaks!

In unrelated news, I was reviewing some of my YouTube subscriptions last night, and I remembered this gem from a friend of mine, Michael McGuire. The audio tracking is a bit off, but that's him, folks. I've heard it with mine own ears. How this failed to get him a part on Glee I will never understand.

Friday, September 24, 2010

In lieu of a creative post, I am copying and pasting an article from Washington Post

If you want to quibble, the following should probably be on my "Funny Things" page, but I found this so amusing when I read it this morning that I decided to post it here. It comes from the Washington Post, as I said, and was such a well-written criticism of Facebook that I also posted the link on Facebook. Enjoy!

Gene Weingarten: I hate Facebook sooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo much. . .

By Gene Weingarten
Sunday, Sep 26, 2010
Critics contend I am unfair to Facebook merely because I have described it as an ocean of banalities shared among persons with lives so empty they echo. I defend my thesis but admit my evidence has been unscientific -- entirely anecdotal -- based on my occasional dips into this tepid, lifeless lagoon of dishwater-dull discourse.

But that has changed. I find that it is now possible to mathematically quantify the tedium, thanks to a new Web site. Openbook, at youropenbook.org, is a search engine for Facebook "status alerts" -- the prime way Facebookers communicate with their friends. With Openbook, it is now possible to search for a word or phrase and find out not only how often it has been used in status alerts, but also when and by whom.

The creators of this site intend it as a cautionary implement, to warn people that the social medium is not adequately protecting their privacy. But in the hands of an objective researcher such as myself, Openbook can be a valuable hermeneutic tool. Through it, one can analyze Facebook anthropologically.

I have done so and am here to make my report.

· When people find it necessary to inform their friends about how unbearably arid and stultifying their lives are -- which they do at a rate of roughly 2,000 status updates an hour -- the word they choose most often is "boring." They tend to spell it with extra o's or r's, for emphasis. If you check for "boooring" and then keep adding one o, you find at least one hit, until you get to 31 consecutive o's. When you try "borrrring" and keep adding r's, you get to 47. Just for the record, the person who, by this metric, suffers the most crippling ennui on the planet, boring with 51 r's, is Heather S. of Waterloo, Ontario.

· Over the course of 16 days, 130 people alerted their friends to the fact that they "have a pimple." The location of the blemish is usually specified, as is the size. The most frequent location is the forehead, followed closely by the earlobe and then the buttock, most often the left one. The most colorful size comparison was to a tomato, but the largest was "Jupiter." M. Mandel of New York named her pimple Steve. (She also is a fan of Justin Bieber AND the Jonas Brothers, and, under favorite books, notes: "I don't like readingg.")

· Literally thousands of people send out communiques describing their excretory imperatives. Frequently, these involve the phrase "have to go to the bathroom." It would be incorrect and unfair to conclude that all of the people using this phrase are vulgarians and/or boors. The rigorous researcher discovers, for example, John Paul Weisinger of Lufkin, Tex., wasn't discussing his own biology at all. He was merely sharing with his friends a joke he finds funny: "A pig walks into a bar and orders drink after drink after drink and never goes to the bathroom. The bartender asks, 'Don't you ever have to go to the bathroom?' and the pig replies, 'Nah, I go wee wee wee all the way home.'"

· It is possible to mathematically gauge the relative strength of people's love by observing the number of o's they use in the expression "so much." For example, Katherine Baker-Hernandez of Lakewood, Colo., loves her kitty more (57 o's) than Lorne D. Stevens of Detroit loves sour Jolly Ranchers. (10 o's.) There does not appear to be an upper limit to people's love.

· Facebook users may be bored, but, paradoxically, they also are easily amused. We know this, because they are always laughing out loud. LOLs occur with such frequency they are literally impossible to count: Dozens arrive every second. A subset of those laughers are simultaneously rolling on the floor -- but still in numbers too large to tally. It is only with a third winnowing -- those both rolling and laughing their behinds off -- that the numbers become manageable: 390 per day.

· In a five-day period, 266 people referenced the chief executive of the United States as President "Oboma." Sixty-seven others called him President "Obamma." Almost all of these people were making the point that he is a stupid incompetent.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Journey to Gainesville (FL)

No, you are not experiencing déjà vu, dear reader, I have indeed visited two different Gainesvilles in the past week and a half. I drove many hours today, leaving Tennessee (and CST) at 8:00 a.m., arriving in Athens, GA for lunch with my friend Dot at 1:30 p.m., and finally coming to a stop for the night at the home of my eldest brother at 9:00 p.m. The road was ever so long, but I was kept entertained for 10+ hours by my trusty book on tape, The Red Pyramid by Rick Riordan.

To any fans of the Percy Jackson series (I'm talking to you, Neville) I highly recommend this book. It is basically the same thing as that first series but with two main protagonists, who trade off the narration, and Egyptian mythology in lieu of Greek. Needless to say, it is delightful. If you haven't read the Percy Jackson books yet, read them too. Here is Neville's review of that series.

Anyway, I'm headed back home tomorrow and thus, will not be spending much time in this second Gainesville, but I wanted to update you on my journey, gentle reader. Hopefully tonight's post has introduced you to a few worthy distractions from the drudge of another work week. Cheers!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Mit Glitzer!

I found this puzzle in my friend Julie's living room. So we assembled it!

If we had named this puzzle, it would have been something along the lines of "Pretty Pink Princess Pony." (Alliteration!)

And if you were wondering if it has glitter, yes!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Washington, the District of Columbia

Hint: If you want to get to DC using a GPS, make sure you type in "District of Columbia" as the State. You would think "Washington", but that would be wrong.

Monday, the Boyfriend and I drove from Richmond, where we visited my sister, to the capital of our great nation to meet a friend for lunch. She is a grad student at George Washington AND works at the Japanese Embassy, which is pretty cool, no?

The plan was to meet her around DuPont Circle, where one can find many shops and eateries. Our trusty global positioning system got us there, but it failed to give me two vital pieces of guidance: how to navigate a multi-circle roundabout and how to find parking during one of the busiest times of day. There must have been a better option than the one on which we settled (paying $15 to park in a garage for 2 hours), but at least none of our luggage was stolen while we were eating lunch. Small blessings.

Lunch was at a Turkish tapas restaurant on P St., just off the Circle, called Ezme. I know, the words Turkish and tapas seem incongruous. Just think "small sharing plates." I got a dish I have been craving for two years, ever since I went to Turkey: Iskender.

This little beauty is a combination of lamb and veal covered in tomato sauce, sitting on a bed of bread cubes. The white stuff on the side is a Turkish yogurt that you mix in with the meat and tomato sauce. The bread soaks up all the deliciousness, thereby intensifying the flavors. Try it. Is good.

We were going to do some site-seeing* after lunch, but after driving approx. 24 hours over 5 days, would you really be in the mood to look at a giant phallic symbol? Well, maybe you would. We weren't. Plus all the traffic. Oy, what a headache.

*Autocorrect told me to spell this word "sightseeing." Google confirmed this, but I think it is dumb. You are seeing sites, as in "places." To say that you are seeing sights, as in "things you see," is redundant.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

W&L Football

I'm in Winchester, TN today, visiting the Boyfriend. Around 11:30 this morning we headed up the mountain to Sewanee (University of the South), where the Washington and Lee Generals were taking on the Sewanee Tigers. We hit up the bar at the W&L Alumni tailgate (of course) before kick-off at 1.

I'm sorry to say the game wasn't terribly exciting because we were beating Sewanee so soundly. The score was 3-27 five minutes into the third quarter. And it was hot. So we trusted our Generals to finish the job and we went to the local soda fountain for Bloody Martys. A Bloody Marty, for those who think I just mistyped Bloody Mary, is a non-alcoholic beverage consisting of lemonade, grenadine, and possibility some other, currently secret, ingredient.

Also I bought some greeting cards. A good day, indeed!

Journey to Gainesville (GA)

The Great Roadtrip 2010 kicked off Thursday when I drove 8 hours from the middle of Florida to Gainesville, GA, the home of Brenau University. The road was long and the drive was taxing, but I made it, aided by my trusty iPod and an 11-hour playlist I made on Wednesday night.

Upon arriving at Brenau I was given a campus tour by a dear friend who attends the University (I won't name her here in case she wants to retain her web anonymity). Gainesville, GA is a nice mid-sized town that boasts a Five Guys AND a Publix, two things I don't think I can live without (though I did, living in small-town VA for four years). We ate dinner at a restaurant called Pastability, so I invite my more punny readers to see what you can do with that one.

Friday morning, my hostess took me to Lake Lanier, a favorite hangout of hers, where we sat and watched geese:

The geese flew off after a while, but then ducks arrived looking to be fed, the panhandlers. We had nothing to give besides spearmint Tic-Tacs. They might have revolted then, taking their revenge for our lack of preparation had it not been for a bread-wielding family that arrived just in time. After that, the place turned into Bird-o-Palooza. The geese came back from the other side of the lake, and ducks flocked from who knows where, including
a huge mallard we dubbed "King Duck." We had a little trouble deciding on a fitting appellation for him; candidates included Maynard and Stefan the Terrible. Any other suggestions? Sadly, I don't have a picture. One does not photograph the king without his permission.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The start of a new bout of travel

Hello, friends! It has been a while since I posted, and for that, I apologize. It has been a busy couple of weeks, but now I'm back to announce the beginning of a new adventure!

Starting tomorrow I will be traveling up to Lexington, VA by way of Gainesville, GA, Winchester/Sewanee, TN, Richmond, VA, and Washington, DC. I hope to have some interesting and exciting adventures in each of those places, so stay tuned for Road Trip 2010, as it will now be called.

Also, in the coming days, be on the lookout for a post regarding Harry Potter Land, which I have now visited TWICE and can speak about with great authority. There may also be Dublin and Legoland posts to look forward to.

So really this whole post, thus far, is just a teaser of things to come, but by announcing that I will be writing these posts, I am prohibited from procrastinating. School is back in session, and since academia has long been the motivating force behind my productivity, it's about time I give myself some homework.

Speaking of homework, a couple of weeks ago I recommended a few books that I think everyone should read. I, of course, have already read them all, but recommending them made me want to revisit a few of my favorites. Right now I am 300 pages deep in Ayn Rand's The Fountainhead. The last time I read this fantastic book was the summer before I began college. In fact, I remember finishing it as my parents and I drove through the Blue Ridge Mountains for the very first time. How fitting, then, that I should read it again as my undergraduate journey comes to a definite close. Indeed, I am still reading it as I prepare to return to W&L as an alumna. As I mentioned in that recommendation, this book made me want to be an architect until I realized that it was the literature that gave me that feeling, which is when I shifted my focus to English and never looked back. As I read it for the second time, I am imagining my future as an English professor, teaching this amazing piece of fiction to eager, young literary enthusiasts.

The first half of the book is now heavily steeped in green ink, and I have a mental checklist of discussion points growing ever longer. The joy I'm getting from this exercise calls to mind a story my mother tells of how my uncle decided to become a professor after having spent years in promotional product sales: he was asked what job he would be willing to do for free. When you find that thing that you love so much you would do it for free, you know you've found the career for you. And let me tell you, after three, long jobless months of vague uncertainty about the future, that kind of discovery is very welcome indeed. Actually, it's also one of the themes of The Fountainhead: doing what you love, regardless of what other people think you should do and even if you can't get paid for it right away. Rand says that choosing a career you love is dangerous because people will see that love and try to take it away from you. Maybe I have a little more faith in humanity than she did, but to be fair, she grew up in communist Russia, and that's bound to make anyone a little cynical. Anyway, I've got a long way to go before I actually become a professor, and I'm still not quite ready to go back to grad school, but I now know for certain that I will go back, and I will enjoy it when I do.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Decision 2010: TOMS

Ok, faithful readers, I need some advice. I really want to buy a new pair of TOMS shoes because a.) they are super-comfortable and b.) I like the smug satisfaction that comes with TOMS'(s) brand of philanthropy. Given that these both cost the same, and keeping in mind that I live in Florida, where "summery" styles stay in style far into January, which of the following should I buy?

Plum Cord Classics

These are made of corduroy!


Morocco Vegan Classics

These are not made of animal!

Please cast your vote in the comments section. Now that Primaries are over, this may be the most important thing you vote on until November. And even then, my choice of footwear probably trumps at least a couple of Senatorial elections.

Oh and while you're at, feel free to weigh in on whether TOMS when possessive should get another s, and if so, should it be capitalized?

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Book Recommendations

Because I am a rather literary person, I've just added a section to the blog for book recommendations, complete with links to Amazon. But since only the title of each book is listed, I wanted to say a few words about each to round out my recommendations.

The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand - This is one of those books that makes you feel sort of accomplished after you read it because you've read a large piece of highly acclaimed literature, but more than that, this book is very entertaining. Rand's Atlas Shrugged may be considered to be her greater work, but it tends to drag in places. The Fountainhead has all the same philosophy with a story that never quits and a main character you could fall in love with.

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon - This is the story of two young men in the 1930s who create a superhero and change the course of their own lives. The main characters are modeled after the creators of Superman and inhabit a fictionalized New York City that sometimes seems truer than life. The book follows them throughout their life, weaving in love, war, and a healthy supply of comic books.

To Reign in Hell by Steven Brust - Fashioned as a prequel to John Milton's Paradise Lost, To Reign in Hell imagines life in Heaven before the big rebellion by Satan and his ilk. How does it change our perception of the Fallen Angels if Satan and God were once best friends? It's an interesting idea which makes for a story whose mythology is occasionally hard to follow but is essentially fascinating.

The Beautiful and the Damned by F. Scott Fitzgerald - A classic of the Roaring Twenties, The Beautiful and the Damned is full of rich, privileged people who are, for some reason, full of ennui. Who hasn't been there?

Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier - Thriller, romance, ghost story. Rebecca is all these and more. The novel is told from the viewpoint of the second Mrs. de Winter, who is herself never named, haunted as she is by the memory of the beautiful, graceful, perfect Rebecca. The book spawned a great Alfred Hitchcock movie and has long been considered one of those classic novels that continues to thrill seventy years after its publication.

Soon I Will Be Invincible by Austin Grossman - I have a bit of a thing for superheroes. This is a new take on the classic hero story because half it is told from the viewpoint of a super-villain. The other half is told by the newest member of a team of heroes working against said villain. Both are outsiders in their own right and both demand the reader's sympathy, making it impossible to choose a side in this battle of "good" versus "evil."

The Coffee Trader by David Liss - This is the first in a series of historical fictions by David Liss that combine the business and politics of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries with the excitement and thrill of a mystery novel. Liss's other books in this same vein include A Conspiracy of Paper and A Spectacle of Corruption. While The Coffee Trader follows the exploits of fictional Miguel Lienzo in Holland, these latter novels focus on his grandson Benjamin Weaver in England. I think I actually prefer the Weaver books, but The Coffee Trader is still really good and a nice introduction to the family. If you like mysteries but also like to learn something while you're reading, look no further than Liss.

The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold - I never saw the movie they made of this book; I'm told I made a good decision. Based on the trailer I saw, I thought this book was a straight-up murder thriller. That's only half right. The beginning of The Lovely Bones is very dark, but as the story goes on, it becomes less about the death of a 14-year-old girl and more about the lives of those she leaves behind. Told in the voice of the murdered Susie Salmon, The Lovely Bones is at times horrifying and heart-wrenching but also incredibly moving. In the end, it's not about solving a crime so much as learning to live in the aftermath.

Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine - If you never read this book as a child, you have missed out, but it's not too late! Even if you did read it as a child, you're still missing out if you haven't read it as an adult. Don't let that horribly campy movie version starring Anne Hathaway put you off; Ella Enchanted is a delightfully deep and thoughtful fairy-tale about youth, love, free will, and learning to be your own person, even when others try to make you into someone else. Even now, the climax of this "children's book" has the power to make me cry.

Perfume: The Story of a Murderer by Patrick Suskind - Have you ever thought about how smell affects the way you relate to people? Unless the smell is particularly strong (either good or bad), you probably haven't. In this novel (yet another thriller), Suskind suggests that smell is actually the most powerful of the senses, influencing us in ways we don't even realize. Smell is so powerful, Suskind says, that it could even lead to... murder!

Okay, that's it for now. If you're looking for a new book to read, I recommend you start with one of these. You won't be disappointed.

B&G's Soup Stop

One of my favorite Florida hideaways is B&G's Soup Stop in Sarasota. Nestled in the corner of an obscure strip mall on Webber Street, B&G's features at least nine fresh soups daily, and though it may be a bit difficult to find, I have never found a better place for soup. 

To give an example of the kind of selection you can expect, here are the nine soups B&G's is offering today (according to their website): 
     - Creamy Chicken Noodle
     - French Onion
     - Ham and Bean
     - Sausage Cabbage and Potato 
     - Chicken and Lemongrass
     - Tomato Basil
     - Cream of 5 Onion
     - Chili
     - Gazpacho 
On other occasions, I have also been privileged to sample their Corn Chowder and Vichyssoise. The possibilities are endless! 

If I had to pick a favorite, it would be a tie between Tomato Basil and Cream of 5 Onion. The owner of B&G's, Brent Williams, once told me that if they had a "signature" soup, it would be the Cream of 5 Onion. It has all the rich oniony flavor of French Onion, but with a smooth, creamy consistency. Add a few French-fried onions to the top for texture, and you've got a soup that I've never seen anywhere else. As for the Tomato Basil, I've had good Tomato Basil soup elsewhere, but this ranks among the best. It's classic comfort food. 

I could probably eat soup for every meal, and if I lived in Sarasota, every meal would probably take place at B&G's. But if you're craving more solid food, they also feature a wide array of pre-cooked meals that you can take home and heat up AND a really nice Chipotle Mac N' Cheese. 

I wish I had pictures, but I don't because I ate it all, so if you're in Florida anytime soon, you should go there and see for yourself. 

Friday, July 30, 2010

Arguments for Love

A couple weeks ago, I mentioned Julie Slonecki's new website. For those that don't know her, Julie is a rising senior at Washington and Lee University who writes and performs music. In the past couple weeks, she has released her new self-produced album, Arguments for Love. I've already bought my copy, and I love it! (Not least of all because I'm singing on one of the tracks.) Julie describes her music as alternative country folk indie rock pop, so take from that what you will. The bottom line is that it's really catchy, easy-to-listen-to music, and you should check it out. She's a struggling musician who needs your support. You can get a hard copy from Create Space. If you want to hear some of the tracks before you buy, they are on her website. AND if you prefer electronic copies of music, the whole album is available on iTunes! The one downside of the iTunes route is you don't get the sweet album artwork, but that's on you.

Friday, July 23, 2010

An attempt to increase readership

So I've been researching lately how one makes a blog "successful." To you early readers, thank you. I love all 19 of you dearly. I do, however, want to grow that readership, and I'm told that the way to do it is to make sure it's searchable for strangers. To make it searchable, you have to submit it to search engines, so that's what I'm trying to do. Degreeadvantage.com can do that for me, I guess, so I'm leaving it in their hands. Wish me luck.

SES performed by online degree promotion team.

(It would also help if you guys linked me on other sites, like Facebook, etc. Just fyi.)

Thursday, July 22, 2010


In the spirit of supporting my friends, I'd like to promote another of my professor's work. Lesley Wheeler, who just finished her term as chair of the W&L English Department, has just released her second book of poems, Heterotopia.

Here's what it says about the book on the Barrow Street Press website:

For philosopher Michel Foucault, "heterotopia" designates a real or imagined space of escape, transformation, or revelation. In Lesley Wheeler's prizewinning second collection, the heterotopia is Liverpool, England, during the middle of the twentieth century—a time and place defined by the Blitz and the privations that followed. Her imaginary Liverpool, however, has a complicated relationship to the real city and to her own life in the United States: it makes visible what was gained and lost in the transition from poverty to prosperity, from oral culture to print overload.

During a time when so many collections of verse seem tonally and formally monochromatic, it's especially refreshing to encounter a writer who works with such considerable facility in several different modes—deeply felt personal lyrics, challenging sonnet sequences, and documentary-historical poems of intelligence and depth. What's more, these various concerns and approaches not only complement one another, but seem inextricably linked. Heterotopia is a collection of unusual distinction.
—David Wojahn, contest judge

With acute formal awareness, Lesley Wheeler makes urgent and undeniably present the "sedimentary language" of an inherited past.... This work fuses lyrical invention with the "blitzed, hungry, smoke-thin world" of memory—the poems richly drawn intermixtures of narrative and place.
—Claudia Emerson

Lesley Wheeler is the author of Heathen, Voicing American Poetry,and other books; she co-edited the anthology Letters to the World with Moira Richards and Rosemary Starace. Her poems have appeared in many journals, including Poetry, Slate, and Prairie Schooner. She is Professor of English at Washington and Lee University and lives in Lexington, Virginia.
Having had a poetry class with Professor Wheeler, I can tell you she knows her stuff. I'm buying my copy. Are you?

Note: Amazon currently lists the book as Out-of-Stock, but it is not. 
If you have problems, though, you can also get it at http://www.barrowstreet.org/.

Jousting in Linlithgow

Most times, the best parts of travel aren't visiting the famous sites everyone knows or taking tours of the big cities. The real adventure is in discovering something local and cheap, like the jousting at Linlithgow* Castle. Before my traveling companions and I left Larbert on the morning of July 11, we packed a picnic lunch of turkey sandwiches, salt and vinegar crisps, Coke Zero, and a chocolate bar.

 Here we are enjoying said picnic.

When we arrived in Linlithgow, we made our way to the Castle, where our Historic Scotland cards got us in for free.** Before settling down at the jousting pitch, we peeked inside the Parish Church of St. Michael right next to the Castle.

Here is one of the beautiful windows in St. Michael's.

After a brief exploration of the church, we walked over to the Castle's backyard (so to speak). The picturesque field next to a Linlithgow Loch was filled with people, most of whom actually appeared to be locals who had brought their children to the event.***

A view of the jousting... rink?

The jousting was very entertaining, if a little inauthentic.**** After the violence finished, with our team having prevailed, we left the Castle and walked over the Four Marys, a moderately-famous pub in Linlithgow, named for Mary Queen of Scots and a few of her ladies-in-waiting. The pub was nice enough. I had a major disappointment when they told me they were out of sticky toffee pudding, but they did have a lovely chocolate fudge cake. So I guess it worked out.

Oh, also at the Castle, I saw a guy wearing toe-shoes. They were only the second pair I had ever seen, the first belonging to my friend Phil. A good day in Linlithgow.

Toe shoes!

*Pronounced "lin-LITH-go". 
**Definitely invest in one of these if you plan to visit lots of historic sites; it will save you tons.
***Children love violence. 
****I'm pretty sure they were using the Pirates of the Caribbean soundtrack for background music.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

A walk up the Royal Mile

Well, I promised an Edinburgh post, so come with me now, as we walk up Edinburgh's famous Royal Mile.

At the bottom of the hill, the start of the Royal Mile, you find the Palace of the HM the Queen. I didn't get to go inside because the day I visited, the Queen was having a lawn party in honor of people of service (police, fire, military, etc.). Sadly, I was not invited.

After you depart the palace, a fudge shop will materialize on your right. A perfect place to get a gift for loved ones back home. Like it'll last that long. Please.

Walking up the hill, you may be suddenly overtaken by a strong craving for Turkish food. If so, you're in luck! Truva Turkish is on your right as you head up the street. They have delicious lentil soup (add a little salt), Prawn Gratin, and Borek, which is filo dough filled with spinach and feta cheese. I'm also told they have nice toasted sandwiches.

A little further on, you will find dessert (the fudge does not count; that was a snack, er, gift): gelato! Because, come on. How can you not enjoy a nice cool gelato as you hike up a hill?

Along the way, you will pass by innumerable souvenir shops. These are the perfect place for anything tartan you could ever want (kilts, ties, scarves, towels, hip flasks, the list goes on). Also, postcards (you can find them for 20p; if they cost more than that, keep looking), shot glasses, and LOTS o' cashmere. I won't go too deep into the shopping. You'll see. You can spend a whole day exploring all the many many shops on this street. And they're not all tourists shops, either, so don't worry.

On your left, a little more than halfway up, you will see the beautiful St. Giles Cathedral. Go inside and take a look. The stained glass is stunning (though, I would say that about every cathedral; I love stained glass), and if you're lucky, you may even catch a service. Most of them are short - ten minutes at most - and regardless of your creed, it's worthwhile experience. If you're big on church pictures, note that they ask you to donate £2 to take pictures, but it's a pretty small price to pay.

Hungry, again? No problem! A very popular pub called Deacon Brodie's will be on your right, not far from St. Giles. Ok, now for me to reveal an important milestone that happened to me at Deacon Brodie's. When I visited last Saturday... I ATE HAGGIS! Yes, it's true. I ate something that, I think, is made of the stomach of a goat. And I know what you're thinking: But Kimber, haggis sounds like the least appetizing thing in the entire world. Well, you know what, skeptical reader? It was really, really good. They fry it up and add all kinds of seasoning, and honestly, you would never know that it is what it is. Also, you eat it with mashed potatoes and turnips, so it all gets mixed together and is great. So there. I've said it, and I'm glad. Eat haggis.

The thing about Deacon Brodie's is that it is a bit of a tourist trap. I waited 40 minutes to get a table (it's not a very big place), but in the end, it was really worth it. In addition to the haggis, I had a lovely beef pie. The crust was perfect, the flavor was savory, so if you have some time to spare, I'd check it out. The restaurant is upstairs, by the way. The bottom half is the pub part, and it is in that part that you can watch, say, the second-to-last World Cup 2010 game between Germany and Uruguay. For example. It's a nice atmosphere in which to sit and toss back a pint of Tennent's.

But wait! The trek isn't over yet, dear reader. We have two more stops to go. What visit to Scotland would be complete without sampling a bit of the country's national drink? And that is where the Scotch Whisky Experience comes in. On the left, near the end of the road, you will find a tour and tasting that rivals some of the whisky tours I've seen in the past. The building itself is not a distillery, so unlike your usual whisky tour where you hike around the place and see the whisky being made, at the SWE, you get to sit in a big barrel and ride through a virtual tour. Like Disney World! And trust me, you won't feel like walking around a distillery once you've hiked all the way up that hill. Jeez, why didn't you start at the top and work your way down? Silly. After the tour ride, you get to sample a whisky (unless to buy the "gold" ticket; then you get to sample five whiskies - go for the gold!), and then you can visit the extensive whisky shop to take home the ones you liked.

Finally, we reach the top of the Royal Mile. If you thought that the Palace at the bottom was the only reason they call it the Royal Mile, then you were mistaken, my friend, because at the top of the hill is one of Edinburgh's premier attractions: Edinburgh Castle. As castles go, this one is pretty premium. The crown jewels of Scotland are housed there. They're not quite as impressive as the English ones, but please don't tell the Scottish I said that. They are worth a look, though. The guides are very knowledgeable, and the castle has the best view of the city. Looking down from the parapets, you can see the whole of the New Town (the Royal Mile is in Old Town), including the Memorial in the middle of the city that looks like one of the towers from Lord of the Rings. (You can see all that unless you go on a rainy day, like I recently did, in which case, the fog obscures everything, but I have seen it on a clear day, so you can take my word for it.) The Castle also has a war memorial with all the names of Scottish soldiers that have died in service, an exhibition on prisoners of war, and a lovely tea room.

Well, that's the Royal Mile. I hope you enjoyed the hike. Tune in next time for a few other must-visit sites in Edinburgh OR something about London OR maybe another plug for one of my friends. Who knows? I'll post all those things at one time or another, but in what order I do it is up to me. Because it's my birthday.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Julie Slonecki

Ok, last plug for the day:

My dear friend Julie is a very talented singer/songwriter who is about to release her second self-produced album, and to go along with it, she now has a shiny new website, JulieSlonecki.com, created by two other of my dear friends, Joe Cruz and Jesse Sessions.

You can listen to some of Julie's songs on the website, and when she drops the album, you can go there to purchase it. Also, if you like the website itself and perhaps want one of your own, you can contact Joe and Jesse about making you one.

The Good Daughter

Last year, I had the privilege of being taught creative writing by Prof. Jasmin Darznik. Well, her memoir The Good Daughter is finally being released this coming January. It is not only her own memoir but a memoir of her family in Iran. From what I understand, it is a kind of family history extracted from stories that explores the nature of being a woman and a daughter in Iran. I've heard her read excerpts from it, and I love the story as well as her writing style from those brief snippets. I can't wait to read the rest.

Prof. Darznik recently wrote an article for the New York Times that serves as a kind of preview of the book as well as being a nice piece of writing about how children conceptualize their mothers.

Anyway, I think it's going to be fantastic, and I really want to promote it. Here's the link to Amazon if you like. It's available for pre-order. Cheers, lads!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Edinburgh: A Teaser

This Saturday (July 10) I was in Edinburgh for the first time since my 18th birthday. It was quite the adventure and I experienced a pretty big milestone. But I'm not going to tell you about it. YET. 

Tomorrow I return to that fair city, and I expect to have much more to report. So, as with Glasgow, both days in Edinburgh will be presented to you at once. I am telling you this now in order to whet your appetite for that not-so-far-off day. Return in a few days' time, and you will be richly rewarded. If you consider new blog posts a reward. I certainly do. 

Until then, enjoy this deep thought by Jack Handey:

“If trees could scream, would we be so cavalier about cutting them down? We might, if they screamed all the time, for no good reason.”

My Favorite Chicken Recipe

This really has nothing to do with Scotland EXCEPT that I cooked it in Scotland last week. So now I will transcribe this favorite recipe for you, dear reader. Note: you will need a crockpot.

chicken (4 breasts or so)
4 oz. chive cream cheese
1 stick butter
1 packet Italian salad dressing mix
1 can Golden Mushroom soup (Cream of Mushroom works too)

Place chicken in the bottom of a crockpot. Melt butter in a large pan over medium heat. Add Italian salad dressing packet and mix well. Add soup and cream cheese. Blend. Pour warm sauce over chicken. Cook... well, as long as you want, really. I usually do 6-8 hours on low, but if you're pressed for time, do 4 hours on high. The most important thing is that the chicken cooks through. You can eat it straight or serve it over rice or pasta or something. The chicken just falls apart. It's delicious. Trust me.

I never seen nothin' like a Glasgow girl

Or something like that.

After today, I have now visited Glasgow twice, so I will report on both experiences simultaneously.

On Friday we headed to Glasgow for the first time, and though we expected rain (and got a bit), it ended up being a beautiful day. Having been advised to take the red touring buses rather than the blue, we bought our tickets and hopped onto one of the familiar-looking double-deckers at the stop in George Square, the principal civic square of the city. Wesat on the top of the bus, of course, to get the best view and were not deterred by the sprinkling of rain that began soon after our ride commenced. Armed with my trusty pink North Face, I am always ready to brave the elements.

As often happens with these kinds of tours, I took lots of beautiful pictures of buildings and statues I will never be able to identify. Between the mumbling brogue of the tour guide and my own lack of interest in actually stepping off the bus to investigate these historic sites, my only hope is to avail myself of the tour map and a Google image search if I ever wish to know exactly what I saw that day. Perhaps it's best not to take in too much the first time around. If you do, what's the point of going back? It'll all be old-hat by then. So really, 'twas strategy for me not to pay too close attention to that particular tour. That way, I was motivated to go back today, rather than sit in our house and blog.

We did finally get off the bus at Stop 19. Our destination: the Willow Tearooms, designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh. Mackintosh was a Scottish architect and designer, and our primary interest in him that day was due to the fact that our hostess, Sue, is a Mackintosh.* So naturally, she feels a kinship to this renowned artist.

After a delightful afternoon tea of finger sandwiches and scones,

we decided to head to the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum. Our bright red tour bus includes the museum as one of its stops, but that particular site was three stops in the wrong direction (these buses only go one way). So we were forced to take alternative transportation: the Glasgow Underground!**

The Kelvingrove Museum was very cool. One half of the museum was devoted to "Expression" (AKA "Art"). The other side was "Life" (AKA "History"). And both sides had interactive exhibits. Admission was free and you could take pictures of everything. They also had quite a nice gift shop n the basement. Across the road was the Transportation Museum, which is also probably really cool, but we didn't have time to see it because the museums closed at 5. My mother and I noticed while touring the museum that the exhibits didn't exactly have a uniting theme. It was as if one guy was picking them all based on whatever his whims were that day. The eclectic nature of the place was actually pretty funny, but at least it didn't get boring. It even included exhibits on sectarianism in Britain and Ireland and a history of abuse against women. Good times!

At 5 p.m. exactly we were ousted from the museum, so we hopped back on the double-decker and rode back to George Square. Not quite ready to leave Glasgow, we asked a Red Bus employee to recommend a good (cheap) pub. He directed us toward a chain establishment on George Square called The Counting House. For all that it was a chain, the drinks were tasty (and cheap as hell, at least for Europe). I enjoyed a Pimm's Lemonade, which if you haven't tried, you should. Mix Pimm's with lemonade (duh), then add the juice of lemons, limes, and oranges, and then some muddled mint leaves. It's like a mix between a sangria and a mojito. Delightful. When our stay at The Counting House drew to a close, we returned to the Queen St. train station (which is also right on George Square) and returned to Larbert.

Day 2 in Glasgow was a little less eventful but no less enjoyable. Having taken in our historic sites, we devoted this trip to a little more exploration of the shopping and food districts. Our progressive lunch took us to The Grill Room at 29 Glasgow and to Zorba's on High St. I won't bore you with the details of what we ate, but I will say that the Mediterranean fare of Zorba's was not only tastier, but more reasonably priced and more authentic. We trekked down Trongate (Street? Road?) to find the Barras, a more market-like shopping area, but all the stalls were closed on a Monday. Weird. We ended up in the St. Enoch Shopping Center off of Trongate (or Buchanan, depending on where you enter) and found the best chocolate shop called Kimble's (I know, appropriate). Our return to Larbert saw us sit in the Hotel Bar next the train station for an hour to enjoy a pint before walking home.

Like I said, not very eventful (or particularly exciting, now that I'm writing it down), BUT I hope if any of you plan to visit Glasgow, you might find something to eat at Zorba's or Kimble's. And maybe you can tell me how the Barras was. Just don't go on a Monday.

*Don't tell her, but today we read a newspaper article that suggested Rennie Mackintosh may have traced some of his furniture designs from catalogs.
**An interesting note on the GU: the subway has been in Glasgow for over 100 years, but in that time it has only ever been six miles long. Why didn't they expand, you ask? Because it is a circle. Very difficult to add miles of track to a circle. So there you go. You can stump your friends with that one.