Thursday, December 17, 2009

Time Management Skillz

Having successfully survived a few years in cubeville, I feel I have some valuable knowledge to share. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by annoying requests, I suggest you print out the following and pin it to your faux wall.
  • Wait: Flag the e-mail and ignore it for at least an hour. This allows for the sender to change his/her mind or send updated drafts, request forms, etc. — and prevents you from doing needless work!
  • Stall: This tactic is especially helpful when dealing with crazy people or nonsensical projects. Send a quick e-mail back with a request of your own! Ask for background information, examples or “strategic guidance.” This will usually take the sender a while to gather. WARNING: This tactic may backfire, i.e. lead to the dreaded conference call.
  • Forget: Not that I ever forget about anything … but I understand some things inevitably slip through the cracks. If you find yourself scrolling through e-mails one day and notice a flagged request that is more than two weeks old, consider ignoring. Chances are the sender has forgotten about it too! (Otherwise he/she would be hounding you about it, no?) Rather than draw attention to your tardiness by following up, simply delete from your inbox and conscience.

*Key takeaway* Never act right away. This will only lead to more work, more requests, more suicidal thoughts.

Isn’t it wonderful how every problem can be solved with a simple PowerPoint graphic and a few bullet points? I think so too.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Unlaid Plans

I figured out why it’s so irritating that (some) men have an aversion to planning. It’s not because it can be construed as inconsiderate, or because it might be a sign of commitment issues, or even because it makes dressing oneself appropriately more difficult … No, it’s because it stunts conversation.

Think about an average exchange between a couple who has been together for a while:

“Have I ever told you the story about that one party in college -”


“Oh, but did I tell you the part where I fell -”


“Oh, and then that other time I drank too much -”

“I was there.”

“Oh yeah ... So, um, what should we do for New Year’s?”

“I don’t know what’s going on yet. We’ll figure it out later.”


There comes a time when there are no stories left to tell, and at that time, wouldn’t it be great if you could fill the void by making plans that might produce new stories? Apparently not.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Return of the puffy coat

Remember when Holly Hunter was horrified to have to wear her mother's "hideously out-of-date coat" after she lost her "fashionable" one on her way Home for the Holidays?

Flash forward almost 15 years and I'm actually contemplating purchasing one of these puffers. When my boyfriend asked me last winter why so many girls were walking around in sleeping bags, I resisted the urge to make fun of the North Face brigade - for two very important reasons. Number one: They looked warm; and number two: They looked trendy.

I had a sinking feeling ... like tiny armpit purses ... and then giant backbreaking purses, I would probably cave to the swell of this trend like I do every other - when they become normalized, i.e. reasonably priced, i.e. not really that cool anymore. But then again, maybe if I'm willing to look a little clueless, or manage to pull off "retro," I could save some money AND be a trendsetter every decade or so.

(Quotes and photo courtesy of

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The Real Jailbirds of D.C.

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Watching the White House crashers on the Today Show this morning gave me a little case of déjàvu. The defensive, social-climbing, inexplicably arrogant couple evoked the same variety of icks as Alex and Simon of the Real Housewives of New York City: Season 1 (they kinda won me over on Season 2, probably because Kelly soaked up the majority of my irrational hatred).

And what do you know! It turns out the crashers were up for Real Housewives of D.C. parts even before this latest humiliation. Although Bravo currently claims to be distancing itself, I’m sure they’ll get on the show, even if their confessionals have to be filmed behind bars.

Now if only they would outlaw banana slings – I'd argue European swimwear is also a threat to national security.

Photography note: If you clicked on that last link, feel free to blame/thank(?) Zip.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Top 14 Workplace Excuses: How to Win Sympathy and Entertain People

A friend forwarded me this impressive list of excuses from a former manager of hers, taken verbatim from e-mails and compiled over a year-long period. I feel compelled to post as a nostalgic look back at economic times past, when cube dwellers spent more time concocting creatively insane ways to get out of work than ways to avoid being laid off - a time when the crazy that ferments between submitting TPS reports was a tad more entertaining than depressing.

14. I'm at home because it was supposed to thunder a lot. My poor dog is all doped up and stumbling around. And then my fish got a parasitic infection, so I've been trying to take care of him too.

13. I pinched a nerve in my neck on Saturday. It happens from time to time. Anyway, I had hoped I would improve enough to come in today, but I'm still in a lot of discomfort. It affects my shoulder, range of movement (I can't turn my head very far to the right) and my arm. I can't carry anything heavy or on my shoulders, so obviously a backpack is out.

12. I'm not feeling well at all -- I've come down with a head cold, in addition to the cough I've had, which seems to be getting worse. Yesterday, I was dismissed from jury duty because I became very nauseous and light-headed, nearly fainting in a hallway (had to be helped up by the sheriff.) So, I think I'll try to work from home the best I can.

11. I had what felt like a gallstone attack last night so I decided to work from home.

10. I need to get my wreck on wheels fixed (seems like there’s a hole in coolant line and now my battery won’t hold a charge, so I’ll need a new one) and my ex-husband is willing to help me out by giving me a jump so I can bring it in to his mechanic, but I’m at the mercy of his schedule because he’s not sure if he can come by today or tomorrow morning. I’ll need to work from home in order to coordinate this, but my hope is that it will be fixed before the end of the week.

9. Thanks to Ivan, I had some leaks both in the roof of my house (which is an ongoing problem I’m dealing with, since the condo assoc is supposed to be taking care of the repairs to the firewalls) and in the garage that caused some water damage. My ex-husband has attempted to fix the garage roof (to no avail – it didn’t hold up during the storms) and came by again yesterday afternoon to see what could be done. He told me last night that he’s sending someone he knows that does roofing over to look at it this afternoon, and asked that I be available because he’s not sure when he’ll be able to get here.

8. I’m going back to school this semester and Mondays are my very late nights, where I won’t get home until 9:30PM. I don’t have anyone to walk my dog for me, and that’s too long for her to wait, so I’ll be working from home on Mondays.

7. We had a huge oak tree come down on my street last night (unfortunately, right onto my neighbor’s 19th century home) and it took out the transformer with it. Power was just finally restored to my neighborhood. The rain and wind were very bad all night – it was impossible to get much sleep.

6. I’m not feeling all that great, and they always keep the office too cold (which is worse when you don’t feel well) so I’m going to be working from home today instead.

5. Earlier in the day, my friend Hormuz backed his car out of his spotin a wide arc, and never saw that I was nearby, pulling out of another spot. He collided into my car, resulting in some paint scrapes across the front right end of my car, and a huge dent and scratches along the driver’s side of his. Fortunately, both of our cars are old and dented already, so neither one of us care that much about the cosmetic damage.)

4. I was walking my dog late this afternoon, and she was attacked by my neighbor’s retriever, who was off the leash in his yard. There’s a ¾” gash in her lower eyelid (it was torn all the way through to the conjunctiva) and a puncture wound near the corner of that same eye. My neighbor and I brought her to the emergency animal clinic for treatment, and they said she needs surgery in order to repair the eyelid, so I have to bring her to my vet first thing in the morning. We’re not sure if her eyeball was scratched in the attack, which will need to be checked while she’s under anesthesia.

Right now she’s got ointment on the laceration and is wearing one of those big plastic cones on her head. I had already planned to work from home tomorrow because I have school in the evening. I don’t know how long her surgery will take or if they will let me bring her home tomorrow. Fortunately, my vet is only a couple of blocks away. But, it may mean I’ll be unavailable for some time tomorrow during the morning.

3. I think I have a blocked tear duct, which is why I wasn’t in the office today. It’s been like this since Saturday night. My eye tears constantly, which is not only annoying, but uncomfortable. The cold, dry air seems to make it worse. I may end up calling my doctor tomorrow if it doesn’t improve, so I may not be in the office. I’ll let you know.

2. Definitely not my morning – I had to dispose of a dead baby bird that I found on my patio too. And having had birds as pets for all my life, that’s not something I deal with very well. Back to work now.

1. I had tried unsuccessfully to find parking downtown and eventually gave up and headed back home.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Down with

I don’t answer e-mails from Nigerian princes or click on flashing pop-ups telling me I’ve won a bunch of cash, so I CANNOT BELIEVE I fell for’s scam. I could have been interviewed for this New York Times article.

What’s in store for me down the line? Will I be one of those little old ladies on Dateline crying about how some alien on the Interwebs stole all my money?? Maybe not… there were a few extenuating factors at work:

  • Evil genius marketing: I think I just couldn’t get past the name of the site. After all, it has the word FREE in it. While most e-commerce sites are named after their products, was named after its gimmick, which is a “free” report looped in with a nine-day trial of the actual product, a rather pricey - and useless - credit monitoring service.
  • Irrational rage: The reason I was checking my credit in the first place was because I had convinced myself that evil, evil stalker cable company RCN, which had unleashed bill collectors on me for absolutely no reason other than their own stupidity and evilness, was out to ruin my credit and my life. Little did I know that my preoccupation with mitigating the evil of one company would leave me vulnerable to yet another!
  • Trial trickery: Although I have no memory of entering my credit card information or ignoring the Welcome e-mail (most likely due to rage-induced temporary insanity discussed above), I must have skimmed over some text describing the trial membership I unwittingly signed up for…. So I should have known better, BUT isn’t a free trial usually followed by the OPTION to extend? Since when does NO ACTION mean, “Yes, please charge my credit card for something I don’t need. Monthly.” Any halfway decent company would at least send you an e-mail alerting you that your trial period is over and that your credit card is going to be charged. Shady.
Of course that’s their intention — to confuse and take advantage of consumers.

From NY Times: “Evan Hendricks, who used to serve on the consumer advisory panel for Experian [credit bureau that owns the site] and is now the editor and publisher of Privacy Times, said the company knew the Web site’s name would sow confusion. ‘We had these roaring debates, saying you can’t call it because it’s not free,’ said Mr. Hendricks, who has also been an expert witness on behalf of consumers suing to correct errors in their reports and has testified against Experian. ‘We had put them on notice,’ he said. ‘But the money spoke louder.’”

FYI: To actually get a FREE credit report with no strings attached, go to Federal law guarantees access to a free report from each of the three reporting agencies every 12 months. Why are consumers STILL at the mercy of these deeply flawed and rather evil credit reports? That's a whole separate rant.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Feeling unsalty

Newsflash soupmakers: Soup needs salt. Stop torturing America with your low-sodium impostors. First Trader Joe’s discontinued its delicious tomato & roasted red pepper soup in favor of a low-sodium version. (Me: “Oh, pooper. Is the low-sodium one good?” Trader Joe’s employee: “Um, I guess – it just needs salt.”) But that’s to be expected from the fickle store, whose inventory is constantly playing with my emotions. Plus, I only really opted for tomato & roasted red pepper when I was feeling fancy.

But the betrayal I experienced today when I dipped a freshly grilled cheese sandwich into America’s beloved Campbell’s tomato soup is UNFORGIVABLE. I knew something tasted fishy, er, unsalty, upon my first slurp and initially assumed my boyfriend accidentally picked up some crap low-sodium version of my staple sandwich companion at the grocery store. I was just about to G-chat him to let him know he ruined my day lunch when I decided to check the label before making accusations. What I found was even more disturbing than having to fish it out of the kitchen garbage.

The front of the can looks the same, but here’s what it says on the back: “The famous taste… with less salt! The soup with the famous taste you know and love is healthy, because Campbell adds a naturally flavorful sea salt that helps us use less salt.” Ah yes, I remember seeing commercials about sea salt and thinking it sounded like a good idea. I was wrong.

The tomato soup I knew and loved has been dead since August, according to this press release. The recipe that has “remained largely unchanged” since it was introduced in 1897 will never taste like childhood again. So thanks, Campbell, for making me healthier – and depressed.

Photo courtesy of PR Newswire

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Chirp Lit

I never really thought about my stance on variations of the word "said" until I stumbled across a (really old...) post on Nathan Bransford's blog - apparently it's something of a debate among real writers. The literary agent puts himself in "camp said," arguing that alternatives are actually more distracting than descriptive because "a reading brain doesn't really register the word 'said,' and readers only need to be reminded who's talking. It should be apparent from the dialogue and context whether someone is 'shouting' or 'whispering' or, yes, even 'enumerating,' and using 'said' keeps the reader's attention on the dialogue."

So thanks, Nathan, for alerting me to this subpar writing tactic. Now I can pinpoint what exactly irritates me about books like my latest questionable read: Celebutantes. I should have just stopped after reading the following on page one: "'Please, Paulie, just one of the four of us,' her blood red lips purr." Ick.

In addition to the use of various animal noises, Celebutantes may have even coined some new said alternatives, such as "trill" (used in conjunction with both humans and cell phones) and "sing-song."

Perhaps more distracting, however, were passages like this:
"We swerve past B.D. talking to Carolina and Reinaldo Herrera and Alfonso Cuaron by the mosaic tiled pool. As Carolina crouches down to admire B.D.'s beloved Jack Russell, I can't help but admire her electric blue croc mini-Kelly."

~My inner dialogue~

"What's going on here? Shoes, bags, celebrities? All of the above?" the reader exclaimed to herself, twirling her unstyled hair in befuddlement. "Am I that clueless?"

"There's nothing wrong with shopping at Target," the angel on her shoulder chirped. "It's like, responsible and stuff."

"But Forever 21? You're almost 27," hissed the devil on her other shoulder. "I'm a little embarrassed for you."

"Eh, who cares - just keep reading and get to the inevitable happy ending!" the reader concluded, with more enthusiasm than she'd like to admit.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Best Retailer Forever

It's more than a month away from my birthday, but my good friends Express, Ann Taylor LOFT and DSW have already sent me gifts! Now, like any prudent birthday girl should, I'm going to rank them.

While LOFT and Express sent me $15 coupons, DSW's was only for $5... lame. However, upon further inspection, it appears I can't use my Express or LOFT coupons unless it's with their respective credit cards. Lamer. As they probably know, I only opened those cards to get the discount and try to never use them because I tend to forget they exist, and even if I know I haven't charged them in years they give me late-fee anxiety, but I'm too lazy to close them. But they also know I love birthday cards and can't resist coupons. Damn them for knowing me so well!

So to be fair, I decided to break this relative tie based on looks. Which means I'll have to give the award of best birthday present and therefore favorite friend to Express, whose gift came in a snazzy envelope (the others were post cards), and the slick note inside is silver, and I like shiny things. Also, it says "Rock Your Birthday In Style!". I'm so glad my bestie is the coolest retailer on the block.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Fun with office post-its never stops

Came back from vacation to find this gem in the coffee area:

I was getting so sick of "island time" and being told to relax - thanks, passive aggressive co-worker! It's great to be home.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Put the wow in pow wow!

I'm not going to complain about the ridiculousness of women's Halloween costumes; it seems to be something everyone has accepted as a fact of Fall. My boyfriend's friend summed it up quite nicely yesterday at the end of a group rant about sexy firefighters and slutty panda bears. "But I fall for it every year," he said. And there you have it.

No, this post is not a rant. I'd simply like to share some stellar copywriting a co-worker pointed out to me on, the most entertaining e-commerce site I've come across, um, ever. Offensive on many levels (and you thought Chief Wahoo was inappropriate), it's like a pun-laden train wreck you can't look away from. I mean, Pocahottie? Brilliant, just brilliant.

"The work is done and it's time to play cowboys and Indians, only this time the Indian picks the cowboys she wants. Put the wow in pow wow and practice some native American rituals in this sexy Pocahottie costume. Is that an ear of corn in your pocket or are you just glad to see me?"

"Time to get off the reservation and break away from the tribe in this sexy Dream Catcher costume. He'll want to take you right back to the teepee but you'll want to party and more, and why not? Put the wow in pow wow and go native in this unique costume that shows off your natural beauty."

Did I mention I can't look away?

Okay, this just got depressing...

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Facebook working on public-service redesign?

According to a recent Mashable post, Facebook is testing "yet another" redesign, part of which is a downgrade of the status update box, where users can enthusiastically misspell breaking personal news like what they're microwaving for dinner.
"The screenshots clearly depict a user homepage where the Facebook Publisher, the status update box that currently resides at the top of your home page, is surprisingly absent. It’s where you can share text, photos, videos, URLs and the like on Facebook. But in a rather strange move, it appears as if the Publisher has been minimized and pushed to the side of a page, as a less intrusive button."
Screenie (Courtesy of Mashable via the Next Web):

In addition to being minimized, Facebook Publisher also appears to be morphed into a simple "update status" button, rather than the call-to-action teaser on the current homepage:

I wonder if Facebook is making an effort to discourage the plethora of inane posts such as "Owww! My nose hurtssssssss!" (featured above... inside joke, i hope?).

If so, I think Yammer should follow suit and stop sending me automated e-mails like this one:

Ideas for posting?? Stop encouraging the madness, Yammer!!!

And as for Twitter, I hope it follows suit and .... disappears.

Friday, October 2, 2009


While waiting for the elevator after work last night, I overheard a conversation:

Employee 1: "Are you heading to that happy hour?"

Employee 2: [sheepish] "No..."

Employee 1: [mocking] "Oh I see - you're just leaving work early then?"

Employee 2: [sheepish and defensive] "Well, my roommate's having this dinner party thing for his girlfriend's birthday, and I kinda have to go..."

Employee 1: "A party on a Thursday!? That's kinda weird... Where's it at?"

I found this exchange obnoxious for a number of reasons:
  1. It was FIVE FORTY FIVE. How is that considered an early time to leave work? Nerds.
  2. Even if it was "early," a benefit of working at my company is FLEXIBLE schedules, yet people still insist on laying on guilt trips when you come in "late" or leave "early," or work from home, or take a freaking lunch break. Mofos.
  3. It's called Thirsty Thursday for a reason... Weirdo.
  4. Why wasn't I invited invited to this happy hour? I'm a lot of fun, dammit.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Judging in transit

I’ve noticed a new trend on the train lately – dudes with old books. I can’t decide if I find them endearing or pretentious… I think I’m leaning toward the former, probably only because I notice these readers during rush hours and therefore assume they’re bored corporate monkeys like myself, rather than scornful hipsters, who I (again) assume wake up around noon and have no reason to travel to the Loop.

But as I was contemplating this while standing behind one of these dudes on the brown line this morning, I noticed what looked like a hand-made bookmark peaking out of his yellowed paperback. It read, “No one knows me.” It looked like it might be the title of a poem…

Hm… Or maybe used books are just another sign of “these uncertain economic times.”

Probably a better question on the train car this morning was what that crazy lady was doing taking pictures of random strangers with her phone… and then she pulled a shiny new copy of Celebutantes out of her giant purse. Who would spend money on that? What a tool.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Self promotion lessons from my two-year-old niece

When my niece was born I envisioned myself teaching her a few things – key elements to memorize on your fake ID, the difference between affect and effect – things like that. But during a visit last weekend, I realized the opposite may be true. I think there are a few things I can learn from her – the value and execution of self promotion, for instance.

Lesson #1: Enthusiasm

Even when engaging in the simplest of activities, do so with unbridled enthusiasm. It will spread. My niece is so thrilled with herself while demonstrating talents such as running, jumping and making monkey noises that she convinces everyone around her that they are signs of pure genius. Mile-wide smiles and giggling are infectious. I often find myself exclaiming to those around me, "Is she clapping to the music?? Ohmygosh do you see that?? AMAZING." And it is.

Lesson #2: Vocalization

Don't do any favors without making sure everyone around you knows about it. When my niece isn't in the mood to be social, she ignores friendly people and my sister's requests that she say hi. When she is in the mood, however, she says hi (with enthusiasm) and then announces "I said hi!" You might think it would dilute the message to make this announcement three or four times during the course of, say, a meal out, but it doesn't. The more you repeat your accomplishment, the more memorable it will become (fundamental rule of advertising).

Lesson #3: Looks

You may be thinking excessive self promotion can be annoying... and I agree with that. But not when you look like this:

I see great things in this little lady's future. And she does too.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Internet marketers continue to make me feel like a loser

First my only Netflix friends sent me an e-mail letting me know it's okay to ask for more movies in case I happen to be suffering from lonely long weekends. Now they're helping me out by providing "Teen High School" movie suggestions on my home page, based on my preferences...

Is this suggestion really based on my preferences, or does Netflix maybe have customer surveillance of more than one Friday night involving sweatpants, thai takeout, peanut butter M&Ms and perhaps two or three films in which teenage angst is expressed via the language of dance?

Does it make it any better that the "Play instantly" movies are both indie? Probably not because that means they're still in my queue... and probably will continue to be pushed down by movies that end in choreographed prom scenes.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

The most sophisticated, impressive words in the workplace

I was utterly befuddled by this Yahoo! HotJobs article on "The Most Annoying, Overused Words in the Workplace" because I was under the impression that using the phrases listed as much as possible was the ticket to upper-middle management. In fact, despite the article's title, it does say toward the end that using these annoying sophisticated phrases during interviews can impress HR professionals, who use them all the time...

So here's another CSL cheat sheet for your educational enjoyment:

Leverage = Use
Reach out = E-mail
It is what it is = We are f-ed
Viral = Kids on the Interwebs like it
Game changer = Important
Disconnect = Wrong
Value-add =Value
Circle back = Call back
Interface = Connect
Cutting edge = Not outdated yet

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

One flew over the feminist's nest

Holy F. Could One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest be any more sexist? Why do I keep reading these creepy "classics"?? Okay, I get it - the book was published in 1962, and it was sooo groundbreaking in other ways (read all about it in this glowing Wikipedia review). But couldn't it just have pointed out societal problems without blaming them all on the female gender?

Well, I guess that's an overstatement - author Ken Kesey doesn't even give women that much credit. The tyrannical Nurse Ratched is simply a "high-ranking official," a wily instrument of the all-powerful Combine. What better way to keep troublemakers in check than to control them with the lesser sex, to emasculate them?

A discussion of the nurse's "therapeutic" technique on her mental patients:

Harding: "Miss Ratched may be a strict middle-aged lady, but she's not some kind of giant monster of the poultry clan, bent on sadistically pecking out our eyes. You can't believe that of her, can you?"

McMurphy: "No, buddy, not that. She ain't peckin' at your eyes. That's not what she's peckin' at."

In case you can't stretch to gather what the story's hero is getting at, Kesey elaborates via his narrator, Chief Bromden: "Harding flinches, and I see his hands begin to creep out from between his knees like white spiders from between two moss-covered tree limbs, up the limbs toward the joining of the trunk."

Still not sure what's being alluded to here? In his signature style, Kesey hits you over the head.

Harding: "Not our eyes? ... Pray, then, where is Miss Ratched pecking, my friend?"

McMurphy: "At your balls, buddy, at your everlovin' balls."

Later, Harding explaining a lobotomy: "Yes; chopping away the brain. Frontal-lobe castration. I guess if she can't cut below the belt she'll do it above the eyes."

Wikipedia claimed the novel "subtly" critiques the emasculation of men in society. I just edited that word out - and added a missing comma.

Blame for Billy Bibbit's stutter? His overbearing mother. His death? The evil nurse, of course.

Blame for the demise of Chief Bromden's father and tribe? His white mother, who gave his father her name, instead of the other way around - and a female government worker, who reminds Bromden of Nurse Ratched as he remembers her visit from his childhood.

Blame for McMurphy's troublesome sexual appetite (charged with, but never convicted of statutory rape...)? A nine-year-old girl who "drug" him to bed - his first "little whore."

Racism permeates the novel as well, but it's the characters who exhibit the characteristic, an unfortunate way of life. Sexism, on the other hand, spews out of the author - as a warranted, even admirable way to live.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Thanks for trying to kill me, Mom

Even though it hasn’t been well-received since, hm, college graduation, if ever, my mother still insists on loading me up with the questionably aged contents of the back of her freezer whenever I see her. While I greatly appreciated her braving the drive into the city yesterday, Cubs game be damned, I just couldn’t muster up any enthusiasm for the suspicious loaf she shoved my way as soon as I greeted her outside of my apartment. Oh, of course I’ll take this upstairs right away, before I even help you find parking. Would not want to forget this… banana bread? Oh, don’t be concerned if it seems “wet” when I unwrap the cellophane? “Because it was frozen”? Okay, thanks mom. Yummy.

Do I sound like an ungrateful brat? Probably… I put this woman through childbirth and 12-year-old cleavage, nine months of pregnancy and the threat of parties every time she went out of town, or to the grocery store. Perhaps it’s just part of my payback to take these frozen mysteries off of her hands, so she doesn’t have to feel guilty about throwing food away. It’s the least I can do, right?

Or maybe my suspicion is unwarranted. Maybe my lovely mother baked this banana bread especially for me, and put it in the freezer because I’m a horrible daughter and she had no clue when she’d see me next. So this morning I cut a piece of this latest gift for breakfast, but I couldn’t help bending down to inspect before consuming. And it’s a good thing I did because the loaf in question was chock full of walnuts, i.e. POISON.

Perhaps my mother forgot about the walnut salad that sent me to the emergency room last summer. And the mole sauce that swelled up half my face on a date last fall. Perhaps those conversations slipped her mind… But you’d think her memory would have been jogged when, an hour after sending me upstairs with the lethal loaf, I asked the waitress if the pesto that came on the chicken sandwich I ordered for lunch was made with walnuts. Or when the waitress came back from the kitchen and told me the pesto was safe but the sandwich came with a “walnut slaw” so she would make sure to order it without… you’d think that would have triggered some kind of alarm… or when I launched into a rant after the waitress left about how I can’t believe so many restaurants sneak this extremely common allergen into food and don’t warn you on the menu.

But no, I received no warning. So this confirms my suspicion that my mother doesn’t even know what contents lurk under the protective ice she insists on feeding me. Either that, or she’s trying to kill me.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Ladies Room

Door number 1: Woman applying lipstick in front of the mirror

Door number 2: Unflushed toilet

Door number 3: Broken lock

Leaning forward in a squat, one arm extended in hopes of thwarting a surprise visit or indecent exposure, I wonder if I’m at a bar or at work.

I seem to be sober, so I guess it’s the latter. Damn.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

More fun with office post-its

It's gems like this that remind me why I get up for work in the morning.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Turbo Spaz

While I commend anyone who can feel the fun along with the burn, I think when you’re a fitness INSTRUCTOR, you should maybe care as much about your “students’” workout as your own. And lately, I’ve been a little disappointed with the classes at my YMCA.

Now, I realize the whole idea of cardio kickbox aerobics is a little ridiculous. [Insert name of professional kickboxer here] would probably be horrified to see a group of bouncing Midwestern gals jab-cross-jabbing in front of mirrored walls. But I personally feel that a normal cardio kickbox class releases the perfect combination of aggression and dance fever. I went to one of these classes at my gym in college, and I was delighted to see multiple variations on the fitness schedule when I started going to the Y by my new apartment.

Express Cardio Kickbox class – fabulous; what they call “Turbo Kick” – bad idea. The uber-enthusiasm of the instructors, their spastic combinations and my sporadic attendance create a perfect storm of awkwardness. Apparently it’s more “dancey” than regular cardio kickbox classes... the Y’s description ends with “some coordination is ‘helpful.’” Are those quotation marks mocking me?? I thought I was a coordinated person... back in the day I could do all kindsa crazy tricks on the balance beam (remember folks, that beam is just four inches wide!).

But in this arena I am very challenged... and the instructors do not help. They are having so much freaking fun that I don’t believe they give a hoot if we get their crazy “routines.” I use quotations because I don’t believe these instructors have prepared actual routines. I used to turn Tori Amos and Rusted Root up really loud and randomly stomp/dance around my mom's living room, becoming one with the music – what those instructors are doing up there reminds me of that. With more punching and kicking. Sometimes they yell out incoherent instructions a few regulars appear to understand.

To make matters worse, Google tells me “Turbo Kick” is apparently a whole fitness movement. Everyone sure does look like they’re having a good time... well, to anyone considering trying it out, I recommend practicing in the privacy of your own home first.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Double your fun, or halve it

Apparently I need not apologize for the frat-tastic double TV situation I was talked into... a similar set-up was actually stylish enough to gain a win for team Tori, Dan and Antonio on last night's Design Star!

If this turns out to be the beginning of a new trend in heterohabitation, I'd like to document that the first romantic night of Real Housewives alongside muted sports occurred in my living room:

Class, class, class.

(First photo courtesy of

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Sheepish Bag Lady

A RedEye column I read on the train this morning spoke to me, literally.

"Hey, you with that gigantic bag..."

Although I once wrote a high school English paper on what I called "Big Backpack People," full of rants about classmates who took up too much room in the hallways and could potentially maim an unsuspecting freshman with their abrupt and careless movements, I have, somehow, become one of those girls on the "L" - the ones with the giant bags. Although mine's not Coach, or any other designer brand. Does that make it better, or worse?

Columnist Jason Steele asks at one point, "Ladies: What is it with these bags you insist on carrying that are almost as big as you? What could possibly be in them that you absolutely must carry with you?"

Jason, I DON'T KNOW! There really isn't much in my giant bag, at least not today... often, I must admit, it's loaded with a virtual feast - banana, Coffee Mate, leftovers preserved not in manageable plastic or tupperware, but heavy-duty Pyrex, maybe grapes or an apple, a container or two of yogurt... and sometimes I waddle onto the Brown Line (not from the Armitage stop!) with said purse, as well as gym and laptop bags.

But today, let's see... I've got a book, planner, iPod, gum, phone, "business" cards, umbrella, chapstick, fork from yesterday's lunch (um, ew), keys (one for my apartment, security door, mailbox, mother's house, car I haven't driven since high school, car I haven't driven since college), wallet, busting at the seems... Okay, so maybe some of these items are unnecessary, but they're all relatively small. Not sure then why my purse is so large, and heavy, or why I feel compelled to carry it around. Maybe I'd feel naked without it, or free...

Steele writes, "These women usually have scowls on their faces as well, probably cranky from having to schlep around all this nonsense."

And he's right! Well, that and also because I'm annoyed with all the people who keep bumping into my bag.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Hillary's Hair, oh and some rape epidemic

I first saw the story about Hillary Clinton "snapping" at a college student's question in Kinshasa, Congo on the Today Show, and was uber-annoyed with NBC News Chief Foreign Affairs Correspondent Andrea Mitchell's commentary, at one point saying, "She was exhausted and clearly, some would say, having a had hair day (chuckle)." She then goes on to mention that Clinton was supposed to be dealing with "really serious stuff" in Congo, such as "women who are being used as weapons of war," but had been fielding questions about her husband and his secret mission in North Korea. Thanks, Andrea, for shedding light on the important issues - after, of course, getting a crack in about the secretary of state's hairdo. Sigh.

I became even more annoyed, however, when I found the story on MSNBC's Web site. Here's the lead:
"Hillary Clinton has a message for the world: It's not all about Bill.

The secretary of state bristled Monday when — as she heard it — a Congolese university student asked what her husband thought about an international financial matter."
As she heard it?? Watch the video. Or scroll down - way down - to the 11th paragraph of the article, where the State Department's translation of the student's question is quoted:
"Thank you. Mrs. Clinton, we’ve all heard about the Chinese contracts in this country. The interference is from the World Bank against this contract. What does Mr. Clinton think through the mouth of Mrs. Clinton and what does Mr. Mutombo think on this situation? Thank you very much."
Later the student told Clinton he had meant to ask what President Obama thought, not President Clinton. So maybe the student misspoke, or maybe the translator screwed up, but one thing should be clear: Hillary may have lost her cool, but she did not misunderstand - she did not, as the MSNBC article implies, twist the question in her mind in some kind of "Marsha Marsha Marsha!" moment.

But of course using this blip as a lead-in to a saucy story about the Clintons' marital problems sells more ads than a story about real issues, like the one the Today Show somewhat alluded to. A (sincere) thanks to, which lead me to this Washington Post article about how a U.S.-backed Congolese military operation meant to save women from abusive rebels has exacerbated Congo's rape epidemic:
"An already staggering epidemic of rape has become markedly worse since the January deployment of tens of thousands of poorly trained, poorly paid Congolese soldiers, with people in front-line villages such as this one saying the soldiers are not so much hunting rebels as hunting women."

Almost as important to cover as Hillary's ego, and hair. Almost.

Friday, August 7, 2009

The customer is always right

All I wanted was to hear "Laid," by James. Does that make me so lame? Yes, I thought the song was by the Gin Blossoms, and I may have drunkenly tripped on my way up to make my request, but I don't think that means I deserve to be insulted. Just say you don't play that song. Don't roll your eyes and complain that you ALWAYS get that request and you are SO SICK of that song. You know why people ask you to play that song all the time? BECAUSE IT IS AWESOME.

So I got into a little tiff with the guitar player dude last night at the bar...

When I overheard him reject someone else's request after me, I decided I needed to say something: "Maybe you should play music people want to hear!" He responded by telling me maybe I should play the song if I want to hear it so badly, and he started to take off his stupid guitar. I happened to have polished off my own bottle of wine at dinner (I take BYOB dining seriously), so my brain failed to produce a comeback. "Uh, I don't know how to play music." That's what I said. And the jerkface responded, "That's what I thought." Jerk. Face.

I understand jerkface probably dreams of being a real musician, not one who plays covers for a half-empty bar every Thursday night. But you know what? I have dreams too. Do you think I want to write Google AdWords about new accounting standards? No, I do not. But that's what pays the bills. I don't roll my eyes at my manager and tell him I'm sooo over Sarbanes Oxley - I do what I'm asked to do. Then I can complain about it, and anything else I feel like, on my blog, if I'm so inclined. So, jerkface, sing what you like in the shower, play what you want on Guitar Hero, but when you're performing FOR an audience, try not to be such a d-bag.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

10 places to avoid in Chicago (if you weren’t already…)

Well, it’s official: On the lackluster “After the Final Rose” episode, our latest Bachelorette told Chris Harrison she will soon be invading my fair city. Luckily, in “10 things you don't know about Ed Swiderski of 'The Bachelorette,'” the Chicago Tribune has revealed some of her fiance's favorite places – so if you’re afraid, like I am, that you might be rendered deaf and/or blind by running into Jillian’s incessant squealing and/or Ed’s shorty-shorts, I suggest you avoid the following:
  1. Sushi Samba
  2. Blue Frog
  3. Air and Water Show
  4. Green Door
  5. Innjoy
  6. Cubs games
  7. Lake Shore Drive
  8. Michigan Avenue
  9. Lincoln Park
  10. River North

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Guinness IS good for you!

Because my boyfriend just sent me this link, I thought it was "news," but upon further investigation, it appears the BBC officially deemed Guinness "good for you" in 2003... nevertheless, the story inspired me to post.

According to the article, University of Wisconsin (naturally) researchers "tested the health-giving properties of stout against lager by giving it to KK patrons dogs who had narrowed arteries similar to those in heart disease," and found that a pint a day "may work as well as a low dose aspirin to prevent heart clots that raise the risk of heart attacks."

Wonderful news for Guinness drinkers! I'm afraid, though, that you'll still have to endure random comments at (American) bars (unless it's St. Patrick's Day), such as:
  • "Guinnes, ay?!" [accompanied by mouth-gaping confusion/surprise]
  • "Looks like you're chewing your drink tonight!"
  • "I've never seen a girl drink Guinness before!!"
  • "That just looks so HEAVY."
Although, instead of rolling your eyes, perhaps you can respond to these comments with a bit of Guinness trivia: Apparently the 1920s "Guinness is good for you" ad campaign "stemmed from market research - when people told the company that they felt good after their pint, the slogan was born."

Well, who can argue with that?

(Photo Source:

Monday, July 27, 2009

Politically correct, or so politically incorrect?

Now, I'm not saying I haven't been pushed to the edge of Monday-morning sanity upon realizing my nearly empty Coffee-Mate is missing - presumably tossed out during the Friday refrigerator clean-out, but I found this note a little obnoxious.

At first glance, "no basura" seemed to be a racist spin on the passive aggressive post-it - you know, the kind that's written in all caps or embellished with numerous exclamation points or underlining.

Or is it? Perhaps the note is on the other end of the PC spectrum - as it respects the fact that the U.S. does not have an official national language. Hm... think I'm going to stick with my initial assumption.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Fashion Victim

Lately the news has been warning us that "Skinny Jeans May be Dangerous to Your Health." According to this article, a condition called meralgia paresthetica, or "tingling thigh syndrome" can occur "when constant pressure...cuts off the lateral femoral cutaneous nerve, causing a numb, tingling or burning sensation along the thigh."

The article quotes a woman who noticed the odd sensation "when she wore a pair of super-tight skinny jeans to dinner with friends." And when she walked around, "She felt like she was almost 'floating,' because she couldn't feel her legs."

So... that's weird and all, but I think this woman's bigger problem, unless she's a runway model, is that she probably looked ridiculous. Isn't the real danger of these so-called skinny jeans that they actually make everyone look fat and awful?? Bring on the meralgia! Anything that will make this trend go away!

And according to the article, "tingling thigh syndrome" is exacerbated by high heels, the very accessory that can help these heinously unflattering jeans look halfway decent on a lucky few. (A chiropractic physician quoted in the article says, "The teetering shoes tilt the pelvis forward, increasing the pressure on the nerve.")

So what's the fashion-chasing, burger-eating Midwesterner to do? Step into a pair of dreaded ballet flats after pouring herself into her trendy jeans?

Please, can we stop the madness? Not to avoid the health risks, but to avoid the humiliation! Let's just stick with what we know best: relaxed fits, sweats, grease stains.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Don’t Fall in Love With Your First Draft

Most of what I learned in school has turned out to be utterly useless in the “real world.” In fact, rather than equip me for professional success, much of my academic life actually handicapped me, puffing up my ego and helping me build the analytical skills I could then use to obsess over the gap between undergraduate expectations and corporate reality.

There was one piece of advice, though, that could have helped me adjust, had I ever taken it to heart: “Don’t fall in love with your first draft.” In my memory, these words appear on a classroom poster of a hamburger — I’m not sure why… I think maybe the buns were the introduction and conclusion surrounding the “meat” of the story… (?) Well anyway, I never really took this advice because I believed everything that flowed from my mechanical pencil was pure genius.

Lately I’ve come to realize, however, that it’s an occupational hazard to fall in love with my first draft. Because at the bottom of the totem pole, where my cubicle is located, your job is to write first drafts — which you then hand up to more important people to review, modify, tweak and toss around until it’s a Frankenstein everyone can take credit for, or on the flipside, deny having had much say in, if it’s a flop.

So I’ve decided “Don’t fall in love with your first draft” is my new mantra. (At my last job it was “Happiness is a fragile flower that must be cultivated to grow,” adopted from a trade magazine columnist I used to edit.) I’ll regard my drafts as I would my children, if I had any.

As a parent you try to lay a good foundation, teaching your kids right and wrong and all that, but one day they go out into the world and are influenced by all kinds of random people you have no control over — teachers, classmates, the tipsy trophy wife next door. Maybe you’re overprotective of your first born, but by the second or third, you don’t even bother to lock the liquor cabinet.

I think maybe the most valuable — and versatile — lesson in life is the one about letting go (helpful for parents, writers, crazy ex-girlfriends, Brett Favre, the list goes on...).

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Best pharmaceutical commercial ever

Who does depression hurt? Your toy-sized doppelganger.

Where does depression hurt? Her teeny tiny shoulders.

Has your toy-sized doppelganger been feeling blue? Do you have to wind her up more often than usual? Don’t worry – you can gaze lovingly into her black eyes once again. Ask Geppetto about Pristiq.

Depression hurts. Pristiq can help.

Side-effects may include dry-mouth, robotic walking and creepiness.

Monday, June 15, 2009

CSL Cheat Sheet: Conquering Corporate America, One Transitive Verb at a Time

Being a CSL (Corporate as a Second Language) student is tricky because unlike learning a whole new language, becoming fluent in corporate speak requires one to re-learn a lot of known words that are used between cubicle walls in new and innovative ways. Nevertheless, as the progression of one's career is directly related to the speed with which she can saturate her vocabulary with these sophisticated words and phrases, it’s of the utmost importance to remain diligent. To that end, I’ve compiled explanations of some words that have perplexed me on the CSL learning curve.

Traditional definition (noun): a range within a band of wavelengths, frequencies or energies.
Corporate definition (noun): ability to complete a task, based on actual or fabricated schedule allowance. Use: Unfortunately, I don’t have the bandwidth to do your work for you today.

Traditional definition (noun): veterinarian, i.e. a person qualified and authorized to practice veterinary medicine.
Corporate definition (transitive verb): to evaluate for possible approval or acceptance. Note: I first noticed repeated use of this word during the 2008 election season; then it started popping up on conference calls. Key takeaway: When looking for new words to impress, start with the Obama Administration.

Traditional definition (noun): fun project your mom planned for birthday parties.
Corporate definition (transitive verb): to make or produce with care, skill or ingenuity. Note: This is a handy euphemism for “write” or “copy and paste.”

Carve (transitive verb)
Traditional use: I have to carve the turkey.
Corporate use: Let me know if you lack the bandwidth to craft these communications, for then I shall have to carve out some time to vet other possible resources. Note: Resources = humans that are not as important as you, i.e. CSL beginners.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009


I've noticed a lot of copies of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society on the CTA, so I was pumped when a co-worker said she could lend it to me. I became skeptical when I started reading, however. I read the first few letters and quickly flipped forward, looking for when the real story would start. Obviously I quickly realized the entire book comprises a series of correspondence between characters. Ugh. I like my books in standard form. Any deviation can cause extreme irritation. The comic strips preceding each chapter of The Tenth Circle, for example, did not sit well with this reader.

It didn't take long, however, for Juliet Ashton to win me over. On page 12 she writes, "I much prefer whining to counting my blessings." Finally a main character I can relate to! A nice change after weeks of trying to decide whether to be inspired or horrified by Mamah Borthwick's personal brand of feminism in Loving Frank.

And then Juliet's description of why she broke off her engagement sealed the deal:
"On the afternoon before our wedding, Rob was moving in the last of his clothes and belongings while I delivered my Izzy article to the Spectator. When I was through, I tore home, flew up the stairs, and threw open the door to find Rob sitting on a low stool in front of my bookcase, surrounded by cartons. He was sealing the last one up with gummed tape and string. There were eight boxes--eight boxes of my books bound up and ready for the basement ... I was too appalled to speak ... every shelf--where my books had stood--was filled with athletic trophies ... There were awards for every game that could possibly be played with a wooden object ... There were statues for everything a man could jump over, either by himself or on a horse... All I could do was scream, 'How dare you! What have you DONE?! Put my books back!' Well, that's how matters started ... He huffed and puffed and snorted--and left. And I unpacked my books."
Luckily when I moved last month, it was made clear ahead of time that my bookshelf was non-negotiable:

Hm... well, except for the addition of the Chicago Bears Checkers game...

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Craig’s Just Not That Into You

I’m trying to purchase a couple of Cubs tickets for friends that are coming to town the weekend after next, and it’s not going as well as I had hoped. When I first started cruising Craigslist last week, I was full of confidence, not even looking at posts asking for more than $100. I sent a breezy e-mail to a guy who had advertised six for $75 each, asking if he would sell two. When he didn’t respond, I wasn’t too concerned — plenty of fish in the sea.

But when I got back on the saddle today, my heart fell — decrease in posts, increase in prices. So not only did I contact someone selling tickets for more than $100, but my e-mail took on a different personality. “Are your tickets still for sale?” I asked, not wanting to be too presumptuous. Then after 10 minutes of checking my inbox, I began to fire off desperate e-mails to any applicable post I found.

I bristled when my boyfriend suggested offering $105 to someone asking for $110 per ticket. I’m in no position to bargain! Noone will even e-mail me back! My mood was souring; “tix” became “tickets” in my subject lines. I also started adding that I’d pay the asking price in case the seller was negotiating with others … or annoyed with people trying to bargain… I want them to like me best!

When I finally got a response, my spirits lifted … then quickly fell again. The message said the seller had already found a buyer, and they’re meeting tomorrow — but he’ll let me know if the deal falls through. So now I’m actually hoping for sloppy seconds.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Anti-Social Networking

Apparently to succeed in this world, you have to “network.” While it seems my hope and dream that electronic communication will take over face-to-face awkwardness may one day come true, it’s not happening fast enough – and I suspect I will have given up on this whole “career” thing by the time it does.

I think networking is a talent – you either have it or you don’t – and like other talents such as singing and dancing, it just makes everyone uncomfortable if you attempt it without the required skillset. And while booze does initially help, there’s a fine line between loosening up and embarrassing yourself even more. This is why I avoid networking events. Instead, my preferred type of “professional development” is education-focused. Because I miss school.

So yesterday I attended one of these “educational” events and strategically scheduled my day so as to avoid talking to strangers – arriving late, after coffee (code for sleepy, awkward conversations) and planning to escape before happy hour (see previous paragraph for reminder on why booze plus business cards spell trouble for the socially challenged).

Unfortunately, it didn’t take more than 10 minutes for my plan to begin unraveling. Upon entering the conference room, I was assaulted by a frightening sight: tables. Instead of civilized rows of chairs where people could sit and stare straight ahead, pretending their neighbors didn't exist, chairs formed circles around tables occupied by people chatting with eachother. Luckily my initial panic was alleviated when I spotted a couple rows for overflow loners at the back. But my calm was short-lived; my ears pricked when I heard “get to know eachother” come out of the keynote speaker's mouth. Oh god. The dreaded icebreaker.

Sure enough, at the end of his presentation, the speaker told us to go to a different table and shake a random hand. We were instructed to share our biggest professional challenge and something personal noone knows about us. Ummm - awkward, creepy, no. In an attempt to not look like a total weirdo, I turned to the fellow loner next to me and informed her that I didn't feel like walking over to a table. That's what I said. This is why I try to keep my mouth closed in front of strangers. Then we exchanged names, job titles, possibly swine flu. And then we never spoke to eachother again.

It's when I begin to feel the pseudo-walls of my cubicle closing in on me that I enroll in events like these, thinking I'd like to get out ... but I need to remember that even if it's not the focus, networking sneaks its way into every event. Better to stay at the office, behind a laptop, where I can type my words carefully, instead of standing by powerless as they tumble out of my mouth, snowballing into a giant mound of nonsense I can never take back. Yes, better to stay inside the cube, where it's safe.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

What Would David Do?

My name is Amy, and I’m a WE-Go-Bridal addict. Platinum Weddings, Bridezillas, Rich Bride Poor Bride — and especially My Fair Wedding — elicit that perfect mix of abhorrence and jealousy that every reality TV junky hates to love. And the Sunday afternoon marathons are an open bar of guilty pleasure.

In case you spend your Sundays productively and are unfamiliar with My Fair Wedding, I’ve found and embedded a montage for you to become acquainted:

According to, each episode shows how “David Tutera (celebrity party planner) whisks into wedding chaos three weeks before a bride’s most important day of her life and quickly saves the day as he transforms the fate of the party from less than ordinary to beyond extraordinary.”

It wasn’t until I watched Jennifer’s episode yesterday (featured in the clip) that I realized how disturbing this show is, and perhaps that’s because Tutera himself says at the end that it was the biggest transformation he had ever achieved — not only of Jennifer’s wedding, but of her entire “persona.” While I usually laugh along with Tutera as he pokes fun at the brides’ plans to use balloons or fake flowers (in the way I used to laugh along with my older brother and sister when they made dirty jokes I didn’t understand), Jennifer’s cringe-inducing “etikwette” lesson crossed a line. Apparently in order to perfect the “most important day of her life,” Tutera had to change everything about Jennifer, from her hair and makeup to her smoking habits and table manners.

This kind of “transformation” takes wedding weight loss to a whole new level. I realize it’s become popular for brides to try to slim down, often in unhealthy ways, but as my sister asked the other day, why would you want to not look like yourself on your wedding day? And wouldn’t you just find the photos depressing after you gained the weight back?

And in the case of My Fair Wedding, these brides aren’t really achieving their own vision of perfection — they’re becoming David Tutera’s. Which brings me back to my epiphany: I’ve always been put off by traditional weddings because, even when the bride and groom aren't religious, ceremonies seem more like sermons than celebrations of love and commitment. It’s all about Jesus, not about the couple. But as consumerism gains ground on religion as our collective consciousness (at least on television), we’ve found a new superstar: David Tutera. Your wedding won’t be an affair to remember unless Tutera’s version of your dream is achieved — and charged to someone’s credit card.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Corporate America attempts to tackle swine flu

New how-to sign for us poor cubicle slobs in the office kitchen:

Kind of a key ingredient to the aforementioned process:

Empty since last week...

Friday, April 24, 2009

Berry Delicious Smoothie

It's smoothie season! Last summer I got a little bored with my usual strawberry banana, and my boyfriend wasn't a fan of its temperature - but thanks to the collective suggestions of Katie and Cari, I've created an easier, tastier, more refreshing alternative (makes two):

  • 1 ripe banana
  • 6 oz frozen mixed berries (I used Dole's "Wildly Nutritious" blend of strawberries, blackberries, blueberries and raspberries
  • 2 large spoonfulls nonfat vanilla yogurt
  • 16 oz orange juice

I'm thinking vodka might be a good addition ... I'll let you know if that's a very good, or very bad idea.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Sad Earth Day

A co-worker of mine came into the office today a bit flustered because he'd seen some commotion at the Metra station around a flower shop. He immediately assumed he'd missed some kind of Hallmark holiday and was afraid he might be in the doghouse tonight. We quickly assured him though that we doubted his wife was expecting a gift for Earth Day.

But how strange... Could it be that people were buying flowers for Earth Day? What a ridiculous thing to do, right, because the flower industry is a serious environmental offender, what with all the pesticides and overseas shipping, not to mention the terrible working conditions...

But don't worry - I figured out what the flowers were for later at lunch when someone mentioned it's also Administrative Professionals' Day. That makes way more sense.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Stranger Danger

Like Mace, sometimes the armor you use to protect yourself from strangers (headphones, books, newspapers, etc.) is used against you. Instead of indicating that you want to be left alone, “friendly” people see this armor as a conversation starter. I don’t understand these people, and they can really put a damper on my commute.

This morning I quickly opened the book I’m currently obsessed with, American Wife, after I snagged myself a seat on the bus. Although it’s a work of fiction loosely based on Laura Bush, I believe the fellow next to me perceived it as an instruction manual I carry around on my quest for a CTA-riding husband. I hadn’t even gotten through a sentence when he started the dreaded awkward conversation with, “Is that a book about being an American wife?” Oy.

So I briefly told him what the book is about and turned back to the page. One sentence later: “So that’s probably like more of a chick book, right?” At this point I’m getting pretty annoyed. I really am obsessed with this book – stayed up way past my bedtime Wednesday night reading it – and my commute’s not that long, and I like to spend it READING. Also, I was hungover from Thursday night. But still, I smiled when I responded with a nod. Why, why, why? I have no idea.

So he proceeds to tell me what kinds of books he likes and that he’d like to be in a book club but they seem like a girl thing … and asks me what I do and then I ask him what he does (why, why, why – I guess because sometimes I act human and I felt obligated. Sigh.) … and we talk about layoffs and I keep trying to go back to my book but he keeps on talking … and then he brings up his brother who works at Google … and this I find interesting so I ask more questions. Damn it.

And here’s where it gets real awkward. He says he’s getting off at the next stop and asks if I have a card. I tell him I don’t have any on me – oh well. But no that can’t be the end of it. He then asks if he can write down my e-mail address. Usually I would just give it but for some reason – I think because I was really pretty miffed; this book is like crack – I said no. But he did seem like a nice guy and who can really blame him for putting himself out there – I know that takes a lot of courage, especially stone sober at nine in the morning. So I added that I have a boyfriend and I just didn’t want to send mixed signals, something like that … at this point I was suffering from full-blown diarrhea of the mouth.

Then we sat in a painful silence for what was probably about three seconds but felt like a week and a half, during which I obsessed over what I had said and wondered if he had really just been being friendly, and was now thinking he couldn’t believe what a giant ego this girl in an Old Navy jean jacket had – that he couldn’t believe I had just assumed he was interested in dating me.

But then he kindly broke the silence by asking if I by any chance had a twin who was single. So I guess my assumption was correct… This person didn’t just want to be my friend. So then what’s the point of it all??? Is anyone of the opposite sex really just being “friendly”? Are you supposed to just ignore them right off the bat if you’re not single or interested? Ugh … I just wanted to read my book.

Monday, April 13, 2009


I’ve been thinking a lot lately about SSB (secret single behavior), coined, I believe, by Sex and the City, episode 13, season four. When Aidan moves in with Carrie, she complains to her friends that she can no longer engage in SSB—which for her, is standing in her kitchen and eating a stack of saltines and jelly while reading fashion magazines. Charlotte empathizes and reveals that her SSB, before Trey, was studying her pores for an hour every night. Miranda’s is conditioning her hands in Vaseline while watching infomercials. Samantha of course has no SSB because she has no shame, which isn’t such a bad thing.

So I’ve been thinking about my SSB (unfortunately more disturbing than the SATC girls’) because after living alone for two years, I’ll soon be cohabitating in a new apartment with my guy. (Yay!) Some of my SSBs, like eating an entire tub of Merkts sharp cheddar while watching episode upon episode of The Hills, I’m sort of looking forward to having a reason to kick. But others... I’m afraid I won’t be able to suppress.

Which got me wondering: What if bringing our SSB out of the closet is just the next step in the relationship spectrum, phase two of the big reveal? Phase one, I believe, is unleashing the crazy. In the beginning it’s relatively easy to act out near-perfection—but as lunch becomes brunch and dates turn into weekends, it becomes virtually impossible to keep unruly emotions in check, especially when alcohol is involved. But if the other is in fact significant, they actually find your “quirkiness” rather adorable—and any insanity that ensues after a fifth glass of wine mostly bearable, at least forgivable.

So then after the crazy comes the weird, phase two—which is where SSB comes in. While the former reveals your emotional issues, the latter brings your habitual oddities to light. That would mean you don’t have to give up your SSB completely—only in the sense that it can’t really be a secret anymore. That’s probably the symbolism of the end of the episode, when Carrie opens the curtains she had closed between her and Aidan, after he agrees to be quiet and let her be weird by herself on the other side. But then again, Carrie completely freaks out and breaks up with Aidan before the season’s even over, much to this dismay and tears of viewers across America.

I suppose I’ll just have to wait and see how well my theory pans out in real life... Because, as people keep reminding me, Carrie is a fictional character, and SATC is just a show. Maybe that’s not such a bad thing either.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Kelly's day in court, according to my imagination

Inspired by ZIP's post about NYC Real Housewife Kelly and last night's episode, which was AWESOME, I've envisioned what the scene may have looked like yesterday in court, as Kelly faced a judge Tuesday morning for allegedly assaulting her ex, according to today's RedEye.

Kelly: [Grinning maniacally, eyes wild] Judgey Judge!

Judge: You’re an hour and a half late, Ms. Bensimon.

Kelly: [Crestfallen] Okay, I was willing to be friends, but your attitude is unacceptable, and it won’t be tolerated. You need to grasp the reality of the situation, Judge. [Gesturing] I am up here, and you are down here.

Judge: [Confused] Ms. Bensimon, we are not friends. I am a judge, and I’m sentencing you to 10 months of community service.

Kelly: Oh really? Really Judge? And why is that? Enlighten me. I’d really like to know [Hiccups/snickers].

Judge: Domestic violence, Ms. Bensimon.

Kelly: You know what, this is kid stuff. Kid stuff. You know, I don’t think you’re cute. And I don’t think you’re charming. And I’m not going to play your childish games.

Judge: This is not kid stuff. These are real-world consequences. I hereby sentence you to 10 months of community service—and psychiatric counseling.

Kelly: [Beginning to walk toward the door] W-w-waaaait a second here… I didn’t agree to this. I don’t think you understand how busy I am. You know, while you’re wasting time judging, I’m busy doing stuff. I just can’t lend my name to any charities.

Judge: [Summoning bailiff] You won’t be lending your name. You’ll be picking up trash on the side of the road, in an orange jumpsuit.

Kelly: [Grinning maniacally at bailiff and judge, eyes going back and forth wildly] Ohhhh… What? [Incomprehensible grumble/giggle] Orange… orange is the new pink! Cute!

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Daughter of Fortune: Worth the Wait

Even though I LOVED Isabel Allende’s House of the Spirits, I was not digging the first half of Daughter of Fortune — mostly because it reminded me of the worst, most overrated and ridiculous book ever written, also known as Love in the Time of Cholera. The “love” affair between Eliza and Joaquin Andieta gave me flashbacks of that literary waste of months of my life:

“...she wanted to die right there, pierced by the sensation, sharp and no more to be denied than a sword, that was filling her mouth with warm blood and, even before she could identify it, crushing her with the terrible weight of idealized love ... That autumn morning when she saw Joaquin Andieta in the patio of her home, Eliza thought she had met her destiny; she would be his slave forever.”

Eek. Had this been another Marquez monstrosity, I probably would have just given up, but keeping the author in mind, I plowed through the disturbing “love” scenes and was luckily rewarded when the story moved from Chile to California during the 1849 Gold Rush. Although Eliza goes to California in search of her “sweetheart,” in doing so she breaks free of her Victorian upbringing, gender constraints and eventually her deranged, overblown case of puppy love. And her transformation is illustrated by Allende’s writing, which goes from over-the-top, flowery language to tell-it-like-it-is descriptions of Wild West brutality. My favorite part:

“She fell in love with freedom. In the Sommers’ home she had lived shut up within four walls, in a stagnant atmosphere where time moved in circles and where she could barely glimpse the horizon through distorted windowpanes. She had grown up clad in the impenetrable armor of good manners and conventions, trained from girlhood to please and serve, bound by corset, routines, social norms, and fear. Fear had been her companion: fear of God and his unpredictable justice, of authority, of her adoptive parents, of illness and evil tongues, of anything unknown or different; fear of leaving the protection of her home and facing the dangers outside; fear of her own fragility as a woman, of dishonor and truth. Hers had been a sugar-coated reality built on the unspoken, on courteous silences, well-guarded secrets, order, and discipline. She had aspired to virtue but now she questioned the meaning of the word... She had left Chile with the purpose of finding her lover and becoming his slave forever, believing that was the way to extinguish her thirst to submit and her hidden wish for possession, but now she doubted that she could give up those new wings beginning to sprout on her shoulders.”

I’d like to think of Daughter of Fortune as a kind of rejection of Marquez’s twisted version of love, but One Hundred Years of Solitude is listed as one of Allende’s favorite books on the “About the author” page in the back of my edition. I suppose I’d have to read it to further investigate my theory ... and I’d rather not.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

What that obligatory office e-mail closing really means

Being overly analytical (in only the most unproductive ways) and extremely paranoid, I’ve developed a dangerous habit of dissecting office e-mails. In my opinion, the “complimentary close” is the most fascinating part — most indicative of personality and emotion. Case in point: the loaded “Thanks.”

Thanks. = I hope this answer to your stupid question prevents you from contacting me again, as I am very busy and important.

Thank you. = I hope you’re as impressed with my professionalism and multi-syllabic writing skills as I am.

Thanks! = I hope you like my message, and I hope you like me!

THANKS! = I REALLY hope you like my message, and I hope you like ME as much as I like SUGAR!!!

Thanks, = Thanks … or you’re welcome.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The Girl in the Pink Pleated Skirt

After loving the adorably hilarious book, I went to see Confessions of a Shopaholic last weekend. I won’t get into why the former was better or complain about the weird talking mannequin scenes because I didn’t expect more than mindless entertainment from the movie — and that’s what it delivered.

One benefit of the film, though, was the costumes. The main character, an aspiring fashion magazine journalist, consistently wears the most fabulously ridiculous outfits, both in and outside of the office, as well as on her way up the corporate ladder. From the mini skirt she wears to an interview to her bright pink laptop, screaming colors and blinging accessories are worn unapologetically – and not only accepted, but rewarded by The Man, e.g. Rebecca Bloomwood becomes a celebrated finance columnist under the pseudonym “The Girl in the Green Scarf.” (And wins readers by comparing investment decisions to shopping for shoes and sweaters.)

Rebecca’s wardrobe, and her silly-but-surprisingly-smart character, reminded me of Legally Blonde’s Elle Woods, who debutes as a sorority girl who noone takes seriously, but turns out to have what it takes to be a high-powered lawyer. While Elle does tone down her signature style for a bit at Harvard Law, she goes back to full-force pink in the movie’s climactic court scene – and wins the case (thanks to her extensive knowledge of hair care).

With two movies, a musical and an MTV show, Elle Woods has certainly proven to be a popular character. And with seven(?) books in the Shopaholic series, Becky Bloomwood isn’t far behind.

So why do we love these characters so much? I think the resonance they have with today’s working gal is similar to the popularity of the mid-20th century novel and movie, The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit. I haven’t read or seen it … but I learned about them in a women’s studies class in college and just got a refresher on wikipedia, which says they’re about “the American search for purpose in [a] world dominated by business,” with the gray suit symbolizing the monotony and soullessness of the corporate world.

But obviously they’re not exactly the same. While The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit reflected a dismal reality, Bloomwood and Woods act out a fantasy. The glitzy, gorgeous, colorful characters are a remedy for the grey flannel suit – a symbol for a more diverse, happy and fulfilling workplace.

Of course this kind of chic flick/lit could also be seen as more of a sedative than a cure: Just as the corporate cogs of the 1950s drowned their sorrows in booze and seedy affairs, today’s pink-collar workforce is diverted by wildly unrealistic stories … and cocktails and one-night stands ... Well, at least we can take heart in the fact that we’re not wearing grey suits while we earn the money to spend on mindless entertainment.

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