this is why i fail marketing 101

I think you’re supposed to post links when other people are kind enough to publish your work on their own blogs. I just remembered that. Seriously, I flunk every blog test out there.

I sent in a story to Globejotting this spring during Dave Fox’s 100 Hours of Humour (yeah, that’s how he spelled it; he’s gone rogue), for one of his flash humor writing contests on the theme “Road Trips”. I didn’t win and he published it anyway, because he’s awesome that way. So thanks, Dave!…six months later.

Lumberjacks & Roosters

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let’s agree this post didn’t happen

IMG-20130505-00299A couple of weeks ago I trekked out to the Montgomery County fairgrounds to see the 40th annual Maryland Sheep & Wool Festival.

As a crocheter, this was an exciting – if nerdy – opportunity to see beautiful yarn from small local farms and shops – the real wool, not your general craft store acrylic. (Acrylic has its advantages; namely, that it won’t cost you $300 to make your own sweater, but it’s just not as pretty.)

I had no idea how nerdy it would be, however. I don’t card or spin, I’ve never seen raw fleece, and I genuinely had no idea what most of these people were talking about most of the time. If you’re going to make a statement like, “I love my Ashford Joy, what do you do?”, then I’m going to need some more contextual clues. I needed a demonstration of how a drop spindle works, and saying, “oh, she’s plying right now, not spinning” does not actually provide any more clarification. I did like the sheep shearing – I love that the farmers put little blankets on the sheep afterwards so they’d still be warm – and the sheepdog herding demonstrations. I liked petting all the cute sheep, and learning about all the different breeds and how different their wool was, on and off. Hey, did you know it’s illegal to import sheep into the U.S.? But not to artificially inseminate U.S. ewes from British or New Zealander (or wherever) rams, to diversify the breeds raised here? (Think about that next time you’re on a flight from London; somebody there has a carry-on full of sheep semen. Maybe you could be a little nicer about slamming into other peoples’ bags in the overhead compartment, no?)

And – obviously – the funnel cake. Funnel cake never goes wrong.

I did not like the fact that crocheters, AS USUAL, got short shrift. Everybody’s all about knitting. Knitting, knitting, knitting. I do not get the anti-crochet bias out there. Knitting Schmitting, I say. Crocheting is easier and faster. Don’t act like knitting is hipper, because it is not. Just as many grandmas knit as crochet. And if you spin, you just cancelled out any hipness and delved deep into…I dunno, Game of Thrones-esque dorkiness there. (And I say that as someone who now totally wants to learn how to spin…possibly on an Ashford Joy, whatever that might be.) (Also, I now watch Game of Thrones, so maybe that’s not making the point I’m trying to make here.)

Anyway. Of all the booths with books, amongst hundreds of knitting books, I found approximately 5 crocheting books, and 3 of them were about Tunisian crochet, which is basically half-knitting. One of them was an entire book of Jane Austen-era clothing, which is so useful for all those Dress-Like-Jane-Austen parties I’m going to these days. [Though I note there is a movie coming out soon, Austenland, about exactly those people, so they should get a copy.] And even when you find books that claim to be knitting and crochet, look at the patterns: 3/4 of them are knitting, and the projects tell you all you need to know about the author’s opinion on crocheting. The knitting projects are cute sweaters and scarves and the crocheting project is some kind of batwing spider dress Morticia Adams – and no one else –  might be caught dead in. Or spend a second googling knitting and crocheting patterns, and see what comes up first.

Knitting Project: cute baby hat!

Knitted baby hat

Adorable! You’d make this!

Knitting project: pretty sweater!

Knitted gray sweater

Cute! You’d wear this!

Crocheting project: seriously terrifying blue scarf!

Don't act like you would have been ok with this in the 70's either.

Just…you would have been ok with this in the 70’s, all right?

Crocheting project: Victorian hand gloves!

There could be some occasions for these.

There…could be some occasions for these…

Crocheting project: Look, I am telling you that there *are* non-crazy, cute, completely practical crocheting projects out there.

...probably the same occasions that require spats.

…probably the same occasions that require spats.

Crocheting project: Yeah, I don’t know.

Crocheted angel dolls

Ok, let’s forget this whole conversation ever happened.

Other than to agree on one thing, knit or crochet:

Knitted bikini

(This is the knitted one, if you were wondering.)

Crochet bikini

(Crocheted one, which you have to admit is a little better, as far as that goes.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wool bikinis are just stupid.

note to self: lists from my travel journal

Cambodia (Feb. 2006)

1. Bring a watch. You can’t rely on your cell phone as you do at home because you’re cheap, and you refused to buy the global service plan before you left.

2. Bring an extra camera battery, because you will take 8,000 photos at Angkor Wat alone. Note that Angkor Wat does not provide a charging station.

3. Always have the hotel address in local language from the website in order to avoid angry shouty conversation in which taxi driver assures you at airport that he knows where the hotel is located, drives out of the airport, then pulls over to demand you explain where the hotel is located and when you don’t know he gets mad – at you – because that’s completely reasonable. Oh, and now you’re lost in rural Cambodia.

4. Try not to pick travel companions who steal rocks from Angkor Wat. Sheesh.

5.*Important!* Don’t stand near thieving travel companions in security line at airport, risking confusion for angry shouty Customs agents. Let’s not talk about that any further.

 

Hawaii (Feb. 2007)

1. You still need a watch, because your phone will die somewhere within the Wahiawa Botanical Garden and you will miss the time you’re supposed to meet your travel companions and they will be so pissed they didn’t get to watch the sunset at a tiki bar.

2. Go to tourist sites early to beat the buses or you will be trapped in traffic and and circle hopelessly and eventually have to park on the opposite side of the island. Turns out Hawaii is not especially known for their 6-lane highways and multilevel garages, which is a great thing except when you’re trying to find parking.

3. Learn how to turn off stupid travel alarm clock so it doesn’t shriek madly, waking up everyone in the hostel, until you finally pound it against the floor. On flip side: all travel companions will be suitably awake for early-morning trek to tourist sites, avoiding aforementioned buses.

4. Remind travel companions that they should not listen to you when you assure them the flight is “2-something” without checking, because it might turn out to be “1-something” instead, and then we will spend the next several hours in the small, though lovely, island airport with cranky travel companions (for some reason, they aren’t getting enough sleep), waiting for the 4:10.

4(a). Start checking your flight times.

 

Finland (May 2008)

1. Pack a watch! Thanks for ponying up for the global service plan this time, but we still had to keep it off most of the day because you forgot to pack a power adapter.

2. Pack a power adapter! Note that power adapters are not the same thing as converters. Try to avoid looking immensely stupid by failing to understand this important distinction until it is explained, slowly and loudly, by the clerk at the hostel in front of a long line of better-prepared travelers.

3. Reminder: all your luggage bags should have wheels. Don’t be a hero. There are no medals for dragging a massive bag, uphill, 2 miles, over delightfully historic cobblestones, although – obviously –  there should be.

5. *Important!* Do not cross the old men in the saunas. Don’t saunter in all confident you can handle 175-degree heat longer than grandad & company; they can, and will, outlast you (and on the top shelf, too, you pansy). Give in with good grace early to avoid dehydration, heat stroke, strangled weeping, etc. Let’s not talk about that any further.

 

Botswana (March 2009)

1. Things You Do Not Need on an African Safari:

(a) Makeup. No one’s taking pictures of you. If you are in a picture with lions in the wild, you have made some unfortunate life choices.

(b) Jewelry coordinated with outfits. See 1(a).

(c) Completely impractical knee high leather lace up boots you know damn well you only packed because they look like the kind of thing Meryl Streep wore in Out of Africa.

2. Things You Should’ve Packed for an African Safari:

(a) A watch. We live by the clock here, and your cell phone doesn’t get service on an island only accessible by boat/hippo.

(a)(1) Hey, did you know hippos are extremely dangerous and kill more people than any other animal in Africa?

(b) Neutral-colored clothing, less likely to catch the attention of various animals. Reminder: “french blue” is not a neutral color, except to the color-blind.

(b)(1) Hey, did you know hippos aren’t color-blind?

(c) Extra pants, since the single pair of jeans you packed will get extremely muddy after your hysterical run through the bush to get back in the boat before you’re caught by those lions you posed with in the wild. You make some unfortunate life choices.

 

Malaysia (June 2011)

1. DAMMIT!! How did you forget a watch AGAIN?! Why do we even HAVE these conversations??

2. Please start keeping daily notes of the million things picked up from various night markets so you don’t have to frantically reconstruct a list from scratch when you’re filling out the Customs form in line at Immigration. It does eventually get super awkward explaining all those items in your bag that you forgot to mention.

3. Just because you saw something exciting on the Travel Channel (“Snake Temple?! Awesome!”) does not mean you will find it exciting in person. There is no way you’re going to like a temple where live snakes crawl around on the loose. How did you convince yourself you aren’t insanely terrified of snakes? Did we just meet?

4. Don’t confidently tell your guide “Haha! I eat everything!” after he warns you not to eat something you bought at a hawker stand, because then you feel compelled to ask what it is and when he says “hardened chicken blood” you are in a really tricky position, in which…yeah, you know what? Let’s not talk about that any further.

don’t get all judgey-judgey when you read this. our cats are definitely OUT of the wall.

We just had houseguests and once again had to put them on the couch because the guest room/office is still full of stuff. Now, I know it takes some time to work through the boxes after you move to a new place and go through all the extra stuff that doesn’t fit because apparently your house is smaller than your apartment, even though there is more square footage, because you didn’t realize the stairs count as square footage. Also, maybe the ceiling, I’m not sure. We had to get rid of furniture. I don’t get how that even happened.

But anyway, we have too much stuff, and we are having a hard time getting though it. Again, we just moved. Well, 3 years ago.

When I say it like that, all “3 years ago”, it sounds bad. That’s really a small percentage of your total lifetime, so…ok, it’s bad, isn’t it. We shouldn’t still be unpacking?

I think we might be hoarders.

I mean, we’re clean hoarders, if so; our kitchen and bathrooms are very clean! And we dust! Not often! But sometimes! And Other Half has a Dyson vacuum, which he loves deeply and uses all the time, really. Plus, it’s pretty much limited to the guest bedroom, which is the Repository of All Things We Don’t Know What to Do With Right Now. So it’s not like an actual episode of Hoarders, with rotting food on the floor and cats in the walls. It’s just…stuff. Boxes of papers I meant to go through before I moved, and didn’t, because seriously, who wants to spend their weekend going through boxes of old papers? His old guitar. And amp. Too many books that I’m definitely never going to read. Magazines I’m definitely going to read one of these days.  Pictures I’m definitely going to make into a scrapbook eventually! Won’t that be great? Won’t you be excited to come over and look through my scrapbook? I *might* have too many shoes. Other Half *probably* has too many band t-shirts. And we don’t even know what’s in those baskets on the top shelf. Why do we have those baskets again?

I kinda like that show, Hoarders, and not in a superiority-complex-kind-of-way like most people. (Admit it. You judge.) Other Half freaks out when he walks into the room and finds it on TV; I think he sees an episode and thinks, “Oh God, that’s my future, and I don’t want to think about it.”

I like it because it’s helpful. I watch an episode and think, “Oh God, that’s my future, and I need to throw some &*^% away.” Which I do. Every time I see it I clean out something. That’s a true story. I think I probably need to just get a Hoarders marathon on dvd, and watch in the guest room, and pitch things while I’m doing it.

Wow, that’s actually a great idea. Did I just talk myself into a plan? Look, Mom! Reality TV IS educational!

feeling all gabby douglas today

I went to yoga class last night for the first time in awhile (yes, hatha) and I got into a backbend! This was super exciting for me. I’ve been afraid to try one for years because I was afraid I’d pop out a vertebrae (“pop out a vertebrae” is a medical term) and that would be gross. And also hurt. And also be embarrassing, since I assume the EMTs would have to put me on the stretcher still in my backbend, and someone walking by at that moment might think I was showing off and I don’t want people to think I’m that vain.

But I digress. The backbend happened, and then I got out of it with all my vertebraes still in my body. If I weren’t too lazy to make a daily gratitude list, that would *totally* be on it for the day.

we have nothing to fear but scariness itself

I’m kindof a chicken, and I know it.

I don’t like snakes, or bears, or goingveryfast down mountains, or, you know, hills, or riding bikes in traffic, or heights.

Heights is definitely the worst, though. It’s always been around, since those days of very long walks to the end of the high dive board when I was a kid in the Red Cross swimming lessons. The beginning of every summer my friend Angie & I would have to dare each other into the first jump, and then over and over again until we beat back the terror to manageable degrees.

Then, we agreed, we didn’t need to go off it again until next summer. I mean, why should we? It’s not like we were scared or anything.

Well, it’s been a long time since I saw a high dive, but it didn’t seem to be a problem to me until very recently.

I went to Busch Gardens with my friend Dante a few weeks ago and found a startling dearth of acceptable rides. Scary, scary, speedy roller coasters? Nope. Almost upside-down Viking ship? I think not. Swings? Are you insane? Those things are death traps! What’s holding you aloft? A couple of thin lampchains? Why don’t you just tape yourself to an airplane wing if you like those odds? Personally, I like the twisty upside-down kind of roller coasters without any big scary hill, but BG is short on these types of rides. DarKastle was the closest substitute and that was fun and all for a ride with a very problematic narrative once you start thinking about it (seriously: those magic sleighs don’t make any sense), but it wasn’t really a ride so much as a show. Otherwise, I was pretty much limited to the kids rides, and apparently I’m too tall or something for those (thanks a lot, BG employees).

We were told, however, that Apollo’s Chariot was “not too bad”, so I agreed to try it out. Only one little hill! I could do it, right? I was in!  I even meant it!…until it became clear that we had to ride in the 2nd car from the front…and I freaked. Just out and out freaked. I couldn’t make my legs step into the car. “Not happening, ” I said, finally. Dante rolled his eyes. “Okay. Going without you.” He did, and when he returned (alive, without visible injuries) assured me, between some mild mockery, that it was not bad at all.

Feeling justifiably ashamed, I agree to go on his favorite ride next, Le Scoot log flume. Now, it’s true the log flume has a drop at the end. But you’re not even buckled in. People don’t fall out of the log flume. People take babies on the log flume. This, I could handle.

Until we got to the boarding dock, and it became clear I had to ride in the front.

“I can’t ride in the front,” I gasp, in horror.

“Well, I’m not riding in front,” Dante says. “The person in front gets splashed and I just dried off from the wildwater raft ride.”

“I can’t ride in the front!” I shout.

“It’s the log flume!” he shouts back. “Nothing can possibly happen to you!”

He’s now in the back seat of the log and it’s starting to move. The teenaged BG worker is struggling to hold it still for me to climb in. I’m hovering on the edge of the dock, practically dancing around in panic.

“You can ride back here with me!” That’s Dante’s last-ditch offer.

“I can’t.” I say, desperately. The teenager swivels around to stare at me incredulously.

“You’re not going at all?” he says.

“I can’t.” I say. I can’t do it. Dante waves at me cheerily as it bobs around the corner out of sight.

The teenager is still staring at me. Who’s afraid of the log flume, is his expression.

That’s right. This girl.

So this is how I know it’s gotten a little out of hand recently, this fear of heights.

In retrospect, I guess jumping off that crazy high dive every summer was a good exercise; somehow knowing at age 8 that I couldn’t let my fear control me. If I can’t do heights, I can’t ride ski lifts, can’t climb ladders, can’t ride helicopters, can’t hike mountains and volcanoes. Can’t travel to far-off places on airplanes. And that’s the scariest thing I can think of.

Who wants to go to King’s Dominion with me??

(P.S. We’re still not going on those damn swings.)

(P.P.S. Okay. To be completely honest, I’m not committing to anything beyond the log flume.)

spoiler alert: lazy witch somehow less annoying than lazy scientists

Last weekend a posse of nieces/sisters/moms & I went to see “Brave”.

It was a great outing with the fam and I’m a longtime Disney/Pixar fan anyway. Also, I keep reading things talking about how Merida is an Excellent Role Model or something, though she seems pretty bratty to me- she almost gets her mother killed, btw, and then also poisons her brothers, and refuses to take responsibility for any of it – but I do really, really like her hair. I always wanted red hair! (But I am too lazy for the necessary maintenance.) And it was fun and entertaining and amusing and pretty to look at.

But. Didn’t the plot seem a little…thin? Technically, the only thing that happens is that she asks a witch for a spell, her mom turns into a bear, and she has to spend the rest of the movie hiding her mom from hunters and trying to stitch up a tapestry. That’s pretty much it. Not a lot of twists and turns or subplots or hilarious sidekicks.

Like the spell itself, for example. Strangely, this is a one-trick witch here. Her only solution to any problem is: bears! Bears everywhere! Well, let’s be clear: unless there is actually a life-threatening salmon overpopulation emergency, and frankly that is hard to believe, bears never make the situation better. And why the crazy-short time frame? Usually you get a good three days for your spell to get some results. (And by “usually”, I mean in “Little Mermaid” universe.) But this spell turns permanent by the “second sunrise”. Well, I’m sorry, but that’s only one day. That is not a lot of time to solve any kind of human or bear-related problem. How many salmon can one bear eat in a day???

All that being said, I still had fewer problems with a movie about magical bears than I did with “Prometheus”, which I saw a few days later. I have a list of comments/questions below. Any answers you have would be helpful.

1. Why does Vickers (Charlize Theron) wear such hideous shoes? Hideous, uncomfortable shoes, too; she can barely walk in one scene. Isn’t she a gazillionaire? Doesn’t she have choices? Ditto with the ugly prison jacket. (Catsuit, fine; I never begrudge a girl with a good figure the choice to show it off.) She doesn’t have to do anything but walk around and glare at people. She doesn’t even get off the ship except at the end. Why doesn’t she just wear fancy pajamas all the time? Or velour pantsuits? Those are awesome. (Full disclosure: I own three.) If I were in space for 5 years, that is definitely what I’d pack.

2. How did the alien gods come up with that helmet design? What is that elephant trunk even for?

3. Going hands-free into certain (movie) death = unexpectedly funny.

4. Do all archaeologists have abs like Dr. Holloway? If so, I’ve apparently gone into the wrong profession.

5. If I were Dr. Shaw, I would  have only taken robot man’s head with me. He’s been nothing but trouble, and he can be nothing but psychological trouble without arms, which I do not discount as unserious but at least he can’t poison your next boyfriend or implant a baby octopus in your stomach while you sleep or whatever he might come up with next.

6. How come the alien gods are all piled up outside the door but not ripped apart by alien monsters? What killed them, then? And….what does this have to do with the Earth humans, again? Did we get that answer? I’m confused.

7. Who painted all those star paintings on Earth? Why?

8. How come no one seems to understand what the hell they are doing at any time? No one knows why they’re there. No one knows anything about this planet. No one knows how to use the equipment, which breaks down all the time. No one is clear on their job duties – specifically as shown in related question #9:

9. How come this crew of scientists is so damn unprofessional? Why don’t they do any observation before they tramp all over the place and steal things and push buttons and start taking things apart? How come Dr. Shaw, who is allegedly an archaeologist, is doing biological dissections instead of the specifically-hired biologist? What kind of biologist tries to pet a new species he knows literally nothing about, including whether or not it is murderously dangerous? How come Mohawk Geologist is furiously angry that the biologists/archaelogists are interested in biology/archaeology instead of rocks? Isn’t that why he’s there? And why doesn’t he go look at rocks instead of storming off to the ship (and getting hopelessly lost on the way, somehow, instead; shouldn’t you be rock-observant if you are a geologist, mohawked or otherwise?)? Why did we hire you?

10. Why doesn’t Dr. Holloway have anything to do except taunt robots and hurt their feelings? Shouldn’t he be doing crunches? And relatedly to #11:

11. Why does the robot get his feelings hurt if he’s a robot? Also, isn’t he a little sarcastic for a mechanical being?

12. I love Guy Pearce, but why did they cast a young actor and a truckload of makeup to play an old guy for 7 minutes of screen time? Why didn’t they use an actual old guy? And if you’re going to use a young guy, shouldn’t you also age his arms/legs in body shots? Because he clearly has 30-something-year-old legs in his first scene.

Yeah, I know I’m an overly critical movie-watcher. And I’m not asking things like “why are aliens real here?” because, look, you create the universe, you create the rules. That’s fine. Just…stick with ’em, all right? Your rules got to make sense in your universe.  That’s all we ask as credulous audience members.

And seriously, WTF is with those ugly, ugly shoes?

Yeah. Exhibit A. They look like hooves, don’t they? And just picture how much more smiley she’d be in a nice navy blue hooded velour pantsuit.

 

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