Thursday, March 31, 2005

The Grossest Outhouse Ever

*as the title suggest, this is a disgusting and potentially offensive story*

In the summer of ‘98, during one of my random weekend trips, I pulled into a free campground near El Portal, California. El Portal is just outside of the main, western gate to Yosemite. Surprisingly, the campground was nearly empty, which suited me, and I set up camp. Eventually, I had to use the restroom, and I headed to the single Honey Bucket that served the campground.

I held my breath, opened the door to the Porta-John, and was faced with piles and piles of poop. The “toilet” was full to the brim and beyond with turds. The “urinal” had been defecated in. (The physics of pooping in an outhouse urinal are beyond me. I guess you have to be a bit taller.) Even the corners had been crapped in. Everywhere I turned I saw shit slugs, festooned with toilet paper blossoms, evilly glistening in the blue light. I staggered away as quickly as I could, but that sight will always haunt me.

I ran across the street to the wooded hill. Although the cover was sparse, it was preferable to the vile Porta-Potty. I had neither the time, nor the tools, to dig a hole, so I lifted a rock. The space beneath it, and every other rock in the area, was occupied. As I inspected the hillside a little more closely, I noticed that it was littered with used toilet paper, in wads, clumps, or strung between branches. There were quite a few suspicious piles of leaves and loose dirt. Apparently, I was not the first person to run from the outhouse in horror.

I backed down the hill and reentered the campground. I got in my car, intent on finding somewhere else to relieve myself. As I drove down the road, I passed a number of houses, but was not yet desperate enough to ask to use a stranger’s bathroom, especially not for #2. Luckily, the road ended at a recreation area, complete with picnicking, a playground, and a real, non-portable, hole-in-the-ground outhouse. It was a sanitary haven, never mind the cobwebs and spiders. It had toilet paper and at least 10 feet of clear space beneath the can.

Now, I am forever wary of the “free” campground. Twelve bucks a night is worth a maintained restroom. I’ve entered some nasty portable toilets since, but they pale in comparison the El Portal Potty.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Tina's Carryout

Every morning, on my way to work, I pass Tina’s Carryout. Beneath the title sign, the following words are painted on the building: “Downtown Business’s Delivery’s.” I nearly have an apoplexy when I see it.

I’m a word and grammar nut. I don’t claim to have flawless grammar myself (for instance, I have a tendency to end sentences with prepositions and I still confuse “lay” and “lie”), but the obvious mistakes make me crazy. It’s easy to excuse grammar errors in emails, notes, and even blog entries. However, I am far less forgiving when it comes to the business setting.

For example, in the changing rooms at the gym, the following sign hangs inside the changing room: “Please use the changing room to change cloths only.” While my clothes are made of cloth, I still believe that the “e” is necessary. I cannot count the number of times I have seen “affect” and “effect” misused on signs posted within places of business. However, it seems to be the apostrophes and plurals that confuse people the most often.

I find the misuse of apostrophes and plurals particularly vexing because I know that it is covered in every grade school curriculum. Additionally, we see them in use dozens of time each day. Yet, I still see signs, professionally painted signs, in which they are used incorrectly. I have a simple solution. If you don’t know where to use another “s” or an apostrophe or both, avoid the situation.

If you don’t know if it should be the “Barristers’ Ball” or “Barrister’s Ball,” call it the “Barrister Ball.” The meaning is still clear. Completely avoid the contraction of “it” and “is.” Then you just have to worry about the possessive of “it.” My advice for Tina’s Carryout: change the sign to “Downtown Delivery.”

Monday, March 28, 2005

I Ate a Grapple

Today, I ate a Grapple. They smell lovely; my kitchen smells wonderfully grapey. However, the grapple tastes mostly like a plain ol' apple. Even the heady grape perfume loses some allure when you learn that it is due to the artificial grape flavoring that the apple is soaked in.
On the bright side, the excessive packaging ensures that your grapple isn't bruised! I've had way too many smooshed apples lately.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Happy Easter

In highschool, Leif Hansen gave me a card that read:

"Happy Easter. I hope you get resurrected too."

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

I Fell on My Face

Last night, I fell on my face. I do not mean that in the figurative sense (e.g. when people usually say, “I tripped and fell on my face.”) I mean that I fell, and the first part of my body to hit the ground, and thus absorb the shock, was my face. Specifically, it was the side of my right orbital socket and my right cheekbone. It did not feel good. How does one go about falling on one’s face?

Well, it takes just the right circumstances. In this case, I had just attempted painting French tips on my toenails. Mimi was peering under furniture and meowing, the way she does when she has trapped her favorite toy (a plastic ring) in a spot she cannot reach. Usually, I get down on my hands and knees to look under the tables and couches. This time, I didn’t want to mar my pedicure, so I just bent at the waist and lowered my head. At some point, I lost my balance and caught myself with my face. Did I mention our floors are wood? Did I mention I FELL ON MY FACE!

Today I feel like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, because, despite the beating I took, I have no bruising. In fact, were it not for my internet indiscretion, no one would even know what a klutz I am! I just can’t stop wondering, why didn’t I break my fall with my hands?

Cat Blab with Photos

If you can stand to read another post about my cats…I developed a roll of film on Sunday and have some cute photos to share.

Cleo still enjoys her walks in the yard. If it’s cold or she gets frightened, she will lead me to the house to end the walk early. When it's nice out, though, she could stay outside forever! I am not quite so fascinated with "outside" and end the walks after half an hour. Because Cleo walks me, not the other way around, I have to pick her up to take her in. All the while, she makes the most horrible yowling noises. Once inside, she waits for me to take the harness off and has a snack.

Cleo is a finicky eater. She only eats cat food, tuna water (with the occasional tuna flake), and wheat grass. Her first batch of wheat grass was from a “pet grass” kit I bought at the pet store. I wasn’t willing to pay $2.50 for another 30 seeds, so I bought 10 lbs of seed online (at least a year’s supply). I was hoping it would keep Cleo from eating the houseplants and also add some fiber to Mimi’s diet. However, Mimi hates the stuff. I “mowed” some and put it in her dish and she still wouldn’t eat it. Cleo, however, is in grass heaven and she’s leaving my houseplants alone. She still likes to nibble on the grass in the yard, though, even the dried-up, brown blades. Go figure.

Cleo has taught her bad habits to Mimi. Now they both drink out of the fish’s bowl. However, Mimi has noticed that there is something interesting inside the bowl: the fish. She spends hours watching fishy-poo. She tries to bat it through the glass. When excited she’ll try to get the fish from the top, but doesn’t seem to like to get her paw wet. Sometimes, she meows at it. It’s very cute and quite entertaining when you’re stuck talking on the phone.

My furry babies are doing well, and as you can see, becoming quite the camera hams.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

My Giant Underpants

Because I know everyone in internet-land has been waiting with bated breath to see my giant underpants...

Sexy, huh?

Friday, March 18, 2005

Happy Day After St. Patrick's Day

I’m not Irish, but I love St. Patrick’s Day. Maybe it’s all the green. Maybe it’s my secret desire to have a Gaelic accent and cavort with the little people. Whatever the reason, Mike and I celebrated the holiday with style.

On the evening of the 16th, I told Mike I had a surprise for him. I gave him a pair of shamrock boxer shorts, an “I [Shamrock] Beer” shirt, and instructions to wear the ensemble the next day. He was a little surprised (“I didn’t know this was a gift-giving holiday”), but agreed. He even wore his jeans with the hole in the crotch so that people could see his festive undies. When two different (female) classmates pointed out his shamrocks, he told them that his wife had given him permission to wear his holey-crotch jeans that day. As I have a surfeit of green things, I needed no wardrobe additions. I wore my green tweed skirt to work and, once home, changed in to a green sweater. I accessorized with my green shamrock necklace and green lucky charm bracelet. We were quite the holiday couple.

Instead of visiting an Irish Pub and dining on cabbage and corn beef, we went to Buffalo Wild Wings*. We had spicy chicken things and my first ever green beer. I had no idea it would be SO GREEN. It looked like liquid lime jello, but tasted like Bud Lite. Actually, mixing the two might be kind of good….in a lime/Corona sort of way. We played two games of trivia and downed two big glasses of beer.

Maybe the beer is why I like St. Patrick’s day so much. Who wouldn’t like a beer drinking holiday?

*I was first initiated to BW’s when I met Mike’s family in North Dakota. I thought that a whole restaurant devoted to hot wings was absolutely fantastic. I had no idea it was a chain and was thrilled to discover it in Cincinnati. It is my first pick for birthday and holiday meals.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Aerobics Instructor Job Offer

Hooray! I’ve been offered a position as an aerobics instructor at our local fitness center. (I accepted.) After waiting for two months since submitting my application, I was beginning to think they didn’t want me. I suppose I had better get cracking on studying for the written test. No teaching, and no making money, till I pass that bad boy.

One Month with Mimi

We’ve had Mimi for one month now. With all the Mimi/Cleo conflict, it seems like so much longer, but we are making progress.

When we first brought Mimi home I felt so sorry for her. It didn’t seem fair to bring a sweet, cuddly cat home to our little monster. Cleo is the most hyperactive cat I’ve ever seen. She behaves like a kitten on crack and scares the poop out of Mimi.

We are slowly beginning to see Mimi’s personality. After two weeks, she showed some interest in her toys and after three weeks, she began to be “frisky” with us in the evenings. I am sure that her play behavior is a sign that she is becoming adjusted to our home. Sometimes I forget how long it was between us bringing Cleo home and her complete transformation into psycho kitty.

Cleo still likes to stalk and attack Mimi. Mimi probably takes it a little personally, but I think Cleo is often just playing. Cleo would probably enjoy being stalked back. For now, she is content to have me chase her each morning. Mimi just watches our display with confusion. (What is wrong with our human?! Does she think she’s a cat?)

The kitties are definitely interested in each other. I’ve noticed them sniffing parts of each other on the sly. This morning, we had a minor breakthrough: they approached each other and sniffed noses! The tranquility lasted only a second or so before Mimi hissed, but you’d be suspicious of Cleo too if she was constantly attacking you.

A truce is not enough. I want them to be bestest friends. I’d like to have one litter box for both cats and both food dishes in the same room. I’d like to be relieved from stalking duty (although it is cute). I want them both to curl up with me at night. (Poor Mike, as it is, he has to remove Cleo from his side of the bed when he joins me.) We’ll see where we are at month two.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Save a Tree

I may be trashy, but I show my commitment to the environment in other ways. For instance, I purposefully copy documents in the two-sided mode to “save a tree.” Unfortunately, it doesn’t do much to “save my sanity” when the copier jams five times in 20 minutes. I feel like an earth day martyr as I get on my knees, root around in the hot, steamy insides of the copier, and extract pieces of crumpled paper. The usually culprit is the “high capacity feeder.” The feeder definitely has a high capacity; it holds four packs of paper. Unfortunately, any time you save by filling the paper reservoir less often is negated by the need to clear paper jams every 30 sheets. In the military, it would have been perfectly acceptable to relieve my stress by cursing at and kicking the copier. Here, in corporate America, I can only sit and stew. Is a tree really worth all this nonsense?

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Evening Snack

An evening snack I do not recommend: Brussels Sprouts. You and your significant other will spend an uncomfortable night together.

Monday, March 07, 2005

Blogging is Better than Talking

One of the reasons I like blogging so much is that it fills a communication void in my life. At work, I spend most of the day alone in my cubicle. At home, I only talk to Mike for a few minutes before he is studying and I am working on one of my projects. For me, blogging is like talking, only better. Here’s why:

1. It’s all about me me me and I never have to listen!
2. If my reader gets bored and leaves halfway through the conversation, I never know.
3. I get to talk when it’s convenient for me.
4. I can use words like “surfeit” and “obviate” and look all smart, without worrying about whether the listener knows those words.
5. I can use words like “surfeit” and “obviate” and rest assured that anyone who doesn’t know what they mean can just look them up on
6. I can use words like “surfeit” and “obviate” and then be a supercilious asshole and link the words to their definition.
7. When long lost pals wonder what I’m up to, I can just send them my web address.
8. Thanks to archives, I never have to repeat myself.
9. Images!

And the number one reason why blogging is better than talking…

10. When Mike asks me how my day was, I just say, “Read my blog.”

Saturday, March 05, 2005

Cincinnati Dialect

Thanks to the Insiders’ Guide to Cincinnati, I knew I would encounter a few unfamiliar dialectal terms upon moving to the area. For instance, the shoulder of the road is referred to as the “berm.” (Mike and I find this amusing, because, to us, a “berm” is the dirt and concrete hill that separates the shooters from the targets (and target pullers) on a rifle range.) I can bear “berm” and even the ever-present, Midwestern “pop” but did not expect three local terms to drive me batty: net, choiceful, and please.

The usage of “net” I often hear is defined by as “Ultimate; final: the net result.” It sounds innocuous enough, but when “net” is used at the end of every discussion and email, it becomes grating. Before living here, I had never heard this usage of “net.” Now, to my great dismay, I hear it every single day. How about some diversity in word choice, people?

Contrary to what I first believed, "choiceful" is, indeed, a word. It is an obsolete term that means “making choices; fickle.” However, I instead hear it used as meaning “carefully considered” or "well thought." Every time I hear it, I want to scream: THAT WORD IS OBSOLETE AND, BESIDES, YOU ARE USING IT INCORRECTLY!

Locals use “please?” in place of “what” or “excuse me” or “pardon” when they have not heard or understood something you’ve said. It is so overly polite that I want to counter its gentility with rudeness. If I don’t hear something you’ve said, I’ll screech “Whadja say?!” Maybe the next time I’m asked “please?” I’ll answer with “thank you.”

Net, I’d appreciate it if you were very choiceful with the words you use around me. I think they’re teaching this crap at Miami. Please?

Friday, March 04, 2005

Missing Mochi

In six weeks, it will have been a year since I left Okinawa, Japan. Whenever I tell people that I lived there for over three years, they always ask me how I liked it. I’m honest and tell them that it was fun at first, but quickly got old. When asked if I miss it, I list the three things I miss: the shopping, the beach, and the food.

When I mention Japanese food, most people assume that I am referring to sushi. I did eat sushi in Japan, but quickly tired of it. In fact, I would be content to never eat another piece of sushi again. The Japanese delicacies I miss are ramen, rice balls (onigiri), and mochi.

When I first began to frequent the Japanese noodle soup restaurants, I assumed that what I was eating was soba (buckwheat noodles). As we were illiterate, Mike and I renamed our two favorite “soba” restaurants: “Soba House” and “Ticket Soba Place” or “TSP.” TSP requires explanation. To order food at TSP, you put your money in a vending machine, selected your meal, and were dispensed a ticket. You gave your ticket to a waitperson, who took it to the kitchen and later returned with your soup. The ordering method was so bizarre that it inspired the name.

We later learned that our “soba” restaurants were actually ramen restaurants. To Americans, the idea of eating ramen at a restaurant is silly. We are familiar with the dried brick available at the supermarket. The bricks are also available in Japanese groceries, but the ramen served in a Japanese restaurant is worlds away from dehydrated noodles and seasoning packets. The noodles are never in brick form. Rather, they are prepared fresh and then fried. The broth is the chef’s joy and pride, not powder dissolved in hot water. At Soba House, the ramen came with two tender slices of slow-roasted pork and half of a shoyu egg. The hard-boiled egg was soaked in soy sauce so that the white was a light brown and salty. Mike was usually gracious enough to give me his egg. At TSP, our favorite menu item was the hot ramen. The ramen came in a spicy broth, loaded with green onions. At the table, we would add hot oil and pepper flakes. The resulting concoction was enough to burn out any sort of upper respiratory infection. Even when we weren’t sick, it made our noses run. Thankfully, TSP stocked boxes of tissue (used by the Japanese as napkins) on each table.

One bowl of ramen was a huge meal. Of all the times we had ramen, I may have eaten the entire bowl of noodles once. If I had my way, I wouldn’t eat the noodles at all. I could subsist on the pork, the egg, and the delicious broth.

The first time I had a rice ball, I had no idea what I was getting in to. I was on my way to a dance rehearsal with a local Japanese studio, when I stopped at a convenience store to pick up something to eat. I took a chance and bought two triangle-shaped rice balls and a Pocari Sweat (similar to Gatorade). I knew that a rice ball was rice, covered in seaweed. However, the filling and the method of opening the package were mysteries. During our lunch break, I sat among the Japanese girls and solved the puzzle of the plastic wrapping. By pulling the center tab, and removing a plastic strip, the remaining covering can be removed by grasping the corners and pulling. The wrapping is quite ingenious, the rice ball is not only wrapped on the outside, but there is also a plastic layer between the rice and the seaweed, ensuring that the seaweed remains crisp and the rice moist. I can think of no textural eating pleasure that compares to biting through crisp, dry seaweed to the moist, chewy rice below.

Rice ball filling is only limited by the imagination. My first rice ball was filled with tuna salad and I enjoyed it immensely. Later experiments turned up dried tuna flakes, fish eggs, and other, less palatable fillings. I learned to avoid all but tuna salad and, my favorite, ume. Ume is pickled plum. It is sweet and tart and salty. Inside a rice ball, ume is absolutely fabulous. Disappointingly, ume seemed to be a universal favorite and the ume rice balls were often gone from the convenience store shelves by mid-morning. I often had to content myself with tuna salad.

I never did learn to read Japanese and the rice ball packages rarely had pictures, so finding my favorite fillings could be a problem. Blue lettering usually meant tuna salad, but I had no such simple method for finding ume filled balls. My elegant solution was to choose a friendly looking local and present them with my rice ball asking: “Ume? Ume?” Although my fellow patrons always seemed willing to help, Mike found my behavior horribly embarrassing. I didn’t care, as long as I got my ume.

Japanese pastries are far less sweet than the American version. Any familiar-looking confections were sure to disappoint my taste buds. Mochi looks like nothing you’d find in an American bakery. It appears to be an unappetizing ball of white dough. In fact, it is a ball of dough, but far from unappetizing. The dough is composed of sweet rice that has been pounded until it forms an almost translucent, rubbery, white paste. The dough is flattened, filled with sweet bean paste, and then rolled to form a ball. The dough is soft, sweet, and chewy. In fact, it is so chewy that Japanese die each year choking on mochi. The bean filling is a little grittier, but a nice counterpoint to the chewy rice dough. If sweet bean paste disgusts you, mochi are also available filled with a whole strawberry or custard. The chocolate custard filled mochi are incredible.

I can’t recall the first time I tried mochi, but I do remember the powerful cravings I later had for them. I would leave the base and troll through the Japanese convenience and grocery stores searching for mochi. There must have been some sort of seasonal availability for mochi, because they could be difficult to find. The trouble was always worth the reward: a sweet, chewy ball of carbohydrates.

Now I am ramen-less, rice-ball-less, and mochi-less. There is no hope of finding mochi. I could make my own rice balls, complete with ume, but the seaweed never turns out quite as crisp on homemade rice balls. Mike and I eat packaged ramen on a regular basis, but it doesn’t compare to the real thing. However, I recently read in the New York Times that two ramen shops are opening in the city. Sounds like a road trip is in order. New York is a much closer than Japan.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Stinky Mimi

Another indelicate post; do not read while eating.

When we first got Mimi, I noticed that she had an odor, especially near her hind end. It smelled like it could be urine, so I thought that her long hair was collecting a little pee each time she went. She is such a sweet, snuggly cat, that I could stand a little urine smell.

Then, I noticed that the room she usually occupies really stinks. I thought it was the litter box, but it wasn’t. I thought it was the cat food, but it wasn’t. I think it’s Mimi. The stench in the room is different from the pee smell. It smells like musty poop. Sometimes, this smell emanates from Mimi as well. I just thought she had some nasty farts.

I mentioned Mimi’s stinky state to the lady I adopted her from. This is what the cat lady had to say: “Mimi may have problems with her anal glands if she is smelly. She had that problem when I first took her into my house, but I attributed it to the change in diet (don't know what she ate out on the street) versus the change in environment. I expressed them and she was fine. If you've never expressed a cat's glands before, you may want to take her to your vet to do it.”

Naturally, I was absolutely disgusted and repulsed. Then, I resolutely set to gathering information on what an anal gland is and why and how it is expressed. While there is a wealth of information on the internet, I found it a little difficult to sift the useful websites from the many porn sites that come up when you type “anal” into a search engine. Finally, I learned that these glands (located near the anus) are normally expressed (squeezed) when the cat goes #2. However, on a domesticated diet, the cat’s stool is usually too soft to press on the gland on the way out. Some cats then accumulate a stinky build-up and the gland can become infected. Besides the stench, scooting (when the animal drags its butt on the floor) is another sign of a plugged anal gland. Mimi stinks, but isn’t scooting, so her condition must not be too bad yet.

Although I haven’t been able to find instructions on how a person expresses an anal gland, I have a feeling that it has something to do with stinking one’s finger in a very unpleasant place. I am not doing that. I will find a vet or groomer and pay them exorbitant amounts of money if only they can make the stink stop.

For long term maintenance, I bought 10 pounds of wheatgrass seed. I’m hoping more fiber in Mimi’s diet will help her “express herself.”