Saturday, December 27, 2008

It was, or so I thought, immortal.

For those of you who have ever spent any remote amount of time with me, you will know that I have historically been incredibly smug about my archaic cell phone.

When exchanging phone numbers with a new person, I whip out my out-dated-brick-like Nokia with pride. Then, a dewy far away look appears in their eyes as they recall with nostalgia their first mobile phone...their first text message...their first phone call...“Wow!" they say in utter awe "That was my first cell phone…I can’t believe you still have that."

Yeah, I’ve been getting that reaction for a few years now with my old Nokia. And, I’ve enjoyed it immensely.

Then I can say smugly “This phone totally rocks! It never goes dead.”
“The battery lasts, like a year!” I exaggerate.

And then I continue to talk about how my out-dated phone still functions better than the new ones.

Once just to prove how indestructible the phone is I said, “See?” as I nonchalantly and pridefully dropped the phone five feet onto some boulders. Well, the phone didn’t break or stop working buuutt…the screen did crack. That crack served as a reminder that yes, the phone was rather indestructible but still susceptible to minor damage.

Well, all this has changed. My life has changed from here on out in a drastic way. I lost my beloved phone. No clue where it is. It fell out of my pocket. Or, maybe it jumped. Perhaps it was tired of being abused by its prideful owner. Or maybe it just didn’t have the will to go on another five years. In any case, I am no longer the boss of the archaic phone.

So, yesterday, in the midst of my grief, I drummed up the energy to troop on down to the cell phone store. I demanded to the store-clerk to give me the cheapest phone.

This is what I got for $60: a sheek black Nokia with a camera, a budget planner, alarm clock, lots of fun ring tones, games and galore. It even has a color screen! I’m so thrilled! I’ve never known such thrill.

But, even still, it just won’t be the same. I have a normal trendy phone just like everyone else. I’ll miss those moments of shocking people with my old phone. But each day, it gets a little easier. It gets a little easier to figure out this new-fangled-modern-technology.

But, it’s not soo technologically advanced that I have to use sentences like: “I’ll wiki it on my blackberry and sms it to your razor.” Nope, I’m not quite up in the pinnacle of cellular technology, but much closer than I was a week ago.

Wow! Just what I wanted!

Down vests
Penut brittle
Holiday music
Rice pudding
Apple cider
Peppermint Bark

Those are some of the words that came to mind when I reflected upon this years Christmas. Please take note—the majority of the items on the list refer to food. Yes, this year’s Christmas was one big bad food extravaganza. And, that’s the way it should be.

On Christmas Eve, we feasted on prime rib, festive tossed salad, candied yams and an array of accompanying side dishes. Then after all that, we feasted some more. We indulged in my mom’s county-wide famous tapioca fruit soup, jam bars, Jenny’s life-changing peanut brittle, rocky road bars, coconut macaroons, rice pudding, plain fudge, fudge with nuts (compliments of Inger), caramels, caramels with nuts (thanks to Karina), homemade toffee with chocolate and more.

After all that exhausting amount of food, we opened presents. But this year, the gifts were even more practical than normal thanks to the tanking economy. No, there were no ipods, wii’s, electric guitars or anything requiring a large (or even relatively large) amount of money.

Instead we faked out gratitude when we opened up a bottle of headache tablets, a tube of toothpaste, a pack of gum, a bottle of Rolaids, several hours of recorded TV on VHS from ten years ago, or a package of pens from the dollar store. Yes, we enjoyed the appearance of a large amount of gifts, but the gifts were, on a whole, rather practical and cheap. People actually went the trouble of wrapping up a tube of toothpaste and calling it a present.

And, I’m all for that. I hate buying necessary items. I would much rather have them given to me in the form of a present. After all, the point of Christmas should not be the presents; it should be the food. Yum.

(Okay, okay. I know what you’re thinking… “Um, isn’t the point of Christmas spending time with your love ones?” Fine, you’re right.)

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

To Validate Hipness with Caffeine

Coffee in Portland is central to the town’s hipness. Without coffee, Portland would be nothing but a wannabe trendsetting port town. This town thrives on coffee. And, not just any coffee.

We have become accustomed to a certain standard. Out lattes are always complete with a design, usually a leave or heart. Sometimes if the barista is really good, they even ask you out in the foam of the latte. (Okay, I’ve never heard of that in real life, but wouldn’t that be cool? Imagine: “…Oh, well, we met when I looked down at my latte and I tell ya, I could have sworn it said ‘let me buy you dinner’ and then it turns out it really did *laughs nervously*…and well, the rest is history…sigh…”)

Yes, we have world-class coffee. But along with that we have a fair share of very spoiled coffee snobs. They get to pick from an array of sweeteners to sweeten their brew: raw sugar, brown sugar, splenda, agave, honey, stevia, sweet’n’low and equal. That’s just the sugar.

Let us now turn out attention to milk. We have a buffet to choose from: whole milk, soy milk, rice milk, almond milk, fat free and now…hemp milk! (Vanilla or plain hemp milk?)

Even “regular” coffee isn’t just “regular” coffee anymore. When you order “coffee,” you’re likely to get a blank look from the barista and then a look of “aha,” and she will say, “OooOooh, you mean, like, “drip” coffee.” And, after that has been established, there’s more. What size? Room for cream? “Would you like a medium organic roast with a cinnamony aftertaste, French roast with a hint of chocolate from the Ivory Coast or a light Kenyan blend with earthy undertones?”

No wonder we’ve turned into a buncha spoiled coffee snobs. It has become totally acceptable and normal. Go into any coffee shop and say “a double, tall, soy, split-shot extra dry cappuccino with one pump of vanilla” and you’re likely to get just that.

But, in a minute way, our coffee preference is a way of claiming our own individuality. I’m not just that one girl in the green coat—I’m that one girl, in the green coat that orders a small soy latte. Please.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Tis the Season for Four Months

It is already starting; in fact, it has been starting since September 4 according to my calculations. What is already starting? —You ask. All the Christmas hoo-ha, silly.

Now, I’m one of those people who is ambivalent about the Christmas season. I don’t really mind it; I don’t love it nor do I or hate it: I have no opinion.

But some people really go all out for the holidays. Oh, you know who I’m talking about. Their house is the Christmiast on the block complete with a dancing Santa on the roof. They cook homemade eggnog, bake gingerbread cookies, listen to Christmas music nonstop, wear special Chrismas earring and buy their loved one those horrid holiday sweaters.

In contrast, we have those who detest the Christmas season. They’re scrooges, or grinches. They hate the music and bitterly make their feelings known. They moan at the thought of another candy cane and under no circumstances will they buy a wreath for their door, no matter what charity it supports.

But me, I don’t really care that much. But, what has made me this way?

After 22 years of life experience, I think I know the answer…

Christmas starts too soon! I noted Christmas decorations present at a Costco in Guatamala of all places back in the first week of September. I was shocked. First off, who in Guatemala has any need for a reindeer made of Christmas lights? Secondly, uh, isn’t it a bit soon? At that point, we still had Halloween—Thanksgiving isn’t even here yet.

And, today, get this—I was browsing through the radio stations trying to find a tolerable song to listen to. I stumbled upon a depressing song that began with “Christmas cards have all been sent…” Really now? What sort of person has their Christmas cards all sent on November 9th? Honestly!

I think I would be less ambivalent about it all if Christmas started well, when Christmas really does start. I’m desensitized. It’s just marketed too early. Instead of being excited, giddy, thrilled or even looking forward to the season, I just don’t really care that much.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The Catch 22 of Personality

I know, that at times, I can be a difficult person.

Let me illustrate this announcement by giving an example.
My cell phone.
When it rings, I get annoyed and want to throw it at the wall. It is an inturruption. I moan loudly and immaturely make my annoyance known. When my phone doesn't ring, I also get irritated. No one calls me. Poor neglected, victimized me; i have no friends--no one cares about me, boo hoo. So really, I can't be pleased. My phone rings--I get irritated. My phone doesn't ring--I become hopelessly depressed.

Now, I have re-realized this aspect of my personality upon arriving back in my home country after a month of sashaying through Guatemala.

Whilst in Guatemala, I complained every moment I could. The food made me sick. The water wasn't clean enough for me to drink it strait from the faucet. The streets had too much garbage in it. The lake was too rough in the afternoon. I had to worry about thugs and getting robbed. The roads weren't strait. I was constantly green from carsickness. That town smelled like car exhaust. And the list goes on. So, you would think I would be thrilled to be back in a western society where there is clean water right? Right. But, er, no.

At first, I was quite happy. Oh the thrills of a hot shower and not being forced to speak spanish all day. But, now that things have returned to normal I am quite bored. It's boring here. Instead of sitting in the Bagel Barn in with a bunch of interesting ragged backpackers, looking out onto the rainy streets of Antigua, I am in Portland. There are no cool backpackers to chat with the the streets are boring looking.

It's not exciting having everything spotlessly clean and vacuumed wrapped. Where's the adventure in that?

Not to mention the extreme coldness. I wore my snow jacket today! Instead of wearing a itsy-bitsy-teeny-tiny-blue tank top, I am bundled up in my frumpy green jacket. How lame!

Once again, I have realized that I am complicated. I am not happy when my phone rings, nor am I happy when, on the rare occasion, it rings. I am not happy when travelling, nor am I happy to be home. Perhaps I suffer from some sort of restlessness-simply-cannot-be-pleased-syndrome. Do you?

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The Pleasure in Unearned Money

About one month ago, as many of you know, I was on vacation with my cousin Gretchen. And, I want to reflect on some words exchanged between the two of us.

There we were, frolicking about in the tepid waters of the Carribbean. I observed the other holiday-makers and lazily said to Gretchen, "Ah, people enjoying their savings." Gretchen replied, "More like people enjoying their debt." And with that, she flung her fists up into the air in victory and tossed herself back into the water and shouted "Whoo!"

Well, after the catastrophic week on wallstreet, I just got to thinking, what kind of observations will I make next time I am on vacation?

"Oh look, people enjoying their unemployment check." Erck! I hope not, but then again, 25,000 people just got laid off from Lehman Brothers. And, disaster has befallen several other companies recently.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Oh, The Thrill of Nothing

Guatemala is a stunning country with heaps of super cool things to see. Although, I have been here for quite some time, I feel like I just didn't have time to see everything I wanted to see. I haven't been to Tikal, Coban, Monterrico or Flores. But, I am not disappointed; I did see a fair amount of new things. For example, I have seen coffee farms, pineapple fields, banana trees, kakao trees, cashew trees, onion fields, bean fields, wild parrots, mango trees and melon fields. Then there was the Caribbean, Rio Dulce, the desert, Copan Ruinas in Honduras, Antigua, waterfalls in the jungle, and Lake Atitlan. Now, have I seen any of that in the states?!

Here in this country there is something new and exciting to see at every turn. But, I am a bit sick of traveling. Can you believe that?! I don't want to sit on some bus to see some Mayan ruins, or the rain forest. I don't want to find my way to a decent hotel whilst I am laden down with luggage and trinkets I have bought that I don't really need. I just want to do nothing, nada, nill, zilch. I have gotten to the point where I am not longer that interested in going to new places. I think I shall just stay put in this lazy lakeside town of San Pedro doing nothing.

No, I haven't gotten to see everything I wanted but I hope to return and see the rest some other time. But, what is a vacation for? Why my friend, a vacation is to relax--catch up on some sleep and partake in the sweetness of nothingness.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

La Vida Primitiva

If you knew what kind of living situation I was in down here in Guatemala you would march down here and say to me "come home, immediately, young lady!" and then you would pull me by the ear and drag me back to America..with me kicking and screaming the whole way...

So, I arrived in San Pedro after a frightening bus ride through the coffee growing regions of Guatemala. There was some sort of traffic jam and then when the road cleared up a bit, it was like a big race to get to the front of the line..So, there we were on the side of a cliff trying to outrun every other bus (also stuffed full of people). We westerners sitting in the front of the bus had looks of sheer terror on our faces while the Guatemaltecos just yawned and enjoyed the ride in boredom.

My living situation here in Lago Atitlan is quite different than the Burgeois decadence i enjoyed in Antigua. Firstly, there are eight people living in the house. They all sleep in one room, and i have my own room. Bathroom? yeah, there is one; we all share it; there is no door, just a curtain. Does the toilet flush, you ask?, kind of. You have to get a bucket of water and dump it down the toilet in order to flush it. Hot water for a shower? Ha! Get real.

The kitchen is outside--on the roof, amongst laundry, random doodads, and a large amount of useless things that the family really probably doesn't need but cant quite part with. They do not have an electric stove, rather they cook with a little fire over this grill like thing. Thus far, I have not gotten ill from the food, but I really think it is an act of God. I have had heaps of tortillas and black beans. As nicely as I could I told the nice Mayan lady, Rosa Cristina, that I have a sensitive stomach and it is better if I do not eat meat. I don't trust the meat here. In Antigua, hey, no worries, I will eat anything-- people have proper refrigeration and electric stoves.

The family is tremendously nice and the women dress in traditional Mayan clothing. They also speak some Mayan language with one another. But they are ever so sweet. Last night when the power went out (for 6 hours) due to rain, they made sure I was comfortable and had a candle. They are very patient with my Spanish and the kids enjoy attacking me.

Honestly, when I arrived, I really did not think that I could manage. I seriously considered getting a hotel for a week (they are like ten bucks a night) but then I realized, this is what builds character. And hey, I can handle a bit of discomfort for a few weeks of my life. This is the kind of story I am going to get to tell to my imperialistic friends back in my country. And ya know, after a few days of living rather primitively, I am actually enjoying it.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

The Woes of Adventure

With the much-awaited arrival of summer, I found myself (of all places) at the library looking for books to devour. Nothing makes me feel pleasantly peaceful like sitting on the patio, in the sun, with a good book and a cup of coffee complimented by Trader Joe’s soy creamer. That is why I anticipate summer with such placid fury. With summer, I finally have time to sit and read, or sit and listen to music, or sit and watch a movie, or sit and watch the wall. But today my plan was to sit and read. I left the library armed with three books: Watership Down by Richard Adams, Portuguese Irregular Verbs by Alexander McCall Smith and The Motorcycle Diaries by Ernesto “Che” Guevara.

I read (well rather, skim-read) the introduction to the Motorcycle Diaries and quickly informed myself of Ernesto Guevara. Guevara was an Argentine-born spirited revolutionary and doctor-- specializing in leprosy. He met Fidel Castro, became a communist, witnessed Bolivia’s revolution, led an international mission to the Congo to support a liberation movement and was murdered in Bolivia in 1967 (presumptively by CIA-supported rebels).

But before all that, Ernesto was an adventurous young adult. One day a fiend and him were lazily lying around—conversation began.
“Why don’t we go to North America?”
“North America? But how?”
“On La Poderosa, man.” (La Poderosa is their motorcycle).
And hence, adventure commenced.

On the first day of their adventure, they crash…nine times.
Then they get sick and have to lie in bed at a stranger's house whilst they recover.
They get labeled as leprosy experts in some small tow in Chili and are even featured in the local newspaper.
They sleep on floors, mooch meals off strangers.
They are constantly fixing some broken part on La Poderosa.
The motorcycle breaks down, this time for good.
They become standard hitchhikers.
They hide themselves on a ship and after several hours of being at sea, off the coast of Chili, present themselves to the captain as “stowaways,” thus having to earn their journey.
They meet a destitute communist couple that work in a copper mine.
They lose their only water bottle in the desert and become miserable…
They make it to Peru and work in leper colony.

But all this vicarious adventure has got me thinking about youth and adventure. The two go hand in hand. These two whimsical guys have or little money and things are constantly going wrong, in fact, for a good deal of the time, they’re downright miserable. Riding on some partly-broken-down-motorcycle for eight hours a day, crashing several times, sleeping by the side of the road and frequent visits from hunger doesn’t sound comfortable at all. Adventurous? Duh, yeah!

After reading this fantastic book in a mere two days, I have come to realize that adventure does not equate to comfort. So, whilst you’re planning your next adventure, prepare for mild discomfort. You might get sick, miss a train, get stuck at a border, lose your money, get lost, have some language barrier issues, lose your luggage, or be forced to sleep in an airport due to having missed a flight because a taxi driver decided to play “con the tourist.” Lesson to be learned: Be prepared.


On Thursday, I got the call from work saying that they didn’t need me that evening. Oh, what to do with a spare evening… But then, SUDDENLY, I got an e-mail from Friend and he was wondering who was interested in going to see the Portland Timbers play against Puerto Rico’s Islanders in a fierce soccer match. Me! I’m interested.

So, I watched my first Timbers game. Someone outside the stadium was giving away horn noisemakers and I got one. Any good person can't pass up a chance to make some noise. However, I could pass up an $8.25 beer and a $3 red rope.

We got close-up seats near midfield. The first half gave us little excitement. However, Puerto Rico did score, their five fans went wild and threw orange streamers. The rest of the stadium was crushed.

For over 90 minutes the Timbers fans screamed, sang cheers, wore green, let of smoke from some smoke machine and threw streamers. They didn’t cease their screams for a minute, seriously. They waved banners saying “GW out!” One has to advance their political platform and get their message to a big audience. What better place than at a stadium? They threw about a dozen pink pigs at the Puerto Rican goalie when he was arguing with the ref. Then Mr. Goalie got irritated with the Timbers fans and had to throw all the pink pigs off the field. All that fanaticism must have left them exhausted and with hoarse voices

But, it isn’t easy being a fan. You might think that us moderate fans have it easy up there in the stadium, but it’s rough for us too. I had to stand up out of my seat at least five times on those near scores—very stressful. And, they kept having near scores. It was like being bi-polar, high one moment and crushed the very next. I had to crank my neck to watch the fight that broke out between on of the Islanders and one of the Timbers (yeah, that was cool). I stood up and screamed when Timer Jim (the mascot) walked by in his lumberjack clothes. He revved his chainsaw; I screamed louder; I got out my horn noisemaker; I clapped my hands.

After the game, I too, was a little tired out. But, you will see me next week at the game. This time I’m going to paint my face green (green is very becoming) and wear a Timbers scarf. Maybe I’ll sit by the fanatics this time—I like them.

Friday, July 4, 2008

The Etiquette of Cursing

There are some things in life that one becomes quite accustomed to but don't actually indulge in on a regular basis. For me that "thing" is engaging in vulgarities.

Now, I have felt this way for quite some time. Back when I was a teenager (many many years ago) I had a teacher who had sign posted on his podium. The sign read this: "Profanity is a weak mind expressing itself." Now, at the time, I probably rolled my eyes at that; swearing is very hip amongst the teenage crowd. In fact, many youths (particularly long-haired ones) define themselves as "rough" or "thug-like" and to verify their lifestyle of thuggery, they engage in excessive cursing.

However, what I have witnessed in the years since I have departed from teenage youth is that many individuals still feel the need to validate their "gangster" ways by cursing well into their twenties, or even thirties. But, no, not I.

In fact, on the occasion when I become quite cross, I have been known to utter a curse word. People drop whatever they're carrying, turn slowly with a mouth wide open in disbelief and exclaim, "Alissa, did you just swear?!" I have given them a great shock. It is very liberating to give people a great shock.

Instead of constantly using swear words, I have the power to still invoke shock with their use because it isn't a common everyday thing for me. It shocks people to hear such garbage come out of my mouth.

But, back to the quote about profanity being a weak mind and all that. I find cursing to be degrading. It portrays a lack of creativity. Instead of insulting someone (most likely behind their back) by calling them a f*cking b**ch, why not say "I can't stand Lucy Bangle-Bangle, also known as Little Miss Insecurity Cow." That might get a laugh, because possibly, you have hit the nail on the head. Perhaps she is an insecure heifer. Excessive swearing is so unoriginal.

Expressing oneself in an uncreative way using the aid of swearing sounds far less intelligent than to express oneself using their brain; imagination and creativity sounds (and is) so much better than the trivial swearwords the masses are so accustomed to. Plus, if you don't swear and then on occasion do, that illustrates the shock involved with swear words, which then makes then less trivial. Now, wouldn't that be nice?

Monday, June 9, 2008

A Noble Purpose and Ignoble Results

Yesterday, I did something that I have never done in my entire life: I bought coffee from a vending machine. It was a moment of utter desperation; I was on a studying plateau and was in hopeless need of progression. To ensure future studious development, I decided it would be prudent to engage in caffeine consumption. The only available outlet for caffeine was the vending machine. So, I sashayed over to the machine armed with sheer determination and 70 cents.

I didn’t really know how the coffee vending machine worked. So, I had to take two whacks at it, instead of just one. But the second try, I got it right. The machine dispensed a styrofoam (appalling!) cup. I picked up the cup, but it was empty; I was a bit confused. I put the cup back, hoping for something to happen. The vending machine quietly burst into motion and filled my cup up with coffee. Before tasting this murky liquid, I smelled it: it smelled like muddy water. I didn’t have a good feeling about this and it being in a stryafoam cup had me feeling suspicious. But, I mustered up the courage to take a sip. It was absolutely the foulest, vilest, and most-sordid thing I have ever put in my mouth (and I once sampled paper as a child). It was even worse than instant coffee crystals. I didn’t know coffee could get worse than coffee crystals. But let me tell you, it does.

However, I can now boast and say “Hey guess what?” what? “I got a crappy cup of coffee for 70 cents.” I guess you get what you pay for. But next time, I think I shall fork out he extra buck for an enjoyable cup o’ steamin joe.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Avocations of Abnormality

There are two things that I am passionate about that have little practicality. The news and the German language. But, on very rare occassion, my knowledge about the German langauge or the news will benifit me and ultimately validate my attempted hipness.

Case One

Once upon a time Jan (Alissa's friend) had been rummaging through some old stuff in his parent's house. He came upon a strange white looking dish. His wife and him were curiously examining it, wondering what it might be. The word "senf" was written on the side of this mysterious ceramic thing. But then Alissa piped up "Oh senf means mustard in German." Using her deductive-reasoning skills and her knowledge of the German language, Alissa solved the case. The mysterious dish was an old mustard-dish hailing from a German speaking land.

Case Two

Recently Nepal has announced to the world that they are no longer a monarchy. After over 200 years of monarch ruling, this small nation too has claimed their independance. Yeah, well, so what? How does this pertain to us Americans? Well, it doesn't really...unless of course, you happen to be buying a coffee from a Napalese person and you can casually say "Hey, I heard your country claimed independance." The response will be a surprised smile.

So, if you ever feel like your strange interests aren't getting you anywhere. If you are asking yourself "Why am I learning everything I can about the Polish banking system?" or "Why do I bother learning Bantu?" Well, don't stop with your eccentric hobbies, they might just come up one day.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Caught in the Act of Looking

This afternoon, I had a few spare moments as I was waiting for by bus, which wasn't scheduled to arrive in 45 minutes (and they profess that Portland has some of the best public transportation in the country. Cha!). After having been to the Farmers Market and purchasing some local spinach and zucchini, I thought it wise to sit down and read a textbook for my history class. So I found a nice bench, under a massive well-established tree and cracked the book open. But I became distracted because there was just too much to see.

Instead of being the studious student, I decided I would quietly observe life on my bench. So, here is what I saw today between 1:00 and 1:30 in the park blocks.

Several people walked by in either Dansko clogs or Keens. Very Portland.

A mother and her young-questioning-son passed. I overheard a sound bite of their dialog.
Mom: "Well then we might get a ticket."
Son: "What happens when you get a ticket?"
Mom: "You have to pay a lot of money."

Approximately five people walked by talking to a device in their hand: the cell phone.

A middle-aged man with walking shoes, khakis and a beret strolled by. His hands were in his pockets and he looked directly at the ground when walking.

Pigeons pecked the brown bricks searching for remnants of perhaps...a french fry.

I made eye contact with what was most likely a student at PSU. She looked away and so, then I did too. But then I was reminded of wisdom an older relative passed onto me. When making eye contact with strangers, relax. Don't look away in shame as if to say "Sorry that you caught me looking at you." Looking at people shows and interest in people...and I am interested in people, so it's all good if I look at them and they catch me. So after I remembered that, I smiled at people who caught me looking at them.

As a full-time, working student, I rarely get time to literally stop at smell the flowers, or in this case, sit on a park bench and quietly witness life taking place right in front of my eyes. However, my bus did eventually come and away I went.
Watching people is fun; you should try it.

Monday, March 10, 2008

The Lack of Virtues in Weak Coffee

Like most people, I have a variety of utterly ridiculous pet peeves. So here they are.
My Pet Peeves.
Dirty dishes
People who find my lack of ambition when searching for a parking spot annoying.
Victim mentality
The game of poker
The colors crushed strawberry and tan
hideous shirts that say things such as “hottie” or “juicy” (seriously!)
People who don’t talk enough
Weak Coffee
Bad music
Stories that start with “I was so drunk…”
Overly competitive people. (they take the fun out of game playing).
People who aren’t competitive enough (Bor-ing!)
Acronyms! (oh don’t even get me started. Don’t you go off on a conversation about your LDR with your GI who’s into TOE as has SSMS who drinks JB). Yeah, I don’t understand that either.

So, now I’ve told you my pet peeves. And don’t you forget it.

Okay, I know I sound like some snooty person irritated by the silliest things. You probably think I say things like, “Oh dah-ling, how could you possibly drink anything but soy milk? I find it positively irritating dah-ling (*smoking big cigarette in long cigarette holder and fiddling with diamond earring*).” And hey, maybe I do.

I know there are some things up with one shall not put. Well, I agree with that. But, there are some things up with one shall put. And those are things such as pet peeves. It’s not the offender to be annoyed with; they are not acting in a way to intentionally annoy us (unless-- of course, they are-- in which case ones annoyance in validated). Rather, these people are just being themselves.

For example, people get annoyed with me for not driving around to find the perfect parking spot. Well, I just think that is ridiculous. I’ll park where I want to, thank you very much. Those who enjoy weak coffee are not intentionally trying to annoy me with their weak coffee. And hey, I talk too much sometimes, and I’ve had bouts of apathy. Sometimes even I can be overly competitive. What bad music anyways? Some might say my music is bad (which it isn’t!). So really, I have no right to go around list-making about my pet peeves.

There are two choices that can be made when dealing with pet peeves. Option Two: Tell person they’re frightfully irritating and you can’t stand them. The outcome will be, er, interesting. Or, Option One: Put on your big girl panties and a Mona Lisa smile and deal with them.

Yes, we all get annoyed and we all annoy others whether we know it or not. Astounding-Life-Changing Fact: Humans aren’t perfect: Ta Da!

Friday, February 29, 2008

The Case of the Spoiled Snowboarder

We hit the slopes yesterday on our yearly ski/snowboard trip. Off we went to My Hood; I braided my hear, put on my baggy gray cargo snowboarding pants, my new green ski-jacket that has a GPS chip in the sleeve, and outdated ski-goggles.

The weather was beautiful; the azure sky contrasting against the white snow with the brown peaks of the mountain poking through was breathtaking. To top it all off, there was virtually no one else enjoying the lovely day! I didn't have to share. Thus, we became quite spoiled. Especially me. One has to be careful of those with Spoiled Snowboarder/Skier Syndrome, also known as SSS.

SSS is caused by individuals who
1. Are practically alone on the mountain snowboarding.
2. Enjoy great company whilst snowboarding.
3. Get really close parking and don’t have to take a shuttle to the lodge.
4. Have new green coats with a GPS chips in them.
5. Eat seriously over-priced food in the lodge ($9 for a burger?!)
6. Drink expensive hot cocoa with lots of whipped cream.

So now you know what the causation is. But can you spot one? Here are some pointers

How to spot someone with SSS
1. They have matted blond braids, a red face, and a runny nose.
2. They become irate for waiting in line for a lift for more than 20 seconds.
3. They yell, “Get off my mountain, You putz!”
4. They wear baggy pants and look like punks.
5. They shout things like “Kowabunga!” and “Geranamo!”

After spending a lovely day on the mountain, I must admit, I did show some symptoms of SSS. However, I did suffer for my SSS behavior. It was my last run. I had done great the whole day with no falls to report. Against my will, I was told I needed to be back in the lodge by six. It was about 5:55. I got to the top of the run, I told myself I had four minutes to zoom down the mountain. Off I went. I expertly carved by board into the icing snow and weaved around the slower folks. I shouted “get off my mountain!” (Okay I didn’t, but I thought it). I was going fast; I was out of control. Then my board caught on something and before I knew it, I was going down the hill, only not on my board. I landed on my tushie, then my side, my coat hiked up and my bare skin scraped the barnacle-like snow. Ouch. I did horizontal somersaults, my board moving in circles, like a ceiling-fan. Finally, I stopped. I felt pain in my knees and my side. I thought to myself “Am I hurt?” I lied on the snow for a few minutes assessing the damage. Nothing was broken, but pain was visiting me. I sheepishly got up, my knees pounding with pain and slowly descended down the mountain, this time at a safe speed.

When I got back into the lodge, I lifted up my shirt only to discover a massive bruise adorning my side; it was the size of a tennis ball. Very cool! Now I can act like I’m this extreme person with all these cool battle wounds. When really, I’m just an individual with SSS.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The Consequence of Casualness

There are certain things that I truly love about the United States. For example, we have awesome supermarkets. They sell delicious freshly made Indian cuisine that exudes this lovely aroma which carries shoppers to the far corners of the hindu kush. They even have a sommelier. And, you would never ever find green meat on their shelves (I found green meat on a shelf in a German grocer’s). I suppose I could go on and on about America’s fine grocery stores such as Trader Joes and Whole Foods, and even Fred Meyer. But, this week I have come to appreciate the casualness of this country. Perhaps, it is just the west coast, but we just kick back, wear jeans, use slang, and relax.

Last week my professor was complaining about age. Apparently, when people get old, they get respect. Sometimes his students call him “Professor Schmitz.” (Not his real name). His response to that was “come on, it’s Jo, I mean what is this? Get real.” Enough with these titles and last names, isn’t that a bit pretentious? Even professors are on a first-name basis. I can’t think of a single person who I would call by their last name. But I do find it odd when my elderly professors start using slang such as “sick,” “sweet,” or “righteous.”

And dressing up? What for? Who would go to the opera in anything aside from jeans and pumas?

Although we don’t embrace formalities, we don’t embrace utter casualness. For example, it would be inappropriate to call my professors “Dude” or “Man,” “Hey man, I don’t understand the lecture last week on the philosophy of modern drumming.” Yeah, that wouldn’t “fly.”

It’s great that we Northwesters don’t buy into that Gucci and Prada business. Rather, we head on down to the second-hand store, only to be taken to the cleaners for a pair of used jeans. But then we can say to our friends, “Yeah, I got these as a thrift store.” When in reality, it was a “new to you” store, with overpriced merchandise. We pay that price of fashion, and to enact our trendiness, and just to prove we’re casual. And, that is all I have to say on the issue of casualness.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008


It’s that time a year again when nothing is happening. And no, I don’t have the Post Valentines Day Blues, it’s just that it’s February. I’m not looking forward to Christmas and I’m not looking forward to summer: summer is too distant. It is that time of year when nothing is accomplished so I hole myself up with intentions to hibernate and sleep away these dreary months. (Lately, my location for napping has been the second floor lobby of the library on campus, ya know, by the big windows).

I only want to shut myself shut off from all forms of civilization, in my cave-like roomdrinking an Echinacea and Airborne concoction- wishing I had taken heed to my mother’s advice of downing copious amount of vitamins. Typically in the winter, I have a constantly running red nose and a tissue in every pocket of every winter coat I own. It is this time of year when I research new places to live; I imagine myself on a faraway beach looking at the sparkling aqua sky and hearing the gentle sound of the surf. I envision myself closing my eyes as I exhale- opening my mouth so servants can feed me grapes. In this daydream, I am in a place where blonde sun-soaked surfer boys saunter by hoping for a big kahuna. But today, although it is that time of year, I’m finding myself deleriously content with the Northwest. Usually it’s rainy and gray, with each moment being worse than the next. It is February when all aspects of life are devoid of any shimmer of hope. The month of February has historically been the darkest, joyless and most miserable days of the year. I find myself thinking, “It can’t get any worse than this.” And then it does: I catch another cold. So, what makes this winter day so different? The sun emerged and showed her positively brimming face, which ricocheted off my small corner of the world.

I drove with the windows down, with upbeat summer music playing, sipping an iced mocha. Some might say I was out of control, validating my hipness with my overpriced beverage. I even donned my trusty three-dollar running trousers that I got at a thrift store five years ago (ya think I got my moneys worth?). I ran around the neighborhood listening for the sound of distant lawnmowers, basketballs bouncing, and giddy children. I was feeling (more than usually) pleased with myself.

Instead of dreaming of a new place to live I’ve begun picturing myself as a bonified-full-fledged-Northwest-naturalist reaping the benefits of summer. Yeah, this place isn’t so bad: February is tolerable. To jumpstart this early spring, I’ll start eating steamed kale, tofu sandwiches and green-healthy-looking-juices. Then I’ll go into the gorge- hike up to the top of the lookout point- ¬¬watch windsurfers and enjoy God’s creation. After that, I’ll go to the beach and dip my toe into the frigid salty waters of the Pacific Ocean. Ooh, and then sit outside and have a barbeque! Aah, I’m thrilled to see the signs of spring sprouting up early this year; there is evidence of daffodils poking their way through the soil. Perhaps I ought not get carried away; after all, there still waits a few more months of winter. But, it is days like today that put a smile on my face and a twinkle in my eye. The Pacific Northwest is great, no matter what those other people say (mainly Californians). Who needs a far-away beach anyways?

Friday, January 11, 2008

Where Have all the Cowboys Gone and What Happened 2 Phone Calls?

On average I receive zero letters each day and approximately three e-mails (most of which consist of quick messages such as, “Hey wanna go to coffee tonight? Bye! friend x”). Communication has changed so much in every way imaginable. Presidents no longer prepare eloquent three-hour speeches. Instead, they recite simple speeches (told to them through a small earpiece) the masses can comprehend, which are probably written by some temp or intern at a public relations firm in Corvallis, OR. The art of letter writing has been lost in the web of technology. Not only has the medium changed by what the medium contains has also changed. We blend words in order to consolidate such as, “sup” or “y’all.” I know language changes and I embrace change but there is value in quality communication, which seems to have been kidnapped.

Let me use the example of text messages. When living in Europe I was introduced 2 the concept of communicating purely and only by “sms” messages. I nearly forgot how 2 dial a telephone number, as I was so used to using my phone as a texting machine. As I averted my eyes out the window on the train, I could text messages full of acronyms and modern lingo. I had become a prestigious deeply importantly talented texter. “where u @?” “ILBCNU” “will b l8” There ought 2 be a manual on how to text. In this manual one could learn all the acronyms, and special techniques, such as how drive and text, how to position the thumb in order to be as efficient as possible. Efficient Texting Instructions: 1. Lay phone in hand with the foundation of phone at base of fingers. 2. Loosely clutch. 3. Position thumb over keypad. 4. Quickly Depress keys. 5. You are texting. 6. Congratulations, and don’t forget 2 send your message.

Even some of the most expert and experienced texters I know struggle with the lingo. Recently, my friend (who happens 2 be a text message connesseuer), whom I shall refer 2 as Person A, sent a text 2 Person B. The text read something along these lines. “at nat treas, u goin 2 cdr st?” Now, let me help you decode that message. “nat treas” actually means the movie: National Treasure 2. “u” has replaced what ought to be are you. The beginning of the sentence seems to have been forgotten all about. The number 2 refers to a dead word spelled t-o remember that word? Hmm, come on..,think harder! It died when it was decided that it was simply far 2 much effort to spell, so it was replaced. “goin” is the word going with the “g” abandoned. And lastly, “cdr st” is a simple acronym for Cedar Street. So in English, a dying language that is quickly being replaced by text lingo, that text would read as follows: I am at National Treasure 2, are you going to Cedar Street? Now imagine getting a text message that communicated using English and not text lingo. I bet your reaction would be of confusion. What? Huh? What are all those extra words for? Why can’t people just say things like “at nat treas u goin 2 cdr st?”

And now, a call to action: You can change this. Write to your senator, your congressman, the newspaper, the mayor, and your cellular phone provider demanding that all texts are to be written in text lingo; it is the public’s best interest! Tell them your goal is to have the gasses of the English language that are emitted into the communication ozone layer decreased by 45% by the year 2014. If we all work together and each of us tries to reduce our English language footprint we can change the world.

All this innovation and advancement in the English language is truly exciting. But on the rare occasion when I hear English and not text lingo, I find myself nostalgically wishing things were the way they were back when I was a kid. I got a letter a few months ago, a hand written letter, with a postage stamp, tucked inside an envelope. I was quite thrilled, as that hadn’t happened to me since I was in elementary school and regularly receiving letters from my various pen pals (including a boy called Richard Bailey, from England, who liked pancakes and wondered if I liked them too). Getting a letter is actually very exciting. I found myself enjoying old-fashioned communication. There was a unique bond in reading someone’s actual handwriting and trying to figure out if they had written a “u” or a “v.” This was something I knew better than to take for granted because it is a rare occasion to receive letters, whereas electronic mail regularly flows into my electronic inbox. Recently, my phone rang, which is quite strange because normally it beeps, alerting me that I have received a text message; I almost didn’t know what the ascending jarring and most unpleasant noise was (yeah, I was class too), then it occurred to me, it was a phone call! Hmm…how strange. This too was a very pleasant surprise, as I never get phone calls anymore. I mostly get these strange coded memos also know as text messages.

I really miss the old fashioned way of communicating; it held great value and still does. But, does anyone know it? Or, are people simply 2 lazy to put fourth effort into communicating? Perhaps the call to action we ought to take is resurrecting the English language. We could start by calling people, or writing them a letter; how cool would that be? Imagine rushing 2 the mailbox in anticipation that something personal, written with effort was waiting. Waiting just for unique you.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

The Information Age

To be informed means to have relevant knowledge of current events, past events, and the implications of these events. Relevant knowledge is knowledge that matters to more than just a few people. The latest events in Paris Hilton’s life are not knowledge that I would consider to be relevant. Sure, is might be of importance to her family, but to the general public, it has little value and virtually no implications. The passing of a new law by legislature does affect the American people and that is relevant knowledge. It is in everyone’s best interest to know the laws so we can act accordingly. One can say the Iraq war is bad or good but, if they cannot defend their position, then this person is not properly informed. To be informed is essentially an accumulation of knowledge. Being informed does not pertain purely to world events. One could be informed on the bioluminescence of fireflies and be able to explain it in great detail; this is also being informed. An well informed person has relevant knowledge that they are able to defend, they debate the issues, and seek the truth.

Although many people take the time to inform themselves of many things, particularly world events, what is done with that information is often small. When I heard of a cyclone barging through Bangladesh, I did nothing. When I heard of the assassination of Benizir Bhutto in Pakistan, once again, I did nothing. However, when I hear that traffic is going to be bad, I might take a different route to work. If I was a banker, I would pay particular attention to Wall Street news, then, based upon the information accumulated, I might make educated decisions. In that way news also will cause people to act. What humans do with most of the news they acquire is generally nothing, unless it pertains directly to them. Oh sure, we might shed a tear for the mass killings in Darfur, but very few of us actually take action. The most that the gum-chewing individual is going to do is spend a few hours researching a candidate who has plans to take action and then proudly casting their vote. After that, this individual will go about town wearing their sticker that says “I voted.”

I would consider myself to be relatively informed. There is so much to know, even about a single event; I simply do not have the time to understand it all. I first began taking interest in world events when I was eighteen, after I had taken a vacation to Europe for the first time. Although, I spent most of my time in England, a country with many similarities to the United States, I learned that the world is so much larger than my little plot. I wanted to know what the people of England cared about. What were their concerns? What was news to them? From that point on I began reading the news. The affect reading the news has had on me is that is has expanded my mind, opened me up to new ideas and perspectives and given me a well-rounded world view.

In my experience in reading the news, which is my primary way of informing myself, I’ve found that it is almost like a puzzle. Certain world events are connected to another event; history plays a huge role in what is happening today. For example, one could learn much from going back into the history of Iran to find out why there is a negative attitude towards Americans from Iranians. Simply reading the news is not enough to be considered informed; one has to find out the history behind what is happening today in order to develop a true understanding. Discussing the issues is a great method of seeking the truth; one might find that their opinion is actually quite narrow-minded. It is healthy to debate issues and open the mind up to new perspectives and ideas. That is seeking the truth, a vital part of being informed. When one seeks the truth through research and debate they are then able to defend their position much more easily.

In conclusion I would like to say that being informed constitutes primarily of the accumulation of relevant knowledge. What is done with that knowledge is not necessarily applicable but nonetheless noteworthy. To inform oneself of relevant knowledge, debate the issues, and ultimately seek the truth is to be informed.