Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Around the...hood, trick-or-treating

Oct 31, 2010

Today's Lesson is this, kids: in the hood*, when parents accompany their progeny for trick-or-treating, it is proper etiquette to give the parents candy, too (or at least that is to be assumed as the parents open their own candy bags beseechingly).

*At least in my friend's neck of the hood.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Footie pajamas, you say?

Nov 3, 2010

I was working at my second job the other night when someone in a complete Boy Scout uniform strolled up and asked for help. He was so youthful and cherubic looking that had he not been 6 feet tall I would've thought he was a kid. Then I also thought how silly a grown man looks in such a uniform.

Immediately after he left I saw an ADULT woman in a one-piece pink pajama suit walk by. And by pajama suit, I mean the type that babies wear; I think they may be called sleepers (yeah, I'm a bit removed from the whole baby culture). It was one piece, zipped up the front, and had footies. And by adult I mean that she had kids of her own and had to have been in at least her 30s.

To clarify, I also must say that this happened on November 1st, so the people couldn't even claim that they were wearing Halloween costumes, either.


I have a friend who also deals with the public. In addition, she volunteers with a parrot rescue. She emailed me recently and said the sad thing is that the parrots speak more clearly than the members of the public do (and she's referring to native English speakers, to be fair).

Monday, November 28, 2011

Around the...taxidermy shop?!

From Nov 4, 2010

I plan to attend a ladies' night that includes a stop at a taxidermy store where they'll do salt scrubs for our hands. Do I have the courage to visit the house o' dead animal heads all over the place? How badly do I want smooth hands?

And, as usual, there will be chocolate replicas of male anatomy that night. I don't know what there is about ladies' night and chocolate anatomy pieces, but they are ubiquitous at such events.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Now that's true love

From Apr 27, 2010

My friend was telling me the story of how she met her husband and had me in hysterics last night. The whole story took probably about 45 minutes, not because it's truly a long story, but she's a hoot and gives every last detail (I know, guys, it probably would drive you nuts, but it was amusing; she's a fantastic person).

She said that the first picture she saw of the man she would eventually marry showed him wearing short shorts, knee high socks, with a Viking helmet with blond braids. It was hard to see much else of him; the photographer was far away. In between giggles, I managed to ask her, "and you STILL wanted to meet him after seeing that picture?!" Why yes, she did, and they ended up marrying.

Budget cuts result in...

My brother came to visit and we decided to take a trek to Detroit et. al. On the way day, we witnessed one of the recent results in state budget cuts. The way that workers are cutting the median's grass appears to have changed. One worker was on a riding mower, pulling a lawn cart. The other worker was IN the cart, facing backward and holding a weed whipper. We were laughing over that one; generally, workers cut the grass using big tractors. It was quite ridiculous looking.

Around the...Halloween pumpkin

From Nov 5, 2010

One of my favorite things about Halloween time is homemade pumpkin seeds. The commercial kind just don't do it for me; they're way too salty and processed-tasting. Even better yet, I love slightly burned pumpkin seeds (I was absolutely delighted when my friend gave me several containers of them that she was otherwise going to throw out).

My mom, knowing how much I love pumpkin seeds, was awesome and mailed me a package of them this week. However, I started wondering how much she loved me when they arrived postage due ;)

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Gingerbread envy & a case of mistaken identity

From Nov 12, 2010
I have just returned from a conference. During the conference, staff were decorating the conference hotel for the upcoming holidays. While leaving for dinner, I heard some drilling noises and found a small house being erected in the middle of the lobby. When I returned, it was completed and I told my new acquaintances that I needed to be excused. I wedged myself into the house as I just couldn't help myself. L thought that was great and took a picture with her phone and promised to email it to me. I gave her my business card with my email address and didn't think any more of it the rest of the night.

The next morning, I bumped into my boss, who was cracking up. She asked me why she had received a picture of me in a gingerbread house. I was certainly confused; I wondered how L had known who my boss was and what her email address was. However, my brain suddenly clicked back on and I fished out my business cards and started laughing, too. We have a general template for the cards at work. I was in such a hurry to get everything in order at work before I left on Monday that when I used the template, I had updated the cards with my name and job title, but had left my boss's email address on the card. L had been confused as she had thought my name was [Aroundthewherever]*, not [Boss's Name]*, but thought that maybe I just went by [ATW] casually and sent the email anyway. My boss loved the picture nonetheless and forwarded it to me.

The next night was even more exciting in the hotel lobby. Our group had a pow wow to talk about how the conference was going. The whole lobby smelled strongly of gingerbread so I followed the smell to what had been a wooden house the night before. A gentleman in a chef's smock was stirring a giant vat of icing and was cutting large sheets of gingerbread. He was plastering the gingerbread to the house with the icing. I felt that I just had to offer to help shingle the house with gingerbread (seriously, I had never seen such big vats of icing or such huge blocks of gingerbread before in my life! How awesome would it have been to be a part of it?). My co-conspirators tried to give helpful opening lines of how I could make that happen. However, I think that the chef was having none of it because various conference attendees had been milling about him all night and he just wanted to get the darn thing done. I feel that my life is not complete because I haven't plastered on giant gingerbread shingles. Perhaps some day my hopes will be fulfilled.

*Pseudonyms to protect the silly.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Traveling Booking Sites Review

Since 2008, I've used a few different websites to book overseas travel. I first fell into this when I traveled a friend/previous co-worker, K, who had been using the sites for a while and suggested using them. We've only used the sites for hotel and transportation packages. We felt as if we were getting decent deals and avoiding spending copious amounts of our own time by going this route. Sure, we could've really scouted airfares and hotel deals on our own and possibly could've found better deals, but we're both really busy so we appreciate the sites that combine the services for us.

Between the two of us, we've used the following sites, which I'll review. BTW, I get nothing from reviewing them; this is my unbiased opinion, not paid for or endorsed by anyone else (but hey, if they wanted to give me swag, I'd take it - but would disclose that!). Take it as you will.

Gate One Travel is our first pick. Between the two of us, we've used them for at least 5 trips. They have decent prices and their customer service has been good. After one trip, we received a survey about our experiences. We had been moved from two of our hotels during check-in because of water problems the hotels were having, but the hotels booked us a new room and paid for a cab for us to the new hotel. I didn't feel that this was Gate One's fault and felt that the hotels had satisfactorily addressed our concerns, but did mention that it was odd on the survey. They gave me a voucher for money off next time, which I wasn't expecting as we weren't mad about the changes at all. Gate One offers hotel and flight packages, escorted tours, and even some cruise packages. We've used them for trips to Western Europe. The hotels we've stayed at have been basic but the locations were good. I'd say that they were on par with a clean and up-to-date Holiday Inn Express. It's a decent site for semi-budget travelers with options to upgrade.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Playing Frogger in Lisbon

There's an old video game from the 80s called Frogger in which the player must direct frogs safely across a street, dodging vehicles and whatnot. During a recent trip to Lisbon, Portugal, my travel companion D and I found ourselves playing a similar game. However, this was the real life version and not on a road. We were playing Frogger on the sidewalk and the "vehicles" were the people who stand in front of restaurants and try to entice (or ensnare, depending on how one views it) unsuspecting pedestrians into eating at their restaurant. We tried to dodge their advances and avoid being sucked into the restaurant, practically running through the corridor.

Unfortunately, the staff members were quite devoted to recruiting us. D is especially unhappy about such advances so as we gained an unfortunate tag-a-long, she irritably said she was from Canada when asked her place of origin. Of course the interloper wanted to know where from and he suggested Quebec. That was going to be her original answer, so she shouted "Toronto!" as we hightailed it out of the danger zone.

Once we had successfully completed our game of live Frogger, I asked her why she said Toronto and not Quebec (we actually do hail from Quebec, somewhere along the line). D had decided that if she was going to lie (which she usually doesn't), she was going to lie big.

After reading this, it would be no far stretch for the reader to think, "Well, have they ever considered just saying 'no thank you'"? Yes, we have definitely tried that. It doesn't seem to make a difference for the very devoted staff.
Feel free to chime in below: how do you respond to those guys (or ladies) who stand out front of restaurants and are very in your face as they try to get you to eat there?

Add this to the list of stuff to pack...

Did you ever read a list of suggested items to pack on a trip, and feel as if it were written by a stodgy grandmother? I mean, who'd pack galoushes? Of course, having had wet, cold feet on a trip, I could see some of the helpfulness of that suggestion, but I wouldn't be caught dead in them.

I always rolled my eyes when I read about bringing a travel alarm. I mean, seriously, what was the author going to suggest next? How about bringing a nightstand, too? What kind of hotel wouldn't have an alarm clock?

I was smarmy about all of this in Germany. There was always a clock to keep us in line; after all, aren't the Germans known for their punctuality? We had no problems with getting up on time, even in the throes of jetlag, thanks to the handy dandy alarm clocks.

In Spain and Portugal, we learned that the profileration of alarm clocks was not to be the case. Perhaps it was that we were staying at budget hotels, or maybe it was a result of the more relaxed Romance style culture. Who knows. Either way, we had to rely on wake up calls from the front desk.

My advice on relying on wake calls is this: don't do it! We were lucky that the two hotels were very good about calling us, but I've been on other trips where we never received the wake up calls (luckily enough for us, we'd also set the alarm). It finally struck home with me the validity of the stodgy advice of packing a travel alarm. And, while I'm at it, be sure to check that the batteries are good.