Monday, December 31, 2012

Apartment Hunting Websites: Review of

For my upcoming move to the Kaiserslautern area, I began searching for apartments in the area at the beginning of December. I am using both , a German real estate site recommended to me by some Germans, as well as the military's AHRN (Automated Housing Referral Network; I've heard housing staff pronounce it as "Ahern") website.

AHRN is a database of housing that has been approved by the local base's housing office. Landlords have to agree not to discriminate based on (US) federally protected statuses and they also must agree to the housing office's policies. For example, most German contracts require quite a bit of notice to end the lease.  Since military folks might have to leave quickly because of deployments or permanent changes of station (PCS), landlords with listings in AHRN must agree to being given shorter notice (a month). Also, the listings are without commission, or as the Germans would call it, provisionfrei (provision, or commission, free).

It's extremely helpful to have this resource available, especially when apartment hunting from afar. Even if one doesn't use AHRN, one still must have the rental contract approved by the Housing Office. Staff there review the contract to make sure that it is legal and that it fits with standards that they set. I have heard that they must also inspect the apartment. Military members and staff must report to the housing office within two days of arrival to be briefed on housing issues.

I have been searching through AHRN and am glad to have this helpful resource. Listings include information such as how many bedrooms and baths there area, pet policies, utilities estimates, and other information that is standard for real estate listings.

However, the one downside to the site is that some of the properties are...somewhat depressing. I have seen some with brown 1980s style tiled bathrooms, or even worse, pink tiled bathrooms (I detest the color pink!). If one is looking for a penthouse apartment with a balcony and a great city view, AHRN isn't so much the place to search. Many of the listings are out in the country (or at least for the Kaiserslautern area they are). Not all of the apartments look dated and I'm still grateful for the service, but I'm actually more interested in a penthouse style apartment so I might need to look in other sources for an apartment. The main issue I will be facing is to find an apartment that is commission free and will allow a Housing Office approved lease.

U-bahn & accordians...

From April 18, 2011

if the dude jumps onto the U-bahn with an accordion, chances are that he´s not on his way to band practice. Just sayin´...

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Moving to Germany: Moo the Cat Comes with Me, Part 2

Moo: I'm going where?!

After I researched airline requirements, I needed to find out what importation requirements there would be from Germany, the US (especially the Department of Agriculture), and the military to bring my cat  with me to Germany. I emailed back and forth with the state veterinarian for the Department of Agriculture and she was very helpful with explaining the requirements; she even sent me a checklist of things to do.

Keep in mind that these requirements are for a pet/companion animal; there would be totally different requirements for a breeding animal or one for sale, I am sure.

Here is what I found:

1. To move to Germany, the cat must have been microchipped with a microchip that meets certain ISO standards (International Organization for Standardization). This microchip can be read by the German microchip readers and are 15 digits long. If your pet doesn't have a microchip that is ISO compliant, but has a different chip, you could, in theory, buy your own scanner and bring it with you so the pet's microchip can be read. However, the microchip scanners can cost quite a bit (sometimes around $100) so it would make more sense to get the pet remicrochipped with a $35-ish ISO compliant chip.

2. The cat must have a rabies shot that is more than 21 days old but less than a year old. Be sure that your cat is microchipped BEFORE you get the rabies shot! The vet must register the rabies shot to the microchip to prove that the correct animal has been vaccinated. If you do it in the wrong order, you will have to get the animal revaccinated. I also found on some documentation that the vet's signature on the rabies certificate must be in blue ink. Even if you think that doesn't apply to you, it might be good to request blue ink just in case you need it for some reason. I believe the blue ink requirement is because it would be more difficult to forge/photocopy something recorded in blue ink. I had some snafus with this step; originally, I had Moo vaccinated at a mobile vet clinic at a pet supply store to save money on a office call. The vet gave me a carbon copy of the papers so the ink appeared black. I had a dickens of a time trying to get ahold of the vet for a certificate signed in blue because she was only a contractor. I was worried about receiving it in time so I ended up taking Moo to another vet and getting his shot redone. What a pain!

3. Within 10 days of the flight, the animal must have health papers (for my move to Germany, I am using the form called the "Veterinary Certificate to European Union") signed by a USDA approved vet who certifies that the cat is healthy and fit to fly. You would get this done at your regular vet if he's approved by the USDA. Your vet may have the papers but you can also look for them for the Dept. of Ag. Since I'm paranoid about having the most current edition, I will print them out and bring them myself since my rural vet  doesn't get too many of these cases.

4. After the pet has been checked and has had the Vet certificate filled out with a vet who is USDA-approved, a vet at the USDA must examine the certificate and complete the APHIS 7001 form, International Health Certificate. The certificate will cost $38 from the USDA. The papers can be mailed to the office or you can take them in person. Since I have such a limited time frame, I plan to drive to the USDA offices right after my regular vet does the health certificate and get the papers signed then. I was worried about the papers getting lost in the mail or not being in time for the flight, which is right after holiday closures. Plus, to pay for overnighting the paperwork by mail both ways would cost more than just making the hour drive to the USDA office.

Bring the copy of your cat's rabies and microchip certificates, as well as the veterinary certificate.

Be sure to check with the USDA about their office hours as well as when they're available to do the international health certificate. My state's office only has certain hours that they do this and I made an appointment. The vet even told me that Mr. Moo is welcome to come with me inside; she has been so nice and helpful :) I'm totally feeling like a crazy cat lady at this point, for sure, because I'm happy that Moo gets accompany me for errands and of course, for the move.

Snow help me, if I have to buy winter tires...

As someone who's from a northern state, I'm quite well versed in driving in snow...and ice...and slush...and a combination of all three. When I was researching the western edge of Germany where I'll be moving, I looked at snowfall averages and winter temperatures and was pleased to find out that the climate is a bit more mild than where I am currently living. It appears that they get snow but not as much as we do here, which sounds good to me.

I learned that there are some strict German laws on the tires that one uses (is this a surprise? There are definitely a lot of German laws and regulations to shift through for everything, pretty much :), especially for winter tires. The most important rule is that in conditions of snow and/or ice, the car must have either winter tires or (all season) tires marked with M+S (mud and snow). Failure to have such tires can result in a ticket. Apparently there is a saying that one should use winter tires “von Oktober bis Ostern” (from October to Easter), as a rule of thumb, to account for the snow season. The winter tires marked with a snowflake are highly suggested but the all season tires marked with M+S are also acceptable.

While researching this, I decided that I would just get the all season tires to avoid the expense of buying one set of tires for snow and one set for the rest of the year. I felt confident in my decision. Why buy extra tires if they're not needed? I'm a northerner and I *know* snow. I was given immediate pause when someone who had moved to Germany from a state farther north than I where I live said that she wished she had bought winter tires. What?! Oh no. If someone from a place with a lot of snow is saying that winter tires are recommended, then that makes me think I'll need them. I couldn't really figure out why, if the area doesn't get a huge amount of snow, the tires would be needed. I was told that it's hilly there and that the roads don't get plowed/salted much. 

So, is this true? Is it hard to get around? How has it been to get around with or without snow tires? How often do you get stuck? Are the roads really not maintained when it snows?

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Moving to Germany: Moo the Cat Comes with Me, Part 1

Moving to Germany: what to do with Moo?

When I first found out that I was going to move Germany, I realized that I had a huge dilemma: what would I do with my cat, Moo, who has been my companion for the last nine years and is considered part of the family and well known for his Moo antics? At first, I thought that I might need to leave him behind. I was really worried that he would be incredibly stressed from moving. He's a rather mellow cat, so I think that I would the one doing the stressing, but still, it was a definite concern.

There seemed to be many hurdles to overcome with bringing him; my main concern was finding an apartment that would allow him and a secondary concern was how on earth I would get him to Deutschland. After all, it's difficult enough to find an apartment in the States that allows pets; I couldn't imagine trying to find a place in a foreign country. I inquired with my friend/current landlady and initially she was willing to keep him, as she does love the critter very much. It was a difficult decision, but I felt like it would've been better for Moo not to have all the stress of moving, and let's be honest: I was originally relieved to have the stress lifted of trying to find a place and to transport him.

It would've been hard to leave behind my companion & yoga partner!

However, some things changed for my friend, and she was not able to take him after all. I felt a moment of panic, but I was also relieved. I would have missed Moo so much; he's been a sweet and cuddly companion for nine years. Plus, in the last six months we had to put down our family dog of 12 years as well as my horse I had owned for 10 years. It would've been really difficult to lose one more family member/animal in the same year (though it wouldn't have been as bad as him passing away, of course).

Jumping into problem solving mode, I started searching online to see how difficult it would be to find an apartment that would allow a cat.I was relieved to find that in Germany, it's a bit easier to find a place. There might be a pet deposit or the rent might be a bit higher, but it appears that there are more places that will allow a pet. I have heard that Germans are very fond of their pets, so maybe this is why. (An aside: people can often bring their well-behaved, leashed dogs into many restaurants, so that really takes enthusiasm for pets to a new level! I have never personally seen a dog in a restaurant in Germany, but I have seen one in a restaurant in Paris so the French must also be quite fond of their pets too.)

He even helps sort paperwork! He's a very helpful kitty.

After finding that it shouldn't be impossible to rent an apartment that allows a cat, I started researching what a person needs to do to when she wants to include her cat in her PCS, or, Permanent Change of Station (moving), as they say with my employer. Below I will list some of the steps that I have taken; they are up to date as of December 2012, but if you are planning to move your pet, be sure to also do your own research because things change and your situation may vary.

I will start with the steps that I took with arranging to bring my cat with me on the flight; I'll write about other aspects in subsequent blog posts because this will be loooooong!

1. Decide how your cat will be making his way to the new country. Basically, there are three main ways of doing this: bringing the cat as your carry-on baggage on your flight, having him ride in the cargo area of the plane during your flight, or having him shipped separately. The first two options aren't cheap, but the last option is probably the most expensive way of going; I believe that I read that one company charged $600! I chose the first option; the flight I am taking doesn't even allow animals in the cargo area because it's not climate controlled. I have heard some horror stories of animals dying in the cargo area because they weren't suited for the climate in it, but I haven't heard of this from anyone that had experienced this directly.

2. Be sure to book your cat's plane travel right away! Do it right when you book your flight, or immediately after. If you book online, depending on the airline, you might need to call the airline to amend your reservation to include your cat. Airlines limit how many pets are allowed in the cabin, for example, and these spots fill up quickly. I booked my flight ticket through my employer's travel agency right around Thanksgiving, and then it dawned on me that I needed to book travel for Moo, too. I thought that I had enough time because it was more than seven weeks before the flight, but I called Delta anyway. I was glad that I did! The flight only allowed four pets in the cabin for the flight, and Moo took the last spot. I would have been out of luck had I not reserved that space because the particular plane for that flight did not allow animals to fly in the cargo area.

3. Start preparing yourself for sticker shock for how much everything will cost to get your beloved furball overseas. Moo, as "carry-on luggage" (which I'm sure he isn't looking forward to!), is a crisp $200 fee for the international flight (which I booked on the phone but will pay for in person when I check in for the flight). That's grating on my nerves a bit because I'm going to have to stick him (inside his carrier) under the seat in front of me and consequently I won't have any legroom. Even worse, of course, is that he's going to be rather squished! It's crazy to have to pay $200 for this "privilege," but it is just something I'll have to accept (and by extension, he will, too -- poor Moo!).

4. Make sure that your pet, his carrier, and his accessories will meet all of the requirements for the flight, as well as those of the destination country. For example, some airlines have blackout dates when animals can't travel in the cargo area because of extreme temperatures. Some smooshed-face breeds have restrictions because of concerns of them being able to breathe. Particular breeds may be banned in your destination. Learn about this ahead of time to avoid major problems and heartbreak. There are many rules related to the carrier/cage, feeding the pet, tranquilizing him, etc. Check with your airline as well as with the Department of Agriculture. There are so many things to check; this is just a start! For example, certain types of pet crates are forbidden in the cargo area or you may have to replace the flimsy hardware on them with more substantial metal parts. Most airlines require that the animal be able to stand up and turn around freely without his head touching the top in the crate if he is being flown in the cargo area. For animals going as carry-on baggage, it's okay for their heads to touch the top of the carrier, but they still must be able to turn around in the carrier. The carrier must meet carry-on size requirements. Don't just go by the tag that says "airline approved." Actually check with your particular airline because their requirements vary.

5. Find out what you must do with the cat at the airport and on the flight. The first part of this would be to find out about TSA screening requirements, and definitely check their website for the latest information. At the time of my search, I learned that I must remove Moo from the carrier and walk through security with him. If I don't do that, I would have to take him in his carrier to a separate screening area to be checked. I'm not sure what that would entail so I'm going to put myself in peril of being scratched by a panicked cat and walk through security with him in arms. Being a smarty pants, I noted that it's unfortunate that I can't wear my coat and oven mitts to avoid being scratched, but that would probably be viewed as a security risk itself so I'll avoid doing that. The animal must be leashed during this process, which brings up another problem: metal on the animal's collar might set off the alarm. Thankfully, there is a way around this -- I bought a metal free harness and leash from a pet supply store that specializes in pet airline supplies (which I'll review in another post).

Once you get into the airport itself, it should be easier sailing. Just don't remove your animal from the carrier if you can avoid it. You won't be allowed to remove him during the flight, either, so avoid envisioning Fluffy chillin' on your lap as you wait for beverage service.

Merry Christmas, Howdy Partner: What I'd Want in a Western

I'm hanging out with the family (Merry Christmas to those who partake, by the way!) and we're watching (well, they are - I'm working on the computer!) a Western from the '60s. It's amusing to me to see women in pioneer style clothes but who have '60s style somewhat beehive-y hair.

One geezer "merchant" in the movie said that he deals in whiskey and women. I commented that I prefer men and Merlot, myself ;)


It's not a white Christmas here at my family's house in the west side of the state, but based on the police scanner Facebook page for where I currently live, it is there -- and it sounds as if the roads were nasty last night! I hope that they're cleared up and my friends over there are enjoying the white Christmas.

From my Western to yours, enjoy the holiday!

Store Review: Phil's Stuff, Grand Rapids, Michigan

Phil's Stuff

722 Wealthy Street Southeast
Grand Rapids, Michigan 49503
Hours: usually Saturdays 10-4 pm; if building looks occupied at other times, knock to be let in
Buying/selling antiques, estate items, architectural items, as well as metal yard art

On Wealthy Street, in a southeast neighborhood that is reviving itself through new businesses, a store packed to the brim with curiosities awaits for shoppers looking for the eclectic. The store is part antique store, part local crafts store, and part...well, one wouldn't say junk store so much, but owner Phil Ondersma's title of "stuff" fits very well.
Need a hand? Phil has 8 of them he'd be willing to sell to you for $99.

Right down the street from a bustling block of businesses and restaurants such as the Meanwhile and Electric Cheetah, Phil's Stuff is a fun place to visit while in the neighborhood. The store is overflowing with merchandise; some is antique and some is just interesting. Phil specializes in period pieces for historic home renovations. One can find old heating vents, skeleton keys, and doorknobs that are original as well as vintage. Other antiques grace the shelves, too, whether it's the strange ceramic arms that were previously used to display gloves in stores or if it's some vintage magazines.

The store even carries some new items, too. There are some great yard sculptures, including flying pigs made from recycled scrap metal like license plates and bolts, as well arches, metal spikes with decorative elements on the top for garden ornamentation, and many other goodies. Cast metal coat hooks, bottle openers and other tchotchkes in the shape of animals, angels and mermaids round out the unique new merchandise.

Metal "Flying" Pig

Phil is as interesting as the "stuff" he sells. He's often decked out in a festive Hawaiian shirt and brings his little dog to the store too. He is a bit gruff but it gives him character, which certainly explains the eclectic store. He's always busy in the store, whether it's greeting a regular customer, or buying some curiosities to resell from people who bring them by the store. Keep in mind that Phil's travels in search of antiques sometimes make for irregular hours; on some Saturdays, the store might not be open so it's advised to call ahead of time.

Some of the cast metal pieces available.

For a fun afternoon, stop by Phil's Stuff on a Saturday. After that, it's just a few blocks to bars, restaurants, and other stores on Wealthy.

There's no business like (metal) monkey business at Phil's.

I'll be leaving...on a jet plane

I am excited to announce, after 12 years of wanting to do so, that I am moving to live and work in Europe. It's great to finally realize a goal that has been that long in the making. After all, I feel that I am a person of my word and I am glad to have accomplished what I set out to do.

I'll be living and working in western Germany.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Chug it!

From February 3, 2010

I was talking with my friend last night and we somehow meandered to the topic of wine at Catholic masses. I'm not Catholic, but I attended fourteen years of Catholic school (including pre-school; no worries, I never repeated a grade) so I've had time to ponder these things. We were both really grossed out that at mass, folks all drink out of the same chalice. The representatives doling out the wine usually wipe the rim of the chalice off after each person drinks, but let's be honest here: it may remove lipstick etc. but it's not doing anything to kill germs.

I've heard of some churches giving little "shots" of wine in some sort of Dixie cup or whatever. That seems a lot more hygienic to me. My friend said they're a no-go for him, though; he once visited a Lutheran church and when he went to grab a shot glass, he dropped it on the tray and made a huge clanging noise since it was made of glass.

He also told me of the problems that befall the person doling out the wine. Sometimes there is wine left and apparently it's rude to dump a deity's "blood" down the sink, so the wine doler-outer is obliged to drink up the remaining "blood" after the faithful have had their fill. He said it's a real problem at 8 a.m. mass because that's just way too early to really swig down the wine, whether it's holy wine or not. He had to go to the church's coffee social after the mass and was feeling a little bit too good.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Sometimes even what's familiar is strange

At the beginning of this century, I lived in London for a brief stint. Everything was so new and different to me because before that, I hadn't traveled much past my home state. I've always been interested in the hows and whys of things, and I was lucky enough to have some patient British friends who would explain things to me (like, what is a "garriage?")

I have no idea how this came about, but my friend told me that Carhartt had a store in Convent Garden's trendy shopping area. I made him repeat himself; did he really mean Carhartt? Yes, he did, and he loved their coats. I couldn't help gaping. He was a pretty hip dresser. I asked him again if he actually meant Carhartt Carhartt. I told him that the only people I knew who wore Carhartt were gun-totin' drivers of mudboggin' trucks (patois intended). Well, actually, the people I knew wore muck boots* and wanted to tip cows, but their relatives had guns and trucks. He assured me that yes, Carhartt was indeed hip there and he'd even take me to the store.

I still didn't believe him until we arrived to the brightly lit, minimalist, modern store in a district of high rent storefronts. Techno music was blasting and the clothes there didn't resemble anything Carhartt I had seen at home.

Take this woman's shirt, for example; I couldn't see anyone rocking it out on the streets of London. Women's fashions that are featured on the company's London website couldn't be more different. While some of the London Carhartt fashions are true to Carhartt's country roots, they are so in more of an ironic manner. Fifteen years ago the company couldn't get away with it, but now, perhaps it can, and does.

We left the store, and I told my friend that I finally believed him, but it still blew my mind.

*I had an odd teenagerhood in the city, seriously. I had a really varied, eclectic group of friends; half sipped merlot, spoke several languages, and created vegetarian haute cuisine from scratch; while some of the other friends swilled beer, listened to heavy metal and jumped off bridges; and then there were the Good Country People, who are referenced here.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Best costume ever

At one of the best Halloween parties I've ever attended, my brother's friend showed up in a clear plastic rain slicker. He had random pieces of tin foil taped to the slicker. For the life of me, I couldn't figure out what exactly he was supposed to be; there didn't appear to be any rhyme or reason to how he had taped the tin foil. He told me that he was the Tin Man. It was awesome; I totally didn't get that. I thought that maybe he was dressed up as a homeless dude trying to insulate himself.

At the same party, my brother dressed up as the son of a preacher man (oh, how true!) but he was a preacher, too. He was a bit too into the costume because he kept blessing everyone.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Stop in the name of...oh, wait, that's not safe

Ah, Detroit. My friend's friend P was stopped at a light late one night in an "interesting" neighborhood when a police cruiser pulled him over. What was his transgression?

Apparently P created suspicion because he was actually stopped at the light. The police officer thought he was either drunk, or, upon examining P, dumb, for stopping at the light. Apparently in that particular neighborhood it's not especially safe to stop at the light, or at least that's what P was told.* The officer let him go on his merry way after that.

* For the record, I'm not suggesting blowing through stoplights in Detroit, or anywhere, for that matter.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

More delivery guy stories

From August 21, 2010

I had a chat with the delivery guy again (the one who'd dealt with the bloody melted meat package last week). He had another odd story about being a delivery store driver. There's a restaurant that's locally/family owned where he stopped in and was waiting for the owner to sign some paperwork for him. He noticed a huge bottle of liquor on the shelf above the manager's desk. The manager noticed his stare and asked him if he'd ever heard of that type before.

Mr. Delivery Driver didn't, so Mr. Manager told him that the best way to describe it was that it was Albanian tequila. He was of course a hospitable person so he offered Mr. Delivery Driver a shot. Mr. DD was quick to say no, so Mr. Manager thought about it for a moment then said, "Oh! I'll do a shot with you then. It will be okay." Mr. DD still had to abstain, though.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

An unhappy meat experience

From August 18, 2010

On Friday the 13th our delivery company driver stopped into work to drop off some packages, looking unhappy. I asked him what was up. He told me that there was blood all over the back of his delivery van.

Huh?! It was Friday the 13th, but that certainly wasn't what I had been expecting. He said that a large package being shipped to someone else had begun leaking blood all over so they had to open it. Imagine his surprise when he saw packages of meat just laid into the box. They had started leaking, of course, as it was Friday and they had been originally shipped on Tuesday and had thawed. Neither one of us could believe that the sender hadn't placed the meat in styrofoam coolers with dry ice first.The package also wasn't sent priority; it went through the regular business class.

After the weekend, I saw him again and asked him how the rest of his Friday went. He gave me an exasperated look. They called the recipient of the package and told her it had melted, leaked all over, and that the meat would no longer be safe. She was unfazed; she said that the middle of it was still probably frozen and that she'd still use it (it had been quite warm last week and those delivery trucks get really hot so we doubted it). She mentioned how it had originally been packaged; a family member, the sender, threw a chunk of ice in a box and then shoved the packages of meat around it.

I hope she has a strong immune system to handle the spoiled meat.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Beware of the costume!

An acquaintance told me this funny story: one Halloween, he decided to dress up as a werewolf. His costume and makeup were exceptionally good; had he not opened his mouth (which is an impossibility), he said that no one would have recognized him. He even went so far as to use Elmer's glue to glue fake hair to his arms and legs to complete the costume.

Apparently he had a lot to drink at the party, and when he went home, instead of just washing the hair/glue combo off with warm water, he tried to shave the fake hair off. At least that's what he and his wife were able to discern the following morning when they say the patches of fake fur and real arm hair shaved off.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Only in my family

From November 8, 2008
I decided to call my parents on Thursday night because I haven't really been in contact with them lately and I was curious if they wondered if I had perished (I hadn't). In doing so, I got into a 20-minute debate/discussion/argument with my dad about Early American furniture. Something like this would only happen in my family, I think. After all, we have had all out grammar fights at the dinner table over prescribed usage for such things as "Jewish rabbi," "Easter Sunday," "completely destroyed," et. al.

The whole Early American furniture debate got started when my dad told me that he had bought some Early American furniture for my niece's bedroom. I told him it was ugly and wanted to know what little girl would want such hideous furniture. She'd want princess or Dora stuff, not Early American four poster bed and matching dresser. I told my dad that the popular style now in general furniture is either modern or post-modern and you can barely even buy Early American any more, except at garage sales (where he bought the furniture for my niece).

He wanted to know where I got my information, because he had talked to "people in the industry" and they said that Early American furniture represented 25% of furniture sales. We got diverted into a huge discussion of who the heck he knew who was "in the industry." I also wanted to know when he talked to people in the industry and he said it was the last time he bought furniture. I decided that it didn't count because it was 30 years ago and people were still celebrating the bicentennial. At this point, I couldn't stop laughing. My dad was slightly annoyed because he was trying to make his point, but he was cracking up, too. I ended up staying awake until midnight on a work night debating this with him.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Um, no, and no

From August 19, 2009

My co-worker and I were talking about the joys of working with the public. The weirdest stuff happens, I tell you.

Just a few days ago, a guy poked his head in the front door and hollered to her, "Hi! I don't have a shirt on. Can I come in and use the bathroom?" (we work in a public environment in which business is conducted).

She coughed, thought about it, and said no. WTH. Seriously.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Phonograph fail

From January 16, 2010

My dad is trying to get rid of some records and asked me to show him how to post to Craigslist. I'll admit that I rushed through the explanation, but that's mostly because I know he wouldn't listen to me anyway. As I was showing him the proper category in which to post the records, he said, "no, wait! I can't sell phonographs on there. It says that."

I hit the back button and started laughing. It said "no pornography please." I told him that his Lawrence Welk records, while horrible, were safe to sell on Craigslist.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Giraffes and good ol' boys, oh my!

I decided, somewhat last minute, to trek down to Cincinnati this weekend for a trip to King's Island with my brother. He's working on the road for three weeks and seemed a bit bummed out about that so I decided to visit. Originally we were going to visit King's Island on Saturday but the weather was lousy so we found ourselves in need of something to do.

We were right by Traders' World, which is this crazy "palacio del flea," as they call it. I didn't really need any velour Jesus throws for my house but I figured it would be better than sitting around so I agreed to go. Plus, we were trying to figure out just how many life-sized, poorly-executed-in-fiberglass giraffes were present on the property. Seriously, it's freaky, folks; they're on the roof, inside, along the drive, etc. If you have a need to visit fiberglass giraffes, that is THE place to go.

Also, the complex has a recording of animal noises playing. The scary thing is that one of the noises sounds like a person moaning during a certain act. We were horrified by that one, even though it was probably supposed to be a hippo or something.

I am so glad that we visited, in spite of the weird noises because the people watching was absolutely amazing and we found Goonies t-shirts for $2 each. My brother especially enjoyed the shirt inspired by Data, with a patch that read "Booty Trap Specialist" on it.

We ended up spending three hours there, which blows my mind, but the time flew. I even bought two gnome yard ornaments, which is the beginning of my downward spiral (I'm not a yard ornament-owning type of person but apparently now I am a gnome-owner). If you're looking for Jesus-themed inspirational items, bumper stickers of a famous cartoon character relieving himself on various logos, military surplus, or some excellent yard ornaments, then Traders' World is where the action resides.

*I don't care that they don't know how to punctuate it correctly and they don't include the apostrophe; I'm adding it because it would bother me otherwise.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Domesticity fail

I once elicited much laughter from my mother, as well as some aunts, when I complained about a housecleaning problem I was having. When I spent a semester in England, I decided that the outflow of money was high whereas the influx of money was nil. Thus, I picked up two housecleaning gigs for some extra spending money, which worked out perfectly and financed a trip to Paris and a trip to Dublin.

I was often vexed by cleaning the bathtub; in trying to wipe up the random dust bunnies in the tub, all I did was spread them all over. I finally had the brilliant idea to use the vacuum cleaner to suck up all the dust, as long as the tub was dry. Sometimes there were still errant fuzzies, though, and I complained of them to my mom. She asked me to repeat the problem and was laughing when I mentioned the vacuum cleaner. I wanted to know how else one would get the fuzzies. Apparently the story has made its way around to my aunts, too. Again, this is a time where I have learned that it is best to laugh at yourself.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Market Forces

From Oct 4, 2008
My brother: "Hey, is ICP coming into town soon?"
Me: "Um, I have no idea. Why?"
Brother: "Well, Faygo is on sale."
Me: "What does that have to do with anything?"
Brother: "Every time ICP comes into town, Faygo goes on sale. I'm serious! All the stores have it on sale right now!"
Me: Rolling eyes.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Domesticity Fail

From Oct 7, 2008
I have one last "horror" story of failed domesticity. At times, I try to fool myself into thinking I can eat something other than cold food or food that comes in a box. Sometimes I try to cook something or bake treats. Usually the results are quite mixed.

Several weeks ago, I decided that my co-workers needed some cookies for putting up with me (and plus, I had said in my interview that food can often work well as a reward/motivator for staff..unfortunately, I may have crossed theories in management with animal training theory instead). I attempted to bake some oatmeal cookies and misjudged how done they were, as I'd like to think that the oven in the window distorts the true color of the cookies (thus I also must never be allowed in a tanning machine), and burned some of the batch.

I took the good cookies to work and told my colleagues what a failure I am and that I burned the other cookies. They raved about the cookies they had in front of them, which makes me laugh because I just followed the recipe on the label of the oatmeal.

I had thought that they were just being nice. I think it was sincere, though, because the next day a co-worker asked if I had any of the burned cookies left. I had thrown out most of them, but with a remaining cookie, had grated off the burned part and found that it wasn't too bad. I was pretty impressed that she liked the cookies enough to want some burned ones (thought I think that she would have wanted anything with sugar at that point). Sometimes you just have to take the burnt part of your life and scrape off what you can't use and make good with the part that you have left.

Monday, February 27, 2012


From Jun 11, 2009
I don't know why I just thought about this, but it brought a smile to my face, remembering it.

When I was traveling in Italy, we stopped at a small roadside cafe for a takeaway meal. The cafe was in the middle of the country and the waiter didn't speak English. I needed to ask him for a fork, but I had no idea what the Italian word for it was. I wracked my mind, and finally asked pleadingly, "¿Cosas para mangia?"
He stared at me, thought about it, then handed me a fork. I'm sure that I had managed to mangle two languages at once, but at least I tried to cobble something together with limited Spanish and non-existent Italian. I'm sorry, Mr. Cafe Proprietor. I tried.

We'll sample that, for security's sake

From Nov 8, 2009
I was checking out the TSA website because I am looking to move past prissy travel and forge ahead with a backpack instead of my security blanket of a suitcase, and I came across this gem of a rule:
"Note: You can bring pies and cakes through the security checkpoint, but please be advised that they are subject to additional screening."
Tee hee. I'm wondering if the TSA agents get hungry, if "additional screening" might mean eating a slice. Oh, and, Americans: don't bother bringing Christmas puddings home from England. Trust me on this one. They're not security risks (at least as far as I know) but they are palate risks as they are not tasty.*
*Okay, that's just my opinion, but it might count for something. I intensely distrust pudding that is solid.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Call 911!

From Oct 14, 2008
I was at a meeting and was told, "Oh, by the way, I did call 911 the other day."

Me: Um, okay.
Her: Yeah, there was a rabid raccoon outside the building.
Me: Oh.
Her: Some kids were poking it with a stick. I told them to get away from it because it was rabid, but they thought it was just friendly.
Me: [Trying to keep a straight face]
Her: They got it with one of those dog catcher loop things. Boy, was it mad!
Me: Well, thank you for telling me about that.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Fuego in the pyramid: a work hazard

From Aug 19, 2009
There are many lines written about how one's education doesn't always give one a practical knowledge base for work. I have found a few holes in my education.
For example, this week, I was in hysterics when our pyramid-shaped cigarette butt receptacle caught on fire at work. I was discussing this with a co-worker and was trying to find the right word to describe the situation: was it a paradox or an oxymoron, or just plain old irony that the receptacle meant to extinguish cigarette butts caught on fire?
I was by the front with another co-worker, wiping tears away from my eyes and trying to compose myself, as my counterpart retrieved water from the goldfish bowl and put out the fire. She then proceeded to spray Glade air freshener in the lobby because the smoke had snuck in from the front door. The Glade made me laugh even harder.

Thursday, February 2, 2012


Sit for quite some time with your feet tucked under you and jump up to answer the phone. Results may vary.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Sticks at the Alhambra

Outside the Alhambra, a wizened old woman, thin and draped in an oversized black dress, was shaking twigs at people, moaning in Spanish about thwarting evil spirits. She had a basket of twigs for sale at her feet; they were talismans to ward off the spirits in the palace.

I broke off some twigs from a nearby bush (which had a suspicious resemblance to her twigs) and decided that I too could become an entrepreneur.

Friday, January 13, 2012

An experiment

One day when I was in a London suburb, I was feeding some pigeons some bread. The pigeons did not seem to be particularly intelligent, but that's okay, we can't all be rocket scientists. I spotted a cigarette butt on the ground. I decided to try an experiment, because I doubted that pigeons could be that dumb. I tossed it to a pigeon, and was horrified when he ATE it. D'oh, sorry Mr. Pigeon, I hope it all worked out. Of course, how stupid was I to not think he'd eat it?

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

He'll take Geography for $5

From Aug 4, 2009
My friend's daughter, C, moved to Alaska with her husband. Apparently it has been an interesting life thus far and she's almost to the point of writing a book about all the odd things that the contiguous US believes about Alaska and vice versa. My friend told me one funny story that C had told her.
Whiles she was in in Alaska, C needed to call the post office in California to get some information. When she called the California office, the very friendly postal worker asked her, "so, how's the weather down there?"
C, thinking she heard things wrong, said, "Excuse me?"
Postal worker: "How's the weather down there?"
C: "You know I'm in Alaska, right?"
PW: "Yes ma'am. Are you having nice weather down there?"
By this point in the story, I'm howling with laughter and I told my friend that the weather is probably just about the same in Alaska as it is in Hawaii or Mexico, because that's obviously where the postal worker is picturing Alaska on the map.
Go ahead, look for yourself. I especially love the representation where Alaska and Hawaii are on top of Mexico. I wonder how Mr. PW explains that one?
The best part of this story is that, if anyone should know his geography, shouldn't it be a postal worker? Can we file that under postal worker fail?

Friday, January 6, 2012

Get it right!

This is one of the favorite stories my mom has told me:
One of her co-workers was very excited about some cookies she was going to bake and bring in. She raved about these cookies and my mom asked her what type they were.
"They're anus cookies!" the coworker crowed.
That gave my mom pause. "ANUS cookies?" she asked.
"Yes, anus cookies! They're quite good."
At this point my mom thought that the coworker had taken leave of her senses but she can think on her feet.
"Wait, don't you mean anise cookies?" my mom asked.
The coworker gave her a confused look, so my mom continued, while trying to keep a straight face: "You mean anise; trust me on this one."

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

I love my job, but sometimes it gets weird

From Nov 20, 2009

I feel rather lucky to be employed in a profession that is intellectual, offbeat, and rewarding (at least to me it is). However, I have experienced some job duties that are have been very random, odd, or a combination of the two. I've had to stumble through crazy translations and transliterations of Hindi and Tagalog (while my coworker breezed through Russian, Polish, German, French, and Hebrew works; she's absolutely awesome). I've met with IRS agents as well as a Census Bureau agent. I've been asked to babysit random strangers' children (I don't think the owners of said children would be pleased with the prices I would quote for such services). I've been asked to write grants and conduct legal research for people during off-work hours (no thank you, very much at all; sorry folks, I'm not that nice to do it for free and plus it would be no fun and the last time I checked, I wasn't a paralegal).

One of the more squeamish events happened yesterday, however. To solve a work-related problem, I found myself watching After the Kill, a DVD about processing deer in the field, in my house before I left for work. The video was hosted by characters with semi-mullets, handlebar mustaches, and an obedient housewife who would cook up the varmints they done killed. Here's the problem though: I don't generally eat meat and think that dead animals are gross (I'm not entirely sure I how I sliced and diced a cat in high school anatomy class). Duty called, though, so I listened to clips from the DVD and tried my best not to watch. I guess maybe it's not much weirder than all the emerald ash borer information I had to sift through once (Don't Move Firewood; It Bugs Me!), but to me, it was definitely more disgusting.