The more you know

With the help of my dad, I recently completed a move (and drive) from Washington, DC to Madison, WI. Here’s some things 1,000 miles of driving taught me:

– West Virginia: It’s a state that makes you happiest when you’re leaving it.

– Ohio: Drivers maintain a speed of 50 mph on the highway. Drivers also maintain a speed of 50 mph in parking lots.

– There are restaurants called “Beefaroo?”

– A Bob Evans restaurant salad consists of fried chicken tenders covered with barbecue sauce placed on top of lettuce.

– Watching the golf channel in the hotel workout room is boring – except when there are medieval rock show interludes. (It happened. Really, it did.)

– McDonald’s coffee is surprisingly good and rather addictive.

– Do not attempt to eat yogurt in a moving vehicle. I repeat: Do not attempt.

– Illinois has a penchant for signs with pro-gun phrases that rhyme.

August 30, 2009 at 10:31 pm Leave a comment

When you host “princess cakes,” you can’t be the devil

There’s a very foul-mouthed, scruffy-voiced bald man who has been one of Gordon Ramsey’s sous chefs on “Hell’s Kitchen” for several seasons. It’s not uncommon to see him running at one of the chef contestants with a plate of bad risotto or (even worse) massacred lamb. Clearly, this bald man was affecting his reputation as one of those scary, tremble-inducing, perfectionist chefs that produces great food and plows everyone down in producing it.

I recently discovered that this man was the host of one of the episodes of Food Network Challenge. The challenge theme? Disney princess cakes.

Now, I realize the gig of Food Network Challenge host is probably pretty lucrative. And aside from having to watch people take seven hours to create a cake, it can’t be all that difficult. But doesn’t it seem that hosting Disney princess cakes challenges while also terrorizing chefs on “Hell’s Kitchen” is a bit, well, silly?

I hope he combines his talents and instructs “Hell’s Kitchen” to create princess cakes sometime soon …

August 17, 2009 at 12:53 am Leave a comment

Bravo: Read what happens

I watched “The Real Housewives of Atlanta” last night on Bravo, and was at first confused then annoyed that the network provided subtitles for conversations between African-Americans … when there was nothing wrong with the audio.

Does anyone else find this slightly offensive? Conversations between southern caucasian women certainly weren’t subtitled, so why does Bravo feel the need to do so between southern African-Americans? Can the nuances of dialect and turn of phrase be any harder to understand than the snotty girl shrieking of the cast of “NYC Prep?”

I wonder if anyone else has noticed…

August 14, 2009 at 9:37 pm Leave a comment

In DC, things are trickier

Moving from Washington, DC to Wisconsin for a year has made it glaringly apparent that when living in the district, things are simply more difficult.

Take hiring a moving truck (an option I have nixed).  The moving company wanted to charge me an extra $1500 simply because DC’s residential streets were “too narrow” for a moving truck.

Take renting a moving “pod” (an option I also nixed). My apartment complex only has three parking spots, all of which are by a dumpster, and none of which are available. Because the company needs three street parking spots to dump a pod, the district presented me with oodles of red tape (including a multi-spot parking permit application, fees and over two-week processing period) to set aside three spaces to put a pod for three days.

Take returning cable/modem equipment to my cable provider. Like many DC residents, I don’t have a car and rely solely on public transportation. Because taking a cab to drop off the equipment would likely cost over $25, I get to lug a cable box, modem, power cords and more on the subway on a 90-degree plus temperature day.

I don’t mean to complain too much. After all, these are the drawbacks to living in a larger, older city. But things are certainly, well, trickier, without wide streets, a car and a driveway.

August 14, 2009 at 4:29 pm Leave a comment

Reaching a compromise with Julia Child

Last night, I was watching the latest episode of “The Next Food Network Star” and groaning at the obvious product placement moment when the remaining finalists were tasked with watching “Julie & Julia” and concocting an inspired three-course meal. The “inspirations” the finalists came up with were pretty cliche and failed, at least for me, to hit any solid inspirational note. Essentially, the finalists said that after watching the movie they realized they are confident to cook whatever they want in their own culinary style, and then proceeded to do what they’ve done for the judges in each previous episode.

This morning, I read an excellent piece in the latest New York Times Magazine about Julia Child and what her show really meant to American culture, American cooking and how this related to the modern-day woman.

The writer hits upon some key concepts that sadly are true for many: Cooking consists of taking pre-prepared items and heating them up, an interest in cooking really means an interest in watching other people eat, and a failure to recognize the simple joy that can come from fully preparing a meal from scratch. (more…)

July 31, 2009 at 3:45 pm Leave a comment

How to combat bureaucracy in 10 emails or less

Bureaucracy. Is there anyone who likes it? Is there anyone who actually enjoys getting those carefully crafted form letters about rules, regulations, committee meetings and procedures?

Bureaucracy is, of course, everywhere, but Washington, D.C. seems to get a larger dose than most places.

Take, for example, applying for government jobs. About a year and a half ago, I applied for a job at the Dept. of Commerce as a Web editor. I finally got a notice that the department received my application for employment three months ago.

Take, for example, my utilities company. It took them 12 months to realize they hadn’t been billing me for utilities payments that my leasing company had incorrectly told me were included in my rent. When I went to the utilities company billing office to clear up the matter, they said they’d process my complaint in “about six weeks.” Clearly, nobody was in any rush to receive my money.

Take, for example, the D.C. government, which sent me a jury duty summons last July that said I had to report to jury duty the previous April. When I called them about the matter, it appeared as though this was a common occurrence.

As you can see, my method for dealing with bureaucracy was to call up the appropriate office and expect the matter to be dealt with in a reasonable, sane and efficient matter. This is where I went wrong, because if there’s anything bureaucracy is not, it’s reasonable, sane and efficient.

Today, I realized that I was going about battling bureaucracy completely wrong. The most effective and reliable way to deal with the “twits,” “talking heads” and “form letter writers” of the world is to convince them you’re so crazy you’re not worth their time. Don’t believe me? Read this latest entry from “Emails From Crazy People” on a property management company’s “No Pets Clause” and you’ll understand what I mean.

In a word? Brilliant.

July 30, 2009 at 7:29 pm 1 comment

Change

A lot has happened since I last blogged … and that’s a good thing!

While home on vacation, I did some soul-searching and realized I was on the wrong career path. Yes, I enjoy writing. Yes, I enjoy advocacy. But – and it’s a big “but” – I’d be a lot happier doing something else.

So, I have applied an been accepted into the rehabilitation psychology program at UW-Madison, my undergraduate alma mater. In a nutshell, rehabilitation psychology professionals work with those who have become disabled as the result of physical injury or brain trauma, as well as those who are recovering from addiction or depression, and helps these people reintegrate back into society to live meaningful lives.

This isn’t as crazy a decision as it may seem. I probably should have realized during my senior year as an undergraduate that communications/PR just wasn’t for me. But I didn’t want to admit to myself that all the work I had done up to that point to move to Washington, D.C. and get a job was off-track. I also had not been in the work world and experienced the competitiveness and harshness that exists in D.C.

My job at Public Citizen had some rewards, but the frustrations outweighed the rewards in droves. Bureaucracy, difficult personalities, rejection of online best practices. I dealt with – and fought against – these things every day. Perhaps these problems wouldn’t have seemed so bad had I felt like I was really helping people. But at the end of the day, I wasn’t so sure I was accomplishing that, either. I sat in a cubicle every day, sent out emails asking unknown email addresses to take action on specific issues and created Web pages with the same goal. When I honestly, truly thought about what I was doing on a day-to-day basis, I realized I could be doing so much more to help others, face-to-face, and had the opportunity to change my career while I was still young – and not averse to being a poor student for awhile.

The decision to completely switch gears was scary at first, but every day I feel stronger that I made the right decision.

I won’t be returning to Madison, Wisconsin for good. I plan on moving to wherever my boyfriend is located by the time I graduate (back off, feminists, he’ll be taking input from me on location choices!). But I’d be lying if I said I’m not excited to have a few more months in my hometown with my parents and dog before re-embarking.

So here I am. Twenty-four years old and entering a four-semester program to earn my master’s degree and certification in rehabilitation counseling. And I couldn’t be more excited.

Stay tuned.

July 24, 2009 at 9:17 pm 1 comment

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