Monday, January 30, 2006
Everyone's been all over that Lazy Sunday short from Saturday Night Live -- it's actually funny, plus it mentions Red Vines and Mr. Pibb ("Put it in your head"), two of my favorite college staples -- but I think I prefer the shorter Taco Town commercial spoof. It's funny, it's an accurate comment on the eating habits of way too many people in this country, and between you and me, I'm maybe slightly curious to have a taste of this thing.

Thursday, January 26, 2006
We've had the raccoon trap out for a few weeks, and I think I forgot to mention it, but we caught something! Actually, we caught two things. The first thing we caught was our cat. Yeah, he's not the smartest creature on four legs. We let him out, and I guess he smelled the rotting meat we were using as bait, and I guess it smelled good to him, even though we feed him only the finest in canned crude protein, and he walked in and tripped the door and got trapped. We thought it was pretty funny.

But then a few days later, we caught a possum! I would have rather trapped a raccoon, but then again, I don't really want possums hanging out in our back yard either. The next morning, Paul put it in his trunk to haul it away, and it was all shaky and really scared, and it was bearing its teeth, and looked generally unhappy, the way I guess any creature would look in a trap. And then the nosy neighbor lady came over to look at it and make comments, and then her daughter bounced over too, and then we closed the trunk and Paul took it to a wooded area about ten miles away. That seems like a safe enough distance.

Hopefully, a raccoon will be next. I've been seeing their tracks near where we had the trap (we don't have it out now because it's really cold and we were thinking that maybe they don't come out as much in the cold), so hopefully it's only a matter of time.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006
Update on my nighttime paranoia: I think it's gone. I'm not sure why, but I am thinking that it had something to do with my sugar intake, as I mostly had them over the holidays, when I was eating lots of cookies and candy and all kinds of other crap. Now that I'm back to my normal diet, I seem to be alright.

Although -- and maybe this is a result of not having the high sugar intake -- lately I seem to wake up at least once a night feeling starving. As in I could get out of bed and eat a full meal. I don't allow myself any kind of midnight snack, since eating too late or too much makes me wake up all logy and slow, not to mention that it's a great way to put on unwanted weight, and it's not like I need the energy at four in the morning, but for the past week, my stomach's been growling at all hours. Strangely enough, when my alarm goes off, I'm not hungry anymore. In fact, the idea of food at six a.m. is really unappealing to me, and most of the time I have to force myself to eat a bowl of cereal. I guess hunger is better than night terrors, but still, it's all very strange.

Sunday, January 22, 2006
Last night we hung out with some friends, and they really wanted to go to this one particular restaurant. It's a chain and they serve everything as fondue. (If you're very interested, here's a link.) On the ride out, we were totally skeptical. The thought of dipping everything we were going to eat for dinner seemed kind of stupid, and when we looked online to see the prices they were charging for said stupidity, we thought the whole thing would be a rip off. But, our friends wanted to go there, and a reservation had already been made, and we try hard to not be rock-the-boat kind of people, so we smiled and said okay and figured really, how bad can it be?

Okay. There are some good things about an all-fondue restaurant. For one, it's an interesting concept. The restaurant makes itself memorable by having something very different. Not that I ever took any business classes, but I would imagine that from a business standpoint, it's brilliant. Another good point is that it's interactive. I think we as Americans are, in the broadest and most general terms, an increasingly lazy people, but I do think that we, also in the broadest and most general terms, enjoy limited interaction on a moderated basis, provided that there is a reward for us. We'll do what we're told. So yeah, we'll dip all kinds of crap into a fondue pot if it tastes good and if we can eat it. And also, it's a slow meal, which in theory means you eat less. You have lots of time to talk and catch up, and you really can't just shovel food into your face. In this case, I thought that was a plus.

Now the bad parts. First, there's a lot of hot liquid in the retaurant. Some of it is boiling temperature and hotter, which means lots of evaporation. The ventilation system in the place was good, but all of that evaporated broth/oil/wine/who-knows-what has to land somewhere, and it lands on you. When we left, we smelled like short-order fry cooks. (Paul and his friend found this somewhat amusing, as they met at their high school job at a fried chicken place.) Another negative is the price. Why is a bowl of melty cheddar with a bowl of cut-up bread and apples $14? Because it can be. But probably it's because, and this brings me to negative number three, you're paying for insurance. The insurance rider on a place like that has to be enormous. Example: we had, at our table, not more than a foot away from me, a pot of oil that was probably 350 degrees. Not only was it not bolted down, it wasn't in any way secured to the table, which, did I mention, had a flat-surface burner on it that would have melted the skin right off my palm if I accidentally put it down there? I think most people understand the concept of third-degree burns, but you get a manic-depressive who's forgotten to take his meds in a place like that, and you have a potential incident. (Oh, and we had a five-year-old at our table.) That's your $14 cheese right there.

Our food wasn't awful. We had the fabled-yet-real $14 cheese, and it was good with the apples and the celery and the other stuff they brought. What's not to like about a big bowl of hot, melty cheese? And then we got a salad, which was non-fondue and actually really good. And then they brought out a big pot of oil. They did have broth-based entree options, but then you're basically boiling your food, and that didn't appeal to me so much. We shared a seafood entree, so there was a plate of shrimp and scallops and mahi-mahi (all raw, mind you -- mark that down, insurance adjuster), and they brought out some raw vegetables. They also gave us a dish of tempura batter if we wanted to use it, which I did. So the essence of the place is, you sit there and skewer your stuff and put it in the oil for a few minutes, then put it on your place and eat it. I basically sat there and made veggie and shrimp tempura, which tasted good, but I couldn't help thinking that for half the price, I could get a big pile of real tempura made by someone who knows how to fry right. You're probably also paying for the experience, but I guess I'm not that interested. I cook at home. I don't want to cook at a restaurant.

We skipped dessert, since we were kind of full and were noticing that we were starting to smell like grease, but they did have a dozen or so chocolate-based fondues (and yes, they were all about $14). It sounded good, but I'll make it at home if I want it.

Maybe I'm just skeptical about the whole experience, and maybe I just have a bad attitude, but I don't know that we'll go back to a place like this. People seem to love it, though: they were packed last night, and of all the online reviews I skimmed through before going, I could only find one or two people who felt the way I thought I would feel and now do feel about it. Most of the reviews said it was the greatest place ever, it was totally worth the price, they had so much fun, the food was so good, and stuff like that. Call me old school, but when I go to a restaurant, I want the food brought to me already prepared, and unless it's sushi, I want it cooked.

After the restaurant, we hung out at our friends' place and relaxed in their super-jet hot tub for a little while, which made me feel less greasy and less fried-shrimp-smelly. There's an analogy here between dipping your food in bubbly stuff and dipping yourself in bubbly stuff. Go ahead and make it if you feel the need. I'm fondued out.

Thursday, January 19, 2006
The other day, we wanted soul food. It sounded good. Doesn't it sound good right now? Anyway, last night, we went to a place on the other side of town and got some. We wanted barbecue chicken, so we got half of one, and we got some wings too, because we like wings and you kind of only get one wing on half a chicken. And then we didn't think the chicken came with anything, so we got a side of greens, and a side of onion rings, and a side of mac and cheese just because it sounded good (for some reason, I really like the gooey, artificially-bright orange mac and cheese at chicken and rib places -- the ones that give you plastic utensils, anyway). And then we waited, and there was this little girl there on her rollerblades and no one was watching her and she was sitting with us for like ten minutes and it was weird. And then we got our food -- all of it. And as it turned out, the chicken was really big, and as it also turned out, both the half chicken and the wings came with fries (and white bread, but that doesn't count), and we were like, we totally over-ordered, and no way will we eat all this food. But then we started eating, and man it was good, and that place really had good grease -- the kind that makes the food taste good but somehow not taste greasy. And before we knew it, we had about half a dozen empty (except for the white bread, which doesn't count) styrofoam containers on our table, and we felt sort of guilty and a little embarrassed that we could eat that much greasy food, let alone that much food period. And I woke up this morning still feeling kind of full. I think we will wait a few months before doing that again.

Monday, January 16, 2006
Excerpt from a conversation the other day.

Voice on radio talking about corrupt CEO's and corrupt politicians.
Paul: We're in the hands of big business and government, and as my dad would say, they don't know shit from shinola.
Me: ...
Paul: ...
Me: What's shinola?
Paul: It's what they used to use to shine shoes.
Me: Oh.
Paul: Why? What did you think it was?
Me: I always thought it was the name of a place. Like a city or something.
Paul: Like Shinola, Missouri?
Me: No, more Asian and exotic. Like somewhere in Mongolia. Shinola, Mongolia.
Paul: ...
Me: What?
Paul: You're weird.

(Heh. Apparently it is shoe shine stuff.)

Thursday, January 12, 2006
At the beginning of the school year, I got a copy of the countywide academic calendar, and on that calendar, it clearly indicated that I would have this coming Monday off. And I got excited! Wouldn't you? Lots of people have Monday off, it being MLK day and all, and I was really looking forward to sleeping in a little bit, having a big window of time in which to work out, and doing some reading for the classes I'm taking, and cooking a really good dinner (which I frequently do on my days off). But then yesterday I got an email from my boss saying that the countywide academic calendar had been revised about six weeks ago, and oops, sorry no one informed you about the changes, and oh by the way, you have to work on Monday, even though since August you've thought you had the day off. Dammit! That's cold. Though today my coworker reminded me that they did the exact same thing last year. So for next year, when I get the countywide academic calendar in August and it indicates that I have MLK day off, I'm going to make travel plans for that day, so when they revise the calendar and forget to tell us until the very last minute that we have to work on a day that they had initially given us off, I can have the day off anyway.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006
Tonight, for the first time in like ten years, I went to an undergraduate college class in the role of student. It's a long story why I have to: basically, I need teacer certification to keep my job (or so it's been strongly suggested), and in order to get certified in the certification program I'll go through, I need an undergraduate minor, and they don't accept my second major as a "teachable" minor, whatever the hell that means (isn't everything teachable?), so I have to fulfill that requirement before I can get certified.

To be honest, I was kind of dreading going to class tonight. I figured I'd be the oldest one in the class, and I kind of feel like I'm at the point now where I can self-teach whatever I need to learn, and besides, class takes up several hours each week, reading and study time notwithstanding. And because I'm taking this class, I don't have time to teach the college class that I usually teach, which means less income and more outcome, since I lose a paycheck but pick up a fees-laden tuition bill and the insanely high cost of college press textbooks. But I have to do it (or it was strongly suggested that I do it), so I'm doing it.

And while it's annoying, it maybe wasn't as awful as I thought it might be. I'm not the oldest one in the class -- that honor belongs to the overeager gray-haired lady on the other side of the classroom -- but I am clearly the second-oldest. And it looks like a lot of class time will be spent watching old Japanese movies, which I've kind of been meaning to do anyway. And there are some novels that I have to read, and they look kind of interesting, and I've also been meaning to read more Japanese lit anyway. And the professor seems kind of cool and quirky, and he's all small and Japanese and stuff, and part of me is hoping that he'll throw us a sushi party on the last day of class (if that is ever going to happen to me in this lifetime, it will happen in this class). I guess this is making the best of a bad situation -- or a very annoying situation, anyway. And maybe, maybe, I'll get a free spicy tuna roll out of it. One can always hope.

Monday, January 9, 2006
I'm sorry, I'm feeling very uninspired today. Seriously. Ooh, but here's an interesting factoid: this is the second post in a row that I've started with the words "I'm sorry." Maybe I should spend some time thinking about why I'm apologizing so much. (And speaking of factoids, I really wish Pop-Up Video were still on the air.)

Saturday, January 7, 2006
I'm sorry. I know this isn't funny, but when I listen to the news and I hear that people in Turkey have the bird flu, I just have to giggle. Turkey! Bird flu! Umm, of course. Ha! I'm sorry. It's wrong and I shouldn't laugh at other people's misfortune and sickness, but technically, that's not what I'm laughing at -- I'm lauging at the linguistic humor. Or something. I'm sorry.

Thursday, January 5, 2006
Lately I've been having these weird middle-of-the-night mental creep-outs, and I'm not sure why. I think I've always had a fairly active/overactive imagination, but in the past few weeks, it's been sneaking up on me and kicking me when I'm down -- or to be more accurate, barely awake. I always wake up in the middle of the night (to pee, because my bladder is the size of a tangerine), but now it's with this very uncomfortable sensation of dread and paranoia, accompanied by audio that is probably all in my head. Here's how it works: the other night, for example, I woke up at around 4am and thought I heard a door slam and a woman scream. And last night, I woke up and thought I heard an old-fashioned fire bell ringing. And one night I woke up and thought I heard Morse code dots and dashes being punched out in monotone. (I don't know what it said because I don't know Morse code, but I wonder if it was something significant, and wouldn't it be cool and terrifying if it was relevant?) And so on. And then I'm awake and squinting to look at the clock. Then I just lie there. I spend a few minutes wondering if I did in fact hear the things that I think I heard, or if they're audible dream remnants, and I can never decide. And then I wonder if I'm starting to hear things, or if something in my head is misfiring, and for some reason, this really gives me the creeps, or, to use a David Foster Wallace expression, the howling fantods. And then I realize that since I'm awake, I have to get out of bed and trip down the hall to use the bathroom, and I start getting this weird sense of being watched, like the phone's going to ringringring any minute and the voice on the other end is going to ask me if I've checked the children. And it becomes this huge mental block to get out of bed and relieve myself, instead of rolling over and going back to sleep, which is what I really want to do. Eventually, I quickly go pee and then slide back in to bed, and more often than not, I'm asleep again within 30 seconds.

I'm not sure what's going on, but I have spent some time thinking about it, and I chalk it up to the following: overtiredness, overactive imagination, darkness (which I've actually never been comfortable with), and maybe even too much sugar, since these late-night paranoia fests started, I think, around the beginning of December, which is when holiday cookie and candy season started around here. Anyway, it's been strange and a little unnerving, but I am now really trying to get enough sleep and to keep my sugar intake at a reasonable level. Hopefully I will be able to get up in the middle of the night and pee without incident very very soon.

Tuesday, January 3, 2006
Cross your fingers and wish us luck as we try to catch at least one of the sneaky fat raccoons hiding out under our deck. Paul set a trap last night with all kinds of rotting food from our fridge, and one of them smelled the bait and bounced up to the trap, but then it went to the back of it, reached through the grate, and just grabbed the food with its grubby little paw-hand-thing. Dammit! Tonight the trap is reset with marshmallows glued down with peanut butter. There had better be a pissed off raccoon in that trap come morning.

And just so you know: it's a trap and release kind of deal. We plan on driving the raccoon(s) to a nice, non-residential area where it/they can be free and not do any damage to homes. We won't kill any.

Monday, January 2, 2006
Woo, 2006. Did you have a fun new year's celebration? We had a very mellow one: dinner at home, then booze and snacks with some friends. Though I must say, dinner was extremely fantastic. I got myself a big paper-wrapped (and sort of soppy) bundle of king crab legs, and boy were they good! And really, how often do you eat crab legs like that? Not very often, I'd say. Paul opted for a regular piece of fish, insisting he doesn't really dig the crustaceans, but then as I was cracking away and he was working a fork, he asked for a taste and agreed that it was very good.

Another thought hit me yesterday: it's been ten years since I graduated from college. And then I started wondering if I am where I thought I'd be all those years ago. And then I started worrying, because it's not like I'm hugely successful, or making all kinds of money, or anything like that. But then I relaxed because really, I had no fucking clue what I was going to do a week after graduation, let alone ten years after graduation. So I feel better about it.

And then I started wondering about new year's resolutions, and how I usually don't make any, but maybe I should, just for a goof. But then I was at the gym earlier, and just like the first few days of any new year, the employees were giving tours of the facility to people wanting to sign up and shape up, and I thought, these people won't be here past February, and that they really give new year's resolutions a bad name, and that maybe I'm okay not having any resolutions, because no one seems to keep them anyway.

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