Wednesday, January 30, 2008

ric ocasek unavailable for comment

Well, the poll results are in. Survey Says: it's time to put the Beige Wonder down.

DANG IT!!!!!

I get emotionally attached to things like... cars.
Shoot, I got emotional when my parents re-did the kitchen and changed the linoleum. LINOLEUM, for crying out loud. So imagine how much of a basket case I was when my first car got totaled:

I was driving home from babysitting one night when a car coming the other direction lost control and hit FOUR other cars (including mine). Nobody was really hurt, fortunately. The tow truck pulled my battered, crippled little car back home that night. I watched with a heavy heart as the empty shell of a car was laid back on the street, devoid of life. It was like the body of the slain Achilles being brought back to Greece from the Trojan battlefield upon which the cowardly Paris shot the fated arrow. O hubris.

And now it's time to part with my car. Again.

I've heard it said that you can tell a lot about a guy, or at least how he'll treat a girl, based on his relationship with his car. I have no idea if that's true or not, but I wonder if the same is true for girls. If not with their cars, then is there an analog? What does this experience tell you about me-- that I get attached? That I'm loyal? That I'm too cheap to invest heavily in something that could be fixed but will likely break down further at a later time, but would instead decide to move on to greener pastures?

Well, anyway... I'm not thrilled. This is going to be expensive. However, I should be grateful that I CAN actually pay for a car. And as a result, I'll have a nice, shiny new car to drive. Not that I needed one, thanks, I already had a car. Whoa, not so fast there, Andrea. It's time for you to learn the magic of car payments.

So now I get to wrangle with car dealerships. And salespeople. LOW CREDIT? NO CREDIT? NOOO PROBLEM! PUSH, PULL, OR DRAG 'EM IN! 0.9% APR FINANCING! ONLY 88 DOLLARS DOWN! 88 DOLLARS A MONTH! WE WORK FOR YOUUUU!


Tuesday, January 29, 2008

when it rains, it pours.

Right. So... speaking of Consumer Reports and buying cars...

The Beige Wonder and I go way back (five years) as car and driver. She's been my only experience with driving a stickshift, and I love 'er. I'd drive that car to the ends of the earth. Or, at least, that's what I told Tiffany last night while she drove me back home from the mechanic's place where I dropped off my car.

The BW has been a bit sickly lately. She'd been driving rough since I brought her here from the great state of Ohio, but as of late she had started to develop some unsettling tics and noises. Oh, and then the hood cable broke. So I can't open the hood anymore. That's pretty much when I said "when" and brought her in to get some attention.

Long story short, I seem to have two enticing options in front of me:
1.) Pay nearly twice what the BW is worth and get her fixed.
2.) Get another... um... you know. (I don't want to say it.)

And it's just SO helpful that my family is far away.

Monday, January 28, 2008

A Consumer Reports Best Buy

As I sat with friends the other day, I was particularly bummed about a few things, and I casually let it slip that "I think my life sucks, and I'm continually frustrated and disappointed." My friends sat, frozen, like deer in headlights until one finally said, "Wow, it's um... really brave of you to say that."

ehn. I guess so.

Don't misunderstand me-- the last thing I'm after is an online therapy session. All I needed was a good talk with my Mom, and BAM! everything's bright and sunny again. No, my life doesn't suck, etc. etc.

But I've come to the opinion that I don't really want to hide my life from the people who are in it.

Take Consumer Reports. An excellent and invaluable resource for the bigger purchases in life. If I'm going to invest in a car or major appliance, I'd like to be warned about its liabilities.

Thus, when people are making the effort to try and get to know me, well... sometimes I think they ought to get the Consumer Reports version of what my deal in life is. "HAY GUYZ, come on in. Welcome to Life With Andrea, and here be my problems."

Because, really, any grownup worth their salt is well aware that everyone comes with problems. It's just learning what ours and other people's are, and whether they can be helped or tolerated. I'm a firm believer in being honest with yourself, and with other people.

Life is too short for horse excrement.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

You! Out of the nest!

Continuing in my everlong quest for growth and maturity, I now am being greeted with the adult delights of Complicated Income Tax Returns served with healthy side portions of Car Repairs and Professional Dues, to be finished off with a refreshing dish of Dude I Need A Good Haircut And Maybe I Should Visit The Dentist Sometime.

The people I sit with at lunch are almost all young married couples. Our topics of conversation, while often humorous and enjoyable, frequently return to the abundant issues of being a homeowner.
We're redoing the bathroom.
Window treatments. How 'bout 'em.
We had to replace the flooring in this one room.
We need a new dryer.
Can you believe these property taxes?
Mortgage blah blah blah.

Of course, there isn't anything bad about what they're talking about at all. That's just life. That's just what happens when you get married and buy a house. You think about it. It's your home, your castle, your project. I guess if I had invested in a house, I'd be thinking about it a lot, too.

But man. I eat off of a card table, and I'm happy. I don't want a kitchen table; I want a weekend trip to New York City.

Thing is, I'm willing to bet the others felt this way when they were in my position in life. I'm sure there was a time where they said to themselves, "screw the lawn. let's take a bartending class." And then something happened. Maturity? Reality? Inevitability? I don't know. Obviously I don't know, because it hasn't happened to me. Yet.

What IS that thing that happens? Is it a good thing or a bad thing-- or neither? Can it be escaped? SHOULD it be escaped? Is the alternative being a sad sack of a fortysomething who spends Sunday morning alone with a crossword puzzle and a martini in her cat-riddled Manhattan apartment?

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

A good weekend

I had the most amazing weekend. In the space of four days, I think I perfected the balance between time spent doing the following:
a.) self-edification (sleeping, eating, thinking, reading, church)
b.) being with friends
c.) being productive/housekeeping and life maintenance
d.) being alone and goofing off

I wouldn't call the balance equal between the four directions, by any means. Also, I'm sure my productvity was not even remotely optimized; however, productivity was not (and often IS not) my rubric of choice. I got done the things I needed to do, which were few, and spent the rest of my time off in delight of the fantastic time period that is my twenties.

Last night I capped off the Weekend-O-Fun by going to see Atonement with friends. It was a good movie. However, I think most notable was the couple sitting directly behind Sarah and me who had, in their posession, The Never-Ending Bag Of Popcorn. And they munched on it, with mouths open, for the first two thirds of the movie.
*khahnmch chawmch ghawmnch* the woman chomped.
*nhawmf chrahnch ghrawnchf* the man scarfed.
Sometimes they'd each down a handful at the same time. Then we got Couple Munching Popcorn In Our Ears, IN STEREO.

*khahnmch chawmch ghawmnch* [me/Sarah] *nhawmf chrahnch ghrawnchmf*

Maybe the effect was heightened because the theater was not very crowded. Maybe the rows were closer together than most other theaters. Either way, it was like having one of your brothers deliberately eating something crunchy in your ear. It's funny/annoying enough for a few minutes, but it just kept GOING. The crunching. THE CRUNCHING! *nhawmf chrahnch ghrawnchmf* And the bag of popcorn had no end.

So that was Atonement for me. A good war-time flick, punctuated by endless popcorn being eaten in my ear.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

They put a Starbucks in there for people like ME.

When I'm feeling down, there's a little place I like to visit called Target.

So that's where I was last night. I picked myself up by the proverbial bootstraps and went where the fluorescent lights are shining bright. Target.
Where the dollar-spot tchotchkes glow with an enticing aura, like bright shiny pieces of candy.
Where I can pick up a $7.00 DVD of Pretty In Pink.
Where I can wander around for an hour with all the delicious comforts of anonymity.
Where I don't have to think about what's going on or what's going to happen.
Where I can drop a $0.75 heart-shaped ramekin (I was turning the box over to see if there were intructions on what-in-the-name-of-all-that-is-sacred is a ramekin, and what you do with it) ... and walk away with impunity.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

retinal damage

I'll admit it-- I've been sitting here for a long time, really determined to write something. It's not like I don't have anything substantial to think about, but nothing in my brain is able to get past the "Is this appropriate? Is this interesting?" filter and onto the weblog.

When I search my mind for something to write about, I always get dragged into some existential quicksand trap in my head. I start to throw myself odd questions about what life really means, and do any of my mental journeys have a point? (which they usually don't.)

And I wonder how long I've been staring at this computer screen, reading news articles and blogs and webcomics and Facebook profiles. My head hurts. I'm chipping away at my years left of good eyesight with every hour I spend frying my retinas with the screen. I'm gonna go home and find red, bloodshot spots in my eyes.

We all just want to be understood.

Monday, January 14, 2008

my bedding smells of pine

I feel like a hamster in a cheap plastic cage, running my little legs off on one of those spinny-wheel things. You plug away and plug away at life on your little wheel, and at the end you've made no progress. Your purpose is the entertainment of the young of higher orders of life. They take you out of your cage and squeeze the living daylights out of you. If you're really lucky, they'll put you in a plastic ball and laugh their heads off as you roll yourself down the basement stairs.


And try as you might, you can't escape. And even if you did, what would you do with yourself? You'd get sucked up by the vacuum cleaner, that's what.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

We'd call this "confirmatory testing"

I think there are some real gems in this article: The Nerd Handbook.

I love that the overall tone of the article could be paraphrased as "understanding the nerd in your life."

By the most stringent definitions, I guess I'm not really as big of a nerd as I thought I was. While I have my computer exactly the way I want it, I have no idea how it works (nor do I want one). I've never given any thought to monospace typeface, I don't play any über-nerd games (World of Warcraft, et al.), and Rubik's Cubes make me cry. Furthermore, I actually kind of like fresh air, 95% of my friendships were formed by traditional in-person contact, and I dress pretty cool. sorta.

BUT-- with those obvious outliers out of the way, this article confirms that I do indeed operate like a nerd. The writer of this blog, if you'll excuse the cliché, totally read my mail.

I actually laughed out loud when I read the part titled "Your nerd has built an annoyingly efficient relevancy engine in his head." I'm afraid I could be the poster child for that one.

Even more so: THE CAVE. I have a cave. I've always had a cave. If you have any desire to understand me (or, well, I guess there might be other people you'd want to understand), then click on the link to his blog about THE CAVE. Holy Toledo, Batman-- that's me. That's why I hate being interrupted (mega apologies to my poor Mom and former roommate Emily, who have been on the receiving end of The Snap more times than they'd care to remember).

It's all so clear now. There it is, all laid out in front of me. My faults, my inner workings, displayed in public (at my encouragement, even) like a juicy exposé. There it is, folks. I'm a nerd. Let the doubt be removed.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008


Abandoned buildings, to me, are like dead bodies. They are neglected, broken outer shells that once housed life and a sense of possibilities. They're a visual reminder that something used to be there, and that there once was a point in time where a lot of people invested their ideas and labor into that shell-- in the hopes that it could be the physical base of something alive and working and a part of a community.

One thing I like about Richmond is its age. Even though I never cared much about history, I like that I'm in a place where things have been happening for a long time (relatively speaking). The effect isn't as strong as that of, say, Prague... but when I'm in an older city, I feel a little bit more like I'm part of a long chain of humanity, instead of just an inhabitant of a sterile, new, mass-manufactured McCondominium in a newer city.

It's good that buildings can get restored. Because, although the tenants of a building are usually transient, a sense of continuing life and culture can stay in a city's buildings almost indefinitely, as long as there are people around to inhabit the city. When I see an empty, run-down storefront, I feel like more has happened than just a business failure-- I feel like something died.

It would be interesting if we had the capability to approach human life in a similar fashion. If we could keep a life continuing forever. Now, obviously, we can't do that, and we're likely not meant to. But if the human spirit were embedded in some physical organ that we could transplant (the brain?)... what if we could just restore bodies the way we can restore buildings? I guess we have surgeries and transplants that prolong life, but eventually, even the brain would wear out and fail. Similarly, most really old buildings end up being condemned or destroyed somehow, don't they?

All we are is dust in the wind.

No, not really. :)

Monday, January 7, 2008

have mercy

When I came back to Richmond last week, I almost didn't make my flight. I should have arrived at the airport two hours before my flight, like they tell you to, but I didn't. I came one hour before takeoff, and had to stand in an unbelievably long line that queued around half the airport.

I shouldn't have gotten to have my bags checked. Skybus has a cutoff time for checking bags before the flight, and it's 30 minutes before takeoff. The people who were being helped at the station next to me were denied checking their bags because of that. But the girl helping me checked my bags anyway and told me she couldn't guarantee I'd make the flight, but run for it anyway.

I shouldn't have made the flight. They had already made the final boarding call and closed the gate. But they let me through anyway, and I was the last person on the plane before it took off.

As I sat in my seat, I felt so relieved and grateful for the people who'd had mercy on me. I can almost promise you that any other time, I would have been one of the passengers who'd come to the airport on time and sit in their seat thinking, "really, is it that hard to make your flight? they tell you to come to the airport two hours early for a reason. the rest of us managed to make it here-- what's wrong with you?"

That's me. By nature, I'm not a merciful person. I'm a person who likes to get things right the first time, every time, and who usually extends limited patience for all those others who can't seem to get it together. I'm the one saying, "Really, is it that hard to ... [insert menial task here]?"

And that is not okay.

I have to be reminded on a regular basis that there are some very simple things that I'm just way behind the curve on. "Really, Andrea, is it that hard to get to the airport at the appropriate time? Is it that hard to call or write your friends back? Is it that hard to make nice comments instead of snarky ones? Is it that hard to make people feel like they matter to you?"

And the answer is yes, yes it IS hard for me. I should have a bright pink Post-It note on my forehead that says "For the love of God, have patience with me. I don't mean to be like this all the time, and I swear I'll get better one day."

If only I were better at treating other people like they have those kinds of Post-Its. This is how it should go:

Andrea: "hey fool, is it really that hard to use your turn signal?"

Person: "yes, yes, it actually is kind of hard. i'm scared to death of driving on the freeway. for the love of God, have patience with me. i don't want to be like this, and i swear i'll get better one day."

Andrea: "yeah, okay, you're right. i'm sorry."

Thursday, January 3, 2008

caucus and effect

Today at work, I learned how the Democratic caucus works in Iowa.

In our cafeteria, we have a big TV that plays CNN all day. We at our table had just had a big discussion where one of the scientists explained how the caucus works, when an anchor on CNN demonstrated the jist with a chess board and chess pieces.

They put everyone together in a big room, and have all the people voting for Candidate X stand in one area, Candidate Y in another area, Candidate Z in another area, and so forth for the rest of the eligible candidates in the party. If the people voting for, say, Candiate Z don't add up to meet a certain threshold of the total vote (I believe it's 15%), then the people who stood in Candidate Z's little corner are forced to choose another candidate to side with, and then go stand with them. This process is continued until the only candidate parties remaining are those who were able to garner 15% of the vote or more.

Maybe you knew all this. I did not.

I don't know what class I supposedly learned that in. Eighth grade Social Studies? Eleventh grade American History? Twelfth grade Government? It was probably the last one, but I pretty much did crossword puzzles all through that class (No offense, Mr. Wiard. Your class was the easiest A I ever got, and I loved you for it. A sweet oasis, if you will, in an otherwise stressful and harrowing desert of a senior year).

Another thing -- we did this in elementary school. And by "this," I mean caucusing.

I have a distinct memory of some silly activity we did once in elementary school. They put my whole grade together in the gymnasium, and they had us form big clots of blue-collar larvae by separating us based on the most innocuous things... like what kind of toothpaste we used. "All the Crest kids over here, Colgate kids over there, and you Aquafresh kids, you can just cling together way over there."

Really, that's what they did. They made us separate ourselves, even. The moderator would yell something like "FAVORITE BREAKFAST CEREAL!" and we would have to shout out our answer and wander around the gymnasium until we found the other kids who were yelling out our answer. "Cocoa Pebbles!" "Lucky Charms!" And I believe that for one of those activities, they picked off the smaller groups of obscure choices (Grape Nuts?) and made them conglomerate with the larger groups.

Why didn't they say something then? "Hey kids, this is actually how we pick who gets to run for President of The United States."

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

little miss cheapie-pants

I guess I'm going to have to break down and connect the internets to my computer at home. I'd been trying to see how long I could go without having it connected, and just getting by on using the internet at work, checking email on my cell phone, and the odd YouTube video watched on my roommate's laptop. Because I'm just that cheap.

The difference now is that I have a shiny new iPod ... that I can't use. Because it requires me to have the latest version of iTunes ... and my sorry little iTunes v6.4 or whatever isn't going to make the cut. So, I can't even load my old music on it, much less buy anything new. I guess we all have to loosen up the ol' purse strings at some point.

I've been playing with my new digital sketchpad. I think it's going to take a bit more time and practice before I'll draw much worth posting online. What I've made so far really resembles the sketching style I had back in early high school, so maybe I can get used to the mechanics enough to be able to match the kind of drawings I make on paper these days.

It's hard to coordinate seeing the image on the screen alone when you're used to being able to see exactly what's going on at the end of the pen. I've always had this bad habit of really leaning up close to the paper when I'm drawing (enough so that my parents used to worry that I needed glasses-- I didn't), and I guess that'd be a pretty fruitless endeavor now. Stupid ergonomics.