Archive for April, 2009

My Murtaugh List

A recent episode of How I Met Your Mother explored the idea of what they called “The Murtaugh List,” or rather, a list of things you are officially too old to do (named in honor of Det. Murtaugh in the Leathal Weapon movies).

As Americans are wont to do, I often jokingly bemoan my own aging process.  I am the youngest in my family and have always had (at least) an extra 4 smug years of youth on my siblings to my advantage, but I have recently begun to discover that those 4 years don’t provide a Carte-Blanche-fountain-of-youth. Tonight I have discovered what must be my first pathetic submission to my own Murtaugh List: Climbing 15 ft. fences.

Now, when I was growing up, you could not get me away from heights – trees, stairs, roofs, walls, fences. You name it, I probably climbed it. Looking back as a semi-adult, I cringe for how much I must have terrified my mom.  We had a tree house in the back yard, and a perfect maple tree in front, and I climbed as far up both those as humanly possible.  I have vivid memories of camping and scoping out the highest trees to climb with my cousin. Add onto this all that I was also a gymnast for many years, which led to much swinging and acrobatic activity from 40+ft up.

Apparently I have officially reached the age where I am afraid of falling.  Naivety no longer loans me his cloak of ignorance.

I am aware that I am no longer as flexible, agile, fast, or as overall strong as I was when I was 12.  That’s fine.  If you are, it probably means that it is in some way, shape, or form your job to stay that way.  I’m fine with it though, I’ve matured and grown in other ways.

At the same time, sometimes the patheticness of my own age-based-limitations makes me angry.

Tonight I was annoying the neighborhood by hitting a volleyball against the wall of the school across the street from me.  There’s a large parking lot, so I figured I’d be safe, avoid cars, and not make too much trouble.  Fast forward to 30 minutes later when all of the sudden after a funny bounce off the wall, I pop the ball too far up, and my beautiful, [somewhat] new volleyball floats up… up… and up…

… onto the roof of the first floor landing.

After a few not-so-muttered curses, I realize there are 2 fire escapes which could possibly lead me up onto the roof, but one is closed in by 15 ft metal walls (?), and the other is surrounded by a 15 ft metal fence.  I’d have to somehow scale one of these two walls and then climb onto the fire escape to even have a chance at getting onto the roof.  Realizing I have no chance with the metal wall unless I somehow obtain a large trampoline and a lot of glue, I take my chances with the fence.

And fail.  Multiple times.

In my slight defense, it’s not a traditional chain link fence.  The diamonds of the metal links are much more oblong and are not malleable to the width of your shoe’s toe, and therefore properly wedging yourself in there isn’t as easy.

Sort of like this... only taller

Sort of like this... only taller

(I did recently climbed a fence from 15 ft above the ground to get onto a dam, but that really only involved sideways movement and hanging over a long fall to rocks. There was little upwards motion involved, and a metal bar at the bottom on which to place your feet.)

On the other hand, my upper body strength is apparently non-existent, and therefore I realize I could wax excuses until the cows come home, but they would be merely a conduit to a silver lining/ego-mollify-er.

By my fifth attempt, I had actually learned a bit: I found a traffic horse and dragged it over so I had a good 4 ft platform off the ground before I had to tackle the fence.  I actually made it so that I was able to grab the top bar of the fence with my right arm, and could have hoisted myself up and onto the fire escape.

But damn that stupid age thing.

All I could see were visions of myself hoisting over the fence, onto the fire escape… and then awkwardly finding myself stuck.  Or trying to get down and falling and hitting my head on the asphalt. Or having the cops called on my ass because some neighbor thought I was breaking into the school. Because you know that shit would happen, and then I’d be on the next episode of America’s Dumbest People.

And thus, with much sadness in my creaky heart, climbing 15 ft. fences became the first on my very own Murtaugh List.

Sigh. I’m gettin’ too old for this shit.

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A bit of hypocrisy to commemorate Earth Day

As previously stated, I have the pridenaypleasure of working for an environmental consulting firm.

Without getting into the dull details of what working at an “environmental consulting firm” actually entails, I’ll just clarify and say it means we do a lot of work with making sure people meet the lowest standards of environmental cleanliness.  None of this “activism” shit.

Anywho, despite this, the company is quite proud of its environmental stewardship, and actually does an increasingly proficient job of attempting to be “environmentally-yay”.  We collect rain water to reuse, compost food scraps, recycle up to 80% of all waste, and recently had 40 solar panels installed on the roof.  Overall, we do a fairly good job at the whole Earth-conscious thing for a mid-sized company.

Despite this, there still remains a few glaringly environmentally hypocritical aspects about our business, i.e. that our president prints out every. single. email. he receives (granted, on scrap paper, and sometimes 2 to a page).  Mind you, we email him all of his phone messages and Microsoft Inbox automatically saves your emails – inbox, sent, deleted – and you can search within your folders.

However, my favorite Walk-the-Walk: Fail occurs in the kitchen.  Again, as previously stated in past entries, I’m lucky enough to work at a company where lunch is provided several times a week.  The aspect that bugs me about this, though, is that despite the fact that we have about 30 plates sitting in our cabinets, nearly every. single. person. uses PAPER PLATES.

YAY Environmental Fail

YAY Environmental Fail

Recently, I made a comment to a coworker about how this bothered me (Okay,  fine, the comment was, “NO! Use a real plate, dammit!”), and she told me that her reasoning for using a paper plate is that she doesn’t have a dishwasher at home, and has to do dishes at night and would prefer to just throw out her lunch plate since she can.

The president of the company told me he rinses off his paper plate and then recycles it, because it takes less time to wash than a regular dish and then has the benefit of being recycled.

Now, granted, we don’t have a dishwasher.  I know it is far more efficient to wash dishes in a machine than by hand.  But, honestly?  Isn’t NOT using an object in the first time better than recycling it?  And, yes, I understand the idea of washing takes energy, but before you start chucking out every plate you own, imagine the energy which goes into collecting, transporting, recycling, drenching, cleaning, and bleaching the product before it’s turned into something else.  Then you have to turn it into pulp, and remake it into another product… before collecting and transporting it yet again.

I understand recycling is good… as an alternative to throwing things out.  But generally, if you have the choice to not necessitate us taking even more from the earth?

Um. My way of not using shit in the first place wins.

So, in observance of Earth Day, let’s stand back and take a moment to breathe in the glory of Environmental Stewardship Hypocrisy 101.

YAAAAAAAY EARTH?

YAAAAAAAY EARTH?

And I shall now step down off my self-righteous platform of sanctimonious indignation.

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How to become a sexual predator without even trying

There’s a simple solution if you’re interested in how to become a sexual predator without even trying:  Move to Juneau, Alaska.

Everyone in Juneau, as a general rule, tends to look approximately 7-15 years younger than they actually are.  Attribute the phenomenon to youthful living or lack of sun damage if you want, but it’s a frightening – and well acknowledged – occurrence.

5 years old... or 25?

5 years old... or 20?

Case in point: my first night in Juneau last year, my roommates and I played a board game with an older couple and their 14-year old son who was a freshman in high school.  A friend of the family came over to play, and we assumed he was a friend of the son’s from school.

Later in the evening we discovered the friend had actually just graduated. From college.

Carrying on.  This past weekend I was at the Folk Festival in Juneau, listening to the most horrific version of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” I’ve ever heard. We’re talking physically painful here. In order to avoid stabbing myself in the ear, I was desperately searching around the room for distractions when I happen to notice that this guy standing next to me is actually fairly attractive.  Now, I’m not a particularly girl-y person. This generally isn’t something I stop to take note of, but at Folk Fest 93.8% of all males tend to look more or less like they just left their Vermont commune and traveled across the continent via hitchhike, rickshaw, and mule.

Noting this, I take another quick glance… and I realize that the guy looks 17. Naturally, I immediately censor my thoughts and internally note, “Okay, that’s icky and wrong.”

But 2 minutes later I remember previously told stories about how everyone in Juneau looks 12 when they’re actually 38. So I decide it’s okay.

But then I realize that he might ACTUALLY be 17.

BUT I CAN’T TELL.

So I awkwardly try to stare/not stare and decide whether or not it’s FUCKING ILLEGAL FOR ME TO BE OGLING HIM.

And he totally catches me staring at him. ‘Cuz… uh, you know… Hi. I am standing right damn next to him. Subtle.

But he’s sort of checking me out too a tiny bit, and just as my itty bitty ego is getting a boost, I come to the disturbing realization that I ALSO LOOK 17.

Eventually, after a few more awkward minutes of staring while simultaneously doing age math, I just walk out, and never figure out his real age, due to the fact that in addition to the age-math-confusion, I tend to have absolutely no guts when [soberly] talking to those of a male persuasion.

But now, with this all dissolving unconcluded, I feel a little bit icky for pseudo-lusting-after this guy who could potentially be 17 goddamn years old. Or he could be 26. BUT HOW THE HELL DO YOU FIGURE IT OUT IN JUNEAU?!?!?

Damn you, Juneau. I’m going to end up arrested one day for involuntary statutory rape and it’ll be all your fault.

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Grad Schools, why must you be oh-so-difficult?

I have come to a place in my life where I believe I can comfortably claim the following statement:

I hate every single part of the grad school process.

A little less than a year ago, I started thinking seriously about where I wanted to go with my professional life, and in doing so, seriously contemplating grad school.  During my senior year of college, while talking to an advisor/mentor-type person I look up to, he suggested that I look into getting my Masters in Public Health.  At the time, I was burned out of school and bullshit work, and wanted at least a year off.  Now, a few years later and modestly wiser, I tentatively looked out there into the world of unlimited knowledge, and much to my surprise, there are specific programs that have arisen in the past decade or so which focus on precisely the area of Public Health I am interested in.

Fast forward many months and stupid standardized tests later, and I found myself in the midst of 4 applications to schools that each had a program in Global/Intl Health that appealed highly to me.  Based upon my work experience, GRE scores, undergrad transcripts, and personal statement, I felt that I should have no problem getting into 3, but one was a very exclusive program in a very exclusive department in a very exclusive Ivy League school, and to be honest I thought it was a long shot since I didn’t precisely have the full 2 years of international work experience they wanted.

Fast forward again, and color me befuddled when I actually found myself being accepted to all four schools – including the exclusive Ivy League program!

In my mind, once the admissions letter came, I mentally was set on going there.  Great program, great school, great reputation, great city.  I mean… everything I’ve been reading in the past several months a bout PH research seemed to have been mocking me by mentioning this particular Public Health school.  I decided to coincide my visit to this school with my other top choice, just as a back-up, since they are in cities relatively near each other.

I show up to the tour at the Ivy League school to find myself disappointed with our tour guide.  She’s fairly quiet and not extremely forthcoming about the school’s benefits.  Since no on else is asking questions, I took it upon myself to be THAT obnoxious asshat who dominates the tour, but just kept finding myself more and more disenheartened with her.  What I took away from the tour was this: Unlike most people, who are dying to get into a school like this, she seems to have chosen this school on a whim, because she’d always lived in the city.  Additionally, the professors are very helpful… as long as you email them 4 or 5 times.  And the library is tiny, and she often shleps all of her stuff 60 blocks away to the undergrad library.  And the facilities are all fairly outdated, but she doesn’t really care because she doesn’t live on campus, and isn’t part of any after-class activities. But she thinks they’re great. From what she hears.

Okay, I know better than to just take one student’s opinion on this, so despite my initial distaste for this school, I decide to go visit the department to which I’ve been accepted, since it’s those students and that department I’ll be dealing with the most, so those will be the most helpful people to talk with, right? Apparently not.  The woman I met with only had 5 mintues to speak with me (understandable, she’s busy), and despite me asking some specific questions about the program and the practicum, what she gave me was basically the course outline which was online. Which I told her I’d already seen.

Oh well… financial aid department?  Nope. The guy basically looked at me like I had 7 heads when I asked him about my options and what he thought of housing and loans and whatnot.  Seriously?  Guy?  It’s your job to answer these questions.  Just f.y.i.

Okay, here’s the thing. I know you’re an Ivy League.  You’re great. So great in fact that nature is so much in awe of you that the clouds actually rain diamonds on you.

But that doesn’t mean you get to treat your prospective students like turtle crap that has inconvenienced your day.  Honestly, I think every person I came in contact with, be it the tour guide, the receptionists of the admissions desk, the department receptionist and admissions officiers, and Mr. Financial Aid, acted like I was a majorly INCONVENIENT addition to your day.  Which, saying this, I understand you’re busy, but at the same point, you all work within the admissions sector.  Basic customer service, people.

Contrast this with a day and a city later, I force myself to visit the second school, and am greeted with a completely opposite reception.  This school is ranked approximately 7 below the Ivy League, and misses the “Top Ten” rating.

Without an appointment, I show up to the admissions office, apologize for the inconvenience, and ask for a map.  Instead, the -extremely friendly- admissions officer recognizes my name from emailing, and sets me up with a 30 minute session and one-on-one tour with a recent grad from my program, where I will then be brought over to meet with one of the heads of the International Health Department for a meeting, and apologizes she couldn’t do more.

My tour guide is extremely helpful, telling me about the ups and downs of the program and school, introducing me to other students in the student activities center, and telling me about her own experience with professors and job seeking.  I was surpised to learn that my guide actually was also accepted to the same Ivy League school, but decided to decline and attend here because she’d had a terrible visit with them as well, and liked this other program’s flexibility in the end.

After our tour, I met with the IH Department chair and she went over the wealth of classes offered, summer programs, exclusive internships available overseas, specific research of professors, student life, housing, etc.  Hell, she even showed me how to use one of the student-resource portals available on their website.

Now, after all of this, I feel like my choice should be obvious.  I should go to the school who treated me with dignity, who provided me with spontaneous courtesy, whose students were honest, friendly, and [at least somewhat] truthful.

But I can’t get out of the back of my head those stupid stupid benefits of the other school.  Grad school is going to cost me, either way.  I’m going to be in massive debt either way (in fact School #2 might cost a couple grand more)… so part of me wonders whether or not its worth it to go to a school that has a better reputation, ranking, and more job opportunities in the city its in, or if I should throw all of that to hell and go to a school where I might not have access to the wealth of opportunities and regalia which comes from being associated with a) Ivy League School, and b) one of the most ground-breaking Public Health schools in general.

I have three days to decide.

I hate this.

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Oh, the IL-05 happened.

And under ‘political topics no one cares about’ is the conclusion of the IL-05 election.

I know, I know.  It was unofficially over with the primary last month, since a democrat is nearly always going to win in the IL-05.  But even still, the story of a) the fact that there WAS an election, b) who the winner was, and c) the implications or potential implications, have been covered a pathetic amount in the past two or three days, even in Chicago.

That all being said, when I went to vote at 9:20am, I was the 9th person to vote in my polling location.  Four hours later, my mom was the 16th.  The voting officials more or less begged me to send my dad (whom us sisters three had cajoled into voting in the primary) again. Poor bored voting officials.

On the other hand, I suppose there are more pressing political matters to deal with.  (Hey Minnesota, how things goin’ up there? Blago? How’s the irony of being indicted while in the Happiest Place on Earth?) Oh, plus other little things, like TWO STATES legalizing same-sex marriages in ONE DAMN WEEK.

You know, little things.

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Dear contract employee. Don’t be a rude asshat. Thanks.

Setting: Sunny office day.  Birds are chirping, computers are typing.
Cast:
Me – Diligent, cordial office employee
Caller, ie Richard Nixon – Contract employee who lives on a farm in the middle of nowhere, but who calls approximately 3 times a day and refers to himself in the third person. Always.

Ring ring!
Me: Good afternooon, how may I help you?
Caller (ie, Richard Nixon): Hi. Yeah. Um, that guy, your Vice President, is trying to fax something to Richard Nixon, and it is NOT coming through. It is 32 pages and ONLY the first 2 pages came through!
Me: Ooookaaaayyy. Would you like to speak with our Vice President then?
Caller (ie, Richard Nixon): Well, er, er, er, I mean, I GUESS, I mean, it’s just NOT coming through.
Me: [Brief-to-long pause] Okay. I’m sorry, I’m not near the fax machine.
Caller (ie, Richard Nixon): Well, maybe YOU’RE the reason it’s not coming through!!
Me: [Loooooong pause, wherein I contemplate whether or not he’s joking, decide he’s not, and then ponder an unoffensive response while simultaneously staring with mouth agape] But… sir, I’m NOT near the fax machine?
Caller (ie, Richard Nixon): Oh, you’re NOT? Well, FINE. Sigh. Yeah, I GUESS I’ll talk to that guy, the Vice President, then.
Me: [Resists hanging up on his rude ass, and transfers to the Vice President]

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How to save money during a recession

I think I’ve come up with a brilliant way to save money during this fiscal recession that seems to be going around:  I’ve stopped buying food.

I counted back the other day and figured out that I haven’t bought food for over a month.

Now, mind you, I currently have a(n albeit lowpaying) job, and I am doing my best to spend money without blowing my own finances completely. I’ve booked travel vacations, bought books, and even purchased a couple of CDs for the first time in years. After a year of living off $80/month, I’m spending money like it’s going out of business!!

Yet… I still need to pay rent.

So my solution?  I’ve stopped buying food.  My [ir]rationale is that during financial times like this, everyone is basically spending all of their money on food, so I’ll use my meager earnings to pimp up the rest of the industries.

So how do I manage this altruistic feat?

Well… alright, fine, it’s not completely my own brilliance.  I happen to have a sweet job where I get free food sometimes. Okay, a lot.  As in, the boss often cooks lunch for the 20-30 employees several times a week.

But looking back on my employment history I realized that the 3 legitimate jobs I’ve held have all provided me with occasional to frequent means of free food (none being in the food industry, though).  But I also realized that not everyone has always taken advantage of these freebies. Which might be because ‘free food’ often translates to ‘not-so-much-healthy-or-delicious-food’   Apparently, my freeness radar (read: “inherent stinginess”) means that I have a low tolerance for what I accept as ‘food’.  You’ve just gotta get rid of that “picky” aspect.

Lesson:  You wanna save money?  Take advantage of the free food out there. Seriously, there’s way more than you’d think. Imagine the thousands you’ll save.

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