Tuesday, December 30, 2003

Stupid things I do on the internet late at night:

Accurate? What do you think?

You Are Pale Turquoise

Your dominant hues are green and blue. You're smart and you know it, and want to use your power to help people and relate to others. Even though you tend to battle with yourself, you solve other people's conflicts well.

Your saturation level is low - You stay out of stressful situations and advise others to do the same. You may not be the go-to person when something really needs done, but you know never to blow things out of proportion.

Your outlook on life is bright. You see good things in situations where others may not be able to, and it frustrates you to see them get down on everything.
The Spacefem.com HTML Color Quiz

"Those French. They have a different word for everything."

As far as I know, we English speakers don't have a good word for somebody who drives against traffic on the highway.

German absolutely has a word for it: der Geisterfahrer.

Two questions:
1) Is this happening so frequently that they needed to make up a specific word for it?
2) Does said word need to be so specific that it applies ONLY to people driving the wrong way on the autobahn, and not to people driving the wrong way on, say, Berggasse in Stegersbach?
Kinds of tea currently available Chez Moi:

Marillen (Apricot)
Wintergenuß (Apple-cinnamon)
Winterzaber (Cinnamon-orange-rum)
Hütenzauber (Cinnamon-rosehip-rum)
Heiße Liebe (Raspberry-vanilla)
Waldbeeren (Raspberry-blackberry)

Monday, December 29, 2003

Come here, I'd like to remove your larynx

I went to a friend's house today for coffee. She has a 10-year-old son, and he had two friends over. They were running around, playing hide and seek and screaming. Damn, I had forgotten how annoying kids can be.

Note to self: no procreation. Ever.

Sunday, December 28, 2003


Sorry about this mess. I'm trying to get the links to be a less headache-inducing color, but it's just not happening. I'll keep working on it.

Saturday, December 27, 2003

Die Reste der Welt steht auf übergewichtigen alten Männer...gut. Aber die Kinder bei uns glauben an mich. Das Christkindl.

Dude. Christmas in Austria makes you seriously reconsider bulimia as a valid lifestyle choice.

I've basically done nothing but eat since 4 p.m. on December 24. I've had salmon, duck, roast beef, 12 pieces of toast, Kaiserschnitte (a crazy-rich layer cake), cold cuts, pickles, Marillenknödel (apricot dumplings), regular Knödel, pears with Preiselbeerensauce (like cranberry sauce), apple stuffing, stewed red cabbage (How much do I love red cabbage? Totally. Totally much.), pear compote, fruit cake (and let me just say a big "bleh" to that one), tea, hot chocolate, wine, orange juice, soda, and more cookies than Nabisco produces in the average year. At one point last night I walked into the bathroom and just looked at the toilet longingly.

Because the thing is, you can't refuse food here. If you try, you'd better have an iron will unrivaled by that stupid dog, because one way or another, these people are going to try to force you to eat. They'll use guilt. They'll lead by example. They'll get other people to help them. They'll sneak it onto your plate when you aren't looking. I kid you not. They're wily, and they won't quit until you've passed out at the table. Only then are they satisfied.

Next up, New Year's Eve. I hear there's a fondue planned. If you love me, send me a lovely ipecac cocktail.

Wednesday, December 24, 2003

Right up the nose, I tell you

A quick addendum to the shower post:

I actually broke my shower this morning. The little thing that holds up the shower head snapped in half, and now the shower head won't stay up there. I have to hold it in one hand or lay it on the termperature controller item (which, of course, throws the temperature off YET AGAIN).

The shower gods are clearly punishing me.
Fröhliche Weihnachten wünsche ich euch

Unless you're Jewish or Muslim or something else that's not with the Christmassy fun times. In that case, I wish you a nice day.

I don't know if you've ever been away from home for Christmas. By away from home, I mean not physically separated from your primary place of residence, (i.e., celebrating at Grandma's), but away from family or friends and the familiar rituals of your usual holiday celebrations.

Let me tell you, it's weird.

And I'm not just talking about the homesickness. I am, of course, absurdly homesick, but even when I step away from the emotional to look at the rational, it's strange. I'm spending about 90% of my mental energy on comparing Christmas traditions between Austria and my house. "We don't put candles on the tree, we don't eat fish for Christmas—although, good work, no objections there, go fish—lebkuchen is better than gingerbread, only Philistines open presents on Christmas Eve, and what is up with having midnight mass at 10 p.m.?" The other 10% of my mental energy is going to making sure my stomach doesn't explode. If you were wondering.

I almost wish I could get a nice case of temporary selective amnesia so I could stop comparing and just do. And also so I could focus more on digestion. Seriously, people. I sampled 10 different kinds of dessert tonight. ("Where are the sugar cookies and candy canes here, Leute?") If my stomach doesn't go on strike, my pancreas is going to.

But anyway, I just wanted to say that, as much as the Austrians know how to do Christmas up right—it is, after all, the country where "Silent Night" was written—I miss being at home with you.

Special note to my family: don't think that just because I'm not there to do the numbers this year that I won't be doing it next year and every year for the REST OF MY LIFE. Thank you, that is all.

Tuesday, December 23, 2003

Plus, hello? Skank!

I kind of want to kick Christina Aguilera's skinny, over-exposed ass for recording a song called "Everybody's Home for Christmas." Patently untrue and unnecessarily hurtful!

My next great endeavor

I was in Vienna yesterday, doing some Christmas shopping and general hanging out with friends. It's absolutely brilliant having Austrian friends, becasue they know all the best places to go, including the Running Sushi restaurant on Donauinsel. This is possibly the best thing I've ever seen. I assume we have something equivalent in the States, but seriously, where? Because they should be all over the place: you pay a flat fee and then you get to eat as much sushi (or, in my case, food that's not, you know, gross) as you want off a conveyor belt that goes past your table. Everything's in small portions so you get to try a ton of stuff without wasting everything. And you don't have to get up to get it, like you would at a normal buffet.

How is this not the restaurant that ate New York? It's got everything Americans like: vast quantities of food and no exercise. I'm totally starting one of these restaurants as soon as I get back to Houston. I think mine will be all about dessert. People will go into sugar shock every single day. I'll be the bane of diabetics everywhere, but who cares? I'll be rich!

Saturday, December 20, 2003

I hope not sporadically!

Just wanted to let you know that the blog might be getting a little dodgy as far as regularity goes—not that it's been the picture of consistency lately. But with school out now, I'm going to be bouncing from place to place and maybe doing a bit of travelling, so the updates may be a) sporadic and b) weird. But you're used to this.

Thursday, December 18, 2003

Top Five Best Christmas Songs

1. God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen
2. I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas
3. Carol of the Bells
4. It Came Upon a Midnight Clear
5. I'll Be Home for Christmas

Appearing nowhere on this list: "Last Christmas," by Wham.

Because it's the Christmas song from hell, that's why.

Tuesday, December 16, 2003

I think I've just severed my Achilles tendon

I don't know if I've mentioned this, but my shower is approximately the size of a coffin. Seriously. I think it's 3x3x7. Maybe.

For somebody who already finds the process of showering annoying (ugh to being wet), this makes things almost unbearably difficult. I'm constantly knocking the shower head down, causing it to spray straight up my nose—funny the first time, but significantly less amusing the 645 times after that.

I can't shave my legs without twisting into a shape vaguely resembling a pretzel. (I wear pants a lot.) I can't lift my arms to shampoo my hair without cracking an elbow against the wall. I've learned to tread carefully when stepping out of the shower, because usually there's a significant amount of water on the floor from where I've knocked the door open with a knee at some point.

Worst of all, though, is the temperature control. It's one of those ones where you turn it to the left to get warmer and to the right to get colder, and you have approximately 1° of "just right" vs. 179° of "really fucking hot" and "fantastically freezing," as Eddie Izzard puts it. I cannot TELL you how many times in the course of a 10-minute shower I end up with burnt shoulders or frozen fingers. Sometimes simultaneously.

I never thought I would miss my shower at home, which had absolutely no water pressure and needed at least 10 minutes for the water to warm up to bearable temperatures. But it was a shower/bath, and that's a luxury I won't take for granted again.

Wednesday, December 10, 2003

Ah have found mah people

I have pretty decent manners, most of the time. I have mastered European-style dining (fork in left hand, knife in right--although I still stubbornly put my napkin in my lap), I don't belch in public, and I say please and thank you when necessary.

I do, however, tend to talk with my mouth full. I realize that this is unattractive in the extreme, as well as prohibitive to understanding, but I don't care. It's too much bother to wait until I'm finished swallowing to spit out my all-important opinion.

And I'm surrounded by 8 million people who feel the same way.

Oh, Austrian mothers say, "Red nicht mit vollem Mund," but they don't mean it. They probably say it when their own mouths are full of schnitzel or Sachertorte. I actually think talking with your mouth full probably improves pronunciation in German, especially with those glottal ch sounds.

So we all just sit around saying whatever we please whenever we please, with an accent improved by Braten and Kraut, and nobody cares. It's like utopia or something.

Tuesday, December 09, 2003

Good going, geniuses

If you want proof that the Austrian government isn't really any smarter than the U.S. government, check this out. We had two teachers retire on December 1 because of it. Idiots.
Total Crap, is more like it

I got sucked into watching Total Recall on T.V. last night (I know, you all saw it ten years ago; I want to talk about it now), and I have to say, it's clear that S. wasn't working on this movie in her Fact-Checker Role, because it's riddled with errors.

While I enjoy the scene at the end where Ah-nuld and his girlie get blown out onto the surface of Mars and their eyeballs start bulging out of their heads from lack of oxygen, I'm a little curious as to how they aren't FREEZING TO DEATH, as the average surface temperature on Mars is -60° C. After they magically get an atmosphere, they stand around and kiss in their shirtsleeves. In reality, their tongues should freeze together and leave them permanently attached, which I think would be a fitting fate.

Although if you think about it, everybody in this movie seems to be suffering from the symptoms of hypothermia: irrational behavior, clumsiness, failure to act like a human being.

Thursday, December 04, 2003

-ly is our friend

German doesn't have adverbs in the same way English does. I never noticed this before I started teaching English, but it makes for some particularly hilarious constructions when my kids try to figure out the difference between good and well. Example from class today:

"That was a really good made movie!"

This is a perfect sentence in German: "Dieser Film war echt gut gemacht." In English, it provokes some interesting facial contortions for me to avoid laughing outright.

Wednesday, December 03, 2003

You know that's like, flat and stuff, right?

As I understand it, net lights are supposed to save you the trouble of placing Christmas lights neatly on your bushes and trees and whatever else.

This is not how the Austrians understand net lights. Here, net lights are most commonly found draped against walls, making random squares of equidistantly spaced white lights. There's no rhyme or reason to it. They just hang there. My internat is a chief offender, with net lights hanging out the window in two separate spots on the building, which is otherwise unadorned. It looks SO random. I love it.

Friday, November 28, 2003

Get the hell out of Dodge

I'm off to Melk (an hour west of Vienna) this weekend to eat turkey, speak English, and generally be American. Should be good times. I'll give you a full report on my return.

Thursday, November 27, 2003

And I have the normal name in my family

I’m changing my name.

Or rather, I’m having it changed for me by a country of people oddly unable to pronounce the name “Erin.”

Instead, I get called Eirin—or what is actually the German equivalent of my middle name, Irene. A charming coincidence. If nothing else, it’s giving me a new appreciation for a middle name I’ve always found a little old-fashioned and boring.

I really don’t understand the why of it, though. “Er.” “In.” These are morphemes that they have in German. In fact, one of my teachers’ boyfriends is named Erwin. Drop the W, and you have me (which is also, oddly, something that former President George Bush can say re: his son…probably with similar bafflement)—what’s the problem here?

Eirin. Aye-reen. My only even vaguely convincing theory is that they’re trying to make my quintessentially Irish first name match with my stereotypically German last name. A tidy attempt from a tidy people, but not really going to happen, kids—the only way those two parts of my heritage jive is their exceeding helpfulness in avoiding hangovers and in wreaking havoc in perfectly lovely corners of the world.

No matter how often I pronounce my name, how carefully I enunciate when I introduce myself, I still get called Eirin. I can write it down, clearly demonstrating that there’s only one I, and still they persist. It’s almost like the entire country is trying to correct my pronunciation. Actually, come to think of it…that’s probably not a bad assumption. The Germans did the same thing when I lived there, and lord knows they think they’re always right.

Wednesday, November 26, 2003

This is how I miss you

The other day I wanted some ketchup. Not a lot, just enough for one french fry. I thought, "I wish you were here so I could steal it off your plate."

Monday, November 24, 2003

Taking friendly deception to a whole new level

Every once in a while I like to drive M2 crazy by telling him a lie. For some reason he thinks that I am entirely trustworthy and will believe almost anything I say, as long as it's not too outrageous. I can't tell him that there are purple sheep, but I could probably get him to believe russet if I worked at it. It's a special kind of power.

Okay, now imagine that you're me, and you're surrounded by an entire country of people who will believe not only russet, but purple and plaid and five-legged, as well.

You're a little bit tipsy with the power now, aren't you? Admit it.

It's a constant struggle not to make up huge lies about America and then convince my kids they're true just because I think it's funny. I mean, I could totally get 20 15-year-olds to believe that Thanksgiving started as a pagan festival where the pilgrims ate the hearts, tongues, and livers of Squanto and the other Native Americans. I don't, but that doesn't mean I don't think about it frequently.

But even more tempting is just not doing research completely and telling small lies. I mean, if I say that Robert Burns was born in Glasgow, are any of them really going to check to see if I'm lying? Because I totally would be. (He was born near Ayr, if you're curious. It's on the west coast of Scotland.)

At some point, probably near the end of May, I'm totally going to stop being good and tell a whopping lie in class. I'm just trying to think of one that's big enough. Suggestions?

Sunday, November 23, 2003

Could Colin Firth be hotter?

The answer to that question is "No, actually, that's not possible," if you were wondering.

Wednesday, November 19, 2003

And now for something completely different...

Just so you get a little taste of the fun that is life in Austria, I will now recount for you the conversation that I have with EVERY SINGLE PERSON meeting me for the first time. Ever. I'm not kidding.

Of course, you have to remember that this little joy usually takes place in German.

Erin: Hello.
Austrian: Oh, hello. You're from England, aren't you?
E: Uh, no, I'm American.
A: Oh, American! So far from home. Aren't you homesick?
E: Well, since I'm not, you know, soulless, yes, I miss my family and friends. But I'm also not five. I can spend the night away from my mommy.
A: What do you think about Bush?
E: Uh, we just met, nosy. But if you must know, I'm not a fan of him.
A: Yes, he's an idiot.
E: Hey, there, chief, I don't think you can be throwing stones *cough*Jorg Haider*cough*.
A: Interesting. Can you understand the dialect here?
E: Well, let's see. You've been talking to me in dialect for the past five minutes. So yeah, I would say I've got a decent handle on it. Or I'm shockingly precognizant, since I can predict (and translate) everything you're going to say JUST MOMENTS BEFORE YOU SAY IT.
A: That's nice. Want to come to my house for Christmas?
E: Hummana, now?

Tuesday, November 18, 2003

I'm back...sort of

Just wanted to let you know I haven't disappeared off the end of the earth or anything. I'm around, I'm doing my thing, and nothing of huge interest has happened lately. I'll report more tomorrow, hopefully.

To those of you who extended condolences about my grandmother, here and elsewhere, thank you.

Wednesday, November 12, 2003

Let me kiss your cheek one more time before you go, Grandma C.

I know some things about her. I know that she had a hard life and that she thought her grandchildren and greatgrandchildren were angels. I know she didn't finish middle school, that she was married twice, and that she liked to write letters before her first stroke several years ago. I know that she kept a spoon rest my mother made her in a pottery class for over 20 years before she finally sent it back when she moved into the nursing home. I know she liked to wear sweatshirts—and to give them as gifts. I know that she took a particular delight in the letters I infrequently sent her, though they were hastily written and said nothing of import. I know she liked us to kiss her on the cheek when we came and when we went. I know that even though she was always far away from us, we were frequently on her mind.

I know my grandma passed away yesterday. I know that she's gone. And I know that we'll miss her.

Sunday, November 09, 2003

Best. German. Ever.

I feel like this is something that could only happen in Germany. They're voting to figure out who the best German ever is.

Brought to you by the country that spontaneously decided they were just going to change their entire language a few years ago, and did so with no problems. What is up with the Germans? How did they get so organized? Lord knows their history is a mess. I can't figure it out.

Anyway, this is not the point. I'd like to annouce that I'll be running a "Best. American. Ever." contest here at Never-Never Mind, and you should all nominate people. I'll set up a bracket, and we'll vote. Then we'll pretend to be German and wear lots of black and separate our trash in an anal yet eco-friendly manner. Good times.

Saturday, November 08, 2003

Litmus Tests

There are certain characteristics we all look for in friends: funny, thoughtful, patient, blah blah blah. Not all that hard to find, really. There are few people so bereft of good characteristics that they don't have at least one friend.

However, there are certain things that, when you hear a person say them, you just know an enduring friendship is in the offing. Some of mine:

Knowing that the proverb "don't judge a book by its cover" is hogwash. Particularly when it comes to actual books.

Thinking that bathroom humor is secretly quite funny. (I come from a family where poop is commonly discussed at meals. Meals in restaurants, no less.)

Being annoyed by the entire decade of the 80s.

Understanding innately that grammar is the most potent force in the world.

Having a special and enduring love for personality tests and other sorts of innocuous navel-gazing.

Realizing that really, rainy weather is the best weather.

The moment somebody says one of these things, I know that there's going to be very little they can do after that to dissuade me of their innate coolness. These things resonate in a way more general characteristics can't. Someone that I was well on the way to liking told me last night that she can't buy books that have ugly covers, and I swear the first thought to cross my mind was, "So true! Oh, I have to love you now!" The second thought was, "My mom will love you, too!" And then today we went to a craft fair with her cousin, and were kitschy and happy, and I do love her because she's sweet and funny, but most of all because she's picky about how books look. These things resonate.

Thursday, November 06, 2003

Dear Austria:

Anytime you want to stop busting my balls this week, that would be great.


P.S. Peanut flakes are not a valid cereal option, so feel free to stop pretending that they are.

Tuesday, November 04, 2003

If you put that on your cereal, I swear that I'm going home

You know you have to pay for ketchup at McDonald's here, right? Yeah, it's like 25¢ extra or something.

I don't understand this, because as far as I can tell, the Austrians have a national ketchup addiction. I have seen them eat ketchup on things that just make you shudder. And seriously, I got used to my sister eating ketchup on carrot sticks when she was five and I was nine, so I'm not exaggerating here.

Ketchup goes on all the normal things—hot dogs and meatloaf, you know. However, not on french fries. As Pulp Fiction taught us, they eat mayonnaise on french fries here. Anyway, ketchup on the usual stuff, and then ketchup on mashed potatoes, bread, beef jerky, in soup. I think they'd put it on the dessert if the bottles weren't usually empty by the time it rolled around.

I've seen the kids in the internat eat the leftover ketchup off their plate—by itself. Next time you want to trigger your gag reflex, just think about that. Spoonful of ketchup, straight down the gullet, no chaser. Mmm.

Sunday, November 02, 2003

But do you miss me?

So I've been in Stegersbach a month now, which is hard to believe. Time flies, etc., etc. I have the run of the dorm, which is rockin' good times—I get to use the only computer with internet, I never get punished for leaving the table a mess, I'm allowed to do my own laundry (instead of paying 8€ a load to have it done), and I can leave the room when the Heimleiter starts one of his interminable speeches about how the kids need to clean their rooms.

It's odd how quickly you become accustomed to a place, and how much of it happens without you even being aware of it. Three weeks ago I couldn't have imagined having a routine that I follow throughout the week. Two weeks ago I couldn't comprehend having friends and acquaintances in town. Last week I was confused about choir rehearsal and finding new stuff to read and God knows what. The problems are getting smaller as the comfort level gets higher. It's not home like Houston or Nebraska were home, but it's getting to be like hanging out at Grandma's: you wouldn't want to live there forever, but it's a rockin' good time while you're there.

Friday, October 31, 2003

Things I forgot to tell you, internet

I have a cell phone. If you want to call me, let me know and I will tell you how the process works. If you have tried to call me and can't, it's because there's evidently an extra, secret zero in my number. Unfortunately, I don't know where it is. I have to ask my mom, because she knows.

I was in the newspaper. The first week I was here, the regional newspaper did a feature on the rising popularity of foreign languages in area schools. They took my picture. I was not quoted, thank God. I have a copy of the article, and someday, when I find a scanner, so will you.

I left all my addresses at home. This is because I'm an idiot. Let's be frank: I was having a hard enough time hanging on to my passport the day I left; I couldn't be expected to remember addresses as well. I lost my passport twice between the house and the ticket counter of the airport, and then I left my ticket lying on a seat in the waiting area when I went to get a soda. We got back to the area where I'd been sitting 20 minutes earlier and my parents said, "Oh, someone left their ticket. They'll be needing that." I was like, "Yes, I will be needing that." I think my parents thought I would be stranded in London for the rest of my life, living on the airport runway because I'd lost my passport, ticket, and left hand in St. Louis. Anyway, my point is, if you want a postcard (or you want me to stop sending them to work, or whatever), email me your address and I will send you one. Of course, I expect reply mail and will give out my address to anybody whose name I recognize. You get the better deal, because it costs 1.25€ to send a letter or postcard to America, which is like...$47. However, it costs only 80¢ to send something from the U.S. to Austria. See how I love you?

Hey! I'm going to give you aggravated circumstances.

Certain things about teaching are the most fun. Of course you all know that I like to be the boss of the world, but that's not what I'm talking about here. I'm talking about things like writing on the board. I love writing on the board. I like the way my fingers feel all chalky afterwards, and I love that my school provides colored chalk so I can go nuts. I write all sorts of things on the board. Probably more things than are strictly necessary, to be honest.

I like giving my kids candy for Halloween, or keeping it from the really bad class that annoyed me first thing this morning. They don't know that they missed out, but I do. I gave my second class extra candy in retaliation. Being unfair is an excellent part of teaching.

I like not doing things that my teachers did that drove me crazy. I'm not about group work, multiple choice, or getting off on tangents. I'm not about being humorless, being a pushover, or never expressing my opinion. I'm as me in the classroom as I am anywhere else.

I like that moment where everyone is talking and not paying attention, and I yell, "Hey!" and they all shut up. It's good that I like this moment, because I get to experience it several times every hour.

Teaching is good times, is what I'm trying to say—and, I think, trying to remind myself. I might have miserably annoying, unmotivated, rude classes like this morning's fourth form, but there's still some fun to be had.

End PSA.

Wednesday, October 29, 2003

Things I have watched or considered watching in the past 72 hours

Miami Vice
Sex and the City
King of Queens
Some guy blowing an alpenhorn on an Alp
Dark Angel
Keine halben Sachen (The Whole Nine Yards)
The Austria Bank commercial where the kids makes hilarious faces while trying to get the lid off the milk
Spiderman the cartoon
Knight Rider
A random anime thing of peops wandering in the desert and then having their baggage stolen by illness-faking birds

Monday, October 27, 2003


If you happen to have any old kids' games hanging around your house (Outburst Jr., Taboo Jr., what have you), and you'd be willing to part with them, please let me know. I'd like to open negotiations for their shipment to Austria.

I thought holiday implied...well, not walking for six miles in freezing weather, frankly.

Yesterday was the Austrian national holiday celebrating the end of foreign occupation after World War II. Evidently this is traditionally celebrated by going on a military-style march through the surrounding burgs. Which I was forced to do yesterday in the company of my teacher, her boyfriend, and her cousin.

Okay, I'm exaggerating, of course. I went voluntarily, the pace was more of a leisurely walk, and it wasn't (quite) freezing. We did, however, walk for six miles.

It was, however, high good times. We talked about the crazy dog running around in front of us, about men, about the history of Austria, whatever you please. And all in German, and *mostly* in dialect. Understanding was, I felt, a major accomplishment.

Also, I just took a lung function test, and, I'll have you know, my lungs are 10% above normal. Mmmm-hm.

Saturday, October 25, 2003

What I've been up to

Just thought I'd give you a quick run-down of the past couple of days, since I don't have anything terribly fascinating to say.

Thursday it snowed, of course. I also had my first choir rehearsal. It's disturbingly like being back in my high school choir. Everybody talks while the director is trying to work, and the tenors are incompetent. Good times, though.

Yesterday I taught three classes instead of my normal two. The first class was fourth formers, and they were terrible. Speaking English seemed to be some sort of odious, disease-conferring task. My other two classes were fantastic. The kids were excited about my lessons (one on the death penalty, one working with the Blossom Dearie song Rhode Island Is Famous for You.) Then last night I went to a heuriger with my Betreuungsleherin and the usual suspects, and it was good times. Lots of singing German drinking songs and not quite getting the jokes. Ah well.

Today I slept late, and am now blogging. Tonight I'll hit the local disco with some of my students (mmmhm, we'll see) and then tomorrow I'm meeting up with another of my teachers to do some sort of hiking thing to celebrate the anniversary of the end of WWII. I don't know.

So that's life. And I need to go buy a hat so my ears can survive it.

Friday, October 24, 2003

No way will I be this excited in February

It snowed last night! It started at about 7, big fat wet flakes, and kept right on going through the night. It sort of rained for awhile off and on, but the end result is that there's about an inch and a half of snow on everything, and Stegersbach is suddenly a magical fairy village. All the trees are edged with white, but you can see the green needles of the pines and the red leaves of the oaks underneath. The trees go all the way up the hill behind the city, and it's great to steal glances out the window when my classes are otherwise occupied.

Evidently this is ridiculously early for the first snow, according to everybody and their mom, and it caused the power to go out in a lot of small villages around Stegersbach, so nobody is really as happy about it as I am. Whatever. I'm going to get a book, open my curtains, and spend the afternoon alternately reading and staring out my windows. Ah, good times.

Wednesday, October 22, 2003

And now, for your reading enjoyment...

A list, entitled "Things I Didn't Like in the U.S. That I Quite Enjoy in Austria."

The eighth season of Friends
Sunshine (because otherwise it's frickin' cold)
Pickled foods other than cucumbers
Microsoft Word
Keeping a diary

Tuesday, October 21, 2003

Life is not fair

I'm constantly amazed by how well Austrian children can speak German. It just comes out of their mouths! Mind-boggling!
No comb, no splayed fingers...ya got nothin', evidently.

I don't know if I've mentioned this, but I live with 42 boys. They are required to put in an appearance at breakfast at 7 a.m.

This is, of course, hilarity at its best.

They come downstairs in white t-shirts and swim trunks (boxers aren't allowed), hair pointing every which way, sleep creases from their pillows still on their cheeks. They usually only have one eye open when they mumble that they have made their appearance and will now return to their rooms. Probably to their beds. They stumble into the door jamb.

Then they disappear. They return downstairs in 10 minutes, fully awake, dressed, and on their way out the door to smoke a cigarette. It's a mystery.

Saturday, October 18, 2003

I think we've reached a good place. Spiritually...ecumenically...gramatically...

I went to see Pirates of the Caribbean last night in Pinkafeld, except here it's called Fluch der Karibik, which means "Curse of the Caribbean." The teacher that I went with thought it was some kind of horror movie, but she ended up loving it.

Please note, European movie theatres assign seating. How weird is that? And it's not like you get your seat assignment and then just kind of ignore it. Everyone sits where they're told. It was fine last night because we were in the back in the middle, but I think it could be a bad bad thing if you were ever late. See? Punctuality, people. Punctuality.

Friday, October 17, 2003

What do you mean, there's no peanut butter?

As you know, I am obsessed with grocery shopping. (If you don't know, who are you and how did you find this blog?) This obsession is a good thing, since one of my chief occupations here in Stegersbach is go to the grocery store. There are four, and I've been to all of them.

Of course, the grocery store here is a little different. Not only is it smaller and open less, it's got a weird selection of products. Mayonnaise in a tube, check. (Oddly, looks a lot like a tube of Preparation H in the U.S.) Eighty-four varieties of soup in a packet, check. Gummi bears, check. Vanilla sugar, check. Peanut butter...not so much. You can find it if you look hard, a dusty jar pushed into the back corner of the Nutella/honey shelf, but it's generic and the cashier will look at you weird and then speak English to you if you buy it. Which I didn't, because I love Nutella.

So the produce section is small, the tea and coffee section is huge, and film development is expensive. Want to know what's really scary, though?

Nobody here knows what an Oreo is.

Wednesday, October 15, 2003

Surprise! You're a teacher

Okay, anybody that knows me knows that I don't actually like kids. They're loud and whiny and sticky, which are all things that I try to avoid in myself (unsuccessfully, usually).

This is why I've been sort of shocked to find out this week that I actually really enjoy teaching. I'm still trying to figure out whether it's because I'm in an Austrian school and thus the darling, or if it's just that I like school regardless of the situation, or because the kids make me laugh.

Frankly, I think it might be the feeling of pure superiority I get from knowing the most.

Tuesday, October 14, 2003

So good it's almost like extra money

I know those of you who live in the big city think you have it all, but I have to say, there's nothing better than small-town banking. In both Wayne and Stegersbach, my bank is small, and they're actually a lot alike, once you get over the obvious language differences.

Both have tellers that happily hop to do your bidding. They both make an effort to know your name and something about you as a person, not just as a dollar (Euro) sign. The guy at the counter today was more than pleased to make extra copies of a bank Bestätigung today when I asked. The attitude really makes dealing with money, something that I hate, much less painful.

End gushing.

Monday, October 13, 2003

So...this tact thing...not really working out for you, hm?

The thing I've discovered about my students is that they're absolutely unworried about offending me. They couldn't care less. I had one kid inform me today that school uniforms are fascist, Osama Bin Laden was just a scapegoat for the WTC attacks, and George Bush is a frontman for an oil cartel that secretly runs the U.S. I'm all, Hm, that's interesting. Jackass.

The problem is that, as a teacher (still a freaky phrase to write in reference to myself) and, you know, an adult, I can't just say, "Uh, you're full of shit." I have to be all reasoned and respectful of their stupid opinions. Plus, I feel like I have to prove everything I say, and while I'm reasonably intelligent, I'm not the USA Fact Book, here.

So mostly I just try to divert them with, "Oh, we can totally do a lesson on that. Later."

Yeah, later. Like July later.

Friday, October 10, 2003

Do you like Spongebob Squarepants?

Because Austrian teenagers do. And they will ask you about it.

Anyway, I think I'm going to Vienna this weekend. Some of the other teaching assistants are meeting there on Saturday, and I want to trade war stories. I also want to get a handy (cell phone) so I can talk to you all. Plus, I want to find the English language bookstore. So that's the agenda.

This means, of course, that I won't be posting again until at least Monday. Try not to cry too much.

Thursday, October 09, 2003

Dear Austrian Males of a Certain Age (Namely, 13-19):

I don't know who told you it would be a good idea to style your hair as if you have a duck sitting backwards on your head, but it's not. That point of hair in the middle of your forehead makes you look like a refugee from Mork and Mindy.

Knock it off immediately, or I'll be forced to confiscate your hairgel.


Wednesday, October 08, 2003

Hey, can you hear that I'm talking here?

So I had my first lessons today. Four in a row, starting at 7.45 a.m. and ending at 11.35. Mostly fourth- and fifth-formers (17- to 19-year-olds), they were in general quite enthusiastic, interested, and engaged. Except for one thing.

They looooove to talk when I'm talking. Or when their teacher is talking. Or evidently, when anybody in the entire world is talking. I think if Ah-nuld came into their classroom, they'd talk over him. And then he would terminate them.

Can I mention that I'm thrilled that Ah-nuld won? I can't tell the kids this when they ask, because I want to seem like a rational, socially responsible adult. But seriously, how is this not completely hilarious? And why hasn't anybody started a reality show on this yet. I'd watch. And so would the entire country of Austria.

Monday, October 06, 2003

No, I will not drink more wine. No. No. Oh, fine.

I spent the weekend in St. Michael's with my contact teacher, running around with her to different social functions. Basically it was an entire weekend of refusing wine. I drank some, but there is no way in the world I could keep up with these people. They're wine fiends, which makes sense, because this is a major wine region. The reds, in particular, are quite good.

I'm settled in Stegersbach now. I have a room on the third floor of the local golf boarding school (internat), and I've toured the school where I'll be teaching for the next eight months.

You should probably know that internet access is going to be sketchy for the next month or so. The internat internet server is at the school, and the school is under construction, so the internet is currently nonfunctional at the dorm. Hopefully it'll be up soon, but you know how construction goes.

Thursday, October 02, 2003

The red bars on the Austrian flag don't represent blood.

Yeah, that's the red tape. Because the medical exam and tests I paid $280 for in the U.S. wasn't on the proper form, it has to be completely redone here, at a potential cost of $300. I cannot tell you how absolutely furious I am. This is bureaucratic bullshit designed specifically to keep immigrants out of the country. The U.S. does the same thing, but it's still retarded.

Finding this sort of thing out is really disheartening. It makes it hard to remember all the good things I've learned about Austria in the past couple of days. For example, last night we went to a Heuriger to drink Sturm and hang out. (Heuriger are small cold-food restaurants located on vineyards. They're open select days of the year in order to showcase the vineyard's wine. Sturm is a drink available only in the fall. It's fermented grape juice before it becomes wine. Tastes kind of like apple juice and hits you like a freight train about 30 minutes after you drink it. Excellent.) The Heuriger was adorable, all brick walls and wine paraphernalia, run by a 60-year-old woman and her husband. She siphoned Sturm out of the barrel with a special glass pipe, and was very attentive and happy to see us, even though we were a rather large and noisy group of Americans. Easy to forget sometimes that some Austrians, at least, like Americans.

Wednesday, October 01, 2003

Eva und Elisabeth: Echt cool.

Today we went to Krems to observe real live English classes in action. We watched a class of 14-year-olds and a class of 12-year-olds. Let me tell you, I am so, so jealous of these kids. A), they got to start learning a language at age 10. B), they get to go to school where all the kids are well behaved and the teachers seem enthusiastic. It was kind of disturbing, how perfect everything was. I'm sure it's not always like that, and that there are boring lessons and a lot more homework than I was used to, but seriously. These kids have got it made.

Anyway, I got to chat with Eva and Elisabeth, two 12-year-olds who went to Croatia and Greece on holiday, respectively (the kids were learning about vacation and how to give directions). They thought I was funny and strange, and it made me excited to get in the classroom. Two more days of training, the weekend, and then we're off. I can't wait.

Tuesday, September 30, 2003

It's like some sort of sick curse

So I met this really cute, sweet, funny guy at my training session today. He's stationed in a city not far from mine, makes hilarious jokes in class, and is generally quite cool.

Then I realized he reminds me of someone I know. I couldn't place him, but it tugged at my conscious all day.

This afternoon, he turned to look at me and said, "I think there's a gay swim team in Vienna. That would be awesome to join." And I realized he reminded me of Steven Caufield. Almost down to the gesture.

Good God, do I have a sign on my forehead?

Monday, September 29, 2003

How to sleep really well

Travel for 29 hours. Pass out.

The End.

All right, whatever. Things are going okay this morning; I had a typical Austrian/German/European breakfast (roll, muslei, tea, orange juice--no meat this morning, thank goodness) and I'm now trying to figure out how to get to Hollabrunn, which is proving to be quite a challenge. I may have to break down and ask the guy at the desk.

Here's the thing about hostels: you never really know what's going on, how much the staff likes its guests, how much English/German/Farsi/whatever is spoken by the staff, and even if you can communicated, you don't know if the answer you're getting is complete bullshit or not. So I'm a tad wary. But when you really don't know what you're doing, asking is your only option. Even a bullshit answer will eventually eliminate one option for you.

Sunday, September 28, 2003

I would die happy if I could marry a man with a British accent

Scottish also acceptable.

I made it to London safe and sound. Now I'm standing around Heathrow, waiting for my flight and bemoaning the $200 I had to pay in luggage overage fees. Donations to the cause gladly accepted. Yeah, I'm only sort of kidding.

Saturday, September 27, 2003

Gonna vomit...

Well, everything's packed, and I'm just kind of wandering around the house going, "Goodbye, cat. Goodbye, bedroom. Goodbye, other cat. Goodbye, first cat. Goodbye, still other cat."

I don't have anything momentous to say on the advent of my departure. I'm scared that something is going to go horribly awry, or that I'm not going to like Stegersbach, or that my teachers, or worse, my students, are going to think I'm incompetent.

But I'm excited, too. Because I know that I adored Germany, and that I love travelling. Even if I can't remember how that feels right now, I know everything is going to work out okay.

But I still feel like puking.

Friday, September 26, 2003

I'd like a window seat and a hernia, please

So I'm mostly packed, although I've got all that little stuff still hanging around. You know, toothbrush, film, random small things that you think you might need, don't use, and end up stuffing into random corners of your suitcase five minutes before you run out the door. I'm not really sure which random corners they're going in, because my luggage is so full I'm afraid it will burst if I look at it wrong.

I think I've remembered everything, but I know that somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean, I'm going to sit straight up in my tiny seat and go, "Shit." Oh, well, I've got enough other stuff to make up for it. I'm taking a 36"x20"x12" suitcase that weighs approximately one hundred MILLION pounds, a 28" duffel bag that weighs one MILLION pounds, and a laptop case that weighs about 20 lbs. Guess which one of those is a literal weight.

You guessed wrong. It's the suitcase.

Thursday, September 25, 2003

Just so you know

Here's my schedule for the next little while, so you don't worry if I don't blog or email the next couple of days.

9/27: Leave from Omaha
9/28: Arrive in London, fly to Vienna
9/29: Arrive in Hollabrun for training
10/4: Arrive in Stegersbach, report to school

Keep your fingers crossed for my flights being on time (and not, you know, crashing in a ball of flames) and my luggage keeping up with me. Talk to you in a couple days.

Tuesday, September 23, 2003

Also, it smells better here

So I was telling my parents on Sunday that I think if you put a Texan and a Nebraskan side-by-side in front of me, I could tell you which was which. It more than the difference between ropers and cowboy boots. A farmer is as apt to wear a Stetson as a rancher, but there's something about the general bearing that makes the difference obvious. I don't know if it's that Nebraskans are a little less effusive and Texans a little more brash, or just that there's a preponderance of red in the Nebraska wardrobe, but there's definitely something.

Sunday, September 21, 2003

What a long, strange trip it's been

Not the most original header ever, but I'm tiiiiiiiiiired.

Just wanted to let you know we're home safe. No major incidents, but I'll have a couple of good stories to tell tomorrow.

Happy Birthday to Erin, for all 45 minutes that are left of it. Yay for 26!

Finally, comments are all weird—they look like no one's commenting, but there are comments and I can read them. This would happen right after I've admonished you all to comment. Sigh.

Saturday, September 20, 2003

Houston in the rearview

Well, kids, I'm about out. My apartment is empty and echoing, although I have, of course, left the phone connected until the last possible minute so I could talk to you—kind of like in the movies when one of the main characters is dying, and the lovers' hands slide along one another melodramatically. Hm, that metaphor sounded better in my head.

Anyway, I just wanted you to know that Houston has been fabulous, particularly because of you, my friends. You have no idea how much I will miss you.

So, to Mary, Matt, Erin, Dan, Matt, Dennis, Amanda, Donna, Victoria, Lucky, Vivian, Bobby, Asa, Jason, Doug, Sarah, Nolan, Jane, Angela, Shannon, Lizzypie, and anybody I've forgotten, thank you thank you thank you. I love you all and I'll see you next July.

Friday, September 19, 2003

From yer fav'rit saucy wench

Happy Talk Like a Pirate Day!

Thursday, September 18, 2003

From the George W. Bush School of Counting Good:

This is how the Texas legislature likes to number sections of code:


So far so good, right? But can you guess what comes next? Can ya? Wrong! You think it's §36.00, don't you? Don't you, you naive, gullible soul? Well, you're wrong. The next section?


Of course.

Wednesday, September 17, 2003

Misc. Update

A couple of things:

I am freaking. Out. about the moving. My parents are going to be here on Friday afternoon expecting me to have everything packed and mostly clean. Right now I have about...oh, 20% of my stuff packed? Maybe? If we look at it charitably? Am I supposed to work all day Thursday and Friday? Yeah, I am. I blame this stressful situation on being too poor not to work but not so poor that I don't have a lot of stuff. Another problem is that, while I know my friends would help, I don't really want help. I like to be in control of the whole process, plus I'm really embarassed about how gross my apartment is. It's just bad all the way around.

Also, we have to make a deal about this blogging business while I'm away, Internet. The deal is this: I will feel free to blog, and you will feel free to comment more than once every millenium (people named MaryT exempted). Don't make me feel like I'm throwing my words into a void. I know you're reading. All...ten or so of you.

Finally, this was my big insight today, when Erin and I were complaining about the fact that guys always want to fix whatever it is we're upset about, and we just want them to shut up and listen. Okay, you've got the set-up, ready for the insight? Get a pen, you're going to want to write this down. Yes, I'll wait...okay, good, here we go: I think the reason guys do this is that they don't understand that just because the problem goes away, it doesn't mean the feeling does. I mean, when that annoying chick in your office gets fired, you don't just stop being upset about the awful way she treated you. So there you go. And if you try to write a self-help book with it, I will destroy you. Find your own too-perfect summation of the gender-communication problem.

Monday, September 15, 2003

And be honest. It's for posterity.

So a question for you, Internet.

Am I intimidating?

I was told tonight that I made someone nervous (how's that for a passive nightmare of a sentence?), but I'm just not feeling the scariness. So spill. Is this bupkiss, or is there something intimidating about me, and if so, what is it?

A list of things I think I might like to study in graduate school:

Religion, particularly Biblical criticism
Social work
Ancient history, esp. the Roman early empire period
WWII, particularly German structures of government and hierarchy
Postmodern/contemporary nonfiction prose
Prose fiction, all eras
Writing studies
Foreign language pedagogy

I'm a confused girl.

Sunday, September 14, 2003

Dear My Friends,

I feel so much love and gratitude for you all, I can barely form coherent sentences. It was so wonderful to see you tonight, especially as I begin the painful process of departing from home this week. Thank you for the letters, the hugs, and the stories of sexual harassment. (Really, nothing I like better than people bitching about other people who annoy me. No, really.)

You can't imagine how much I will miss you all, or how much I will hear your voices in my head when I am teaching, or picking tomatoes out of my food, or wearing my loafers, or about to do something stupid. Not because I'm schizophrenic, mind you, but because I have internalized you all and will be carrying you with me to Austria...and well beyond.

In any case, my extra bed in Stegersbach will always be available, barring stupid school regulations or something. Come to Europe, I'll show you...the golf course. I don't know. Anyway, thank you, I love you, I'll post again tomorrow, so this is not good bye.

Your AmerikanErin

Saturday, September 13, 2003

It's those damn romance novels

So I think my books are breeding. I've packed five boxes of them and sold another box's worth, and as far as I can tell, the shelves aren't much more empty than when I started. I know I didn't buy this many books, ergo they must be making baby books, and not the good kind with ribbons and pictures of you when you were three hours old, but the bad, oddly-shaped, heavy ones that won't go happily into boxes.

I hate moving.

Friday, September 12, 2003

Officer, there's a nutter in the park!

I have housing in Stegersbach, thank God, thank God. I thought I was going to have to promise my first born to Beelzebub before I could find a room, but fortunately, something came through. However, as it's almost 3:30 in the morning, you're going to have to wait to hear the story. Just know that I will NOT be living out of my suitcase in the park like a weirdo.

Thursday, September 11, 2003

Wir haben es nicht verdient, du Schießkopf. Wir haben es nie verdient.

I cried this morning, the first time since the towers fell. NPR played a clip of a 10-year-old boy reading his father's name at the ceremony in New York City, and suddenly the sharply curved exit ramp I was navigating looked smeared and distorted, as if it was behind warped glass. I blinked and sniffed, and pulled into the parking lot at work.

When the south tower fell, I was 5,000 miles from home, in my first week of a semester-long study abroad program in Germany. I didn't cry as I stood watching the coverage on a bank of TVs in a Wal-Mart on the edge of town. At first, the shock was too overwhelming for tears, and then, as the days passed, I was too busy adjusting to a new country and a suddenly threatening security situation to grieve properly.

We were warned not to be "overtly American" in public. I strove to speak only German when I was out; I weeded the red out of my already limited wardrobe. I walked silently past the man on the downtown street corner: he was selling handbags decorated with rhinestone American flags, and as he fingered them, he said clearly, "Die Amerikaner haben es verdient. Wollen Sie eine Tasche kaufen, Amerikanerin?" [The Americans deserved it. Do you want to buy a bag, American woman?]

That man came to mind this morning as I was driving to work, his tan face, his lips twisted in a smirk, his dirty blond hair. I couldn't say anything to him then—it wasn't safe, and my German wasn't—still isn't—strong enough to construct something sufficiently withering. I think the only comeback powerful enough is that 10-year-old's voice, cracking over the syllables of his dead father's name.

Wednesday, September 10, 2003

I'm sorry, but I can't do that, Dave. And I hate your mother.

So we've actually gone insane from carpal tunnel syndrome or something, and decided that everything in the world needs to have a remote control on it. I know I said I was a gadget nut, but I'm not out of my mind. Remotes must be stopped.

Some of them are acceptable. T.V., fine, I understand it's annoying to get up from the couch and walk across the room when you're channel surfing. Stereo system...okay, I suppose. Might not want to interrupt a good book to get up and change the CD. Defensible, but pushing it. However, I don't understand why my brother (Matt, too, come to think of it) needs a remote for his car stereo. The stereo is at his fingertips, mere inches above the gearshift! How can rooting for a remote in the cupholder possibly be more convenient? It couldn't, that's how! It's a fine line between enjoyable convenience and unadulterated, laziness-induced redundancy.

Of course, even that is not as bad as what I saw today. Today I saw a discman—that's right, a personal CD player—with a remote. WHY IS THIS NECESSARY? It's already attached to your body! Are you a tyrannosaurus rex, that your arms don't reach to the end of the headphone cord? However do you manage to put the headphones on your ears, if your arms are that short?

Frankly, I blame this phenomenon on one thing: men. Specifically, men that are a) obsessed with buttons, and b) commitment phobic (i.e., all of them). Remotes are their ultimate solution: they can end the uncomfortable relationship with that Christina Aguilera song, and they can push a button to do so. You know where this is heading, don't you?

That's right. Remote-controlled robot girlfriends.

Tuesday, September 09, 2003

Appreciate me now and avoid the rush*

I think it's sort of evil that the best experiences of a place come in the few days before you're set to leave it. I'm down to less than two weeks in H-Town, and it seems like my friends, work, and the city itself are conspiring to keep me right where I am, or at least make me miserable when I leave. The weather has been lovely the past couple of days; I walked around outside for an hour last night without breaking a sweat. Work has finally calmed down; the second of my two books is entirely out of my hands now. And my friends are making themselves well-nigh indispensable. I've gotten more invitations for dinner, play, movies, and ridiculous fun times in the past 10 days than I did in my entire last year at Rice.

My point here is that my days are getting quite full, but I'd love to see you before I go. Specifically, I'd love to see you in my apartment helping me pack.

Barring that, however, drop me an email and we'll go get coffee, or food, or matching tattoos. You can at least have the schadenfreude of knowing that you're adding to my leaving misery.

*Slogan shamelessly stolen from MaryT.

Thursday, September 04, 2003

I need to go to graduate school

As many of you are aware, I wrote a thesis this past semester. Something new has come to light since I wrote it, and I want to discuss it, because I'm an academic at heart. If you're not in the mood for a literature lesson, feel free to go read something else.

First, some background in case you are, by some miracle, intrigued: my thesis discusses how the first modern woman memoirist, Lillian Hellman, and the current "Grand Dame" of memoir, Vivian Gornick, examined their mother issues through their memoirs. Tangential to that exploration is the scandal of Hellman's memoirs: they've been proven to contain significant factual errors—Hellman evidently created people and encounters. Gornick, who is a highly regarded literary critic and journalist in addition to being a memoirist, has been sharply critical of Hellman for constructing scenes to serve her own purposes, and so it was particularly interesting to compare the two women.

And then in July at a talk to Goucher College MFA program, Gornick admitted that she had constructed conversations in her own memoir, Fierce Attachments, Salon.com reports.

Laying aside the issue of Gornick's obvious hypocrisy, I have a question. Does this really change anything?

The issue of trust between a narrator and a reader is a volatile one at best. Everything has a certain perspective, obvious or not. In the genre of memoir, perspective is extreme and the issue of trust is constantly at the forefront of critical discussion. Critics seem to think that the highest duty of the non-fiction writer (as memoir is so often classified) is absolute truth. But memoir is not normal non-fiction. The narrator struggles to tell her story, but since it happened to her, instead of being observed by her, she is flawed, falliable, and limited in her ability to recount it correctly. She can provide perfect insight on her own experience, but could Gornick possibly know what her mother is thinking? No, and we as readers can't expect her to. But somehow we expect exact recall and hard, proveable facts, or we feel deceived. That expectation is the skewed perspective.

What I'm saying is this: If you feel betrayed by your memoirist, you're missing the point.

The point of memoir is not to reconstruct events exactly as they occured. Memoirs aren't history textbooks. The point of memoir is to provide insight to the writer's mind and experience of events, and thereby insight into the human condition at large. "Truth" and "falsehood" are too limiting at this level.

Gornick's admissions of construction have no detrimental effect on the conclusions of my thesis, written months before she spoke at Goucher. I stand by my original statement: Gornick wrote "Fierce Attachments" to resolve lingering issues with her mother. In fact, Gornick's revelations underline my conclusions. By creating conversations with her mother, Gornick was seeking to understand and document her own experience, to portray her cognitive comprehension of and emotional reaction to her mother. She was not attempting to present a psychological anaylsis of the mother-daughter relationship, or a biography of her mother, or a linguistic breakdown of women's conversational patterns. She was writing a memoir. What she wrote remains true, no matter how much of it Gornick constructed. I hope she will reconsider her position on Hellman's factual holes, which might be bigger, but in essence are no different.
Gizmo update:

I picked up my computer at 8:45 tonight after an interminable wait for the confirmation email from Best Buy. Anyway, after half an hour or an hour of playing, I got the internet set up, I'm working on downloading instant messenger (oh, dial-up, I curse your name), and I watched part of Titus. Now I'm blogging on it. I've put it through its paces, I would say, and it's performed admirably. It's been a grand evening.

Wednesday, September 03, 2003

"Welcome, please fasten your safety belt."
"Bossy wench."*

You know, I tease E2 all the time for being a gadget nut. M4 and I frequently call him "Gizmo Boy," since he has a penchant for buying things that are shiny, full of buttons, and apt to make high-pitched noises. He has a radar detector, a car CD player with a remote, a cell phone, more power tools than any almost-21-year-old should possess, and who knows what else. I think he even stole Senior Birdman's handheld Yahtzee game. He's terrible.

The thing is, though, I don't have much room to talk. I mean, I don't purchase as many of these items becaue I don't have a job that gives me free housing like he does, but I found my cordless drill in my closet a couple of days ago when I was cleaning. I took it out just to see how well the battery was doing after 6 months of being unused. I ran it down a little. Not to drill anything in, but just because I liked the noise and the spinning of the bitless drill. My favorite store in the Galleria is Brookstone, because they have those massage chairs and other weird gizmos for your house, like televisions for your shower and other useless stuff. (E2 likes The Sharper Image, because it's gizmos for everywhere, with an even higher degree of uselessness.)

Well, today, with a generous donation from the Birdman Family Foundation, I finally bought a gadget that should keep me happy for a long time: my new computer! I've been shopping since May, figuring out the gadgets-within-the-gadget. Tonight, it shall be mine! I'm really excited.

Of course, what do I want to do now that I have an übergadget? That's right, I want to buy minion gadgets for it. A car adapter, an airplane adapter, a carrying case...oh, I'm a sick, sick woman.

*The conversation my brother has with his radar detector every time he gets in his car.

Tuesday, September 02, 2003

Erin Irene and the enjoyable, awesomest, way good, very great day

I'm not a super-social kid, as you (should) know. I'm just fine at staying home and "tapping" my cat with the corner of whatever book I'm trying to read and she's trying to chew. Yesterday, however, I left my house at 11 a.m. and did not return until 9 p.m. In the course of those 10 hours, I filled my socializing quota for a week.

The hostess with the mostest, MaryT, threw a back-to-school brunch complete with school-supply exchange. Kudos to Andi for bringing safety scissors shaped like clowns; they're not particularly handy, but they made me laugh.

Then after brunch, Matt and I ran off to DSW Shoe Warehouse (On a side note, doesn't the "SW" in "DSW" stand for "Shoe Warehouse"? If it doesn't, the hell? If it does, dude, the Department of Redundancy Department called; they want you to step off their turf.), where I bought a darling pair of backless loafers because I suspect wearing flip-flops in sub-freezing weather will not increase my teaching authority. (I'm wearing these shoes today. In my single-minded adoration of flip-flops, I had forgotten how fun cute socks could be.)

After the successful shoe shopping, we met Erin and Dan for coffee, a movie, and dinner. Go see American Splendor, if you haven't. It's interesting and funny and sad. The filmmakers made almost every decision exactly the way I would have—and really, what more can you ask? Also, The Flying Pig makes excellent Pasta Marinara. Any restaurant that abuses mushrooms like that is somewhere that I want to eat.

The company was charming as ever. ("As ever"—like I've been out with Erin and Dan sooooo many times.) We sat at the table for 30 minutes after we paid our check, just chatting and commenting on the fickleness of one of the parties present. Then we left the restaurant and stood outside its front door talking for another 15 minutes. As a group, we either need to form a mutal admiration society or find more people who will listen to us, I'm not sure.

I got home at 9, took a minute to enjoy the fact that it was pouring down rain again, and decompressed a bit until MaryT and I decided at 12 a.m. that it was time for a monkey special (onion rings and chocolate milkshakes). We recapped the day, dissected the events of the brunch mercilessly, and complained a little about stupid boys we know, who weren't at the party but still deserved mention for their outstanding ability to irritate us.

And now I'm exhausted and I'll be staying in for the rest of the week. So don't call. Unless you're proposing ice cream, and then I'm sure we can cut a deal.

Friday, August 29, 2003

I believe in signs, and this is a humdinger

This assignment of characteristics was completely random...or engineered by a higher being. You decide.

is a Giant Dragon that Stomps Around a Lot, and is in League with Dark Forces.

Strength: 8 Agility: 9 Intelligence: 10

To see if your Giant Battle Monster can
defeat Erin, enter your name and choose an attack:

fights Erin using

(Thanks to Mike for pointing out somewhere for me to safely release my rage.)

Thursday, August 28, 2003

Some things can't be folded into the corner of the suitcase

Things are compacting, like a star just before it goes nova. Time, possessions, relationships. They press together tightly, overlapping, and rubbing, presaging either an explosion or a descent into dense nothingness.

Three weeks until I leave Houston, my home for the last four years. Three weeks, down from the six months I had when I first found out about the Austrian Adventure. Twenty-one days of summer left, instead of ninety. Three weeks to make my life fit into two smallish SUVs instead of a 500-square-foot apartment, a corner desk, and the Tracker.

My stuff seems to be crawling out of closests and corners, stretching slightly before settling into a crabby pile that says, "You've neglected me for a year, so I'm going to make this entire room smell musty." I'm slowly erasing my presence in my apartment, working from the back to the front. The living room looks like a rat's nest (enlarged to show detail, as they say), and the back bedroom is little more than a desert of beige carpet. Two SUVs: that's maybe 10 boxes, one of which is the cat carrier. The books have to stay, all 300 of them. Most of the kitchen. All of the furniture, obviously. And then from two SUVs, I have to get it down to a suitcase and a duffel bag. My life, travel sized. Doesn't work quite as well as miniature shampoo.

The relationships are the hardest to compact. How do you fit a friend into three lines in an address book, a confidant into a few words on a postcard? The last time I went abroad, it wasn't such a problem—I knew I was going to be gone less than six months, and that everybody would be there when I came back. As if all of Houston slept, waiting for me to come back and kiss it awake. This time, Sleeping Beauty's not even going to be around when I get back. The city will be there, but almost everything that made it home—my friends, my school, my apartment, my college self—will be long gone. The vestiges will have to be built into something else entirely. And in the meantime, I watch the idea of a 5,000 mile separation become a separation in its own right, a nasty foreshadow of the real thing that urges me both to let go and to cling.

It's amazing how deliberate the whole process is, when to all outward appearances, there is nothing but chaos taking place. Just like the molecules of that rogue star—more and more excited, wild, and apparently random, but all leading up to a predetermined outcome. Highly contradictory: thrilling and frightning, uncertain and inevitable.

Give me the explosion.

Wednesday, August 27, 2003

I really want to be Princess of Liechtenstein.

And while I'm wishing for things, I want this book to be done and SOMEBODY to give me a room in Stegersbach!

Tuesday, August 26, 2003

And I don't even like Mexican food

I stole this from Mary's friend Chris's blog because I'm a) lazy, b) bored, and c) completely unable to come up with an interesting blog, outside of the fact that I listened to the Lizzy McGuire Movie soundtrack and I feel shame. Also, I like questionnaires, especially if they're about me. Not-so-latent narcissism.

The Ten-Layer Burrito..
Name: Erin
Birth date: March 23, 1981
Birthplace: Chadron, Nebraska
Current Location: Houston, Texas, for the next three-ish weeks.
Eye Color: Hazel, although if you ask anybody who knows me, they'll tell you brown. They're wrong.
Hair Color: Dark brown
Height: Almost 5'9"
Righty or Lefty: Righty
Zodiac Sign: Aries. Can't you figure this question out from the birthdate? Or is that too much work?

Your heritage: German, Irish, Polish, and Dutch. Probably some other random stuff, as well. German is predominant.
The shoes you wore today: Black flip-flops, the same as every other day this summer.
Your weakness: Sweets. And romantic comedies, which is the film-world equivalent of sweets.
Your fears: That's a long list. Not being liked is probably chief among them, though.
Your perfect pizza: Italian sausage, pepperoni, mushrooms, green peppers, onions, cheese. Thin crust.
Goal you'd like to achieve: Find housing for my move to Austria. This is stressing me out.

Your most overused phrase on AIM: "Excellent." Or "Very good." Usually I'm just saying them to say something and they don't mean anything.
Your thoughts first waking up: "8:04 minus 40...that's 7:20. I can sleep for 20 more minutes." My math isn't so great in the morning.
Your best physical feature: My hair? I don't know.
Your bedtime: Varies. I try to be in bed by midnight on "work nights," but I don't give myself a bedtime on weekends. Usually ends up being around 2 or 2:30 a.m.
Your most missed memory: What does this mean? Missed memory? I don't know. Most loved memory...um, probably any Christmas with my family in the past five or so years.

Pepsi or Coke: Diet Vanilla Coke.
McDonald's or Burger King: McDonald's. Burger King can suck it. Their fries are vile, among other things.
Adidas or Nike: Adidas, I suppose. Although I don't wear much from either company.
Lipton Ice Tea or Nestea: Couldn't care less. Not a big tea drinker.
Chocolate or vanilla: Chocolate almost always.
Cappuccino or coffee: Coffee, usually flavored with cream and sugar. It says, "I'm adult enough to drink coffee...almost."

Smoke: Occasionally when drinking, otherwise no.
Cuss: When provoked.
Sing: Constantly.
Take a shower: Reluctantly. In general, I don't like to get wet, but yes, I understand the need for personal hygeine. I almost always shower at night, though, so I can sleep through my hair drying.
Have a crush(es): Usually. Not right now.
Do you think you've been in love: No.
Want to go to college graduate school: Yeah, I do, despite the fact that I don't know if I'll ever get a job with a doctorate in prose literature.
Like(d) high school: That'd be a big "no." I wasn't miserable, to be sure, but it was sort of like having morning sickness: doesn't really hurt, but you never know what's going to make you vomit, so you lay still and hope it goes away.
Want to get married: Sure, someday. It becomes less and less of an automatic assumption as I get older, though.
Believe in yourself: Intermittently.
Get motion sickness: I used to, but not so much anymore. Occasionally when flying, I get this feeling I can only describe as being "sick to my head" when landing. My head feels like vomiting, but my stomach is fine.
Think you're attractive: Not really.
Think you're a health freak: Definitely not.
Get along with your parent(s): Absolutely. I adore them, and they have made the transition from authority figures to advice givers gracefully. I'm also unusually careful not to rock the boat, which helps.
Like thunderstorms: Adore them, too. Any sort of extreme weather makes me happy. I particularly enjoy lightning, though.
Play an instrument: No, sadly. I sing all the time, but I've got about as much coordination as God gave little green apples, which makes instruments difficult. I want to learn to play the guitar. Maybe when I get back.

In the past month...
Had alcohol: Yeah. We had margaritas at El Pueblito a couple of weeks ago, and I had a hard lemonade or something at that alumni thing.
Smoked: Nope.
Done a drug: If one can be said to "do" ibuprophen. Otherwise, no.
Had Sex: No.
Made Out: No.
Gone on a date: I've had several pseudo-dates with my pseudo-husband. A date-date, no.
Gone to the mall?: Yes. I bought four pairs of pants for $70. It was the bargain of the day.
Eaten an entire box of Oreos: Oreos don't come in boxes.
Eaten sushi: No. There's nothing about sushi that appeals to me, and yes, that includes the rice.
Been on stage: No.
Been dumped: Not romantically.
Made homemade cookies: No. I made brownies from a mix last week.
Gone skinny dipping: No.
Dyed your hair: No, but I've given it some serious consideration.
Stolen anything: Pens from work. Not intentionally, but I'm a pen klepto. If I use a pen, it becomes mine.

Played a game that required removal of clothing: Yes
If so, was it mixed company: Yes. And that's all I'm going to say.
Been trashed or extremely intoxicated: Yes, although I've never blacked out or even had a serious hangover. But drunk enough to say things I shouldn't have? Yes.
Been caught "doing something": My mom caught me snooping in Christmas presents one year. I mean, seriously, could you vague that up for me? (No, by the way.)
Been called a tease: Yes.
Gotten beaten up: No.
Shoplifted: Once, when I was seven or so. It was candy, naturally.
Changed who you were to fit in: Well, not changed, but definitely muted certain parts of my personality.

Age you hope to be married: I don't know. Before death?
Numbers and Names of Children: Zero kids. Maybe one of my sibs will be nice and let me name a niece or nephew.
Describe your Dream Wedding: Um, family and close friends at the church (so like...25 people), and then a cook-out for everybody we know (and like...so, again, 25 people) at my parents' house. We can grill steaks, Mom can make a few cakes, and everybody can hang out and chat. There will be no more than three bridesmaids, I will not wear a ridiculously expensive dress, and nobody will be worried about last-minute details the day of the wedding. My husband and I will spend the reception chilling in lawn chairs, rather than jumping through hoops.
How do you want to die: Satisfied with what I've accomplished.
Where you want to go to college graduate school: Somewhere in the midwest, I think. University of Chicago and University of Illinois U-C are my top choices right now.
What do you want to be when you grow up: Professor of English. Or a bookstore owner. Or both.
What country would you most like to visit: Egypt. I wanted to be an Egyptologist from fifth grade until I was a freshman in high school. Pyramids still get me a little bothered.
In a guy/girl..
Best eye color: Doesn't matter that much to me. Deep brown? Whatever.
Best hair color: Again, whatever. The guys I've fallen for have had a pretty broad spectrum.
Short or long hair: Short, for sure. It's exceedingly rare that I think long hair looks good on a guy. Exceedingly.
Height: Taller than me is preferable, but I'll settle for within an inch.
Best weight: Eh. Not overly picky.
Best articles of clothing: I don' t have particular demands, but I do have deal-breakers. For example, pleated-front khakis are right out.
Best first date location: Coffe house or cafe. Something casual but with a decent scene. You can always fall back on people-watching.
Best first kiss location: Wherever. I don't think it matters all that much. It's about the kiss, not the location.

Number of drugs taken illegally: None. Well, I drank before I was of age.
Number of people you'd trust with your life: Five.
Number of CDs that I own: I don't know. I rarely listen to CDs. 50? At most.
Number of piercings: Four in the right ear, five in the left, and my left eyebrow. So 10.
Number of tattoos: Zero.
Number of times my name has appeared in the newspaper?: I don't know, a bunch. When you live in a town of 5,000, it's not hard. Probably once a month or every other month while I was in high school.
Number of scars on my body: One on my left thigh from April of 1988, the same month that I smashed my finger in a heavy door so the nail fell off and that I sprained my ankle jumping off a retaining wall into a snowbank. I got the scar because I was running back from lunch in slick shoes (racing a boy), fell down, and cut my leg open. I had to get seven stitches. I screamed the whole way through the stitching, and what's funny is that I remember the exact moment I stopped screaming because it hurt and I was scared, and started screaming just to be contrary. I was also quite upset that I got blood on the brand new dress I was wearing that day. My mom had made it. It had a skirt that belled out when I spun around, and the fabric was a loud tropical pattern I had picked myself. It reminded me of Hawaii. Not that I'd ever been to Hawaii. Other than that, the usual assortment of small scars you acquire while growing up.
Number of things in my past that I regret: Multitudinous. I have an overdeveloped sense of guilt.

Monday, August 25, 2003

Enforcing rules for sign posting! Put that above the fold, Bill.

I was reading the online version of Senior Birdman's newspaper today, just to keep up with the goings-on at home. On a whim, I looked at the classified ads. I can rent a three-bedroom house in a perfectly decent part of town for $500. Is nobody else flabbergasted by this? Five hundred dollars! That's all! Absurd. I saw an efficiency advertised for $175.

And just so you understand the difference in the speed of life there, a selection of headlines from the "Headlines" and "Features" sections:

Canoe ride worth bumps and bruises
Catholic parish opens new chapter in history
Having a garage sale? Make sure you know rules on posting signs
Now, you can chat, snap and surf on cell phones
Popular plant giving city a splash of color

It might be the most calming newspaper in the world, I think.

Thursday, August 21, 2003

One time she fell in the pond, which was funny

E3 starts college today, which scores, on a scale from 1 to 10, a "super weird." Surely she's not old enough to be in college. I just adjusted to her being in high school.

In the combinatorics of the Four Es, E3 and I are perhaps the most volatile. We're like that science fair chestnut, the vinegar-and-baking-soda volcano. You have the baking soda, you add the vinegar, it explodes and boils over. Interesting the first time you see it, tolerable the second, and by the third time, you're pretty much embarrassed for the lame kid that thought it would be cool to do the same damn experiment that everybody else in history has already done.

My mom theorizes that we fight because we are so much alike, which sort of blows a hole in the baking soda theory. We are both artistic, strong-willed, easily wounded, and intelligent (you know, most of the time). But then, that could be a description of any of the four of us. In a lot of ways my sister and I are very different. She's outgoing, impulsive, pretty, and melodramatic. I am reserved, methodical, plain, and pragmatic. It is these traits—and their resulting worldviews—that lead to our fights. To keep up the chemistry analogy, the similarities are merely the catalysts. My theory/metaphor wins!

In any case, she's in college now, so hopefully we will have some interesting things to talk about the next time I see her. Arguing about whether Nero actually offed Agrippina or whether Chagall is beautiful (me) or perverted (her) is much more interesting and less like liquid hot magma than arguing about the best age to get married (her: 19, me, contrarily: 35), whose goals are less attainable (her: self-supporting artist, me: self-supporting bookstore owner/writer), and who is Mom's favorite (her: you, me: uh, not me).

So...happy colleging, E3. I hope you had as good or better a time as I did.

Wednesday, August 20, 2003

I couldn't possibly make this woman up

I forgot to tell you that Crazy Lady in 4's nudity has been confirmed by M2. Evidently channel surfing is best done at 12:40 a.m., nude and with the front door halfway open.

Matt's first response when he saw her? Yup. "Please stop taking the liberty..."
Things that aren't nearly as gross as you think they're going to be, especially if it's 7 p.m. and you're still at work and you haven't eaten dinner:

Yoplait Orange Crème yogurt.

It's been a long day, people.
Beiß mich, Telefonoperatorfrau

How to start your day off right:
Get up at quarter to seven, go straight to the telephone, and attempt to make an international phone call in a language you haven't spoken in a year and a half.

So that was fun.

And another thing: what is the deal with people not knowing what language they speak in Austria? I mean, really. Austria's in Europe, an area heavily emphasized in American public schools. It was part of Germany for a long friggin' time. Ah-nuld is from there. But people constantly ask me what language they speak in that evidently mysterious country. Typical conversation:

Ignorant person: So what did you major in?
Me: English and German.
IP: So what are you going to do with that, then?
Me: Well, next year I'm going to Austria to teach English.
IP: Oh yeah? Austria, huh? What language do they speak there?
Me: ...German?
IP: Oh. *Confused pause. Forehead furrows as if trying to remember something.* Austria...Austria....

I mean, even if you didn't know, me telling you my major should be a damn fine clue. A little logical reasoning is all I'm asking for.

Tex summed it up the best, I think, when I complained about this phenomenon to him: "Well, anyway. Austria's language isn't named after it, so it's not easy to remember like 'American.'"

Tuesday, August 19, 2003

All the programs are above average

I love The Writer's Almanac. It comes on my local NPR station at 8:34 every morning, which, if things are going okay, is about the time I get on the freeway to head to work.

The Almanac is a simple little program—it's just Garrison Keillor reading about the history of writers. Their lives, their deaths, their work. Sometimes he throws in historical tidbits that have nothing to do with literature. His voice is smooth and slow, but not drawling.

He reads a poem in almost every program. He's a good reader, but not outstanding—sometimes his inflections aren't quite right for the scan of the line, sometimes he forgets to put that little pause in at the end of the line—but his tone is so comforting that I will forgive him almost anything.

Even if I couldn't forgive his minescule imperfections, I would still listen to the Almanac for the line Keillor delivers without fail at the end of every program, in the tone of an affectionate uncle. "Be well, do good work, and keep in touch." It's a little benediction for the work day, and I inevitably feel strengthened when I hear him say it. I am well, I can do good work, I will keep in touch.

Thanks, Garrison.

Monday, August 18, 2003

Meanwhile, in your madness you've gone and concocted one of the best Playmate names ever.

I know Manada linked this already, but anything that makes me spit on my computer screen because I'm laughing too hard deserves a link from here, too. Check out the horrible baby names and hysterical commentary.
"She speaks poniards...and every word stabs."

Things I learned Saturday night from Dan and Erin, who are like the funniest people I've ever met.

  • When you are watching Much Ado About Nothing and Don John makes his first entrance, everybody who's even one little bit with it will say, "Woah."

  • If you hang out with a cadre of Erins (Aarons), they will band together and turn against you.

  • The definition of "bass face." (That face that white guys make when they play either bass guitar or double bass. It involves weirdly pursed lips and mostly closed eyes.)

  • It's okay to reference your blog in the real world. But not too often.

  • I am not smooth.

  • If you suspect your date (or the keyboardist of the band you're watching) is a Muppet, here are some simple questions to ask yourself: Is one arm tacked to his stomach, or are his elbows supported by sticks? Does she appear to eat, but actually allow food to fall to the floor? Does he have a ridiculously huge mouth with no teeth? Is there a hand up her butt?

  • Some foods are anathema even if they're free, including cheez curlz and those weird Oreos with chocolate filling.

  • Making fun of M2 is a good ice breaker.

  • Putting a large number of Rice alums in one place means everybody's going to have at least one awkward moment before the event is done.

  • As I suspected, it is weird when girls wear a skirt over pants. Or a dress over a skirt, like that chick with the super-shiny hair we saw at Brasil.

  • Some people are so cool that you can't possibly be shy around them.

  • Friday, August 15, 2003

    And this is why I don't consider myself "grown up" yet.

    So in German, Vienna is called "Wien." A man from Vienna is called a "Wiener."

    I never fail to giggle when I hear that.

    It also works for Frankfurt and Hamburg. And Berlin, if you know that "Berliner" is a kind of jelly donut they have over there.

    I also giggled the other day when someone in the next row over at Barnes & Noble farted.

    Thursday, August 14, 2003

    All this confusion is leading to cleaning the house, so I've got that goin' for me, which is nice.

    The air is crisper in Houston these days, and although I'm sure that's the temporary effect of some recent storms rather than the onset of autumn, the season is changing. Dusk crept in a little earlier tonight; I saw sweater sets for sale at Target the other day. Students have returned to campus at Rice.

    And I haven't.

    I think this more than anything has underlined for me the magnitude of the transition I'm making. After seventeen years, I'm no longer a student. In some ways I'm pathetically grateful—I'm not faking my way through another O-Week, nobody's demanding tuition money, and the writing I do consists of rambling sentences on a blog rather than focused commentary on a book I haven't read for a midterm I'm barely worried about. But in other ways, I'm terrified. I have to make a life from scratch now, without the Betty Crocker brownie mix of school—add eggs and oil, bake 30 minutes at 350º for delicious work and social life—to add to. I have to figure out my own answers now; there's no ready-made option.

    Until I started thinking abut it today, I didn't realize how much this transition has been affecting me. I've been existing in limbo this summer, denying the end of school and the beginning of "real life." Now that school's started again, I can't do that anymore, and everything is taking on a different signficance. It becomes a question of what has to be dealt with in the five weeks before I leave Houston. Is the leak in the bedroom so critical, or can I leave it for my landlord to deal with when I move out? Can I really finagle enough money to buy a computer in that time, or is paying off my plane ticket going to break me? Is it completely necessary to patch up that broken relationship, or can I just let time and absence heal it?

    I no longer have the luxury of "just seeing how it goes." Things have to be figured out now, decisions have to be made, action has to be taken, one way or the other. So I'm a little stressed out, a little fragile, and a lot tempted to do whatever's easiest instead of whatever's best.

    But at least I'm not steam-tunneling.

    Wednesday, August 13, 2003

    Now, if only you could spray it straight into your mouth...

    I don't iron my clothes very often. In fact, I make it a point to buy clothes that don't have to be ironed very often, if ever, because ironing is so low on my totem pole of priorities. And if I ever say to myself, "Oh, I'll just iron that in the morning," what I'm really saying is, "Eh, I can look a little wrinkled tomorrow."

    However, when I do decide to do my ironing, as I finally did last night, I do a good job of it. Everything comes out perfectly smooth, and there's no wrinkle I can't get out. This is because I abuse the spray starch mercilessly. I think spray starch is the cleverest thing to come out of a can since whipped cream. It makes things crunchy and it smells good—it's like a miracle, all for the bargain price of 99¢. I starch everything. Multiple times. I make little white starch puddles on tough creases. Sometimes I starch the ironing board, just for the hell of it. I starched the T-shirt I'm wearing today, and the ruffle of the skirt I have on is both shiny and stiff from the excess of starch I used. I may starch my pillowcases tonight.

    I make things as stiff as possible, but it's not quite stiff enough. I wish I could get things to stand up on their own. If I could do that, I'd iron everything I own, and then set them up in amusing tableaus in the living room. And I'd never go to work wrinkled again.

    Tuesday, August 12, 2003

    Pop quiz, hot shot

    If you were moving to a foreign country (say Austria) to teach English to students (say high schoolers) and you had to take stuff with you for lessons on U.S. culture, what would you take? The more specific you can be, the better.
    My book came

    It's still green. The pages are glued into the cover now, though, and that's very exciting. I guess.

    Monday, August 11, 2003

    Things I do that make my cat insane

    Owner Action: Putting small black collar on cat.
    Cat Reaction: Yowl. Bite collar, bite owner, bite brass I.D. tag. Groom chest repeatedly. Attempt to get head petted so owner will notice cruel oppression of cat's nudist sensibilities and remove offending item.

    Owner Action: Applying mascara to eyelashes (alternatively, plucking eyebrows, putting in contacts, flossing, or any activity that requires fine motor skills and mirror)
    Cat Reaction: Yowl. Jump on bathroom counter. Repeatedly butt head into owner's elbow until owner (a) pokes eye out, or (b) knocks cat into damp sink.

    Owner Action: Attempting to walk the six feet from kitchen to desk carrying bowl of Honeycombs cereal.
    Cat Reaction: Yowl. Walk directly under owner's feet. When kicked, yowl and flop down approximately two inches in front of where owner will put down her foot next. After mess has been cleaned and new bowl of cereal has been retrieved, cat may (a) repeat, or (b) wait patiently until owner sits, and then jump on desk and quickly begin eating Honeycomb.

    Owner Action: Flushing toilet.
    Cat Reaction: Yowl. Jump out of bathtub, put front two paws up on toilet seat and watch water swirl away. Never become less fascinated by this process. For added bonus, jump up on toilet seat entirely and drink from toilet as it refills. Eat out of owner's cereal bowl at soonest opportunity.

    Owner Action: Writing with pen.
    Cat Reaction: Yowl. Bite end of pen, disrupting owner's handwriting with line extending half way across page. If pen is moved, hold down owner's hand with paw (claws extended) and bite again. Attempt to puncture ink core so owner ends up with large black splotch on hand.

    Owner Action: Sleep.
    Cat Reaction: Yowl. Walk on owner's bed. Walk on owner's pillow. Walk on owner. Walk near owner, but do not touch her. Lay on owner, and yowl annoyedly when she rolls over. Put wet nose on inside of owner's elbow. Put wet nose on owner's stomach. Put wet nose on owner's cheek. Lay in front of alarm clock, so when owner attempts to hit snooze, she inadvertently pets cat instead. Bite owner's toes through sheet. Knead owner's breast. Leave owner alone for 15 minutes, then, just when owner has fallen asleep again, bunt owner's nose. When owner finally gets up, curl up for nap.

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