November 8, 2008
When it was first announced that she would be Sen. John McCain's running mate, I believed it was a genius move. Many people were still bitter about Hillary Clinton's defeat, and this woman seemed very capable and likable, however unknown her amount of experience was at the time.
I will not deny that she connected with many people, especially the very conservative Republicans, and the Christian evangelists. In modern politics, charm and charisma aren't secondary characteristics, they are required in the sound-byte constant television cycle.
Soon it became obvious what she was- a woman with no interest in women's rights, someone with a shallow knowledge of the world around her and even less interest in it. Instead of being a model for the modern woman- smart, put-together and engaging, she was the opposite of what women have been working for in the latter half of the 20th century. Instead of confirming that you can be smart AND feminine, that you could make it to the top with hard work and wisdom, she reinforced the old and disappointing fact that if you look pretty you don't have to have brains, a work ethic, or even basic common sense.
My eighty-year-old great aunt, a woman who was born in 1928, who has seen so much in her lifetime (and who is a staunch Republican), said in regards to Palin, "that woman has no class". Gov. Palin is nothing but show without any substance. Her embarassing interviews with Gibson and Couric could be chalked up to nerves or being unaccustomed to the public's eye, but her interview with the Radio DJs from Montreal, pretending to be French President Nicholas Sarkozy, was particularly appalling. Hearing anyone in a position of power address another nation's leader in such an informal, insubstantive and undignified manner proved my great aunt right. The DJs later said that of all the people they pranked (the Queen of England and Sarkozy himself), the only two people to never realise it was a joke, who had to be told it was a prank, were Sarah Palin and Britney Spears.
I pray that the next time a woman in politics inspires as many people as Sarah Palin did, she is truly a woman of substance.
April 20, 2008
I used to read it religiously, every day, sometimes even multiple times a day. Here are some things that bugged me so much I just couldn't read it anymore.
- Steampunk - Holy god in heaven is steampunk the dumbest crap ever. Cory Doctorow has the weirdest, creepiest love affair with steampunk and can't refrain from posting about ANYTHING steampunk, even a fucking coffee mug. Whenever I think steampunk, I think it's just all those nerds who liked Wild Wild West and have a fetish for making everything twice as complex as it was before.
- Xeni Jardin = Sex - If there's a post about sex, it's Xeni's. She is the classic internet attention whore- constantly tries to prove how smart she is, how nerdy she is, how she's soooooo open-minded her brains leaked out, that she's sexually liberated by constantly drawing attention to the fact she has boobs. It's women like this that make it frustrating for me to post on forums and message boards.
- Transportation Security Administration - This issue was what pushed it over the edge. BoingBoing has harped about the TSA for ages, as if it's the most evil, corrupt entity in existence, that they stomp on rights, are overbearing, etc. etc. as if flying is some inalienable right listed in the Constitution. That's what happens when nerds with too much free time and liberty have to find something to feel prosecuted about. Here's an example of the extensiveness of their bitching about the TSA:
After 30 minutes, the TSA people said, okay, you may leave now. And everyone unfroze, and went and got their bags. No explanation. I guess I should have pressed for an explanation, or demanded to know why we were being held without our consent and without a provided reason, but I was really tired and just wanted to get the hell out of there and go home. Perhaps I was wrong to have just walked away.She GUESSES she should have pressed for an explanation? After all the whining and complaining and Nazi comparisons?! I left a comment that told her she should be ashamed of herself, but since their comments are moderated, it never showed up. Funny.
Here's a great example of most of my BoingBoing pet peeves being put into action:
April 6, 2008
The title is a little awkward, but it makes sense once you read the book. The book is an account of the life of Valentino Achak Deng, a Sudanese man who is forced to run away from his village at the age of six due to raids by Arabs. He journeys around Sudan, joining other groups of boys, ending up at one refugee camp after another until one day he is selected to go to America.
It is not a fiction book, nor is it a biography. In the introduction, Valentino explains that he didn't think he could write the story himself, and the work is classified as fiction because of course he cannot accurately recall small events or conversations from when he was young. Many reviewers on Amazon had a problem with this, saying that Valentino should have written the book himself, that Eggers (or anyone, for that matter) can't tell someone else's story. A few were confused about the whole 'classifying it as fiction' thing. Once you start to read the story, though, it is very easy to just read his account of his life.
The way the book was written made my opinion of Eggers very favorable. It is chronicled in one day of Valentino's life here in America, with the rest of the story told in flashbacks. This is extremely hard to do without losing the reader, and he does it wonderfully. There is a nice balance of explaining the situation in Sudan (which I was woefully undereducated about), having the 'gory details', and injecting raw humanism (to use a very navel-gazing phrase). Valentino isn't made out to be some sort of tragic little hero, struggling through oppression and death with a brave heart. He is just very human, scared and defeated at times, and joyfully optimistic at others.
The few problems I have are not such big deals. Having written for so long, it is very rare for a book to suck me in enough to where I just read, instead of analyze their writing style, tricks, methods, etc. About three-quarters of the way in, the length and layout of the flashbacks, especially the way he wraps them up, became very predictable. Also, I would've liked to see a little more of his experiences with America. There is an adequate amount of anecdotes regarding this, such as when he and his roommate at first don't know what food goes in the fridge, the freezer, or the pantry, but being the egocentric American, more details of culture shock would've been a nice insight.
The book was not trite, nor did it play up to your emotions by being overly despondent or overly optimistic. It's definitely worth a read, especially if, like me, you know little or nothing about what is going on in Sudan. All in all, it was a beautiful book that makes you sit back and appreciate everything you have, especially love and life itself.
March 26, 2008
2 Chicken drumsticks
1 cube chicken bouillon
2 Stems Bok Choy (substitute: Spinach, Peas, or Broccoli)
2 squares sizzling rice
Few dashes pepper
Two dashes ginger
Set a medium pot of water to boil on the stove. Remove skin from chicken. Slice off as much meat as you can, taking care to remove any gristle and cartilage. Cube the meat and add to the pot when the water is at a rolling boil.
While this is going on, wash your bok choy and cut off stems to just below where leafy part starts. Cube this.
Chicken should be almost done at this point (it takes about 15 minutes total), so drain some of the water from the pot. Keep only as much as you think you'll consume. Add a cube of bouillon and the pepper and ginger.
When the chicken is done (take out a piece and cut it open- if it's all white, you're good to go), add the bok choy and immediately turn off the heat.
Set sizzling rice at the bottom of a bowl and pour the soup over it.
One of the best cooking advice I've gotten is if the chicken looks done, it is done. That way you won't overcook it and end up rubbery.
I used sizzling rice because you don't have to precook it. It's a great timesaver. You can also sub in regular egg noodles, elbow macaroni, whatever kind of pasta into this. Just add it in when the chicken is about halfway done.
$1.13 per serving
March 24, 2008
It contains better choices and options at fast food/sit-down restaurants and grocery stores. What really caught my attention was the fact it's not cutesy and improbable suggestions like "order a salad instead of a burger!" but realistic swaps.
For example, the Krispy Kreme Original Glazed Doughnut has 200 calories versus Dunkin' Donuts Glazed Cake Donut at 330.
The section is expansive, so clicking one of the four tabs at the top (Restaurants, Groceries, etc.) leads you to at least 4 or 5 tabs.
Here's the link.
March 5, 2008
Being exposed to the inner workings, I feel I can share some things I've learned.
- The markup on new cars is slim. I don't work at a luxury dealership so I can't speak for BMW or Mercedes, but our markup, the difference between MSRP (or 'sticker') and what we pay for the car is usually less than $500. In fact, we lose money on about 20% of the new car deals. However, the higher you go in price, the higher the markup. For example, our econogas cheapo model is marked up about $375, and our luxury SUV is marked up around $1000.
- We make most of our money on used cars. Take, for instance, my old 1997 Nissan Altima. If I'd have traded it in at the dealership, I would have been given $800-$1000, depending on the condition. They will then turn around and sell it for $2900-$3100. It's a pretty good rule of thumb to assume that there is at least a $1000 markup on a used car, if not more.
- Assumptions are made about you. Before you open your mouth, the salesman can predict if you're buying new or used, if you're an actual buyer, and if they're good, what model car. I'm not saying this is negative or positive, it just happens and you'd be surprised at how often they are right. A young white girl will almost always want the sport coupe but she is 'just looking', as she has to have her dad/mom with her to actually buy the car (she usually doesn't come back). A middle-aged lady in sweatpants and a loony-tunes t-shirt wants a used car, probably a sedan, and will come back at least 3 times before she buys. And contrary to popular belief, a salesman's favorite customer is Mexican. 9 times out of 10 when they say they will buy, they come back and then later send in referrals. They are pleasant, not demanding, and realistic about what they can get with whatever budget they have. As much as it seems these are stereotypes, they often turn out to be true.
- There is no such thing as a $3,000 car, '00 or newer with less than 90,000 miles. Get over it. We always say to call when they find this imaginary car, because we'd sure love to buy one as well. Do some research online, look in the paper or in AutoTrader for prices, and get a feel of what your budget can get. We get at least a customer a day who walks in and wants a $3000 car, only to walk right back out the door when shown a 1999 Grand Marquis with 120,000 miles.
- If you feel like you're being hassled and pushed into a deal or the salesman is rude or overbearing, leave immediately. These are indicators that a dealership doesn't treat its employees well or certainly doesn't treat their customers well. Most people are afraid of the car-buying experience (women in particular) for this reason. A dealership that is disrespectful of you will not be honest and will more than likely take advantage of you. Finding a salesman you trust is as important as finding a good hairstylist or accountant. A good salesman will help you even after you've closed the car deal and will remember you the next time you buy a car (and probably discount the price). Always keep in mind that the dealership is serving you, and you do not have to buy a car. Up until the point you sign a contract, if you feel uncomfortable, you can just walk away. Which also brings me to my next point:
- Don't waste the salesman's time. If you are not really considering the car, or have a good feeling you won't buy anytime soon, say so. Be upfront and honest with the salesman and he will be upfront and honest with you. We don't mind letting people drive the cars (after all, they could fall in love with it) when they say they may not buy, but we do mind people who come back two or three times or stay for two hours without being clear on what they want. It's not fair to the salesman and just plain inconsiderate. Never, ever try to bluff your way into a better deal by saying such-and-such dealership offered you X price (unless, of course, they have, then by all means use that to your advantage). It will be obvious if you're lying.
- Shop at the end of the month. Salesmen get bonuses depending on how many cars they sold in a month. If they've had a bad month, they will be much more likely to do anything to get you to buy the car, including throwing in a tank of gas or window tint. The slowest months are November-February, with January probably being the slowest month for car dealerships.
- Rebates. If there's a car you want to buy, keep an eye out for commercials and check the company's website for rebates. These actually work in your favor. Rebates are taken from the company's profit margin, not the dealerships'. If a dealership tries to explain that they can't go down on the price because of a rebate, call them on it.
- If you have bad credit and know you have bad credit, be flexible. This is so, so important. A good thing to do is to bring pay stubs or your W2- a lot of lenders will require proof of income (or POI). Don't expect to get your dream car for your dream payment. Dealerships are willing to work with you to make you happy, but if you aren't in the place to make demands, don't. Just the other day, two women were in, trying to buy a new car. One of their credit scores was around 500. Our finance manager was trying to pull favors from the bank to help them out, but they refused to either drop down a model or even to the 4-cylinder from the V6. Trust me- if you're an older lady, two cylinders is not going to make a difference. Unless you drag race your fellow ladies from church.
- Ask for their best price, then say you'll sleep on it. Most of the time, when customers leave, they don't come back and dealerships know this. Do not leave, but act reluctant or say you'll go home and sleep on it and watch the salesman shit his pants. They want to close the deal more than you do, and if they really can't go down in price, they'll throw in a tank of gas, scotchguard (which costs the dealership practically nothing), maybe even window tint if you're good.
In all, try to keep in mind that the car business has changed. There isn't as much trickery and secrecy as there used to be, and the days of hard bargaining are pretty much over. If you have any questions, leave them in the comment box and I'll update this post.
March 1, 2008
- Whole corn
- Corn oil
While I wouldn't really recommend eating Fritos (it still has 10g of saturated fat per serving), the ingredients are very surprising. Baked Lay's, however, contains:
Dehydrated potatoes, Modified food starch, Sugar, Corn oil, Salt, Soy Lecithin, Leavening (Monocalcium Phosphate and Sodium Bicarbonate), and Dextrose.
February 17, 2008
After my year of dorm living was up, I moved into a house with some friends of mine. Before I continue, I'm one of 'those' girls- the one whose friends are all male. I think I have maybe one female friend. Most of the time, when I meet another girl who is like me, we usually squeal and giggle about how much we hate girls (those catty bitches), that guys are soooo easygoing, we should really hang out and go for coffee sometime. Which never happens.
Anyway, I moved into this house with four guys. It was a huge house, two stories, gigantic addition in the back, two kitchens, five bedrooms, blahblahblah. Ok, so the carpets were a little worn-down and there was hideous Laura Ashley floral wallpaper on 'accent' walls, but it was our house and we were finally living like adults.
In reality, I think we all had a different idea of what living there would be like. For me, it was a sanctuary, a place to hang out with my closest friends without crossing the front stoop, the place where I'd really get my act together with the studying thing. For them, it was a place to party and smoke weed without worrying about the R.A. knocking on the door.
It was pretty naive of me to expect 19-20 year old guys, living on their own for the first time, to think about things like taking out the trash or throwing away the moldy steaks they left in the fridge. It drove me crazy, trying to keep things clean and in relative order. When I introduced a system of emptying/running the dishwasher when we first moved in, they thought it was crazy and said that everyone would just pitch in and do what needed to be done. After about three months, they grudgingly admitted that no one in their right mind would stop and empty the dishwasher when there was an A-Team marathon on.
Then there was the partying. With a house that size and that close to campus, it was pretty perfect for partying (elderly neighbors be damned!). Most people were grateful to get out of their cramped apartments and get some elbow room.
What became a problem, however, was people coming over at all hours of the day. Friends of the guys that lived there, people I knew but wasn't particularly close to, would show up at 11 a.m. and just walk in the front door. Once I awoke from a nap and walked downstairs to find two friends of ours playing a video game. No one else was home and they hadn't bothered to think to come back another time.
There were parties every weekend- not small, close affairs, either. Two kegs and half the student body would show up. Then came the beer pong table in the living room, and it wasn't just a handful of times I'd have to go downstairs at 2 a.m. on a Wednesday to ask them to keep it down.
After a while, I did something I never in a million years thought I would do- I started to grow a spine. Quiet pleadings to 'try to stay quiet' turned into 'look, faggots, it's Tuesday, go home'. Once, when my roommate and I had a small birthday party (we invited maybe 20-25 people and told them not to bring a bunch of friends), one of the regular party crashers, 'Sven', showed up. We let him in, as he was good to hang out with, when 30 minutes later the doorbell rang. I opened up the door to a couple of overly made-up girls and a handful of douchy-looking boys. I asked them who called them and they said 'Sven' had. Before I could say anything, they walked straight into the house and into the kitchen, opening the fridge and asking for beer.
I calmly shut the door and went to the kitchen. "I'll have to ask you guys to leave."
They stared at me, uncomprehendingly, as if I were speaking French. "No, I'm serious, this is a private party and we invited some close friends."
Still, they hesitated, not sure if this plain, short girl was serious. Then I said the phrase that would serve me so well for the next few months: "Get the fuck out."
All of my life I've been very timid; if my order was wrong at a restaurant, I'd shut up and eat it. If someone pushed me out of the way or cut in a line, I'd look the other way. There's a lot to be said for turning the other cheek, but I'm no holy man and sometimes you can't let people walk all over you.
The rest of my time at the house was a lot more comfortable, and the parties were kept under better control. See how you feel after the third group of party hoppers (people who drive around town and show up at strangers' parties once the host is drunk) walks in your house, tracking mud in and not bothering to find out who lives there. There were many people I pissed off, I was called a bitch and some other not-so-nice names. The people who were our friends and especially my other roommates were grateful someone stood up and said what they were all secretly hoping to say.
It's so damn nice to have my own apartment, though.
February 15, 2008
What am I referring to, you say?
The GMC Yukon Hybrid. It even got its own special SuperBowl Ad. It's a beautiful-looking commercial, attention-getting, but definitely wrong for the SuperBowl. However, it's also pompous navel-gazing crap. Great, one of the biggest SUVs available is going to be a hybrid.
GM is also releasing a Chevy Tahoe Hybrid, which I will refer to in the rest of this post.
According to the commercial, estimated gas mileage is 21. CarandDriver Magazine has this to say:
By EPA measures, the hybrid Tahoe four-by-four is rated at 20 mpg city and highway. The standard Tahoe four-by-four’s ratings are 14 city and 19 highway. Our as-tested mileage for the hybrid was 19 mpg, way better than the 12 mpg we got with the regular Tahoe...It seats 6 or 7 people, and if you're the unfortunate sap who has to cart around 6-7 people, it may make sense. However, the Honda Odyssey also seats 6 or 7 people. Its EPA estimated fuel economy is... 21 mpg! About the same as the Tahoe Hybrid.
The base model Honda starts at $25,860. The Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid price for the 2WD version starts at $50,490.
Some people may claim I am comparing apples to oranges, but SUVs are essentially sexier minivans. While they may have originally been designed for actual 'sport-utility', their off-road capabilities are doubtful. Minivans also don't have that nasty little habit of rollovers.
However, if you feel you are too cool for a minivan and too smart for a 'regular' car, by all means, pay for an abysmal 19 mpg and ugly stickers that scream 'I care- without really caring', then I hope you enjoy your purchase.
Full CarandDriver article here.
February 5, 2008
SiteShuffle - Good for those sites you visit everyday. Frees up tab space on Firefox.
Quizlet - Flash cards that generate quizzes and scores. An excellent way to study and a beautiful compendium of coding languages. The boy who made it will go far.
FreeTranslation - I find this to be more reliable than Babelfish. I've only used it for French and Spanish, so don't bitch to me if you claim to be a jelly doughnut.
Gmaps Pedometer - Calculate distance using Google Maps. Very useful for joggers, maybe even more so for the lazy.
Cooking and Food:
Simply Recipes - Simple, good, generally uncomplicated recipes. Today's recipe was a stock using chicken feet, something absolutely delicious that deserves to be widespread.
BentoTV - Sarah, the host, has been keeping it up almost daily since August 2006. She specializes in Bento, a popular way to make lunch in Japan. However, she also has neat recipes and tips for packing a nutritious lunch. I've personally ordered from her shop and have been very satisfied.
Use Real Butter - I wish I could remember how I stumbled upon this one. The photography is captivating and the recipes challenging but intriguing. She includes a lot of Asian dishes, which, as you will discover, I am very partial to. Updates almost daily.
Wheel of Lunch - Having a hard time deciding where to eat? Just plug in your zip code and it will choose a restaurant at random. I recommend leaving in 'restaurant' as a search term, as it will search everything from fast food to tablecloth.
HeatEatReview - Review site for frozen foods. Cute name, eh? Definitely leans toward the lighter meals, which I'm not complaining about. Even if you scoff at frozen foods, read their zero star reviews on a slow work afternoon.
GoodEats - A fan page that catalogs the scripts for every Good Eats episode. Extremely handy if you want more information than just the recipe. Warning: uses frames. Navigate at your own frustration.
Fashion (sorry guys, can't help you much here):
Go Fug Yourself - Half fashion, half celebrity gossip. Updates multiple times a day and rarely fails to be entertaining.
Fashion Under $100 - Celebrity-inspired street clothes. This site does a great job of pulling together lookalikes. However, it relies on VERY cheap clothes as she includes even the handbag and shoes. It's still a great site and worth a look.
As embarrassing and lowbrow as it is, sometimes we need a break from thinking.
Aforementioned Go Fug Yourself.
Pink is the New Blog - Best for those once-a-day internet browsers. Trent is very thorough and optimistic but tends to be biased toward gay favorites such as Madonna and Kylie Minogue.
Dlisted - A new favorite of mine. Michael K is very opinionated and more pessimistic than Janeane Garofalo (no I didn't have to look that up... ok, I lied). Updated every damn second.
Neatorama - If you've ever read BoingBoing, please switch to this. Same idea (compendium of neat articles, facts and gadgets) but without the insufferable Xeni Jardin or Cory Doctorow. I'll have a rant about BoingBoing soon enough.
The Sneeze - Random stuff. I can't really describe it. Let's just say it's the only time I've read about someone's kid without wanting to claw my own eyes out.
WaiterRant - Cynical waiter who has a knack for prose.
Disgruntled Workforce - PostSecret for pissed-off workers.
Passive-Aggrestive Notes - PostSecret for pissed-off people.
Now that I've shown you sites that are more complete, have archives of interesting posts, and more useful than mine, please come back again!