Sunday free-for-all – September 14, 2014

Lucy emergesIt’s the weekend free-for-all.

This comment section is open for any non-work-related discussion you’d like to have with other readers, by popular demand. (This one is truly non-work only; if you have a work question, you can email it to me or post it in the work-related open thread on Fridays.)

Have at it.

{ 792 comments… read them below }

  1. Trixie*

    How on earth did “Lucy” with Scarlett Johansson earn a B rating from Entertainment Weekly? I can sit through just about anything but this the longest 90 minutes EVER. The upside was catching this week’s Hell on Wheels which is one of the best-yet-unsung shows on T.V. And available on Netflix.

    1. The Maple Teacup*

      Lucy is an assault on human intelligence. I wish to purge this movie from existence. Every time the movie made reference to humans using only 10% of their bains I wanted to kill myself. Humans use 100% of our brains for both conscious and unconscious functions. The movie made it seem that 90% of brain matter was untapped, non operational substance. Piffle! Not even Morgan Freeman made this film bearable

      1. INTP*

        I couldn’t even sit through the trailer for that reason.

        And even if we tapped into our extra brainpower, how exactly would that result in magical touchscreens appearing in the air and the ability to pause reality for other people or instantly change one’s hair style/color/texture? I get that it’s a superhero movie and some suspension of disbelief is required, but even then, you get one superpower or one set of related powers, not the instant ability to do anything.

        1. The Cosmic Avenger*

          YES! That’s the part that got me, too…the 10% thing could have been plausible/excusable, even though it’s been disproved, but that being superhumanly smart would let you do any of those things??? Geez…at least Alphas handled those kinds of powers in a more reasonable way. In fact, there’s been plenty of science fiction where a super-smart character can predict actions and reactions enough to drop a pen at exactly the right time and place and cause a building to blow up or save a life. This was just idiotic.

        2. Karowen*

          I literally yelled this at the TV every time that commercial came on. Luckily my SO thought it was amusing rather than annoying.

      2. Mt*

        I am a huge sci fi fan and also don’t mind looking scarlet Jo. I drank 3 beers during the movie And it was still unbearable.

      3. Melissa*

        It was so sad because I wanted to see this movie when I first saw the trailers – Scarlett Johansson, kicking ass in an action thriller with Morgan Freeman as her spirit guide? Yes please! But multiple people told me not to see it because it was too stupid to enjoy. One particular person in this group enjoyed the Seth Rogen film Neighbors, so I knew that too stupid was truly too stupid.

        I could take the “humans use 10% of their brains” thing OR the magical touchscreens/reality warping thing, but not both.

    2. Tara*

      I didn’t enjoy it much either, although I’m usually a huge fan of hers. I actually thought she did a decent job with what she was given; it was the script that ruined it for me.

    3. Squirrel!*

      I’m disappointed because I love Luc Besson. He’s one of the few people in the film industry who tries to have a female lead in his movies and not have them just be cookie cutter tropes or only a pair of boobs shooting guns (see: The Professional, The Fifth Element), but all of the reviews of this movie show that he’s gone downhill from that. And the last movie he produced (Lockout) could have been an enjoyable action romp but had that horrible woman from Lost and wasn’t self-aware enough to be funny so it ended up being too serious while trying too hard to be funny.

    4. Deen*

      I was disappointed at the trailer, it looked very violent. That is a very sad take on the topic (I mean, if it were true that we didn’t use so much of our brains). I would hope that if we had so much untapped potential, and then tapped into it, that it would be used for benevolence.

    5. reader*

      Read recently that what the critics look for and want audiences look for are not usually the same thing. Public wants entertainment and a believable unbelievable. Critics look at themes and techniques and how it was made. It’s like looking at painting and only noticing the brush strokes and not the subject.

    6. Anoners*

      I actually really liked Lucy, but I get why it’s so hated. I just liked it because it was pretty and entertaining. It made no sense though, which is a problem for some.

  2. Ann Furthermore*

    My husband has finished installing our new cabinets, and I will be spending tomorrow getting them all organized. I went to The Container Store today and bought some drawer dividers and other stuff. That store is like crack. It will take me forever to get everything where I want it, but so worth it. My house has been a complete wreck for the last 6 weeks. Tonight I loaded up the nifty spice-rack pullouts and was so happy.

    1. Windchime*

      I love the Container Store! Unfortunately, I love the idea of organizing better than actually doing it, because I buy all these cool storage solutions but I still have piles of paper and other clutter all over the house.

      1. Stephanie*

        Yeah, I’m like you. I get super excited about organizing all the things and buying all the organization things and then it never happens.

        1. Audiophile*

          We’re practically twins. I almost bought a file folder the other day to organize papers and then thought better of it. I’ll buy all the products and then won’t actually get organized.

      2. Melissa*

        I’m like that too. I realized that I have to do it in stages. One small organizational thing at a time. If I go HAM and buy a whole bunch of stuff, the containers will get piled in the corner unused, lol.

    2. Artemesia*

      We recently moved into a tiny condo with a tiny kitchen and I love it because I got rid of everything we don’t use and have those nifty container store and other organizers. I have a drawer with all my kitchen knives in it in a wood knife rack and a wide drawer with spice inserts so all my spices are readily available in a drawer. We have almost nothing on the counters. The coffee/tea cabinet by the espresso machine (one of the few things that gets counter space) works great because of little mini shelves that organize the cups and mugs.

      1. Ann Furthermore*

        I bought a bunch of bamboo drawer separators, with a tension-mount type of thing. So cool! I bought some for the silverware drawer, but they won’t work for that since they’ll leave a lot of unused space. Like if you put forks into one space, you’ve still got a bunch of room behind/above them in the divided space. But I’m going back tomorrow to get some other ones I found — long strips of plastic that you can cut where you want, and customize your drawer to whatever you want.

        1. Artemesia*

          For utensils I got a separator holder thing that is expandable and can be expanded and fills the drawer. Got it also at container store, so when I open the table ware drawer everything fits. I even enjoy unloading the dishwasher now that everything really does have a place and the kitchen looks great when cleaned up. All my life I have been one of those people who tried to get organized using products but never really managed it — this is the first time it has worked.

      2. Trixie*

        For my last tiny all-white kitchen (aka galley kitchens?), I found a great Martha Stewart-like drawer liner at the Dollar Store. Made everything just seem cleaner.

        1. Ann Furthermore*

          I found some very simple drawer/shelf liners that I bought there, just clear plastic that you can cut to size. My husband thinks it looks cheesy. I told him I didn’t want the shelves and drawers getting stained with water and food, since I’ve never had brand-new cabinets straight from the factory before. I can tell that this is going to be something that we bicker about on and off…but since I do 85% of the cooking, I am prepared to put my foot down.

          1. Melissa*

            Does he not like the clear plastic or the idea of drawer liners in general? I like drawer liners for the same reason you do, but I tend to use colorful striped ones.

            1. Ann Furthermore*

              He keeps saying that it’s “grandma” to do that. I say if it was something covered with kittens or baby chicks, then yeah, that would be grandma-ish.

              I think there are 2 types of people in the world: those who like the idea of shelf/drawer liners, and those who don’t. LOL.

    3. Natalie*

      I spent a fairly ridiculous amount of money there when I moved into my current place a few years ago, and I regret nothing. I have a smallish kitchen but I bake fancy stuff so I have a lot of pans and junk, and they all fit!

  3. stellanor*

    My shepherd’s pie recipe did not call for sufficient potato. It needed like 2x as much potato to get a decent potato layer all over. BOO, RECIPE. BOO.

    1. Artemesia*

      I recently had the same problem — needed twice the potatoes. Made mine with a basic gravy made of chicken broth and used ground lamb — it was really fabulous except for the slightly skimpy potato crust. Love shepherd’s pie.

      1. stellanor*

        I sent my SO to the store for more potatoes. This is one of the advantages to living across the street from the grocery store.

        I also did ground lamb and while it was lovely, I think I’ll stick with beef unless the lamb is on sale because lamb is outrageously expensive where I live. The lamb is nicer, but only like $1-2/pound nicer.

    2. Ann Furthermore*

      I made Anne Burrell’s shepherd’s pie for my husband for his birthday once. He asked me what it was, and I told him it was basically a meat stew frosted with mashed potatoes. The look on his face was a combination of wonder and glee.

      1. Artemesia*

        I have a friend who has an uncle with a very limited palate but who doesn’t openly criticize what his wife puts on the table. When faced with shepherd’s pie which he obviously didn’t relish his only comment was ‘So, this is what shepherds eat?’ — This has become that entire family’s inside joke phrase when they have a dish they don’t like. A fork full of liver casserole or oversalted beans and they hear ‘Soooooo, this is what shepherds eat?’

        1. Phyllis*

          In my family, if there is something extra delicious; main dish or dessert, the running joke is. “Don’t eat any, it’s got soap in it!” I have no idea where this started, but even the grandchildren say it. :-) It puzzles visitors the first time they hear this, “Why would you want to eat something with soap in it?” But I know that when I hear someone say it, I have scored a winner.

          1. Kay*

            My mom does something similar to this. “Oh this is really terrible, you shouldn’t eat any, but I’ll suffer through it”.

    3. Loose Seal*

      I read somewhere recently that the majority of published recipes aren’t tested; the writer just makes their best estimate of ingredients. Based on the recipes I make that I have to adapt straight out of the gate — not for preference but for need — I would say that’s probably true.

      1. C Average*

        I pretty much only cook from recipes I find online, and I always read the reviews first and adapt based on those.

        I do subscribe to Cook’s Illustrated, which gives exhaustive accounts of the trial and error involved in perfecting the various recipes! I trust those recipes. They’ve never let me down.

      2. Artemesia*

        This is why the reviews are very helpful; people mention what they did to adjust the recipe and I have found that when there is consensus about too much sugar or not enough potatoes, it is useful to follow that lead. I was shocked when reading Julia Child that apparently before her many cookbook writers didn’t test the recipes.

        1. fposte*

          They still don’t (not meaning nobody does, but it seems to be pretty common to find untested stuff). Cook’s Illustrated used to review cookbooks and test recipes from them, and the failure rate was astonishing. I particularly note issues in restaurant-based cookbooks and in Pinterest-y type “This will make a cute thing” cookbooks, where often I think somebody back-creates a recipe from the photo.

          1. stellanor*

            The first shepherd’s pie recipe I used told you to simmer the sauce until it thickened. But it had zero ingredients in it that would thicken, so it just reduced and remained mostly soupy. After a shockingly long time I gave up. The sauce was delicious but it all ran out the bottom when you served the pie.

            This time I added a couple spoonfuls of flour when I wanted the sauce to thicken. PROBLEM SOLVED.

            1. Melissa*

              One of the things I have enjoyed the most about cooking more is learning more about food science and how to make things turn out the way you want to. It makes it easier to alter recipes to get them to turn out exactly how you want.

        2. Stephanie*

          I read somewhere recently that the majority of published recipes aren’t tested; the writer just makes their best estimate of ingredients.

          That makes so much more sense now, especially after just eating a no-bake granola breakfast bar from an online recipe that doesn’t really hold its shape (it was delicious, however). This is why I like Smitten Kitchen and Serious Eats–the recipes on there are pretty reliable and tested.

          Online review comments can be kind of useless sometimes:
          “This oatmeal raisin cookie recipe is great! I just added another half stick of butter, some chocolate chips, added nutmeg and grated ginger and increased the baking time by five minutes!” (Uh, so is the original recipe ok? You just made a new recipe there.)
          “This recipe was terrible!!!! I am never making this again.” (Er, how so? Specificity!)
          “I would never use anything but organic raisins in my oatmeal raisin cookies.” (Good for you, but is the recipe ok?)

          Also, this: http://www.slate.com/blogs/browbeat/2012/08/22/ice_cube_recipe_comments_funny_ice_cube_recipe_sparks_amazing_user_comments_.html

        3. Melissa*

          This is why I love AllRecipes.com. I find a simple recipe and I read a lot of the top-rated reviews to see the alterations people have made. I then note them down on the recipe itself and try it a couple different ways until I’ve got it the way I like it.

    4. spocklady*

      I’m pretty sure this always happens to me, no matter how much mashed potato (many mashed potatoes?) I have ahead of time. I seriously think there’s like shepherd’s pie magic that makes the mashed potatoes be insufficient. It’s the saddest magic ever.

  4. Windchime*

    My son is getting married next week! I’m getting so excited!

    On the not-so-happy side–it’s a good thing I’m wearing a long dress to the wedding, because I tripped over the hose in the driveway a couple of days ago and sprained my ankle. It is feeling better, but it’s fat and swollen and purple. I’m sure by the wedding it will be yellow and green as well!

    1. sprain2*

      I sprained mine a couple weeks ago. The ankle’s finally feeling mostly better, but the end of my foot still hurts — makes me wonder if I broke something. I miss wearing heels :(

    2. Mimmy*

      Hope it’s not the same foot as the one you’ve been having trouble with!! Didn’t you have achilles surgery last year?

      1. Windchime*

        I did, and it’s the opposite foot. So my bad foot (the Achilles surgery foot) is now my good foot, which is super weird! LOL.

        My knees are an interesting color of yellowy-green this morning. I didn’t even know I had bruised them. Interesting.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      Get some willow bark. It’s the natural version of aspirin. You can find it at some grocery stores and most health food stores. Regular strength should be fine- the extra strength is a lot more money and probably you won’t notice a big difference.

      My friend broke her toe. I brought her some willow bark. The next day she could see the difference in the size of her toe. My husband some how managed to get the nastiest bruise I have ever seen. He fell getting off his bike. Gosh, that was large, it covered his upper arm and there was this bump in the middle.I thought the bump was a broken bone. It wasn’t. Ice and willow bark. The thing went down by 75% in 45 minutes. It was still frightening to look at but he said it felt a lot better.

      Willow bark is great for things that have puffed up- breaks, sprains, bad bruises. I have also used it on sinus headaches and ear infections. I’ve given it to my dog.
      Make sure you are icing that a couple times a day, also.

      1. Windchime*

        I’m icing like a crazy woman–in fact, that’s almost the first thing I did and I think it made a huge difference. Thanks for the tip about the willow bark; I’ll pick some up today. I was encouraged that I was able to get a shoe on it yesterday, so that’s good.

        It’s going to be embarrassing to get a pedicure next week. I’ve got the feet and ankles of a very old lady right now.

  5. Stephanie*

    My parents’ thirtieth anniversary is coming up in a month. I’m trying to figure out something budget-conscious to do for them. They just went to the courthouse to get married, but they have a few photos that are in a junk drawer (yeah, they really, really weren’t into a big wedding celebration). I was thinking of doing something with those. My inclination was just framing them myself. Any other ideas? Note: I am not crafty.

    1. Ann Furthermore*

      Look on Pinterest for some ideas. The key to doing crafts you find on Pinterest is to know your limitations! Today I went to Michael’s and got some stuff to make a Halloween wreath that I found. It involves cutting tulle into strips and then tying them in knots on the wreath form. I can handle that. Coloring black circles onto ping-pong balls, and them strategically placing them all over a wreath form with a hot glue gun? I can’t handle that. (Although it is a really cute idea.)

      I think framing those wedding pics is a really sweet idea, and I’m sure they’ll love that.

        1. AB*

          Couldn’t you just use the really big googly eyes and super glue? I saw a similar wreath on Pinterest that used feather boas and googly eyes. On a side note, feather boas are expensive

          1. Chocolate Teapot*

            I saw some ping-pong balls which had been made to look like eyeballs in the Euro shop the other day. I think they might have made a suitably gory decorative wreath.

    2. Artemesia*

      When my husband and I had our 25th my son and his girlfriend were in grad school a hundred miles away — and of course living on little and my daughter was 2000 miles away. My son and his girlfriend prepared a fancy home cooked dinner. A variety of French dishes that were not expensive ingredients but great recipes. It was really a lovely occasion.

      1. Coco*

        Wow great idea! I’ve definitely found that people who aren’t into big presents and celebrations still appreciate home-cooked food as a gift.

        1. Squirrel!*

          You could also see how much it would cost to have a chef come in and cook a meal for them one evening. My father has a friend whose daughter and son-in-law do this; the daughter is a waitress and bartender and he is the chef, and they go in together and take care of everything, it’s really nice.

    3. Graciosa*

      Have you thought about scanning them and restoring them (if needed) electronically? I have managed to clean up some very old photos this way, and I am not at all handy either – just determined and willing to put my time in at the computer.

      Once in digital form, they can be shared with others, loaded into a picture frame, used as a screen saver, or printed on to mouse pads or coffee mugs or whatever – not to mention, backed up somewhere in case of fire.

    4. Student*

      Since they weren’t very interested in the wedding the first time around, maybe there are other pictures that would mean more to them that you could do something fancy with. Vacations? Holidays? Family? What do they enjoy?

    5. C Average*

      Aw, congrats to your folks!

      Do they still have any of the paperwork from their wedding?

      My husband and I semi-eloped and have some kind of hilariously amazing paperwork from the courthouse (the marriage license form is the same one they use for dog and gun licenses; you just check different boxes). I’ve made us a collage of not just our wedding pictures, but the paperwork as well as some of the cards we received, our handwritten vows, and even a Post-It note on which I scribbled the text to an inscription in the courthouse that amused me. It’s really fun to look at, and I think it’ll become even more fun in years to come when the price for the license becomes comically low, the forms look more outdated, etc.

      I really love the home-cooked meal idea, too. Who wouldn’t love that? Perishables make WONDERFUL presents!

    6. Sunflower*

      I would also recommend Pintrest. Also, check out Etsy. People on there are so freaking talented. They can do crazy things with practicaly nothing. You might find some cool stuff on there or see if someone can do something cool with them. The prices are really hit or miss on there. Some stuff is super cheap and some are expensive but it’s worth looking for ideas!

    7. Elkay*

      If you can scan them you could get them printed up as a photobook (along with other family photos). I think for my parent’s 30th we got them theatre vouchers and for their 35th we got them a coral rose (because coral is for 35). I think pearl is 30, I’ve heard of people getting pearl handled cake slices, maybe a pearly photo frame?

    8. CTO*

      For my parents’ 40th last year, my sister and I wrote a combined list of 40 things we love/admire about them, wrote each one on a note card, and hid them all over their house. It took them a few weeks to find them all. This obviously depends on the recipient, but my parents LOVED it. They talked about it for months and pulled the cards out to pass around to everyone who came over. We also got them a more expensive gift (a gift certificate to a resort) and cooked a dinner for them but I think the notecards were by far their favorite part.

  6. Gene*

    Prank thread! What work-related pranks have you been part of/seen/heard from reliable sources. What prompts this is a post I wrote for another forum I’m on.

    This took place in the late 70’s on a nuclear carrier, somewhere in the western Pacific or Indian Ocean. Bored Nukes find ways to amuse themselves.

    The setup, Nuke berthing was in the extreme aft end of the 2nd deck, full beam. The normal access and egress was through the Deck Division berthing area, immediately forward of us, also full beam; the port corridor was from berthing to berthing, the starboard corridor went from berthing in our area through the Deck lounge area. The difference in average IQ was, shall we say, wide. The Nuclear Power Program is probably the most difficult specialization in the Navy to get into mentally and Deck is (with exceptions) where you end up if you can’t do anything else. Most Nukes didn’t have normal workdays. Our watch schedules ranged from 4 on, 4 off to 6 on, 24 off; most common was either 4 and 8 or 6 and 12, so our berthing area was in darkness for about 22 hours per day and we had heavy curtains across the entrances. Most other divisions had normal workdays, so lights on at 0700 and off at 2200, but there was pretty much always someone awake in any given lounge area. Another thing to keep in mind, glow sticks were pretty new then, and weren’t available in your local 7-11.

    So, early one morning, 0300ish, a set of glowing bare footprints appeared leading from the port entrance to #3 Plant aft through the aft mess deck, past MARDET (Marine Detail) berthing, through Deck berthing, and disappeared into Nuke berthing. Shortly after that, two or three people in full anti-contamination gear followed the same route, chattering AN/PDR-27s (classic Geiger counters) in hand, tracking the footsteps. They attracted a bit of attention from the late-night cooking crew and by the time they got back to Deck berthing, someone had noticed the footprints; so those people were told by the trackers, “Nothing to see here, move along.” Of course, that got them nervous and they got friends. :)

    About 5 minutes later yelling erupts in Nuke berthing. Suddenly, a completely nude, glowing Nuke burst through the curtains over the starboard entrance to Nuke berthing and started running forward, yelling in apparent agony. He is being chased by the people in anti-c gear, who have taped test sources over the Geiger tubes, so the -27s are screaming. They chased him forward, they all did a lap around the mess deck, then vanished down the starboard hatch to #3 plant. There was a bit of a kerfuffle in Deck berthing, to put it mildly.

    That was another day that all the Nukes got to muster and get yelled at. Sadly, the miscreants got caught, mainly because (at least back then) the materials used in glow sticks, especially when they have small glass shards in them, cause skin irritation and the naked guy ended up in Sick Bay. If it hadn’t been for that, it would have been a perfectly executed plan.

    I don’t remember the meted out punishment, I think it was mainly lost liberty and field days. I was only tangentially involved.

    1. Aam Admi*

      Nice story Gene. But I am afraid to comment. The post might get deleted for being work-related. If it does, make sure to post it on the Friday thread next week.

    2. Noah*

      At my part time airline job we have a new ramp agent that is so gullible. I sent him to gate 31 to ask a question of that gate agent, only problem is we have no gate 31 they stop at 30. He was gone for over two hours.

      Yesterday the other ramp agents got him to collect an air sample in a garbage bag. He brought it up to me at the gate and asked for a comail (company mail) sticker to send it on the flight to Orlando. I told him to go ask the captain and the captain just smiled and said “ok”. I gave him the sticker and then called the gate agent in Orlando and laughed with them for several minutes while I explained there would be a random plastic bag in the forward cargo bin of the flight.

      1. Adnan*

        I used to work in a CPA office. The day before the Apr 30 tax filing deadline is terribly busy. Laurie, a senior colleague went out for a smoke break. A co-worker sealed an empty bankers box, put a fictitious client’s name on it and put it under Laurie’s desk with a note saying the client needed the tax return completed by the end of the day. We had a lot of fun watching her reaction when she returned from the smoke break and noticed the ‘return’ with a box full of receipts.

        In my first year at the office, I had a co-worker Greg who was terrified of clients with multi-year tax returns. Those days in Canada, only the current year return could be electronically filed. Prior years had to be printed out, manually assembled and mailed to the tax office. The software needed prompts on what forms to print and the preparer had to remember and get client signatures on all the schedules. When my co-worker went on his break, I prepared 6 manila folders with a dummy client name, bundled them together to look like the client was filing 6 years’ back taxes and placed the folders in Paul’s queue. He saw them and would have gone home after the break if he had not noticed us giggling in the back room and realized we pranked him.

    3. AB*

      I worked at a grocery store in college as a cashier supervisor. Most of the cashiers were high school kids. We used to prank the new recruits by sending them to shake the salad dressings. We told them all the ingredients settled to the bottom during shipping and needed to be shook up before we put them on the shelf. The more gullible ones would spend ages shaking the dressings.

      We also used to tell them the water fountain had to be refilled. We would hand them a bucket and they would have to slowly pour water down the drain (slowly because the drain could only handle a little at a time without overflowing)

    4. Judy*

      I worked in an engineering organization that worked closely with a machine shop. Our desks were old, had lots of holes in them. One of the guys was really particular about his phone book. It had to be HERE, right side up, square to the table. He took a 3 day weekend, and the guys in the shop took big bolts, drilled holes in his phone book starting about 1/3 of the way in, and attached his phone book to his desk in the proper orientation.

    5. INTP*

      I wasn’t involved, but I had two coworkers who both regularly ate raw tuna at work. They would then hide the empty packets in each others office and cubicle so they had to smell it until they found it. Luckily I didn’t sit near the one in the cubicle so I didn’t become olfactory collateral damage!

    6. C Average*

      This is awesome. Thanks for sharing, and thanks for making me come thisclose to spitting coffee all over my keyboard. What a brilliant ( . . . heh!) prank. I have nothing that compares.

    7. Artemesia*

      I don’t know if this will seem as funny as it did to us. But I was teaching high school in the late 60s and one of my colleagues had done a lot of travel and was invited to an elementary school classroom to speak about his trip to Russia. (we were in a very John Birchy district just at the start of the Birch Society) The kids were about 5th grade and alas behaved discourteously during the presentation, so the teacher had the kids write letters of apology. They arrived in our jointly shared office in a large envelop while the teacher in question — we will call him JV — was in class. The rest of us read them and decided we would write some ringers and put them in the stack. So we got lined paper and composed these hilarious ‘kid letters’. One talked about some grabass the student was doing in the back of the room; another was upset at the talk about commie Russia etc. We interleaved them into the stack.

      Our colleague was so amused by the letters that he shared them widely and to our horror, they were about to be published in some teacher newsletter in the district, so we had to clue him in. I will never forget the look on his face as he read these letters and came across our totally successful forgeries.

    8. Cath in Canada*

      So many from working in a lab!

      Before my time, one of the lab techs had to go and have a heart scan that involved having a radioactive tracer injected into his bloodstream. When he came back to work immediately afterwards, he apparently went up to our radiation safety officer pointing a Geiger counter at himself and yelling “YOU HAVE TO HELP ME!!!”

      It was very common to put a small piece of dry ice in a snap-top plastic tube, then hide it on a lab mate’s bench or in a drawer (as the dry ice warms, the expanding CO2 gas blows the cap off the tube in a mini-explosion).

      The best prank I’ve ever seen though was when we had a new student, and the senior technician was showing him how to do a technique called a Western blot. This involves taking a sample from some cells, loading it into a thin gel sitting in a tank full of liquid, and running an electric current through it to separate the proteins in the sample out by size (like so: http://www.visualphotos.com/photo/1×7792363/loading_samples_into_the_wells_to_prepare_a_western_blot_to_detect_the_expression_of_proteins_058MHA00430.jpg). This technician was extremely proficient and respected, but was one of those people who insisted that everyone in the lab had to follow her protocols exactly, to the letter. Deviation was sure to result in the failing of your degree, rejection of your grant applications, and retraction of your papers.

      In this particular case, the technician was repeatedly telling the student that he had to be sure to follow her recipe precisely. Add all the right ingredients, in the right amounts and order, or the gel WILL NOT SET. And then you’ll fail your PhD and have to leave Glasgow in shame. So add ALL THE INGREDIENTS. In the EXACT AMOUNTS I’VE WRITTEN DOWN. Or the gel WILL NOT SET.

      After she’d poured the gel and taken the student off to learn how to do tissue culture PROPERLY, the other technician in the lab hid her gel rig in his cupboard and replaced it with an identical rig filled with water.

      The technician and student returned an hour later, the student looking haggard. She informed him that when you’ve set up a gel according to her EXACT RECIPE, with ALL THE RIGHT INGREDIENTS, it will set properly and you’ll be able to tip it upside down…

      Water all over the floor.

      To her everlasting credit, after her initial stunned silence while the rest of us howled with laughter and gasped for air, we showed her the real gel rig, which had set perfectly in the cupboard, and she laughed along with the rest of us.

      1. Elizabeth+West*

        Ha, that is hilarious!

        I used to work in a materials testing lab, and someone had a six-foot tall cutout of Frankenstein’s monster they brought in one time. We used to move it around the lab and hide it in corners so it would surprise people. It got me when someone hid it behind the door in the ladies room. I went in, turned around and GAH! We hid it in the metallurgy guy’s darkroom one day. He was this very serious guy–hardly ever smiled or laughed. He came out like, “Okay, who put the monster in my darkroom? I nearly had a heart attack!” We laughed until we cried.

        On Halloween one year, someone brought in a rubber rat that squeaked when you squeezed it, for decoration. The damned thing was the size of a real rat. We used to put in in each other’s chairs, or stick it in the refrigerator so when someone went to get their lunch out, they’d open the door and the rat would be staring at them. Heh heh. When the lab closed for good, I took the rat home–it’s on my bookshelf. :)

        1. De Minimis*

          One of my professors used to work for the CDC and they used to play some very cruel pranks on each other, most of which involved trying to get people to stick their hands in various bags, boxes, etc. so they could be “accidentally” inoculated. The reasoning was if someone was stupid enough to agree to put their hand in the bag they deserved whatever they got….

    9. louise*

      A few years after the song “Butterfly Kisses” was a big hit, I worked at a radio station with something of a local legend who’d been in media for years. He hated that song something fierce. He hated it so much that he’d look ahead and pull it out of rotation if it was programmed to come up during his show.

      I switched a few things around in the computer system one day so that Butterfly Kisses played under another title that was programmed during his show. Easy and so, so satisfying.

      1. Melissa*

        LOL but I don’t blame the legend, I hate that song too. When I was a kid, my mom used to dream that I would dance with my father to that song at my future wedding and I would just roll my eyes. (I did not.)

    10. Liane*

      Oh, yes military pranks. Having many relatives & friends who have served, I have heard many, only a few suitable for a respectable website like this. Here’s a couple:
      1–A friend of ours was a former Ranger and very high-ranking enlisted (E8 or E9, US Army). Like most enlisted–& not a few higher-ranking officers–I have known, he wasn’t fond of clueless, low-ranking officers (to put it mildly). He once told me how Non-com officers (eg, sergeants) worked around *in training exercises only* second lieutenants whose bad judgment created problems: The group would arrange for (Simulated!!!) “Friendly Fire” to eliminate the LT from the exercise. Since LT was “dead”, couldn’t issue bad orders or make bad decisions for the duration. **Remember** this only happened in simulations, not for real, which would have been very wrong, not amusing.
      2–Another friend, someone who ran role-playing games I was in, was an Infantry Scout before his shoulder was badly injured. He told me that most Scouts, like him, were very fond of pranking other unit members in harmless ways that showed off their silent movement skills. A common one was to enter a tents or barracks and move pairs of boots around. The smallest woman’s boots would be traded with the pair belonging to a man with very large feet.

    11. Melissa*

      Reliable source: My husband used to be an aircraft maintainer for the military, and they used to pull pranks on each other all the time. One of the funniest ones I heard about was when they got a new officer on board. My husband and most of the guys who worked on the flight line were enlisted, but most of the enlisted men had been there for years and had lots of experience; the new officer outranked them, but he was a pretty junior officer didn’t have the technical knowledge and experience they had – both field-wise and military-wise.

      So anyway, they told the new guy that they needed to run some tests on the airplane exhaust, so they told the new guy go outside and try to collect the exhaust from one of their planes with a large plastic garbage bag. And then laughed uproariously as this poor new guy is running around trying to collect airplane exhaust in a plastic bag.

  7. Simon Oh*

    What’s with all the hate regarding cilantro? Having grown up with Mexican food in Southern California, it is always a nice and necessary part of just about every Mexican meal that I have. Same goes for Thai food.

    Show cilantro some love. If not, what’s your beef?

    1. Noah*

      Cilantro is what you need for Mexican food to taste right. Then again I grew up in Arizona, and I don’t understand the hate for it either.

        1. Squirrel!*

          What’s interesting is I can totally see how this happens. Even though I’m not one of those people who can’t / don’t eat it (I love cilantro!), it has a “clean” taste to me.

      1. Waiting+Patiently*

        Wow, does this happen with celery too? I love celery but it taste like a bit soapy to me. I don’t have that reaction with cilantro though.

    2. FX-ensis*

      I’m not American, but I like Mexican food. if you don’t like cilantro, you can send me all you have, i’d happily take it. lol.

    3. Ann Furthermore*

      I love cilantro, but I think it’s one of those things that people either really love or really hate. No in between.

    4. Stephanie*

      I love it. There was an ice cream shop in DC that made this lime cilantro sorbet I gobbled down. It’s hard to avoid in the Southwest. Send me all your Mexican and SE Asian food. I believe cilantro hate’s physiological. My friend, who’s an avowed cilantro hater, says it tastes soapy.

      1. Stephanie*

        My hangup is really creamy, savory foods (like ranch dressing, alfredo sauce, white gravy, mayonnaise, creamy salad dressings, etc). There’s something textural that bothers me about really creamy foods. I went to dinner last night and my entree came with a green salad that was covered in globs of some coconut cream based dressing. I just couldn’t do it and ate everything but the salad. I didn’t realize I was lactose intolerant until my early 20s, so I’m wondering if I just avoided those foods because I subconsciously associated them with gastric distress. I am slowly coming around to tzatzaki sauce and eat Greek yogurt regularly.

        1. Loose Seal*

          I had a similar realization after I was diagnosed with Celiac disease. A lot of the foods I had always disliked or just didn’t seem to care for as much as others did were wheat-based. I had never really liked pasta and when we had it at home, I’d just eat a bowl of sauce like soup. I never cared for cake but I’d eat a little bit at birthdays unless there was ice cream and I’d have that instead. I never really liked bread. The smell, fantastic! The taste, not so much. So I think my mind subconsciously affected my taste buds in order to protect my innards.

        2. Felicia*

          I had a similar realization when I figured out I was lactose intolerant when I was 19. My dislike of all dairy made sense afterwards. Though I still can’t bring myself to drink milk

        3. C Average*

          Fellow slimy food hater here! Keep ALL the condiments away from my food, please.

          I know in many respects I have the palate of a four-year-old thanks to this particular aversion, but I’ve taken few steps to change. Most condiments aren’t good for you anyway, so there’s no real need to acquire a taste for them.

          I do wish I could bring myself to like yogurt and hummus. I try them every couple of years and . . . nope, still disgusting.

          1. Windchime*

            I can eat yogurt, but the thought of hummus makes me sick. I already hate anything bean related; there is something about the pasty, gritty, thick texture that I cannot stand. And I don’t like drippy, thick, creamy stuff so I’m with Stephanie on the heavy salad dressing. I don’t like it glopped on heavily. I also don’t like hamburgers that are dripping with sauces and glop. Give it to me undressed, and *I* will add a demure dollop of ketchup.

            As far as pasta with alfredo sauce….I can eat a couple of bites, but beyond that it feels like it’s choking me or something. It’s just “too much”, but in a way I can’t really describe.

            1. Stephanie*

              Interesting. For me, if it’s more pasty or gritty, I can handle it. So Greek yogurt or hummus are fine. But Yoplait or Thousand Island, blech. I’ve gone to In-N-Out and others seem surprised when I don’t want the special spread (which I think is Thousand Island based?).

              1. C Average*

                OMG. Thousand Island is so, so gross. Anything that could convincingly be used as fake vomit (looking at you, Thousand Island and guacamole) is NOT passing these lips.

      2. Jen RO*

        *duh moment* Ooh cilantro ia coriander! I’m not entirely sure what it tastes like, but I know my boyfriend uses it in cooking and it never tasted like soap.

    5. Aam Admi*

      Cilantro is used in almost every meal I cook. When I was new to North America, I mistakenly got parsley and wondered why American cilantro smelled different.

      1. Blue_eyes*

        My husband’s great aunt once bought cilantro instead of parsley for a Passover Seder. Everyone was in for a big surprise when they had to eat the “parsley” as part of the meal. They still talk about it every year at Passover.

    6. FMLW*

      I grew up in California and can’t enjoy Mexican food without it. My sister on the other hand, says cilantro tastes like soap to her and can’t stand the stuff.

      1. GabbyC*

        Yes, from what I understand, it either tastes like soap to you or it doesn’t. Unfortunately for me I got the soapy taste and too much cilantro ruins a lot of Mexican dishes for me.

        1. acmx*

          Same here, tastes like soap. First time I had cilantro (in a salsa), I thought the restaurant didn’t rinse the dish well.

    7. Hattie McDoogal*

      Genetic component aside (it doesn’t actually taste like soap to me) I just think cilantro is crazily overused. Thai, Vietnamese, and Mexican cooking all seem to use it a lot, and I eat all of those cuisines with some frequency. I don’t like having to be on the lookout for it all the time.

    8. nep*

      It’s not about ‘showing some love’. As others have said, it’s generally love or hate. Some cannot be around what they pick up as a soapy aroma.

      1. fposte*

        Though it’s a taste that can apparently still be acquired regardless of genetics–it’s not like PTC, where if you genetically can’t taste the bitterness you never can.

          1. fposte*

            The whole thing intrigues me, because it reminds me of that childhood philosophical question where you wonder if everybody sees colors differently and you don’t know, because we’ve all agreed on the terms. Apparently it is somewhat true with taste–what I taste isn’t necessarily what you taste. Bizarre.

        1. Rana*

          I’m proof of that – I’m not one of the soapy-taste people, but when I first encountered cilantro, I hated it, and was super-sensitive to its presence. I think it was more about the smell than the flavor – I remember once having to set aside some mashed potatoes just because a frond of cilantro had been sitting on it!

          Anyway, after putting up with it in many, many dishes, I am now fine with it. I won’t say it’s my favorite flavor, but I’m no longer trying to pick out tiny flakes from my food.

    9. Felicia*

      Apparently it’s genetic! For some people it kind of tastes like soap (including me!) We can’t help our genes :)

    10. INTP*

      It was an acquired taste for me. Until my late teens, I found cilantro so disgusting that it could ruin a dish – I would pull it out of my spring rolls and such. Eventually I learned to appreciate it. I think I may have that soapy gene variant and just have learned to appreciate it. It was the same with cumin, and when I learned to tolerate that stuff in my early 20s, whole cuisines opened up for me, literally. I used to gag at the smell of Indian food, now when I’m sick I want palak paneer. Maybe it’s because we (my family) didn’t eat food with a lot of seasoning when I was growing up?

      1. Aam Admi*

        I had a similar reaction to cheese when I first arrived in the US – I would gag at the smell. I can now tolerate it but will not go out of my way to eat it.

      2. Girasol*

        I read somewhere that it *is* an acquired taste. It is said to have the same strong taste/fragrance as soap, so depending on your upbringing, you either associate it with Mom’s delicious home cooking or having your mouth washed out. If it’s the second, well, automatic hate! I couldn’t stand it when I first tried it and now I love it by the handfuls. Cole slaw with a huge bunch of cilantro = yum.

    11. Artemesia*

      The first few times I had it, it tasted like soap to me. It was extremely disagreeable. But now I really like it in quacamole and Mexican foods. I have heard the distaste is genetic but I did develop a taste for it over time. I find some spices in Indian foods are like that. To me they taste possibly spoiled or soapy and I don’t know if I have a bad dish or it is just a matter of acquiring a taste for new spices.

      1. Deedee*

        I also acquired a taste for cilantro. The first time I ate it I thought the woman who prepared the dish had accidentally gotten some of her kitchen cleanser into the sauce! I was, of course, too polite to say anything. It was a while before I identified what caused that taste. I guess I tolerated it for a while in Mexican dishes that I ordered in restaurants, but eventually found it delicious! I do agree with Diet Coke Addict – it tastes very fresh to me now. I even grow my own cilantro.

    12. Mephyle*

      Epazote is an herb with a distinctive flavour that is used in some Mexican dishes. Apropos of cleaning substances, it smells to me rather like bleach. But when it’s used to season beans, corn, squash flowers or mushrooms, it flavours them beautifully.

    13. kimberly*

      I love the stuff, but yeah … apparently it tastes like soap to some people.
      Interestingly, Anthony Bourdain is one of them. Yep — the guy who travels all over the world eating indigenous food (including many where cilantro is frequently used) has a major aversion to it.

  8. Noah*

    So….got a speeding ticket, the kind that you can’t just pay and move on. Nope, apparently aggravated speeding means you have to see the judge before they’ll even tell you what the fine is. Is it bad that I Googled “speeding ticket attorney cityname” to find a lawyer? Seriously scared after reading that I could be fined a lot of money and/or spend 30 days in jail. Then the attorney worked some magic and now all I have to do is pay $125 in court costs and go to a defensive driving course. Umm…even with attorney’s fees the cost is still less than the 10 over speeding ticket I had several years ago and no way for my insurance company to find out because it will all be dismissed if I don’t get in any trouble for 30 days.

    So, moral of the story: 1) don’t speed and especially don’t go 102 in a 65, and 2) it pays to hire someone who knows what they are doing when you get into trouble. Seriously, don’t be stupid like me and pay attention when you’re driving, even if the left lane is completely open. When I looked down and saw how fast I was going I was shocked because I was just driving to work, not really intending to go nearly that fast. The judge lectured me for a good five minutes on how I could’ve killed someone or myself and I 100% agree with that.

    1. Stephanie*

      102?! I don’t even know if my car could go that fast. The predecessor to my current car (a Chevy Cavalier) started vibrating if it went much over 75.

      1. Noah*

        Yeah, I don’t even drive an amazing car or anything, a Mazda 3. I’ve been really tempted to find somewhere to test just how fast it’ll go. I found somewhere online that says it is governor limited to 118 mph.

        1. Natalie*

          I used to drive a Buick, of all things, that I would inadvertently speed in. It just accelerated and handled really smoothly, so if I wasn’t checking the speedometer I got no other feedback.

          I learned that when I glanced down one day and realized I was going about 100 mph. Eep!

      2. Tara*

        I was boggling at this before I realized you were talking about miles per hour, not kilometers. I just googled 102 mph and I think my car would fall apart!

      3. Rebecca*

        My 1975 Firebird was fast – I got it up to 105 on the 4 lane back in the day, but backed it off before I hit 110 (would have been 2x the speed limit). No one was around, and I was by myself – just wanted to see how fast it would go. I miss that car.

    2. Aam Admi*

      I have been living in North America about 15 years and got my first speeding ticket last month on a Canadian road – $80 fine for going 61 kmph in a 50km zone. Didn’t have to see a judge – just paid it online. Since the ticket came from a photo radar which only identifies the vehicle license plate and not the driver, it does not go on my driver’s record.
      I have always argued that I am a safe driver but my son says driving slow is more unsafe than driving fast to match the traffic.

    3. Student*

      You’re probably getting charged beyond speeding. Reckless endangerment or evading police or something. Ask your attorney to make sure you fully understand the charges. Read all the paperwork they give you, even if it’s mostly boring legalese.

      If they’ve charged you with a felony (generally has to be excessive speeding + something bad happens because you were speeding) then that can come up in job background checks as an issue, so you really need to be aware if that’s the case. They probably haven’t charged you with a felony if nothing bad happened because of your speeding, though.

      1. Noah*

        The charge was aggrevated speeding, a misdemeanor. It will be dismissed in 30 days by the city prosecutor as long as the terms are met: no add’l tickets and taking a defensive driving course. Not exactly a plea bargain but similar.

    4. nep*

      Can’t think of any sound reason to be going that fast. Some people just like excessive speed — which is why I look for routes that avoid expressways. A personal preference, of course. To each his own. The other day I was on a 70-mph road; I was at the speed limit and it was like I was crawling compared to the other vehicles. I get it — when the limit is 70 mph, most people hover around 75 or 80. But 90s and above — Why, people? Why?

      1. Noah*

        No good reason to be going that fast. Just my stupidity and lack of attention combined with no traffic and an empty lane of traffic.

        1. stellanor*

          My dad’s car doesn’t feel like it’s going fast even when it’s going REALLY REALLY FAST… the first time I borrowed it I was driving late at night on an almost-empty freeway and ended up going 95 without even realizing it — I thought I was going like 70mph. I’ve been more vigilant driving his car since then but sometimes I still zone out a little and end up speeding excessively without realizing it.

          1. Stephanie*

            Yeah, both my parents’ cars are like that (an F150 and a Buick Enclave). The ride is smooth enough that you just don’t realize how fast you’re going until you glance at the speedometer. My car has a little zip to it (a VW Golf), but I think the small size and low profile plus the manual transmission, you definitely feel how fast you’re going.

          1. De Minimis*

            I don’t go *that* fast, but sometimes I will find myself getting to the high 80s/low 90s just to get out from behind someone, so I can go back to going at my preferred speed [usually just over the speed limit.]

            On the winding roads with few passing opportunities that we disucssed last week when you do have a legal passing opportunity you need to pass as fast as you can so you can get back into your lane of traffic.
            But if you can’t pass without getting to a dangerous speed, you’re probably driving too fast and tailgating someone–although I have seen jerks who have sped up when someone is passing them to make it harder for them, and on a two lane road that is dangerous [and maybe even illegal.]

        1. Cath in Canada*

          When we were in Germany last year, my husband messed up the train tickets for one leg of the journey and we had to rent a car instead. When the car turned out to be a turbo-diesel BMW, he was pretty happy… He had it up above 200km/hr for brief periods on the Autobahn, and was cackling so gleefully that I’ve come to believe the mistake with the train tickets was perhaps not fully accidental. (Great road conditions, not many other cars around, and he didn’t stay that fast for too long – too much even for him!)

        2. Waiting+Patiently*

          My Buick Rendezvous I babied even though it could go fast. Now I have an Acura and every so often, I’m in the wind. It’s usually a certain stretch of the highway and when my favorite song is on.

        3. Mallory Janis Ian*

          +1

          I drove in the high 80’s/low 90’s for the three-hour drive coming back from dropping off my daughter at her summer program a few weeks ago, and when I got home, I was in such an “up” mood — I felt like I’d won a race (while managing to avoid getting stopped).

      2. Melissa*

        I also try to avoid expressways…because I feel the same way. This is especially true when driving I-95 from New York to NJ, or back again – the speed limit is 65, I’ll be doing 75 or even 80 and there are cars going around me or zooming past me. How fast do you expect me to go?! And don’t dare do the speed limit, even in the right lane.

    5. Not So NewReader*

      In NY, 20 mph over means you’ve just lost your license. Dismissed is not the same as saying the insurance company will not find out. Double check that by purchasing a copy of your driving record from DMV. It is amazing what is on our driving records. In NY, they ding you again when you go to renew your license, they can add a few hundred dollars to the renewal fees. Since you had a previous speeding ticket you might want to find out how long that stays on your record.

      It sounds like you made out well considering everything. And, yeah, chalk it up to a real good scare that changes how you drive forever. I was driving someone else’s car the other day and looked down to see that I was doing 70 in a 55. Oh, crap. It’s incredibly easy for that foot to get very heavy.

      1. Noah*

        Yes, the officer could’ve taken me to jail and impounded my car that day. Thankfully he did not. It should not be in my driving record, the state is strict with what goes in there. The court record will reflect “dismissed with prejudice” and will not show up in my driving record. I spent almost an hour asking the attorney a thousand questions, so I’m reasonably confident in this. Previous ticket is on there, but will drop off in early 2015. I saw no increase in insurance costs from the first ticket, but it was minor.

    6. Artemesia*

      Back in the 60s when I was teaching government in high school I required students to do a couple of personal field trips to government agencies e.g. sit in on a school board meeting, a city council meeting etc etc. Many of them chose night court for one of their observations. I kept reading all about how people would come in with tickets and they would be dismissed, so when I got a ticket for running a red light I went to court. I ended up having it dismissed and having a very low court cost and no ticket payment. I don’t know if the kids learned much from their observations but I sure did.

    7. Squirrel!*

      You should check to see if there are any local racetracks that have “track days”, where generally anyone can show up with their car and take it around the track a few times. You could also look into any Mazda 3 forums (I’m sure they exist, Mazda people can be fanatics!) and see if there are any car clubs in your area that you can join. They usually have deals with local tracks or drives you can go on with other same-car owners. My buddy has a Pontiac G6 and he’s done this a few times.

    8. Deen*

      That’s the problem with new cars….I sometimes switch with my friend so he can use my flat-bead truck…….and without any effort, you are going 80+. You have to keep remember to take your foot off the gas

    9. Melissa*

      Crap, just reminded me that I forgot to mail my EZ-Pass violation payment off this morning. (I accidentally went through an EZ-Pass lane on a bridge. In my defense, the signs advertised that the lower level of the bridge would have cash lanes, but when I got there all the cash lanes were closed. I wasn’t the only person who drove through that day.)

  9. FX-ensis*

    – erm….This may sound a little embarrassing, but then I haven’t told people I know in real life yet. I’ve been a big fan of an actress for several years now. She didn’t have a Facebook official fan page until a few months ago, but since she launched it, she has posted everyday, and I’ve left a few likes on it. the thing is, I’m tempted to send her a message, to say how I’ve liked her films but I’m scared I will come across as a buffoon and be like a teenage girl. It’s just to be honest, I think she is really pretty as well as talented, so it’s an admiration on two levels.

    Of course I shouldn’t overdo it, as she’s a human being and shouldn’t get harassed (even if it’s “good harassment”, so to speak) but then I’ve been hoping she had a Facebook page for a while and it’s like a dream come true for me now.

    – This is a different point, but I am soon to start a digital marketing career, and I want to know if there are any good certificates for this on the Web. The expense doesn’t matter as such, just the content and the cert’s reputation.

    – I’m learning to read astrological natal charts as a side-income. For anybody here into astrology, or who does similar, is charging 25 pounds for a 5 page report good value, or too much? I hope to have a Facebook page soon as well as a Paypal account, so I can attract customers/sales.

    1. Noah*

      I’ve pretty much decided to love what I love even if it is a bit embarrassing at times. If she has an official Facebook page, it is probably a bit removed from day to day life so I think it would be fine to send a message. I’m sure she’ll see it when she has time and anything positive isn’t bad until it crosses the line into stalker type behavior. In my mind things like Facebook and Twitter are ways for celebrities to have some controlled interaction with fans that they can set aside when they need a break, so I don’t feel bad interacting there.

      Onto the last part. I find astrology fascinating, at least once you move behind reading you horoscope in the morning paper. I purchased a natal chart online that some computer program spit out for $25 one time. I would pay more if a person who knew what they were doing actually provided a personalized one though. My practical side has trouble believing any of it but then I tell myself to be open-minded because there are a lot of things we don’t understand. I really do think there is a difference between what we see in the media (a Taurus is always stubborn, etc.) and true astrology that takes a lot more into account.

      1. C Average*

        I think “I’ve pretty much decided to love what I love even if it is a bit embarrassing at times” is a really excellent bit of thinking. That is all.

      2. FX-ensis*

        Well I feel embarrassed because I’m besotted with her lol.. but then yes, I know there has to be a limit.

        And I got into astrology because I find people fascinating, whether planets or stars control us is moot (could be true, there’s a lot about the brain for instance we don’t know) but then I still enjoy it.

    2. Anon for this*

      Is this person currently well known or perhaps older generation/fallen off the radar a bit? Send the message without any expectation in return and you could be surprised. Don’t overdo it and sound like psycho stalkerfan though! To note: I have a much loved favorite band that is still absolutely huge in most places of the world 30+ years on (no, not the Stones or U2 :P ), whose music has meant a lot to me for most of my life. Their musical style was generated predominately by one person, who left the band a long time ago, and its this person I emailed, through the website address, to ask a question. He, shockingly, responded a few months later with a personal email answer, and I responded back, thanking him for the music and a short story about how much support there still is out there for his own work. And that was that. I like to think it made him feel good and it was special to me too to make that connection.

      For the astrology readings – check out what some of the other folks are offering online and see if you can undercut them a bit. Sites like astrodienist offer these typically for quite a bit of money, but make sure you aren’t leaving money on the table. Or maybe see if you can build up subscriptions where you do this on a monthly basis for people to ensure smoother revenue streams.

      1. FX-ensis*

        No she’s still active.

        And yes there is competition out there, but I agree I’ll have to work to find out my niche. Thanks for your comment.

    3. INTP*

      For the astrology thing, there are websites that provide very long automated reports instantly and for free. I just looked one up and they offer a 30 page report for 25 USD. I think that you would need to have great marketing and add considerable value beyond what a computer program could provide. Maybe the latter could be accomplished by getting to know the clients so that you can kind of personalize how you write the report in a way that would make it more meaningful or convincing to them? Or focusing on how all of the alignments work together, whereas most online reports would just generate “Your rising sign means this, your moon sign means this, etc.”

    4. Blue_eyes*

      I think it’s totally fine to message her through her FB page. As others have pointed out, she presumably created the page in order to interact with fans. I think I a quick note saying that you admire her work would be totally acceptable, and possibly appreciated by this actress. Keep it short and sweet, don’t say anything creepy, and don’t expect a response.

      1. FX-ensis*

        Thanks for your comment. I guess I’m a grown man, so I shouldn’t be this way, but then I’ve liked her work a lot.

    5. Mister Pickle*

      For sure it’s okay to send some fan mail, especially if she’s got a FB page.

      But a) don’t expect a response, and also b) it’s not unknown for celebrities to hire someone to run their “online persona”, so there’s some chance – hopefully small – your words won’t even make it to the object of your adulation.

      Also: I’m not a big FB user, but if you’re not a “friend”, your email may go to an “Other” inbox that may not be checked very often. I don’t mean to be discouraging – perhaps someone who knows a lot about FB can provide more detail or correct me if I have some of this wrong.

    6. Lamington*

      Hi! The person that did my chart charged $30 and gave me extra insight on it, not only what the computer program said. Good luck!

  10. Episkey*

    My awesome, sweet, tolerant, funny, friendly, and kind 9.5 year old Lab has mast cell tumor cancer. She had surgery 3 weeks ago to remove her 2nd tumor and we just found a 3rd a few days ago. 3rd surgery coming up in a week. My vet said in 30 years of practice she has only seen ONE other dog get recurrent mast cell tumors. My Lab is the 2nd. We did an oncology consult and I’ve decided against specialized tests and chemo. We don’t know how many more surgeries we’ll realistically be able to afford. I’m really sad. She’s been my best friend since we adopted her 7 years ago. It’s so difficult to think about losing her.

    1. Coco*

      How awful, I’m so sorry you’re going through this. Dogs are family and it’s devastating when their already short lives are cut even shorter. I hope for the best for her. When, whether sooner or later, you decide it’s time to start planning letting her go (who is ever ready for that?), I’ve heard home euthanasia can make the experience less traumatic.

      1. Mister Pickle*

        I’m sorry, I somehow missed your response, Coco. But yes, home euthanasia is the way to go if you can manage it.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      My dog was older, but it looked like he had cancer. I did not want to put him through the testing and the treatment. I got him into some alternative stuff and he seemed to be fairly comfortable.

      Dogs sure know how to tug on our heart strings, eh? It’s a journey with them, for sure. I hate-hate the sadness at the end, but I don’t want to give up all the joy and laughter that they bring.
      Each dog I have had has taught me something not just about animals but about me, too.

    3. brightstar*

      I had to put my dog to sleep in May (just old age, he was almost 14 and seemed miserable) and I’m so sorry this is happening.

    4. Mister Pickle*

      This makes me so sad to read.

      I hope this is not out of place, but – our last dog succumbed to cancer 10 years ago. A point came where he was in pain and there was nothing more to be done. I don’t know how common this is, but our vet came out to our house and put him to sleep. Dammit I’m crying just remembering it now. It cost some extra $$$ but it was worth it – it was painless, he was in his home, I was with him. It was still awful but it was better than just dropping him off somewhere to be subjected to God-knows-what until the end.

      1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

        I was able to hold my 18 year old poodle on my lap in the vets office. His last moments were with mommy holding him, safe and warm. All I had to do was ask.

        The lights were dimmed, the vet’s voice was low and everything was gentle. He just went to sleep being held.

      2. Episkey*

        I will ask my vet about this. She has been our vet for many years, actually my parents brought our family dog to the same clinic when we first moved to this area. Our family dog lived to be 14 and we had to let her go when I was about 22 and in grad school. I drove home from grad school that day and my mom & I stayed in the room with her, holding her, at the vet clinic for the whole procedure. It was very tough & sad, but I knew she wasn’t having a good quality of life anymore, so that helped somewhat. I would never euthanize one of my pets without being there with them. :/ I feel strongly about it.

      3. Glimmer*

        At home is absolutely the way to go if you can. My parents had to put their 11 year old dog to sleep last Christmas because of leukaemia and the vet came out to their house for it. They were able to sit at his head and give him a cuddle and some treats. He died with the taste of chocolate in his mouth.

    5. Jazzy Red*

      I’m so sorry to hear about your wonderful dog.

      I have two dogs, and they’re both older. I just retired, so not much money any more, which will limit what I’ll be able to afford for them in the future. Before I adopted them, I promised God that I’d always put their best interests first, but I’m dreading that day.

      Enjoy every single day you have with your best friend. She’ll live forever in your heart.

  11. Stephanie*

    Unrelated: after all the flooding in Phoenix this week, the mosquitoes have arrived and one is biting my feet as I type this. I cannot catch the sucker(s). I may just need to douse myself in citronella oil until all the puddles evaporate.

    How do you work on balancing being happy for friends’ accomplishments and big news when you’re not in an ideal situation yourself? A close friend got a final round interview for a job (she’s been employed, but ready for a new job for a long time) and it was hard to be excited and not feel a twinge of jealousy. I am genuinely happy for others’ new jobs/marriages/engagements/house purchases/new pet rocks, but it’s hard to silence the internal voice that’s like “Waaahhhh! I want that too!”

    1. Ann Furthermore*

      It’s completely natural to feel that way. It happens to all of us. The key is to not let it consume you. I think people have a harder time with that kind of thing when they either won’t admit to themselves that they’re envious, or are convinced that it’s wrong or bad to feel that way, so then it manifests itself through snarky comments, a negative outlook, and so on. Hope that makes sense.

      And, sometimes, someone sharing good news with you can be the kick in the pants you need to actively work on achieving things for yourself.

    2. Graciosa*

      I recommend a retreat to the soaking tub with some escapist not-quite-literature (ice cream and chocolate optional). When you’re ready to emerge, remind yourself that your turn will come – you just need to stick it out until it does.

      Although in the case of the pet rock, I am confident you could acquire one of your own in the not-too-distant future if you keep your eyes open. ;-)

      Best wishes –

    3. Emma*

      Can I just say that I was seriously surprised to hear of the flooding in Phoenix? A buddy of mine works there and I just….didn’t expect them to get so much rain, what with being a desert and all. And then I expected the sandy environment to absorb most it. She explained that they essentially have monsoon season, and no, apparently sand is a poor absorbent. The more you know.

      1. Dan*

        When I lived in California, the forest fires would burn out the vegetation, which would increase erosion in the soil. Then the rains would come and cause mudslides.

      2. Stephanie*

        Yeah, the soil’s not that absorbent (not for that much rain at least) and Phoenix is in a valley. It is monsoon season, so flash flooding does happen on occasion, but it’s been a really active monsoon season.

    4. Dan*

      Well, your time’s not going to come for awhile, so you have to keep that in perspective. Assuming you’re still looking at various grad school options, that’s going to be your ticket to a better career. After all, the thing you used to do you didn’t like, so having to regroup isn’t the worst thing in the world. All that takes times, and a lot of it. So you really do have to come to terms with the fact that your “time” won’t come right now. Or tomorrow.

      But yeah, every time someone posts ” is getting married and I’m so happy!” I want to write, “my ex is getting served with divorce papers this week, and *I’m* so happy!”

      When Thanksgiving rolled around last year, I could have been in the dumps because I had been separated and laid off within four months of each other. Instead, I was thankful for a fresh start.

      1. Stephanie*

        Yeah, that’s all true and my attitude for the most part. It’s dealing with those niggling, more irrational thoughts of envy. From the advice here, seems the best course is just to acknowledge it and not let those consume me (which they haven’t for the most part).

    5. Not So NewReader*

      I think that time balances some of that out. You watch friends get married and then later divorce. You watch them buy a house then later they sell the house. Reality is that there is a momentary excitement with these things but then life goes on. Houses, marriages, new jobs, are all big commitments that require a lot of work. I think it is easy to think of these things as a “destination”. And reality is that these things are just part of living life. Life continues on and no matter what stage we are at there is always someone who has more/does more/gets more than we do.
      I think that one thing we routinely fail to do is realize that there are people who want to have it as good as we do. When you are standing on the outside looking in, a lot of things can look very peachy- meaning there is probably someone near you who thinks you have “it goin’ on”.

      If none of this helps, then create something for yourself. Do something that causes other people to say “wow, look at you go!”. I was just thinking the other day, that I have not done something like that lately, so it is time to do so.

      1. Ann Furthermore*

        “I think that one thing we routinely fail to do is realize that there are people who want to have it as good as we do. ”

        YES — what a great point. Sometimes, when you get a glimpse of your life from someone else’s perspective, it makes you realize that yeah, you’ve got it pretty good.

        A few weeks ago I went to a high-school reunion weekend. So much fun. Quite a few people asked me some version of, “Exactly what do you do?” because I’ve traveled for work quite a bit in the last few years, most of it to Europe, and I’ve posted various things on Facebook about it. So I’ve been able to go to some very interesting places that I probably would not have seen otherwise. Anyway, I gave the high-level version of what I do (Oracle implementation/support work), which is, “I mess around with the software and try to figure out how to make it do what I need it to do,” which sounds pretty simple, and sometimes you get lucky and it is easy, but other times you really need to be creative. I got quite a few replies, along the lines of, “Wow, that sounds like a cool job!” and “Wow, you must be really smart!” and “How did you get into doing that kind of work?” So it was a good reminder that I’ve been pretty successful in my career, and I’ve done pretty well for myself (she said modestly.)

        On the other hand, it did sort of seem that some of my friends in high school are right where I left them 30 years ago. One guy, that was a very good friend (and on again/off again boyfriend) is married now, with 3 kids. After the formal reunion lunch, someone invited us all to her house. Much drinking and partying, which was very fun. I made a comment in passing about how these days, I only cut loose and tie one on about 2 or 3 times a year anymore, and my friend said, “2 or 3 times a year? I’m down to 2 or 3 times a month and I thought that was pretty good!” And his wife told me that she knows none of their kids will be binge drinkers or drug users because they’ve seen the effects that major partying have had on their dad. (This is not to say that they’re bad parents, or bad people, they’ve just made choices different than mine.) Since he was my first love, I’ve wondered, on occasion, over the years, what would have happened if that guy and I had ended up together had things happened or worked out differently. Now my feelings about that are “Thank God we didn’t.”

        So…aside from having a fantastic weekend with old friends, I came away with reinforced gratitude for my life, career, husband, kids, family, and all the rest of it. I have alot of wonderful things/people in my life. And as for the things that are lacking, the power to improve them is all within my control.

    6. C Average*

      Oh, man. Sometimes it seems like the whole world is riding the Good Stuff You Can’t Have train while you’re sitting in the station killing time doing yesterday’s crossword. It sucks.

      So, first, that. I know you really strive to be an upbeat, constructive person, and that’s great and you shouldn’t stop doing that. But sometimes it’s OK to have yourself a little pity party and admit that, objectively, certain parts of your existence suck and you wish they didn’t, and that you wish you had things other people have.

      Second, realize that other people are also striving to be upbeat and constructive and they’re sharing the good stuff and keeping the bad stuff to themselves. (And trust me, you want your friends to KEEP doing this. It’s better to have friends who err on the side of being a little braggy because they want to stay positive than friends who moan endlessly about their first-world problems.)

      Third, if they’re close friends and they’re consistently bumming you out, maybe gently remind them that you’re happy for them but that you’re having a hard time taking unmixed delight in their success when you’re having a hard time yourself, and flat-out say “can we talk a little bit about me? I could really use an ear.” Sometimes people are dense and they need to hear that.

      1. Blue_eyes*

        +1 to all of this. Especially this, “Sometimes it seems like the whole world is riding the Good Stuff You Can’t Have train while you’re sitting in the station killing time doing yesterday’s crossword.”

        It’s ok to feel jealous when friends get things that you want for yourself. Give yourself a few minutes to be sad about it, but then try to put it out if your mind so that it doesn’t consume you. And always keep in mind that the lives people show online are not the full story. Just this week I heard about a student in Amsterdam who faked a five week vacation to south east Asia using social media.

        You’re also probably noticing more when people get things that you want because it’s on your mind. Right now I’m underemployed and looking for full time work and it feels like everyone and their mother is getting a shiny new job even though they already had a decent one, and it can be hard to see that.

    7. Artemesia*

      I think when you own it, it is easier to behave properly with your friends. It is when people are trying to fool themselves that they get nasty about other’s good fortune. Knowing you are jealous you can compartmentalize those feelings and act like the good friend you are.

    8. FD*

      If you have a BFF who isn’t one of the people you’re feeling a bit jealous of, talking about it with her can be very helpful.

      But you don’t have to feel guilty because you feel jealous. Jealousy is like anger or sadness–it’s natural and it’s an emotion, not something you can control. It’s only a problem if you act on it or let it fester (to the point where you don’t want good things to happen to others).

    9. Erika*

      What’s always worked for me is a combination of distraction (focusing on on working towards my own goals, one step at a time) and trying to find a way to enjoy where I am, even if it’s not where I want to be. When I was ready to have a baby and my husband wasn’t, my best friend and I went on the Summer of Erika – we traveled, went to concerts, tried all kinds of new restaurants, ate sushi and drank wine – all the kinds of things that are difficult or impossible if you’re pregnant or a new parent. It really softened the blow of having to wait on what I really wanted, and it made me appreciate that time more once I did get pregnant.

      It’s easier to be happy for other people when you’re happy where you are, and sometimes I’ve found I have to badger myself into it.

  12. Al Lo*

    We leave for Austria on vacation tomorrow! Well, sort-of vacation. My husband is singing with our local German men’s choir, which was in such desperate need of tenors that they’re paying for his trip! Vacation for me, work-ish trip for him.

    I’m kind of loving this “fly out on Sunday evening” thing. I finished up at work yesterday (leaving copious notes and a ton of prep, since my new assistant just started a week and a half ago, and my outgoing colleague is working part-time for the next week and a half while I’m away); had today to pack, clean, and putz around the house without feeling too stressed; and don’t have to leave the house until 3 tomorrow, so there’s still time to get any last-minute stuff done! I wouldn’t normally plan this kind of schedule myself, since when I plan my own vacations, I’m usually leaving at the beginning of the weekend, to take advantage of as much time as possible.

    I’m flying back a week before the rest of the tour (I couldn’t get the full 2 weeks off work, with the new assistant, busy season, and all), and I’m also kind of looking forward to having a few days by myself at home.

    1. Gene*

      In PreviousJob a coworker was going to Europe and said something about Austria. Coworker 2 told him to “Watch out for the dingoes.”

    2. Mephyle*

      Very happy for you. I ‘discovered’ Austria this year, and I can’t wait to go back. Enjoy the water! On the first day, our local hosts saw our bottles and told us to put them away – the standards for tap water are higher than for bottled water.

  13. Al Lo*

    Calgarians/Albertans: This week, amirite?! Anyone’s kids have a snow day within the first 2 weeks of September?

    Non-Calgarians: It was nuts here this week. Lots of heavy, heavy snow falling onto still-green and supple trees, and the city has looked like a huge windstorm went through, with so many downed branches and power outages for up to 2-3 days in some neighborhoods. There was very little wind, though — virtually all the damage was the weight of the snow breaking branches.

    I always feel a little embarrassed when weather like this hits the national media, or friends’ Facebooks or whatever. To me, unseasonal weather here is a little like your misbehaving child. Everyone knows that kids are sometimes naughty, but that’s not what you post on Facebook! Calgary’s sometimes-crappy weather is something I want to brush under the rug whenever possible, because I feel like it just reinforces the stereotype of “Arctic Canada,” and really, it can be lovely here. Whenever there’s an international event going on, I hold my breath for good, seasonal, pleasant weather, so that the “Holy crap, -30?!?!” doesn’t dominate people’s stories about the city.

    My husband thinks I’m a little too invested. I just hate the cold so much that I want it to be as little of a factor in the way others see this place as it possibly can be.

    1. Dan*

      Huh. “Winter” won’t hit here in DC until December at the earliest and pretty much for certain in January. The Northern Minnesotan in me still thinks I live in the tropics.

      I went to this thing in Amsterdam called the “Ice Bar.” They keep it cold and serve drinks in glasses made of ice. Everybody gets parkas and gloves.

      One guy walks in with no jacket and shorts. I asked, “Do you work here and are used to it?”

      “No,” he says. “I’m from Alberta.”

    2. Adnan*

      There are places in Northern Alberta that are a lot colder than Calgary when the real winter hits. Calgary just has more unpredictable patterns which makes the headlines. Our -20 to -30 DegC never make the national news.

      1. The Maple Teacup*

        Dear World,

        Calgary has accepted your ALS ice bucket challenge. We have donated $X to fund further research. Calgary now nominates the cities of Edmonton, Toronto and Vancouver.

    3. Colette*

      I have a lot of friends and relatives in Calgary, and I’m glad it’s something they put on Facebook. It’s a part of life, and I don’t see a reason to avoid posting, since I also see their posts about the chinooks when it’s cold here. (We had a day of rain yesterday, which is only marginally better than snow in September.)

      1. Al Lo*

        I think it’s just something I have such a visceral reaction to because cold weather/winter bothers me so much. I really shouldn’t be living here, and don’t intend to stay forever, but it bothers me that Calgary has such a vibrant arts scene and such a growing cultural presence, but what people think of most is weather, not the 40+ theatre companies, or the innovative festivls, or the really cool world premieres that the ballet has done in the past few years, or, or, or…

        I love this city; I just wish someone would transplant the whole thing to a better climate.

        1. nina t.*

          I’m an Edmonton local and I agree. We also have Nenshi and Iveson, respectively, so we’re not as notorious as Toronto ala Ford.

    4. Cath in Canada*

      Could be worse – remember last year when it was colder in Winnipeg than it was on Mars? (At least the part of Mars where the Curiosity rover was that day).

      My friend who lives in Edmonton told me that the worst moment of his life was when he got off the plane from Havana to Edmonton on New Years Day, hungover, to find that while he had boarded the plane in a temperature of 30C, he got off to a temperature of -30C.

    5. BB*

      Could you please send some snow to Los Angeles? It’s been HOT here. Even during the winter it doesn’t get cold anymore, at least not in the past couple of years. This year looks to be the same.

    6. Winnipegger*

      Everyone in Winnipeg saw the Calgary weather this week, and said, “Thank God that didn’t happen here!” It was still unseasonably cold here. Toque weather (for some, at least)!

  14. MJ (Aotearoa/New Zealand)*

    We got carpet laid Thursday and Friday this week! I can’t believe how TOASTY the house is now (it was chipboard flooring before).

    Then yesterday hubby and I went and bought a bunch of curtains for the living/dining area and replaced all the venetian blinds with proper curtains (we bought a bachelor pad). Minimal cost, but the house feels 10x homier all of a sudden.

    1. Windchime*

      Isn’t it amazing the difference that just a few pretty curtains can make? I pulled the trigger on some expensive (for me) colorful window panels for my living/dining room and it instantly made the place look so much homier!

  15. Tara*

    So I updated Windows 8.1 and shut my laptop down Thursday night.Friday whenI go to turn it on, nothing. Google tells me to take out the battery and charging cord and hold down the power button for thirty seconds, then try again. Nothing. I check the cord, it looks fine, and the charging light is coming on– besides, the battery was charged last night! Absolutely unresponsive, I hit the power button and nothing happens. I decided it was beyond my expertise and dropped it off for a free appraisal this afternoon. I have my fingers crossed that it will be a less than $100 fix, but who knows.

    The best part? Warranty expired 8 DAYS AGO.

    I booted up my tiny netbook. It’sworking pretty well consiering I left it off for just over a year! Unfortunately the spacebar hasn’t fixeditself while sitting onthe shelf. :P

    1. In progress*

      Oh Windows 8.1 is bad news (too late for you now). Hopefully it is just a driver or software incompatibility issue that can be fixed with the right installation. I’ve never not had a computer respond after a hard reset, so that part is worrying. Is it possible to revert it? I had to do that when the problems of 8.1 were just too much.

    2. CLT*

      When you say nothing happens, is the power light coming on but the screen is black? And powering off doesn’t work? I have had this issue several times, and I believe it has to do with updates that are happening with no corresponding message on the screen to alert you. I have found that if the screen goes black to just leave it a few hours (so it can finish its updates). Last time I unplugged it so that when it ran out of charge (about a 2.5 hour battery), it would shut itself off. When I plugged it back in and turned it on, it booted fine. I have had this happen maybe 4 times in the past year.

    3. danr*

      Hopefully you’ve already made a recovery disk… and now have to find it… The problem could be the update. A recent win7 security update bricked some pcs.

      1. Tara*

        When I first got it, my dad insisted I shell out the $100 to get it ‘set up’ by the store. They have me a few discs when they were done– I’m hoping these are recovery discs.

  16. Dan*

    So my mom and dad are coming to town in three weeks for the first time in about 4 years. We’re going to meet up in NYC for a few nights and then come down to DC for another few. FWIW, it’s my mom’s first time ever in NYC and dad hasn’t been since college.

    I’m a bit of a planner, and a bit of a cook, so I was discussing meal options with my dad. For one meal, I suggested going out to a Greek small plates plates that gets awesome reviews, and to which I’ve been to twice and can vouch for. Dad thinks it sounds good.

    Then he says, “oh, your mother doesn’t think that sounds very good.” I had to ask, “what doesn’t sound good about it?” Well, what do they serve? “Chicken”. What’s in it? “The same thing that’s in every chicken you’ve ever eaten.” Well what makes it Greek? “Lemon juice, olive oil, and oregano.” Oh.

    So I ask again, what doesn’t sound good? Dad steps in and says, “Your mother has had a long day, let her think about it.”

    My mom just pisses me off sometimes. Ok a lot, and it goes back a long time. Do I expect her to like everything that I do? Heck no, and it’s why I moved out after three years of high school. But we’re adults now, and “because I said so” isn’t going to fly any more. If you don’t like Greek because you’ve had it before and you don’t like lemons, ok fine. But if you don’t like Greek because you’ve never had it before? Um….

    My mom can’t cook and thinks Applebees is fine dining. Her regular hangout with a particular friend is Taco Bell. She likes what I cook (I think) and doesn’t complain about other restaurants I’ve picked out. She also doesn’t communicate very well, gets stubborn and opinionated, and just frustrates the hell out of me. There’s ways to indicate that you don’t want to jump head first into something (such as “Oh, I’ve never had Greek before. Do they have a menu online? I’d like to check it out.” Look at it and *then* tell me it doesn’t look appealing.)

    I’m not really asking for advice, I live 600 miles away for a reason. I moved out of the house a year early because she’s frustrating to deal with. Some things just never change.

    Never mind that the reason we’re going up to NYC in the first place is that my dad and I took an overseas trip together and she stayed home (reference that part about Applebees and Taco Bell and “I don’t like Greek even though I’ve never had it before.”) She got jealous and wants payback.

    1. Noah*

      No advice, but I commiserate. Every time I visit family or they visit me I realize that I love them but it is a good thing we don’t have to live with each other day-to-day anymore.

    2. Student*

      Is this the hill you want to die on? I can empathize with you, but if you don’t see them often this is not a fight worth having.

      My father was the picky eater in my family growing up. We were forbidden spices, except salt and pepper. Different foods couldn’t touch each other. As in, cheese – okay, broccoli – okay, broccoli with cheese on it – taken away from the person eating it and thrown in the trash. He caused scenes in restaurants on nearly every visit, and complained about nearly any meal my mother ever made him. Many (most!) foods were outright forbidden – I remember making garlic bread for myself once, and being forced to go outside to eat it in the snow because garlic was not allowed. Green beans, one of the few allowed vegetables, was only eaten if it was from a can and cut in style he liked – french cut from a can or fresh were both unacceptable alternatives.

      On the rare, once-a-year-or-less occasions that I spend a meal with my parents, I put the burden on them to pick the restaurant. If I know there’s a restaurant nearby that they like, I’ll go to that instead of suggesting something new. I don’t try to cook for them, and I don’t ask them to try restaurants outside their comfort zone. I don’t object to whatever they pick, even if it’s something I don’t particularly like, because meals are just not something that one can enjoy with my parents. They aren’t going to change their nutty eating habits . Eating with them is just a necessary burden to be sped through as quick as possible. I do put down my foot on my father making scenes at restaurants, and I’ll suggest take-out if I think there’s high odds that he’ll have a melt-down otherwise.

      You’re just opting to repeat the same pattern you’ve been in with your mother for all your life. Break the pattern, quit caring about what she eats, and focus on doing what makes you happy instead of trying to make her into something she isn’t.

      1. OriginalEmma*

        That sounds kind of abusive, actually. More controlling than simply picking eating. Throwing someone’s food away? Forcing someone outside to eat something? That is not acceptable behavior from anyone, let alone an adult, let alone a family member.

      2. krisl*

        That sounds awful, but maybe your father has problems with certain smells? Some smells can make people feel sick, and some people are more sensitive than others – maybe that was why garlic had to be eaten outside? I love the smell of garlic, but that’s just me.

    3. fposte*

      Argh. Though my first thought was to go to my family’s pattern, where my father would be saying that because *he* didn’t want Greek food.

      There’s something to be said for just being a travel agent with parents and taking them to what they will enjoy rather than what they should enjoy. There’s always Panera :-).

    4. Not So NewReader*

      I’d take her to Taco Bell and Applebees and consider myself a fine-fine child to my parents. What a good kid I am! Why- just as you are saying here. It is waaay too much energy to put out. At some point there is a shift- even though you guys seem to be talking about food it has become a power struggle. And the more you try to make your points the harder she is going to resist.
      This manner of communicating probably goes into other topics also.
      Set some boundaries. She eats what she wants, but if she throws a “because I said so” at you remind her that you are an adult now. If she wants to disrespect her own body/health then let her. But don’t let her disrespect you.

      Sadly, the answer might be that distance is the best thing for all of you.

      1. C Average*

        This.

        I’m sorry. What a pain.

        I’m feeling very appreciative of my culinarily adventurous family right now.

    5. AB*

      Your parents sound like my inlaws, who will drive 45 minutes to go to Golden Corral on purpose. They don’t cook much and never have fresh veggies. My husband is super picky because of them. It took me ages to convince my husband that soup is not gross (canned soup is gross therefore all soup is gross) and potatoes that aren’t fried are good too.

      When my MIL visits, all she wants to eat is Applebee’s or Ruby Tuesday’s, which she considers fancy and urban. When she visits, it’s usually for a week. I can only have chain restaurant so many times in one week. We’ve tried to get her to try something else, like this Italian place down the street, but she won’t eat “foreign food” and won’t let me cook because she wants “nice meals” like steak or fried chicken . Her idea is that home cooking is hamburger helper. (Not to toot my own horn, but I’m a very good cook and am perfectly capable of making a far better steak than Applebee’s)

      1. Ruffingit*

        You should make a steak one day, get an Applebee’s container and tell her it’s take out. I bet she’ll eat it and think it’s delicious.

      2. Tris Prior*

        Oh god, this sounds like my FIL. When he came to visit we had an awful time finding restaurants that he’d go to that I could also eat at (I am vegetarian, he won’t eat vegetables or anything “foreign”.) I live in a large city and we ended up mostly in the touristy areas of town, nowhere near where we live, because there we could find chain restaurants with bland food. Pizza ended up being okay with him, thankfully.

        He also doesn’t like home-cooked food so at least I was not railroaded into cooking for him as there’s no way I could’ve pleased him.

      3. Judy*

        I would say that even if it’s not fine dining, I certainly consider Ruby Tuesday’s a much better restaurant than Applebee’s. I know they’re the same market, but I have consistently gotten bad (bun or roll soaking wet, things forgotten, sauces on that we asked to be omitted, etc) food at Applebees, but I’ve never had anything “bad” at Ruby Tuesdays in the same way. And the salad bar at RT is pretty good, locally only bested by a local restaurant and the Jason’s Deli.

        I guess I rank RT one of the highest casual chains, with Applebees one of the lowest. I’m not one to order steaks at a casual place, though. Generally salmon or chicken dishes.

    6. Colette*

      Would she be open to a rotation, where you each pick a restaurant before the first person tries again? Would you be happier eating some meals together and some on your own? (It sounds to me like this is partly your vacation, so you may want to have the opportunity to do your own thing.)

      I find sometimes taking the argument away can have good results – I.e “I really want to do X, so I’m going to go do that. If you’re not interested, can we meet back here at nine?” She may decide to join you, or she may not, but you’ve stated what you want to do and you’re not held hostage to what she wants.

    7. Loose Seal*

      My step dad will only eat chicken fingers in restaurants so any family outing has to be at a place that serves those. But he won’t order off the children’s menu so they have to be found in the regular menu. It really limits where we can go.

      1. INTP*

        Okay, you’ve one-upped me. My stepfather does have the palate of a toddler but he will shamelessly order off the kid’s menu. He won’t even be embarrassed when the waitress brings him a toy and his drink in a colorful cup with a zany straw. (To be fair, I will order off a kid’s menu too – sometimes vegetarian choices are limited to an iceberg lettuce salad or a kid’s grilled cheese and I’ll have the grilled cheese, thanks. And I find it a little odd when the waitress brings me all the kid’s meal trappings but not particularly embarrassing.)

        1. Ruffingit*

          I order off the kids’ menu sometimes as well because the sizes are more appropriate to what I want. If I order the same chicken strips off the adult menu, sometime the size is just too big and too much for what I want. I save the toys in a bucket and I hand them out at Halloween.

    8. INTP*

      I have several family members like this. No advice, because in my experience they won’t change. Trying new foods for them seems to be, at worst, literally frightening, and at best, tolerable but unrewarding. I just wanted to express sympathy for how annoying it is. I actually won’t even date “meat and potatoes” guys now because growing up with my food choices so limited was so incredibly frustrating for me, I would rather die alone than sign myself up for a lifetime of dealing with that in a partner.

      Maybe going out to cool places can be you and your dad’s “thing”? This is what my mom and I do now. The options for any whole-family dinners are still limited but we like to do research on yelp and try new places on our mother-daughter dates.

    9. BRR*

      This sounds familiar. My dad is a very picky eater. He onetime almost sent back a dish because it came with a piece of garnish on the side. I had to stop him on that one. He doesn’t tip well enough to be the customer who sends a dish back because of garnish. He also doesn’t like seasoning. Like ANY seasoning on anything. Yet he eats garlic bread and puts pepper on his eggs but god forbid if I season my hamburger next to his on the grill because the wind blows my pepper onto his burger. And both my parents like going to the same restaurant. When my brother was in college and we went to visit him we had to go to this place every time the night we got in. Not the hill I’m going to die on until we got in at midnight (it was open until 4 am) and had to be up at 8 the next morning.

      1. BRR*

        Ooh and the only fancy restaurants we can go to are steakhouses. I did my undergrad in New Orleans. They are comfortable financially so we would enjoy a nice meal. Well we would go to Morton’s or Ruth’s Chris instead of any of the awesome restaurants there. I know that’s a first world problem but it’s frustrating.

        1. Stephanie*

          I took a cruise that departed from New Orleans back in college. We drove there from Houston and got there the day before departure to do some touristy stuff in New Orleans. One girl was a piece of work and was on some kind of crazy restrictive diet*. Another girl flew in from Virginia (she was the main organizer’s HS friend). We’re trying to figure out dinner and Crazy Diet Girl wanted to go to the Olive Garden since they had some sort of low calorie menu that was on her diet plan. Virginia Girl snaps like “Nope! It is my birthday and I took two planes to get here from Blacksburg. I am not eating at an Olive Garden in Metairie. We will get you carryout, but I am eating something smothered or fried and having an Abita.” And from there, I knew this girl and I would get along.

          *So why did she go on a cruise, you ask? Yeah, good question. She was sticking to the diet meals and then just started eating cake one day. Someone else was like “Shhhhhh, don’t mention anything and ask about the diet. Persephone is eating cake.”

    10. Artemesia*

      If both your parents were like this, I’d say, book Applebees and don’t worry about it. Since it is just your mother, I’d make the reservations and promise your mother to stop by McDonalds afterwards so she can get a burger if she doesn’t like the food. And give this as little attention as possible.

      Or, just say ‘Dad — if you want to go to Applebees and McDonalds to avoid hassles with Mom we can do that. Or we can eat someplace with good food and get take out for Mom afterwards?’

      My husband had a business partner who ate like a toddler; my DH just stopped going to Shoney’s and such on business trips and told him ‘I am going to (Chinese place, Sushi place, excellent Italian place, whatever) and can meet you afterwards if you like.’ The giant toddler started joining him and slightly broadened his palate; he could always get some chicken dish or noodle dish he would eat if he didn’t want to be adventureous.

      You could also tell her ‘I called the restaurant and they agreed to just grill you a piece of chicken with no seasoning and you can have rice with it.’ Most restaurants will do this. I had an Orthodox Jewish friend who went would have fish prepared baked in foil with no seasoning — it was terrible but it let him eat in a non-kosher place. Consider your mother kosher of a sort and let her have the bland piece of chicken or the hamburger cooked without seasoning.

      1. Canadamber*

        Possibly your coworker had allergies, and just didn’t want to admit to them? I have peanut/tree nut allergies and it does limit what I can eat and where I can go.

    11. HR Pro*

      I might suggest finding traditional American restaurants like Applebees but that aren’t Applebees to take her to. I’ve done that with my mother in law and it worked out quite well. That way, I didn’t bristle at the idea of going to Applebees, and she could order plain chicken or steak or whatever that is the style of cooking of Applebees. The restaurant I found has a more modern (and less chain-y) atmosphere than Applebees, but it serves that kind of traditional American food.

      And then exalt in the chances that you get to eat wonderful exotic new places with your friends/family who do like those kinds of restaurants.

    12. krisl*

      Sounds like you should take her to Applebee’s.

      I’m a vegetarian and a picky eater (sorry, but at some point, it is what it is), and I do try to check out a menu for a new place before I go there. Sometimes if I go with other people, I just order something I think I can handle and eat what I can and maybe get something I like when I go home.

      Restaurants that have food I’m not used to make me a little nervous. Part of the reason I gave up meat is that I’m likely to gag and feel sick to my stomach if I bit into gristle or fat. Some smells just don’t smell OK to me and make me feel like not eating. It’s not that I want to be a picky eater; it’s more that combinations make me feel sick. Maybe your mom is like that. Of course, it would be easier if she could say so.

    13. Stephanie*

      Is it Cava Mezze in Eastern Market, by any chance? That place is tasty (sorry, that’s not helping your situation…).

      I am lucky that my parents will try most foods/cuisines once, especially if I explain it in advance. They may not go back, but they’ll give it a try the first time. My mom’s hangup is cleanliness–she’ll do divey places, but it can’t look overly grimy.

      However, I have relatives who are overly picky. With them, I just give up and go to Applebee’s. They like what they like. Sometimes I can get away with the local place that serves American food, but some people get really fixated to the idea of an Applebee’s/Ruby Tuesdays/whatever.

      My dad introduced me to his summer intern (we’re about the same age) who is an extremely picky eater. She said nothing spicy or no seafood (meanwhile, I love Mexican seafood) which turned into a whole host of other preferences that were kind of annoying to accommodate. Like anything that was slightly different was a dislike (for example, we went to this pizza place and I got a rosemary, potato, feta pizza and she’s like “Um…that’s odd.”) With her, I just gave up trying to go to interesting places. She wanted to go to the Cheesecake Factory or Olive Garden, I just stopped fighting and went there.

      1. Dan*

        No, its nostos in Tyson’s corner.

        The strange thing with mom is that she really won’t say why she likes or doesn’t like anything. The best answer I get is “because.” I put up with that for 17 years, and well, I don’t have to put up with that anymore. So I don’t. Hell even dad wants to go, but doesn’t want to do anything where mom will feel left out.

        I mean, if there’s a commonly used spice or something that she doesn’t like, I get it. But I’d prefer shed ask what’s in it *before* she says she doesn’t like something instead of after.

        I’m not going tondo what she wants when she’s the only one who wants to do it.

  17. Dan*

    I’m going to my first NFL game ever tomorrow. Why? Because the weather’s good and the tickets were cheap. Never mind that I’m not a huge fan of either the home or away teams.

    At least the quarterback is on my fantasy football team, although he’s not my starter.

    1. Squirrel!*

      Don’t wear the colors of the away team, whatever you do. Especially if you’re in the Northeast. No offense to those people who live there, but your sports fans are The Worst.

    2. Jillociraptor*

      That’s an awesome reason. I’m not really a huge sports fan, but I love being outside on a beautiful day, hanging out with a bunch of people who are just thrilled to be watching the game. Have fun!

  18. OriginalEmma*

    I’ve decided to pursue graduate school for next year. I want to gain a permanent FTE at the federal health agency where I’m currently a fellow, and no, unfortunately, I cannot simply convert to permanent status due to the mechanism under which I was hired; I have to compete externally. Due to the competitive nature of federal hiring at the moment, an MPH looks like an acceptable course of action, perhaps supplementing with an accelerated BSN down the road. Even if I cannot get back into the fed, I’d be happy to work at the city, county or state level. Not entirely sure about how I’d fare in private industry, NGO or non-profit sector but I’m open to them as well. I’m in love with disease surveillance, and am looking at an MPH in epidemiology from a school on the East Coast.

    This decision is freeing, thrilling and terrifying. My fellowship ends next year and from the job searching I’ve been doing, my particular mix of public health experience and my undergrad degree just don’t seem to cut it. I’m at a place where I have the desire, self-confidence, and diligence to apply – and what’s the worse that can happen? I get rejected, and then I can try again.

    I hope to use the great writing skills I’ve seen here to craft my personal statement and if anyone has any tips for a first-time grad applicant, please chime in. Additionally, if anyone has a specific tips, stories of how it was different than from undergrad, etc., for a first-generation college student going on to grad school, PLEASE let me know! Undergrad was struggle enough when you don’t have any familial examples to follow.

    1. Dan*

      Do you have a particular school in mind, and is it hyper competitive? My grad program wasn’t super competitive, and I got in more or less with an informal conversation with the program director. I’d go that route if you can get them to talk to you. So I guess that’s how I’d say grad school is different than undergrad — for grad school, you actually have a “story” and a career plan that counts for something. FWIW, I was also the only one in my immediate family pursuing a graduate education. My mom, dad, and brother all stopped at the BA/BS level.

      Side note: I looked at a Fed job out of the area (I live in DC, and it was weird looking at a fed job *not* in DC) but I didn’t like the hiring mechanism. It wasn’t quite a fellowship like you had, but it was a non-temporary, limited term appointment. They could renew my position after two years for another two years, but after 4, I’d have to recompete for a full time position. “You’d have a let up since we already know you.” Yeah, but there actually has to be a position open to apply to, and you can’t promise me that. Besides, all of the other work (including the job I did accept) is back in DC, and I’d rather not move back and forth if it wasn’t necessary.

      1. OriginalEmma*

        I have two schools I’m favoring but I’m unsure of their competitiveness (in general, or in comparison to other schools of public health).

        1. hermit crab*

          Is one of the schools GWU? I’m halfway through an MPH there and would be happy to answer any questions you have … it would be a good distraction from my environmental & occupational epi homework. :)

          1. OriginalEmma*

            It’s not GWU. I’m looking at three NYS schools. Not super keen on the DC area and wanted to live in an area with a low cost-of-living (because where I live now is pretty expensive).

            1. Treena Kravm*

              Does NYS mean New York State? A friend of mine is working on an MPH at SUNY Albany, and because she wasn’t committed yet (and maybe also couldn’t get in ASAP, not sure) she started with a PH certificate that would all go towards the MPH if she decided to continue.

              I’m in the same boat as you, I’m first-generation college grad as well, and everyone is pretty useless when it comes to advice. I’m looking for MPH programs to apply to as well and it’s tough to know how competitive they are. If it’s possible, try asking other people you work with. I just spoke with a manager at my company who mentioned she applied to a PhD program and didn’t get in, so I wanted to pick her brain about CVs and such.

              1. OriginalEmma*

                Yes, New York State. High-five for first-generation grad student! It’s a struggle.

                Officially, I believe CEPH doesn’t rank schools. But you *know* some are better than others (and it’s not necessarily the big-names like NYU, either). I looked at a few well-respected institutions in areas I’d want to live, such as UMich and University of Minnesota, but their epi programs looked more research-oriented than field-based.

                Frankly, if someone doesn’t want to hire me because I didn’t go to Tulane, Merry Christmas to them because it might not be a place I’d want to work, you know?

            2. hermit crab*

              I hear you on DC and cost of living. I’m only at GWU because I was already living/working nearby and I didn’t want to move (and they offered me a generous scholarship).

              1. OriginalEmma*

                Ooh, very nice! Congratulations.

                My local MPH program wouldn’t work for me. It’s primarily online (not a format in which I’d thrive) and the coursework didn’t sing to me.

                Are you in the AAM LinkedIn group?

                1. hermit crab*

                  I’m not, but I should probably join! Maybe it would make LinkedIn actually useful for me, haha.

                  I didn’t consider online programs either. Even beyond personal preference, I think that one of the main benefits of a degree like an MPH is to learn from your classmates’ experiences, which is tough in an online setting.

                2. Xay*

                  I understand people’s reservations about online but I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how much interaction I have had with my classmates (and somewhat annoyed when a course is one group project after another.)

                  That said, I have 10 years of public health experience so I wasn’t looking for the same kind of networking experience that someone newer to the field may need.

            3. hermit crab*

              Also, it is absolutely possible to get a great job without going to a big-name school. It might limit your opportunities if you wanted to get a tenured professorship somewhere, because academia is just so competitive, but otherwise you should really make your decision based on your personal preferences/circumstances — will you be a good fit with the department, do the professors do work you are interested in, do you want to live there for a couple years, can you afford it, etc.

              One thing you might consider when you’re thinking about where to apply is whether the program is tailored to working students. There are MPH programs (mine is one) that expect that even the full-time students will have jobs or internships, and so classes are mostly in the evenings, etc. Depending what your specific plans are, this could be an important consideration.

              1. OriginalEmma*

                I believe SUNY Albany is an evening program. They partner with the NYDOH, so many of their instructors have day jobs in public health. Being able to work and go to school is important to me, so thanks for bringing that up.

    2. Xay*

      Good luck! Your experience as a fellow should be a big plus on your MPH application. Have you looked into federal contracting in lieu of an FTE? It would give you some additional experience and help you build your networks in case things change on the federal level.

      As far as MPH advice, look for funding while you are choosing which schools you will apply to. There is less institutional scholarship aid for the MPH because it is a masters degree, but there are enough external funding opportunities that you shouldn’t have to take on a lot of debt. If you wait to look for funding after you have been accepted, you will miss out on scholarships with early deadlines.

      1. OriginalEmma*

        Can you recommend how to search for external opportunities? So far I have signed up for FastWeb scholarship search but am unsure really where else to look.

        And, yea, I learned there is just no funding for MPH studies. A shame.

        1. hermit crab*

          Emma, in case you’re still reading this thread, I just got a notice for an ASPPH webinar on MPH funding. Here’s the description: “The Association of School and Programs of Public Health (ASPPH) will host a webinar on financing your degree with Joe Korevec (Columbia University) on Monday, September 15, 3 – 4:00 pm EST. The webinar is sponsored by the ASPPH Student Recruitment Sub-Committee and will provide an overview of financial aid and scholarship opportunities for students in public health. The webinar is directed towards prospective students of public health, current students, and post-graduate students. Register at https://www2.gotomeeting.com/register/417674538.”

          Who knows if it will useful, but I thought I would pass it along!

          1. OriginalEmma*

            I did listen in on it (while packing boxes at a warehouse, fun!). Thanks SO MUCH for reminding me – I get the ASPPH e-mails but sometimes don’t read them. I got a lot out of it.

        1. Xay*

          There is a little bit of funding institutional and external – you have to look for it carefully. I would recommend starting with ASPPH. Member schools often have external scholarship information on their School of Public Health student websites. You can also get a sense of what funding is available by talking to school representatives. I work full time so I am receiving a small tuition reimbursement from my employer, but I also received institutional funding. Some schools do offer oppotunities for graduate assistantships or work study partnerships with public health agencies/organization that include scholarships or tuition waivers.

          Fastweb is mostly spam, unfortunately.

  19. De (Germany)*

    The husband and I just discovered You Need A Budget. In combination with gnucash, which can actually pull our bank statements from our German banks, this looks like it could potentially get us back on track for our savings goals. Any other fans?

    In less good money news, we had to pay half of our monthly income for car repairs. And in three weeks we’ll be traveling to the USA, which is another couple of thousands. We have the money, but sometimes those numbers are really scary.

    Oh, and a question to the people here from the USA : when you pay with credit card, how common is it to pay with PIN and how common is it to pay with signature? I’ll try to find my card’s PIN, of course, but I have never had to use it here in over 4 years.

    1. Al Lo*

      I’m pretty sure that nowhere in the U.S. is set up yet to pay by PIN for a credit card. Debit card, sure, but the chip technology isn’t in U.S. systems yet.

      If you were to use an ATM to get a cash advance off your credit card, you’d need the PIN, but not for purchases.

      1. fposte*

        Nothing has a chip reader. There are only a couple of US banks that even generate chip and pin cards, and it’s as specialty products. It’s all swipe (or tap) and sign, with signature waived for low amounts at some places.

        Enjoy your trip!

        1. The Cosmic Avenger*

          Actually, I was at a Target over the summer and noticed that they had new credit card machines. The machines had a slot in the front for a card, the same size and shape you would have for a chip-and-PIN reader, but the slot was blocked. It looked to me kind of like the way empty drive bays often do on computers; it was obvious the hole was there for something, but it was not yet in use. That’s actually why it caught my attention.

          So I’ll bet Target will be one of the first major retailers to take EMV cards.

          1. Melissa*

            My bf used his new Citibank pin card at Walmart the other day! It took wayyyy longer than a regular swipe would have, but once those kinks are worked out, it should be great!

      2. danr*

        All of my new credit cards are coming with both mag strip and chips. But the chip readers are not pin enabled. They are chip and signature, when they arrive. At least they’re doing away with the rfid chips. Those readers never worked.

      3. De+(Germany)*

        Interesting to know, thank you. I will try to dig it up just to be safe, but that will make me sleep a bit easier, because I have never had to use my PIN before and so I am just a bit nervous about that. We’re probably taking enough cash to be covered for the whole trip – going to try and pay by credit card everywhere possible and I hear that’s a lot of places in the US.

        1. attornaut*

          If your card is a visa or mastercard and your bank allows it in the US, you will be able to use it in 99% of places in every major city.

    2. Noah*

      I have never used a PIN with a credit card. I know I’ve received them in the mail but the only time I could ever imagine needing it is to retrieve a cash advance at an ATM.

      In my experience all credit card transactions are signature based, and most places now don’t even have you sign if it is less than some set amount (seems to vary between $5 and $40).

      Debit cards are a different story. With those you can usually choose to have them be PIN based or signature based. Some advantages to each, depending of if you are the merchant or the consumer.

    3. Anonymous Educator*

      If it’s in a store or restaurant, it’s usually signature (no PIN). If it’s at a gas (petrol) station, usually you need your zip code.

      1. Student*

        You only need your zip code at gas stations to fuel up right at the pump. I suggest that you go inside the gas stations to pay at the register instead if you are visiting from Germany and need gas (they’ll ask for a signature at the register). I’m not sure whether the systems at the pumps would respond well to a German zip code.

        I’ve never had to give a PIN number for my credit card in the US, except at ATMs if I want to withdraw cash on it.

        1. ClaireS*

          I’m Canadian and can attest that American gas pumps will only take a US zip code. You have to go in and pay with an international card.

    4. Schmitt*

      OH! Now I have something to do for the day. *goes off to poke bank things* I just assumed that wouldn’t work with German banks yet.

      We’re headed to the US in four weeks and we’ve lost our card’s PIN. We usually get our cash from an ATM there and yes, that does need a PIN. Bah.

    5. Jen RO*

      So wait, in Germany you don’t use PIN? I was under the impression that all of Europe is pretty much the same (PIN only) and the US uses signature. I don’t have a credit card, so I don’t know what the differences are exactly, but my boyfriend’s is exactly like a debit card (chip and PIN).

      1. ClaireS*

        Don’t know about Europe but in canada, I would say 75% of the places take your pin with the credit card. The rest don’t have the tech yet and take your signature.

          1. Chocolate Teapot*

            Sometimes when I pay for goods or hotels in Germany I have to type my PIN into the machine, other times it’s a signature. There never seems to be a hard and fast rule though. Having said that, I find it more common in Germany to pay with cash rather than a card, and a lot of places only take the EC card, which seems to be specific to Germany.

      2. De (Germany)*

        I have never used my credit card to pay anywhere in “real life” in Germany. I use it online and for everything else, it’s my debit card.

      3. De+(Germany)*

        Adding to my reply, most places in Germany just also plain don’t take credit card. Hotels and car rental places do, but restaurants and smaller stores generally just don’t.

        1. Elysian*

          This astonished me when I was in Germany. I’ve never carried much cash, but I was at the ATM like every other day on my visit to Germany, stuffing wads of euros into my wallet and hoping I wouldn’t get robbed. In the US, I pay for everything with my credit card (which, like others have said, always requires a signature).

    6. Jubilance*

      Huge fan of YNAB here! It took me a while to get the hang of it, but taking a few of the online classes really helped! Their customer service is also fantastic.

      Chip & pin isn’t available yet in the US; I believe the first stores, like Target, won’t be implementing it until 2015. Until then, everything is signature, but only if your purchase is about $25, if its below that, many places don’t require you sign.

    7. Artemesia*

      We are still medieval in credit cards in the US — it is all signature.

      There is a budget guy in the US called Dave Ramsey who has really good advice and systems for digging yourself out of debt. He unfortunately ladles in a bit of religious claptrap but the basic advice is very sound and based a bit on behavioral principles (e.g. he has people pay down the smallest debt first so that they experience success that keeps them going — like losing a couple of pounds encourages you to keep with the diet) One of his principles is that the first thing you do is assemble a mini-emergency fund of about $1000 so that things like unexpected car repairs don’t derail you. Once you have that, you then try to put together an emergency fund for 3-6 months of expenses. His book is called ‘Financial Peace’ and it has lots of suggestions for practices that help people get out of debt and on track.

      1. De+(Germany)*

        I have read some of Dave Ramsey, but it’s very debt-centric. I have never had any debt, as do about two thirds or three quarters of Germans (and that remaining quarter includes people with a mortgage) and never had less than 1 or 2 months of expenses as an emergency fund. My problem lies solely in keeping track what goes where and saving for really long-term goals, like a house in ten years or something. It#s a comfortable situation to be in, but those 2.5K still hurt :/

    8. Elsajeni*

      As other folks have said, we don’t have PINs for credit cards in the US, only for debit cards. However, since I don’t know exactly how your card is set up, it might be useful to know: if you swipe your card and get a prompt to enter your PIN, there’s generally an option like “or press Cancel for credit” — pressing that will give you a prompt to sign instead.

    9. abby*

      Just checked out YNAB and see that our budgeting process already follows those basic rules. I set this up in a simple Excel spreadsheet years ago. It got us through several months of unemployment, where we lost 2/3 of our income, then two years of underemployment, where I was earning about 1/3 of what I was before my layoff, and now that I am in a better position but at a nonprofit, so still earning much less. We’re only half-way there with rule #4, though, but making progress.

    10. Liane*

      One or 2 replies to the OP have said that the chip technology is not in the USA. It is. The very big retailer I work for installed card readers that can take either chip or magnetic strip cards about 3 months ago. They are working pretty well except for a few problems early on, most of them due to customers not paying attention to the prompts or what we were saying. * Now that the people who have them are used to both the chips & our readers, the only ongoing issue is it seems to take a few seconds more than reading a card with mag strip.

      *Could one of my fellow geeks please help me out here. Is “Please insert your card in the slot at the bottom of the reader, below the keypad” a Vulcan, Huttese, or Quenya sentence? And also provide me with the English, preferably American English, translation?

    11. Elizabeth+West*

      I usually use my PIN, but sometimes, I do credit–like at the gas pump, and if there is someone hovering and I don’t want to type in my PIN. My card can be run either way, as debit (with the number) or like a VISA card.

      1. Jen+RO*

        But… even if it’s used as a debit card, it’s still a Visa… no? (I don’t remember in which country – Austria I think – all the cashiers were confused by the fact that I had a debit Visa. I think Visa only makes credit cards over there or something, to the extent that Visa was synonymous with credit. Is this similar?)

        1. Elizabeth West*

          I’m not sure what the difference is on the merchant end, but the money comes out the same on the bank end. We have debit cards with a Visa or MasterCard logo and you can run them like a credit card. I But like I said, I’m not sure how that works exactly.

      2. Felicia*

        A Visa debit is a totally separate thing than a regular visa…it’s processed differently than a VISA by credit card processing companies. At my current company, our system won’t accept VISA debit 99% of the time (so I just say we don’t take it), and then at my last company we accepted it, but about half of the time there would be card processing errors that never happened with any other form of payment. Its totally different on the merchant end. It should be ok in most stores, but in online shopping it’s not always going to work.

    12. Elysian*

      No info about You Need A Budget, but a shout out for gnucash. I love gnucash and I really don’t know how I would budget without it. Thank goodness my husband does the data entry!

  20. Bailey*

    School related, so hopefully not off topic, but gosh, I hate having to choose between doing something practical in grad school and doing my dream program which is impractical. Why do I have to want to work in a field that isn’t in demand in my country?

    1. BB*

      Something to think about from someone who tried doing something practical and wanted to do something else: Going after a practical career could leave you unhappy. Your soul doesn’t care too much about money. That’s your head talking. Your soul just wishes to express itself which for you means an impractical career. You follow society’s expectations, it does not guarantee you happiness. Then if you ever become unhappy because you went after the practical path, you’ll just regret spending money and time pursuing that career that you now want to get out of.

  21. NW Cat Lady*

    Just wanted to say that, based on AAM’s recommendation of Sheba cat food, I tried it with my cats, and they LOVE it. Even the pate (which my female usually eats only after shooting me dirty looks). And I love that, not only is it grain free, but all of their seafood is sustainably sourced according to the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program. YAY!!!

    1. krisl*

      That’s good to know. My 2 kitties also give me looks when I try to feed them pate. Sort of “Really, you’re going to feed us that? What’s wrong with you?” I’ve got to check out Sheba food.

    2. Elizabeth+West*

      Pig likes Fancy Feast in a pinch, but I don’t think it satisfies her the way Blue Buffalo does. She never cries for a snack after she eats the BB. I give her a little kibble with the FF. I haven’t tried the Sheba on her yet.

      I’ve been feeding her kibble in the morning and soft food at night, mostly because it was really hot and she could eat the soft faster and then go back to her hidey hole, and also because it will be easier for the pet sitter to make sure she eats (because she LOVES the soft food). She’s starting to put on her winter weight, too. Little fatty.

  22. Anonyby*

    I baked a cake (from scratch!) for my best friend’s birthday tomorrow! Not only is tomorrow her birthday, but it’s also our regular game night. She and her husband were gone on a 10-day trip, and I picked them up at the airport tonight. I had been catsitting for them, and took advantage to bake the cake at their place (since mine’s broken). Made the frosting tonight after I got back home, and frosted the cake. The only not-from-scratch part is the white icing I used to decorate.

    On the other hand, I discovered a new-to-me podcast (Still Untitled: The Adam Savage Project), and I’m enjoying it thoroughly. Having to go back and forth for catsitting gave me a lot of time to listen to the podcast! And I also wrote in a question to “Go Fork Yourself” and had it answered in this week’s episode! (Rather obvious, since mine was the only reader question this week…)

  23. Luxe in Canada*

    Comments have been crashing the page for me, so I haven’t posted or followed comments in a while. But I wanted to say I missed you guys.

  24. Ama*

    I’m watching my parents’ house while they are on vacation on the other side of the globe. They have a pond with waterfall. The pipe leading from the skimmer to the pump is no longer allowing water to flow freely. It’s also buried about 18″ underground and is maybe 4′ long.

    Parents don’t return for another 10 days. My only method of contact with them is via Facebook messages sent to family members they’re visiting.

    Anyone have suggestions for investigating and possibly freeing a clog in the pipe? I was thinking of snaking our garden hose through there backwards and turning it on full blast if I hit a blockage.

    1. Student*

      This sounds like a situation where the best thing you can do is just turn off the waterfall pump. It’s not an urgent problem. It’s not likely to get worse if you leave it alone for 10 days. You are likely to make it worse if you flail around sticking things down the pipes to try to fix it with no idea of what is specifically wrong.

      You could have a simple blockage, or a filter that needs to be changed, or a broken pump, or some critter stuck down there, or a broken pipe. They might have a specific repair man they prefer to use, or a warranty, or at least a good idea of the common problems it has and how to fix it.

      If you really, really want to fix it, just send a message on facebook via the relative they’re visiting and ask them what they want you to do about it. If you think they’re checking email, that might be a good option too.

      1. Rowan*

        If there are fish in the pond, especially dirty fish like goldfish or carp, no aeration or filtration in the pond for ten days could be a big deal. However, my experience with ponds suggests that your parents are likely to have dealt with this problem 100 times before and will be happy to receive a message asking what they’d like you to do.

        1. Ama*

          It has mysteriously begun working again! I’m not complaining though, that’s for sure, and the fish were thrilled.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      That sounds like what Roto-Rooter does.
      Do you have a drain snake? I wonder if you could open it using a snake. It’s a 4′ pipe so I am thinking that even a small 25′ snake might work.
      If you don’t have one I bet someone you know does and will loan it to you.
      But it sounds like you want to push the block away from the pump, not toward it, proceed with caution here.

  25. Schmitt*

    I BOUGHT GOOGLY EYES (see avatar).

    It shouldn’t be possible for €1,39 to make me so happy – and I haven’t even taken them to work yet! Muahahaha.

  26. Addie*

    How do you work out what you want to ‘do’ with your life? My dream career (working in creating advertising campaigns for my favourite sports team) is unrealistic, especially for a girl, but I know marketing careers just leave you with sales jobs, I’m not good enough at math to work in business, I’m not patient enough to be a teacher nor the type of person who’d enjoy studying law. What do I *do*?

    1. Anon1234*

      If anyone told you that you can’t work in sports because you’re female, the proper response is not to just give up.

      1. The Maple Teacup*

        What does being female have to do with a particular career being unrealistic?

        (Waves a wand and banishes societal problems)

        These days I’m picking a career path that pays a livable wage. And is interesting. And is somewhat in line with my experiences and education. If a job has those criteria it could be a good choice.

      2. BB*

        I’m with everyone above. DON’T GIVE UP ON YOUR DREAM. Stop with your limited beliefs (and anyone else’s). That’s the only thing getting in the way of your dreams.

    2. ClaireS*

      Don’t give up on marketing and business just because your not good at math. I’m in marketing and I work closely with the sales unit. I’m awful at math and it’s well known I travel the office with a calculator at all times. When I’m working with excel and can’t figure out some basic math, google is my friend.

    3. AB*

      One of our friends went to school for marketing and is now does marketing for a major sports news channel. She spends all her time hobnobbing with professional sports teams. Marketing is not just sales. If you’re more into the creative side, why not look into communications?

    4. NW Cat Lady*

      A – don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do what you want.

      B – I’m closing in on 50 and still don’t know what I want to do with my life. As long as I’m learning and growing (and have enough money to pay the bills), I don’t feel like I need to know where I’m going to be in 5 or 10 years. J.R.R. Tolkien said it best: Not all who wander are lost.

    5. Blue_eyes*

      Check out the book “What Color is Your Parachute?” It includes lots of ways to work out what kind of job you would like (and be good at) and has great advice for job hunting.

    6. FX-ensis*

      I am a marketer (well budding, but I consider myself such nonetheless…) and many women are in the field.

      As for advertising, well this is one of the biggest sub-areas of marketing, and it seems copywriting work may suit you. I am a digital marketer, but I learnt copywriting from reading books and just reading adverts to get a feel of how it’s done.

      I’ve found it rewarding thus far…it’s very exciting and I like the people part of it.

    7. danr*

      With the push for diversity, you should be able to find a job doing that… There are more women who love big time sports than the traditionalists (male) would like to acknowledge. My wife is the general sports nut… and groans at the traditional advertising campaigns.

  27. nep*

    People have done things more unrealistic-seeming than that. Doubt has stopped far more people than failure ever has. I reckon you shouldn’t drop something you love just because it seems the road would be long and tough. There are probably many roles to be filled in the line of work you’re talking about — why not explore where you might fit in there and seek ways to break in? See what kind of training you’d need, what internships might be available, and the like?
    What’s your current situation — still in school? At a job currently?

    1. Addie*

      I’m currently out of school, I’m working in a job I dislike and don’t have many career prospects in (assistant retail manager, it’s where my dislike of sales has come in) and am looking at going back to school and making a career.

      1. nep*

        I see. Makes sense. You already know this — you’ve got what it takes to land a job in a line of work you enjoy. Wishing you all the best.

      2. C Average*

        Speaking purely for myself here–others may have different stories and outlooks–I’ve found that learning about what I DON’T want to do (often by doing it for a while) is as valuable as trying to get a sense of what I DO want to do. I think sometimes finding the right path involves wandering a little ways down the wrong path and realizing, “Nope, that’s not for me.” Don’t feel like that’s wasted time. You’re learning valuable things about yourself.

        Best of luck. I do not work in the field you’re interested in, but I do have some peripheral contact with sports marketing. It’s a field that’s absolutely open to women. Don’t let anyone tell you any different. Your best bet is to find out if there’s anyone in your network who knows anyone who knows anyone who does the kind of work that interests you. In sports, who you know is critical! Once you make those contacts, you can learn more about the specific skills you may need to develop, work to develop them, and meanwhile build and leverage your network. I know this probably sounds like boringly familiar advice about getting a job in any field that interests you, but it’s boringly familiar because it’s true.

        1. nina t.*

          +1.

          I like Kristi Dosh @SportsBizMiss for great career advice for those wanting to pursue jobs in pro sports, especially noting how networking is crucial.

          Good luck!

  28. pawnee goddess*

    Question about friends and their children

    I was hanging out with a friend a few weeks ago. She brought her one – year – old along to lunch. I’ve noticed that since she had the baby, it’s nearly impossible to talk to her. You will be having a conversation and two seconds in, the baby will do something that she needs to attend to (understandable).

    Another thing she said to me that has really bothered me for some reason is “I am very obsessed with my child.” I guess it bothers me because I get the impression that she wants others to be obsessed with the baby too. She is very upset that I’m not going to be able to attend the baby’s birthday celebration or another event coming up, but I will be out of town on both occasions.

    I don’t have any children yet so that is probably one reason why I don’t understand this stuff. I know that she wants to maintain a social life but not everyone enjoys having a baby around. My mom never used to being me or my sisters to “adult” outings, and if my dad or someone else couldn’t babysit us, then she didn’t go. My friend is the first one in our group of friends to have kids and most of the other women in the group are childless by choice.

    1. matcha123*

      Did your friend have a job or other hobbies before the kid?
      Did she to a complete 180?

      I’m guessing that she’s putting all of this time and energy into her kid and someone’s “rejection” of her kid is seen as a rejection of her and her work. If my mom had a birthday party for me at 1, I have no memory of it…and I remember a lot from when I was a toddler.

      I guess I can see how some people see their kid as like, I dunno, their new friend that they bring places with them. But, they need to cut that out. Bringing a small child to a place with adults and expecting the other adults to entertain the kid while you talk about diapers and how hard your life is is really not the definition of being with adults (dunno if your friend does something like that or not).

      1. pawnee goddess*

        The funny thing is that my friend did (and still does) have a pretty demanding job that takes up a lot of night/weekend time. She had had trouble making and keeping friends in the past and I couldn’t ever figure out why.

        Your theory about rejection makes total sense.

      2. Sophia*

        But lunch isn’t a particularly ‘lunch’ thing and the OP didn’t say she only talks about her baby, just that she’ll attend to something the baby needs during a conversation. I don’t see a problem with that. Also, staying inside the house or not going about w your life just bc you have a kid doesn’t seem reasonable. Should you be more decisive about what activities to attend or not? Yes. But the baby is now a part of her life.

        1. TL*

          Having a baby around means you’re getting, at best, half of your friend’s attention, though. I don’t mind the babies being around some of the time, but babies are like significant others – they shouldn’t always be around, and if you’re bringing them, it should be asked about before the event.

    2. DanielleR*

      As a forwarning- I don’t have kids (or am married) but I am at the age where most of my friends have gotten married or have started having children…

      Something I remember, that I was told down the line by someone else, is that by the time someone gets married… they tend to have friends who are also in committed relationships or married. By the time someone has kids… they meet their friends through kids groups, luncheons, taking their little ones to school, etc. Like groups form other gruops. And then those who are single… well… we try to find people who are also happily single because we just got alienated by the married group who is only focused on their spouses and the word “we” instead of “I” or “me” and the parent group who’s focus is on “my kid just threw up all over my shirt…. but aint she just the most cutest thing ever for doing that!!!!”

    3. Colette*

      I think you have a few choices here.

      – offer to get together with her at her place. That means the child is in a safe environment with readily available toys, and may need less attention
      – only invite her to things she could reasonably bring the child to
      – be more direct – “I’d love for you to join us if you can find someone to watch the baby”

      1. Cath in Canada*

        yeah, when my friends started having kids we found it much easier to get together at their place for take-out and a movie / hockey game on TV than for them to go out to restaurants and music venues. It’s a change, but it means you still get to see them, and then all the child-free people can go out for dinner and a gig together on other nights!

        1. Pawnee Goddess*

          I’m all for getting together at their house; however, they never suggest it. Also, if we (as a group) decided to go out to eat at a restaurant/go to a concert, etc. and we didn’t invite her, I know she would be very hurt. IMHO, I wouldn’t want to take my one-year-old out to dinner with a bunch of other adults (and no other children)because I would want to enjoy my time with my friends and not have to constantly tend to my child. I would hope that I had enough sense to pick up that it’s annoying to my group of friends to have a screaming, fussy child around in certain situations and not ignore it because *I* want to continue my social life. (I’m not trying to offend anyone – I’m really not – but I know that my group of friends does not enjoy having the kid around constantly, especially in situations that are not ‘kid friendly.’)

          And yes – she has several other friends who have babies and small children but doesn’t seem to enjoy hanging out with them as much.

          1. Colette*

            If she’ll be hurt if you don’t invite her and you’re not comfortable suggesting that you get together with her at her place, you’re left with telling her the child isn’t welcome to whatever events you don’t want the child at, or just going with the status quo.

            If it helps, this will pass eventually, but it will be a few years.

          2. TL*

            You should just be direct with her “I love Baby, but I want to spend some time just with you. Can we arrange a time when SO/babysitter can hang with Baby?”
            Or what I do to my friends: “I’m taking you out. Spouse is not invited.” (I pay when I do this. And my friends aren’t easily offended, thank goodness.)

        2. Elizabeth+West*

          I have friends who are a couple (I was friends with the husband at Oldjob) and they have FOUR kids now. I only see them at their house, and sometimes she invites me on girls’ nights with her friends. I told her I hadn’t invited them over because I figured it would be easier for them not to have to haul the kids and their stuff everywhere. She was like “Totally!” But they make efforts to invite me, and whenever they have a cookout with their church peeps, they invite me. It’s fun and the other people are all really nice. :)

          I need to get over there and see the new baby. She’s trying to crawl already and I haven’t even held her yet!

    4. Stephanie*

      I had a baby six months ago. And it means so much to me that my friends can be accommodating about hanging out with me and my daughter, despite the fact that I have to tend to her while we are eating/shopping/whatever. Even though I love my child, it is the biggest treat ever now when I get to do things I used to totally take for granted. I will look forward to hanging out with my friends for weeks, and it can be crushing to hear that someone didn’t invite you to something because you have a baby. I would really encourage you to stick it out with your friend… This is a really short period of time in the grand scheme of things, and I am sure your friendship means a lot to her. The baby is only going to be easier to handle as it gets older.

  29. Rebecca*

    Week 4, still no kitten sighting – I’m getting impatient! I keep asking the semi stray mama cat to bring her babies for a visit. We’ll see :)

    I found some Danskin Now items at Walmart, but ended up ordering them online as the display at our store had been raided before I got there. I was really pleased at the fit (got the XXL size) and have worn the compression capris for walking with a long T shirt. I also bought leggings. I treated myself to a Fila Sport set on sale at Kohl’s too (online). I noticed the biggest difference when I wore the capri pants while walking – it’s nice to walk without your shorts riding up or the legs rubbing together.

    I’m bummed that it’s getting darker sooner, but I have reflective items and an LED light, so I’m hoping to keep up my 10,000 steps into the Winter. I hope it’s not too snowy this winter as it just won’t be physically safe to walk on ice and snow.

    1. Trixie*

      I have the Danskin pieces too, but was pleasantly surprised with their Avia capris. They breathe so much better and are similar price range. Having a selection of cute workout clothes makes such a difference for my motivation.

  30. Near Sighted*

    I am thinking about getting contacts (currently wear glasses). Does anyone have any recommendations for me? Daily wear? Weekly? Monthly? Brand? Type? Astigmatism isn’t an issue, and my eyes tend to be on the dry side, if that helps to know. Thanks in advance!!

    1. Noah*

      My optometrist talked me into dailies this year, specifically the Civa Vision Dailies Total1. I’ve been wearing contacts since I was 18 and these are the okay comfortable by far. It’s hard to explain exactly but they’re very slippery and soft. Also nice to get a new pair everyday.

      I would suggest trying a daily and a weekly out. Every optometrist I’ve been to is happy to let you sample several brands and styles before making a decision.

      I also tried the extended wear ones that you don’t take out at night but those were horrible uncomfortable after a few days for me. They just felt really dry all the time and I was constantly using rewetting drops throughout the day.

    2. Treena Kravm*

      I’m always cheap and ask for monthlies, they talk me into bi-weeklies (I think) and I end up using them for waay longer. I wear contacts maybe 2-3/month, so it feels so wasteful even though I know better.

      1. Persephone Mulberry*

        If I’m reading your comment correctly and you only wear them for a day here and there, and store them in between…switch to the dailies. The cost difference between the bi-weeklies and the dailies is much less than I expected, your eyes will thank you, and you’ll actually feel frugal when a 6 month supply lasts you 18 months (plus you’ll never have to buy contact solution or new cases).

    3. Elkay*

      I have monthlies I can leave in over night. I love them, they’re ideal for someone who hates the hassle of contacts and is too scared to get laser eye surgery.

    4. Cath in Canada*

      Dailies if you can afford them. Eye care is the one area where my extended health benefits through work well and truly suck – the annual amount doesn’t even cover contact lens solution – so I get the ones you can wear for a couple of weeks but can’t sleep in, and they’re OK too.

      If you decide not to choose dailies, then experiment with a few different kinds of solution – different kinds work better for different people. I use Clear Care if I have long enough (you have to soak them for at least six hours), and Solo Aqua if not.

    5. Dang*

      I have been wearing contacts since I was 12. For the first few years I wore 2 week disposables, but around college I switches to focus dailies and have been wearing them ever since. They are expensive but you can get them online at places like vision direct or costco. When I was broke I would just order one or two boxes at a time so I didn’t have to plunk down hundreds at once.

    6. SherryD*

      I’ve worn contacts since I was 14, and it’s the best. I love contacts. I had a little trouble putting them in for the first several days, but you get used to it really quickly. Over the years I’ve done both monthly and semi-monthly, as well as tried different brands, and I’ve never noticed any difference.

  31. Mimmy*

    School is totally kicking my butt!! The material is very interesting, but it’s a lot of work, more than I expected, to be honest. We have to do weekly readings, post responses to specific questions (usually by Thursday night), then respond to two classmates by the weekend. Not to mention several mini-papers, a field research project, and a final paper! A classmate I’ve bonded with did say that this is the most work she’s done for an online class and that our professor is very nice but scattered (he’s blaming the course platform for the glitches…suuuuure. lol.), so I know it’s not just me. I already committed to my outside volunteer work and am crossing fingers that I can keep up with it all. Yes I’ve done a graduate-level program before, and that wasn’t easy but I did very well. But this online course is so different!

    So for those of you who’ve been in school recently, especially online classes, what strategies have worked in keeping up with the readings? In particular, are there any good techniques in reading a lot of material within a fairly short time frame?

    Wish me luck!!!

    1. Xay*

      I’m in an online graduate program and I have to schedule time for classwork on my calendar – ie: Sunday, 7:30-8:30am – do reading and notes for CPOT 711; Sunday, 1:30-3:00pm – read forums and post responses for CPOT 714, etc. My classes have lots of little deadlines and are organized in weeklong units so this is the only way I can force myself to set aside time to meet class requirements.

    2. Noah*

      My only advice is to jot get behind. When I took a few six week online courses during my masters program,I was surprised at how quickly they went.

      I would look at the discussion questions and other assignments before reading and then take notes that pertain to them while I read. Also, I would break the reading up into chunks and schedule a chunk everyday. Forced me to do it and keep up.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      I’ll be honest. I did not do them all. Some I did complete, some I read half way and some I never started. Once I got a feel for the course and how the prof was I got better at guessing what to do.

      I found that a lot of other students did not do all the readings either.

      One course in particular, I almost gave up. But it turned out that the first few weeks were the worst of it because the professor had to lay the groundwork for the rest of the semester.

      1. Mimmy*

        Ahh so that might explain why one particular classmate posts her responses practically the minute the readings are posted, lol. Her posts are well-written, so I think she just knows how to focus her efforts (we get a choice of which questions to answer). I might hit her up for suggestions!

        1. Loose Seal*

          This sounds like me. I have one professor who always posts the quiz questions for the chapter each week and has the students each pick two previously unanswered questions to answer on the discussion board. The problem is that there may be only 30 questions to choose from and there are 18 students. So the students that get to this after the questions have all been answered have to come up with substantive comments to add to something other people have said, rather than just answering the question outright and making a comment about it.

          I’ve had this professor before so I knew this was how he approached the discussion board part of the grade. So, since he posted the questions for the entire semester on the first day of class, I spend the first week using the search tool in my etextbook to find the answers and posted my two answers on each thread; I did the entire semester’s discussions in that one week but I did not read each chapter since I’ll do that as we go. I did not want to be one of the people coming late to this and having to scramble to find something to answer. I suspect that other student is doing something similar.

    4. BRR*

      Online classes usually have a lot more work than an in person class. Between my own experience and a couple friends I have in academia people fall into two categories: really driven people who take online because they don’t have the time to schedule an in person or people who want to go to class in their pajamas and then usually can’t keep up.

      I would try and complete my class work as soon as possible. That’s the only way I could keep up was by trying to be ahead. For one class it was due Friday by 5 so I would do it the weekend before. For the other one I took he gave reading guides that were to be completed Sunday by midnight except he never gave them to us until tuesday or sometimes wednesday so I would try and do them during lunch just to prevent trying to finish them an hour before they were due. I also took vacation days for the bigger projects. Is anything more fun than doing school work during all your time off.

      1. BRR*

        Also I had to make sure to not be distracted. No music, no netflix, no trying to also do chores. I found I could finish my work pretty quickly. I’ve seen so many people say they need music to work or have no problem having netflix on in the background because they’ve “already watched it before.” I’m calling shenanigans on netflix and music I’m more willing to believe but I thought I was good with it but turns out I’m not when I really need to focus.

        1. Mimmy*

          I’m that way too. I can. not. have anything in the background when I really need to focus. If my husband is in here watching something, I make him go on headphones.

        2. krisl*

          I think it depends on the person. I have a hard time studying when it’s quiet. I need some kind of noise in the background. I’ve noticed that some people are like me, and some people need it very quiet.

        3. TL*

          Yeah, another who needs noise in the background. I grew up in a noisy household and if it’s too quiet, I get easily distracted.

    5. Anon Accountant*

      To be honest I didn’t do all required readings. I’d skim over most but focused on homework assignments and the major parts of the chapters.

      You can do this! Good luck

    6. C Average*

      What are you studying?

      I can relate. Just started an evening MBA course, and there’s a LOT of reading! There’s also a terrifying data analysis assignment every week (on which I am procrastinating as we speak).

      1. Mimmy*

        I’m doing an Advanced Certificate in Disability Studies. The course I’m taking now is essentially an overview of the entire field–models of disability, disability concepts such as stigma and normalization, impacts on service delivery, disabilities portrayed in film, etc. A part of me is tempted to do the entire Masters because there are a lot of interesting topics, but the more sane part of me is not so sure, lol. My reasons for doing this program is because I want to incorporate disability perspectives into my current career and volunteer interests (I can talk more about that in the Friday Open Thread if interested–I don’t want to break the rules).

        Ha, we have a data analysis assignment too in a few weeks!

        1. C Average*

          I am seriously terrified of data analysis. I know it will pay off huge if I can successfully understand and engage with this content, but I have always been so very not a numbers person!

          1. Not So NewReader*

            Tell yourself “Numbers tell a story.” Then say “What story are these numbers telling?” Be patient with you- you’ll get it.

    7. INTP*

      I will be honest: I don’t always do 100% of the readings. I think this is normal, at least I have been told that it’s often impossible to do all of the reading in grad school all of the time. I’ll set aside some specific times to work on the class and prioritize what needs to be done. I will do the reading that I definitely need to do for the discussion post and writing assignments, I’ll do the written work, and if I have time, I’ll do the rest of the readings.

      I don’t like printing things out and prefer to read on my tablet or kindle, so I download the readings and organize them by week in a cloud storage platform that I can access from my tablet along with a document that specifies what all is due that week. If the PDFs are good quality I can also email them to my kindle and read them there. It also helps me to go outside my apartment to work on my online classes – somehow I’m just a little too relaxed and comfortable to be efficient when I’m at home in my PJs. Usually it’s starbucks because with green status (super easy to get) you get free refills on tea and brewed coffee. Also, make sure that you fit in time to work on the longer term projects a little each week or you’ll be totally overwhelmed during crunch times. I like the iStudiez pro app for tracking due dates and scheduling time to “go to class” and Any.do for scheduling what I’ll actually work on each day.

      1. INTP*

        Adding: All my online classes are in a humanities, writing-based discipline. If you are in a field where you take tests, then the advice not to worry about doing all of the reading may not apply.

        Also, if the platform is D2L then the prof can see how many posts you read. I found this out after getting an email that I need to be reading all of the other posts because I was only reading until I found one I wanted to reply to. You may not have time to actually read everyone’s post but at least click on it, haha.

        Read the entire syllabus. For some reason all my online class syllabi are literally about 20 pages long, but sometimes they contain info that seems unimportant but you’ll get in trouble for not knowing, like that I need to greet my classmates and sign off with a salutation for each post. (So I have to start with “Dear Classmates,” and end with “Thanks for reading, INTP ” – it is odd but it’s what the prof wants.)

        If you have to do a group project, get started very early. Even if you’re all in the same city, your group members likely won’t want to meet in person and stuff takes longer to deal with over email.

        1. TL*

          If you take tests, get good at skimming/pulling out important info. In my undergrad, in lots of classes I could just study the figures and skim the text for details.

    8. TL*

      Depends on what you’re reading, but for a lot of my science classes, I could just study the figures/main ideas and only go back to the more detailed stuff if I thought it was important for the tests. Worry more about getting main ideas out for the first pass and then go back if necessary for assignments and pull out the finer details. Set aside a time to read.

      Another strategy, if it’s a class with lots of writing/papers, is to read intensely on the first pass, marking supporting evidence/quotes (pg number written in a notebook and phrases highlighted or post-it’ed) and then when you have to go back, it cuts down a lot on time – you don’t have to search for evidence or good quotes; you just write your paper and insert whatever quotes you think are appropriate.

    1. Mimmy*

      Best: Went to Niagara Falls with my husband and siblings. What. A. Sight. If you ever get to go, stay on the Canadian side and do the Journey Behind the Falls. I’m not normally the nature type, but the outdoor observation area during JBTF is just breathtaking…I thought I was in heaven.

      Worst: Nothing really, just trying to keep up with the work in my online class was stressing me out a bit. Being out of town and the fact that our professor put up the readings for the week really late (imo) didn’t help. Urgh!

      1. Diet Coke Addict*

        My husband and I went to Niagara over Labour Day weekend! I hadn’t been in twenty-odd years and he never, so it was pretty exciting for both of us (notwithstanding the part where we got lost in Toronto on the way home). We didn’t do the JBTF or anything else, just stood and watched (and got soaked from spray just standing there), but that was mostly because I had a horrid case of food poisoning and couldn’t really enjoy the experience.

        I do have to say that I was astonished at how tourist-tacky it was. I didn’t recall it being half so tacky. I don’t know if the US side is as bad, but….wow.

      2. Artemesia*

        About 15 years ago I was doing a speech at a conference in Toronto that was for people not in my profession so except for my thing, I didn’t have any interest in the conference. I noticed a sign in the lobby for a bus tour to Niagara and since I had never been signed up. It was me and 8 tourists from Scotland. Absolutely one of the coolest things I have every done. We saw the falls, did the Maid of the Mist boat thing, and saw it at night (I think the colored light thing actually detracts); just an awesome sight. I don’t ever need to do it again but am so glad I got to do it once.

    2. C Average*

      Best: had a lovely, aimless, no-responsibilities day yesterday. Made a yummy dinner, watched some dumb TV, did some reading for school, only checked work email a couple of times, went for a nice long run in perfect weather.

      Worst: Having trouble enforcing boundaries with the stepkids’ mom. We have a great relationship and I don’t want that to change, but we already have the kids during the workweek and one out of every three weekends, and she’s taken to dropping them off here on our non-kid weekends so she can run errands or whatever. My husband can never get enough of his kids and prefers having them with him to having them in paid childcare situations, which I totally get, but it feels like we’re enabling her to just basically not deal with parenthood when it’s not convenient for her. I’m also selfish and want our non-kid weekends to be just that!

    3. Sabrina*

      Best: We put an offer in on a house on Monday and they accepted without countering.

      Worst: We’re about to spend a huge chunk of money on a house.

      1. Diet Coke Addict*

        Congratulations! We close on ours in ten days and move in two weeks–it’s exciting and terrifying all at once.

        1. Sabrina*

          Indeed! I’m excited, but I hate moving. I am looking forward to FINALLY having room for a king size bed though.

    4. vvondervvoman*

      Best: At a sex conference this weekend for work and I won a $180 brand-new-to-market vibrator for free =)
      Worst: Budget required us to share rooms with co-workers, so husband couldn’t join me (we usually travel with each other for work trips) and last weekend, he went on a work trip and I couldn’t join him, so this is our 2nd weekend apart.

    5. Elkay*

      2 bests: I ran 8k yesterday for the first time ever. Also, it was our wedding anniversary so we had a day out and went to see a show and to a restaurant we love that doesn’t have a branch near us.

      Worst: Monday was so bad I skipped my exercise class and ordered pizza.

    6. Windchime*

      Worst: Afore-mentioned ankle sprain which totally took me out of commission for a couple of days.

      Best: The weather continues to be awesome here in the PNW. Sunny and moderate, in the mid to high 70’s. Just about perfect. We had dinner down at the waterfront the other night. There is nothing so peaceful as eating dinner next to a couple hundred slips containing sailboats.

    7. Trixie*

      Best: Sold big ticket item on CL, another successful experimental cut at barber, and taught a great group class today.

      Worse: Too much soda!

    8. Elizabeth+West*

      Best: LESS THAN TWO WEEKS UNTIL MY HOLIDAY!!! Also, I had lunch today with some friends (my old skating coach and her husband) whom I haven’t seen in ages. We ate at Firehouse Subs and talked for two hours. Loved it. I’ve really missed her.

      Worst: We were going to have a Halloween club ice show that I have only been nagging them to do for years. It was going to be on or around Halloween (a Friday). Because I am going to miss three weeks of practice, my coach and I choreographed a program to music from the original Fright Night film. We’ve been working on it for a month. I found out the other day that the show was turned into a fall exhibition and will now take place on Friday, October 3, at 7:00 p.m.

      …………wait for it…….

      I will be asleep on a train coming back from Scotland.

      It was so disappointing that I actually cried. Also, both Monday AND Friday sucked this week.

    9. Mallory Janis Ian*

      Best: Found out on Tuesday that my daughter qualified as a National Merit semi-finalist.

      Worst: My son had his first breakup with a girlfriend. Nothing serious, as they are only in junior high, but it hurt to see him hurt when it first happened. He seems to be over it now.

    10. ThursdaysGeek*

      Best – my god-daughter got married on Saturday, and my husband and I were the parents, him walking her down the aisle. Everything was beautiful and worked out very well, including the outdoor reception in our backyard.

      Worst – I caught a cold earlier this week, so I was doing all of that prep work at half steam, and by the time for cleanup, I was wiped out.

      Second best – my friends, including my two bridesmaids from 29 years ago, helped with the reception, and then cleaned up my kitchen afterwards. Those are friends who are good for a lifetime!

  32. Loose Seal*

    WARNING: sad news about a cat ahead. Collapse replies if you can’t bear to read.

    I’m sad to report that we did decide to have our cat put to sleep last Wednesday (I think that was about 10 days after we discussed it in the Open Thread). The vet said that they could now feel a mass growing in his abdomen. We agreed to exploratory surgery since they weren’t sure if it was a cystic mass or something much worse. It turned out to be thyroid carcinoma (which happens in 1-2% of cats with hyperthyroidism) and since it had already spread to his intestines, they offered us no hope. They were very kind to us and thorough and I don’t doubt that we made the right decision. But there is a very achy spot in my heart. I know time heals but I just feel so raw right now.

    It turns out my husband did have an opinion; he just didn’t know it at the time. I had said last Monday that I thought I was ready to let out cat go and he immediately burst into tears (which surprised me because he’s not an easy crier) and said he thought we should see if the surgery revealed anything hopeful. So I agreed to that. This is our first pet death as a couple and, because we love animals so much, I’m sure we’ll have others in the future. So one good thing that we’ve taken away from this is how to better communicate our wishes and thoughts about pet parenting.

    We have lots of pictures and we managed to audio record him purring on the bed with us a couple of nights before his last day (which was good because that was the last time he was willing to lay in bed with us and cuddle) and I’m so happy that I got to share his long life — 16 years — but, man, do I miss him!

    1. Not So NewReader*

      I can sit and cry with ya! I know how! sigh.

      I am so sorry.

      A couple of close relatives are fond of saying that men who love cats are THE best guys. Sounds like you got a good guy.

      1. QualityControlFreak*

        That’s true about men who love cats.

        I’ve been around a while, and we have been the “forever home” of a number of deeply loved animal friends of several species. But we humans are longer lived than cats, dogs or horses, so what that means is, at the end, you lose a friend.

        I’m so sorry for the loss of your friend. :(

    2. Artemesia*

      We just lost our cat a couple of weeks ago too. Such a sweetie. We don’t really have room in our new apartment for the cat box and such so we are not getting another; this gives us our guest room back — but we really miss her hopping up on the couch to cuddle and running to great us when we come home. She was 18 and always a thoroughly lovely kitty.

    3. Trixie*

      Sounds like he was a well-loved and happy kitty which is all we can really ask for :) Over the last three years, my house has gone from four cats to two and its just heart-breaking every time. I am glad I had two kitties so while mourning the one, the other was as loving (and needy) as ever. Same for my mom. Big believer in having two pets at a time, in staggered ages.

    4. krisl*

      That is so tough. I’m sorry.

      I’m glad that your husband cares about your kitty too. It really helps when the people close to us understand.

      Not everyone will understand that this is a real loss, and you feel the kind of pain that gets associated with other kinds of loss. Be kind to yourselves. Remind yourself that you did the best you could for your kitty, and that you saved him from pain.

    5. Judy*

      I’m so sorry.

      One of our two is starting to decline, losing weight. The labs don’t show thyroid issue. We’re not sure what it is, but we have her on a kidney diet. She’s 15, and I know it will be rough. Our last one was 19.

    6. Windchime*

      I’m so very sorry for your loss. I had to put my old guy to sleep a couple of years ago and it was so hard, even though I also think it was the right decision. Even though I now have a new kitty that I love, I still miss the old guy and think of him often.

    7. Dang*

      I’m so sorry. I’ve had to have a few pets put down over the years and I can’t even think about having to do it again with my babies now.

      ,y thoughts are with you and your husband and your sweet kitty.

  33. Ralish*

    How did you decide where you wanted to live?

    My husband and I are thinking about relocating. We currently live in a city within a few hours of our parents. But this particular city doesn’t do much for us. It’s cold, with expensive housing and bad school districts — unless you want a commute that’s over an hour (which we don’t!) We don’t have kids yet, but we’re planning for that to change in the next 1-2 years.

    We’re thinking about trying to find a smaller city (or very large town) with slightly warmer weather, a decent job market, good restaurant options, better schools, outdoor activities nearby, and a good sense of community. Thankfully we both have pretty ‘portable’ jobs, but we’d like to be in an area with some opportunities for career growth and movement over the next few decades.

    Have you ever moved to a town/city where do you didn’t know anyone? How did you evaluate where you wanted to go? What was the hardest thing about the move? And, can you recommend a town/city for us?! :)

    1. Artemesia*

      We just moved to Chicago at retirement. We have loved every day since we arrived from large southern city. It is more expensive and it is sure colder in the winter but it is a cultural paradise, we can walk to everything we need, and we have met such fabulous people.

      To make new friends, we used meetups, book clubs etc and have also gotten in the habit of following up with new interesting people we meet. e.g. we met a couple at a meetup city walk group (bonus we were getting to know the city) and got together for dinner a few times. They invited us to a BBQ and we met another couple there and I followed up making plans for dinner out with this couple; they are now our best friends and we do things like dinner or plays with them 2 or 3 times a month and I do things with her on our own a couple of times a month. To me the key of putting together a group of friends and acquaintances has been that I get contact information when I meet someone new that I hit it off with and then follow up with a lunch and museum day with her, or a dinner out somewhere with a couple. It has been really easy to do.

        1. Ralish*

          I’m naturally pretty shy. I like people, and am pretty chatty once I get talking to someone, but the initial “make eye contact, smile, introduce yourself” part has always been very tough for me! But I think you’re right– if I make it a habit, it might become a bit easier.

          1. Trixie*

            I’m not so shy but have been consciously trying to make more eye-contact and chit-chat with random strangers. If anything, a big smile is brightening someone’s day!

          2. Artemesia*

            I never did this before moving here either. When I end up chatting with a new person, I suggest getting together for lunch (or if it is a couple ‘for dinner sometime to try out a new restaurant’) and then put their phone number in my phone and follow up within the week. Because we have already discussed the possibility of getting together, that makes the follow up easy. And with that first lunch or dinner, you get a sense of whether pursuing it further would be worth doing.

    2. Treena Kravm*

      Pretty much everywhere I’ve moved as an adult was where I didn’t know anyone, and most of the time I’d never been there. It’s always been for school/job, so that was a deciding factor, but I still would check out the city/town before officially saying yes. It sounds dumb, but I always check frozen yogurt shops for me and coffee places for my husband. It’s not a dealbreaker if they’re not there, but it’s more like a confirmation that our creature comfort preferences will still be met. In a more serious thread, we use walkability scores to seriously nail down which of the neighborhoods we want to live in. What’s hard about the move? Well over time the actual moving process has become easier, but it’s always tough purging beforehand. Get started early!

      Our current city has all of your requirements except for the job market/career growth. The first 6 months living here, people would give the strangest looks and go bug-eyed and say, “You moved here for a JOB??”
      Others that I can think of off the top of my head are Sonoma County (no jobs though), Sacramento, Austin, Houston, Denver, Boulder, Tucson. No clue about schools and not sure about job markets.

      1. JMW*

        Houston has low cost of living and plenty of jobs, but it’s HUGE and the mosquitoes are dreadful (city is barely above sea level and very flat). I was there last weekend visiting family, and every time anyone opened the door, mosquitoes would get in.

        1. Treena Kravm*

          Yea a friend loves living there and I don’t really understand why. It’s the most liberal place that Texas has, so I think that’s why she likes it more than the actual city itself.

          1. JMW*

            Houston does have liberal pockets and a strong arts scene, but Austin and the south and west borders are the really the only areas currently voting Democratic.

            1. TL*

              Houston and Dallas proper (and large pockets of San Antonio) are all blue; the suburbs and “greater metro area” bring in a lot of red.

              Houston currently has a Democratic lesbian (and out) mayor.

      2. Stephanie*

        Boulder is pretty expensive.

        Tucson is warm and cheap (although it might be *too* warm if OP doesn’t like heat) and there’s a lot of outdoor stuff. Unsure about the economy–it doesn’t strike me as having the most robust economy. I think it’s all tied to the University of Arizona and some defense work.

    3. Lola*

      Moved to another continent where we didn’t know anyone – or anything!!
      We made it less daunting by agreeing that we’d always make sure we had enough money in the bank for a trip home and if we weren’t happy in 2 years we’d move on. We followed through on both of those commitments and moved within two years because freezing Midwest winters were miserable. Moved to Charlotte, NC which, these days, has a lot of what you’re looking for.
      It really helped that we had supportive families & no-one ever made us feel bad for moving so far away. I have no regrets, have loved living in the US, raised 2 kids here and travelled extensively. Still love knowing that if worst comes to worst I could always go ‘home’!

    4. JMW*

      I think you evaluate first by finding matches for your criteria, and then visiting to feel the place. I have moved to new cities twice by choice (there was a little bit of family in each place, but not such that there were regular interactions). Most recently we moved to Austin. Warm (ok, pretty hot for three months of the year, but moderate the other nine), hilly, big music and tech scene, low cost of living, pretty good schools (several school districts to choose from), interesting wildlife (we back to a preserve, and last week watched three coyote pups playing in our backyard, completely oblivious to the roadrunner sitting on a rock about 20′ away!), and friendly people.

      For me, the hardest thing about a move is being patient with the time it takes for a new place to feel like home. In the first months, even years if you are not much of a joiner, you may find yourself asking why you did this. Gradually, it gets comfortable. A bit like breaking in new shoes. It helps to find one place where you do feel comfortable – local library or coffee shop maybe – that you can go to whenever you are feeling a bit disconnected.

      1. Ralish*

        I love the idea to find one place where you do feel comfortable. That’s a great idea. (And to have patience, of course, but that one is a little bit harder to achieve!)

    5. Stephanie*

      I moved to DC right after I graduated college for a job. I had one friend from college there and that was it. One of the bigger adjustments was getting used to the cost of living (I had moved from Houston) and good public transit (which was awesome, but it was still an adjustment learning that it’d take 35 minutes to go 2 miles).

      Albuquerque? My friend just moved there from the Bay Area for work (and bemoaned it for a while), but he really likes it so far. No clue about the job market (he moved there for residency) or the schools.

    6. Seal*

      I moved from Minnesota to Georgia for a job almost 8 years ago. While it was absolutely the right move career-wise, I am more than ready to get out of the Deep South. Aside from the fact that I’ve gone about as far as I can with my current job and organization, I absolutely HATE the weather. I hate the long, hot summers, I hate that the seasons just blend into each other, and I hate living in a place that doesn’t know how to deal with snow. My family is still in Minnesota, so I visit a couple of times a year; with each passing year, going back to Georgia after a trip north gets more and more depressing. As my job search moves forward, I will be limiting my options to the Upper Midwest and the Northeast. My industry does not pay well enough at any level for me to consider living in the South again.

      1. abby*

        I feel the same way about where I live, in Southern California. It’s too hot, hot all year. Now we are getting humidity with the heat due to warmer ocean water and hurricanes coming up Baja California regularly now. No seasons, it’s just hot and warm. Even just getting out of the Los Angeles basin is a treat, as it’s possible to escape the humidity and heat and see different seasons. But here? Blah …. (not to mention the cost and crowds)

    7. danr*

      Interesting comments… my first object was not to live in a city or town… and we don’t. The next was a low crime rate and we have one of the lowest around. We didn’t know anyone when we moved here, but have gradually made friends over time. Neither my wife nor I worked near where we live, but the commute to the semirural area was definitely worth it.

    8. Deen*

      one thing I would look for is walk-ability of your area. A lot of areas outside of cities/suburbs…the houses are on roads with high speed limits with no shoulders, so your kids or you would have nowhere to bike and wouldn’t be able to walk to your friend’s or neighbors.

      1. Artemesia*

        The big southern city I lived in was totally unwalkable in most neighborhoods. We lived within the city but still my kids couldn’t walk a mile to shops, I couldn’t walk a mile to the gym because there were no sidewalks and the streets were busy and unsafe for pedestrians. One of the things we love about Chicago is that we can walk everywhere (and there are parks and playgrounds everywhere too which were fairly non-existant in our big southern city.)

    9. Cath in Canada*

      I came here on vacation when I was 20, and just fell in love. I wasn’t planning to stay overnight at all, but I met someone on the train from Toronto who was from Vancouver and who persuaded me to stay. She even got her Mum to pick us up from the station and drive me to the youth hostel, on the beach. I sat there at sunset, looking at the mountains and ocean, looking at all the people around me, and I just knew that I had to come back and be one of those people. Just a strong gut feeling. It took me four years, but I finished university and made it back here – initially on a two year work permit, but I met my husband a year in and the rest is history!

    10. DeadQuoteOlympics*

      Hope you are still reading this late in the day….I was a trailing spouse in academia, so my husband was following a job offer so no choice about our location, and then later I got an astounding job offer and moved to Columbus Ohio ( we are now running a 120 mile commuter marriage with two residences). And you should look into Columbus! The weather is not as extreme as some northern Midwestern towns, it has a thriving restaurant scene, we are a food truck and microbrewery town, there are several walkable neighborhoods of different characters like German Village, Victorian Village, the Short North, Grandview Heights, and Clintonville, some older suburbs of various characters like Upper Arlington, Worthington and Bexley with fantastic school districts, and a big riverfront reclamation project with some excellent bike trails. We are a bike share and CarToGo city, and we are about to have our first Open Street celebration. The economy is good with a lot of national headquarters in insurance, banking, and the Wexner empire, the suburbs of Dublin and New Albany also have a lot of national headquarters, and there is a lot of downtown residential and business construction and development. Ohio State and other smaller colleges and universities add a lot of cultural and academic events. The traffic is not terrible compared to other urban areas (Cleveland, I’m looking at you).

      However, you must be able to tolerate the insane levels of fandom for the Ohio State Buckeyes, if not actively participate, during football season, because that’s all anyone ever talks about. And I mean everyone, even the lady who sells you donuts and the kids next door. Oh yeah, and Buckeye Donuts are a reason to move. If you are a diehard fan of another big ten team, it might be tough to live here. I love Columbus, despite not knowing who the heck Archie Griffen was when I first moved here and being treated with as much horror as if I didn’t know who Abraham Lincoln was.

    11. ZSD*

      I enjoyed living in Gainesville, FL. The people are very friendly, so it’s comparatively easy to make friends there. Ocala, FL, is nice, too.
      In general, I recommend North Central Florida if you’re looking for someplace not cold. They have the most beautiful state parks I’ve ever seen, and you can take a day trip to the beach any weekend you want.

    12. TL*

      I moved to Boston from Texas! In the middle of winter. I moved with the objection of “getting out of Texas,” had a new job, and it’s working out pretty well. I took things really slow the first couple of months and if I felt like doing nothing but housework all weekend, just did that. When I got more comfortable and relaxed – and the weather warmed up – I started doing a lot more and this winter I think it’ll be tons easier to get out of the house and be active; I’m so much more comfy getting around. I’m taking my time getting to know the city and not putting pressure on myself to find friends, just to do things that I enjoy. I like it. (I have lots of long-distance friends and I spent a lot of time the first few months on gchat, facebook, and texting, but now it’s calmed down a lot.)

    13. Polaris*

      Not sure if you are still reading this, but i’ve heard the Raleigh-Durham area is nice and it sounds like it would meet your requirements. Good luck with the move.

  34. Christy*

    I research/write about ‘true’ ghost stories and am tired of hearing about the same old places. What are some reportedly haunted places in your area?

    1. Sabrina*

      There’s a park here in Omaha where ghosts have been seen and supposedly there are stairs that change in number every time you climb them. There is a haunted house here that is actually said to be haunted. Other places include a steakhouse and a historic building.

    2. fposte*

      Do you know Adam Selzer’s Mysterious Chicago blog? It’s excellent fun. He leads ghost tours and takes pictures, and his motto is that there’s no such thing as good ghost evidence, just *cool* ghost evidence.

      I also ran into one near where family lived in Ohio; there’s a road in the country called the Gore Orphanage Road. When I looked it up, there were lots of stories about the tragic fire at the Gore Orphanage that resulted in ghostly children wandering the road at night (making it a haunt, if you’ll pardon the pun, for local teens at night). But there never was a Gore Orphanage (it’s actually Gore-Orphanage Road), and the orphanage that was nearby never burned down. It’s apparently going to feature in a spooky movie soon.

      1. Christy*

        I’ll have to check out the Mysterious Chicago blog. Thanks for the info!

        Also, I’ve been doing my blog for around two years and am now LESS inclined to believe in ghosts than I was before. SO many back stories about allegedly haunted places are urban legends without a trace of proof, like Gore Orphanage. It’s kind of disappointing, actually.

    3. Elsajeni*

      There’s a haunted Wal-Mart in Galveston! I think that’s my favorite.

      (The story goes: St. Mary’s Orphanage, located at what’s now 69th and Seawall, was destroyed in the Great Storm of 1900; the nuns and the children, having nowhere else to go, had sheltered in one of the dormitories, and nearly all of them were killed. Decades later, a Wal-Mart Supercenter was built at 69th and Seawall… and immediately, people began reporting strange happenings in the toy aisle, attributed to the orphans enjoying their first chance for playtime since 1900.)

      (No word on whether the strange happenings include mysterious voices saying “What the hell is a ‘Monster High’? Where’s the hoop you roll with the stick? Don’t kids play with that anymore?” or similar.)

      1. Christy*

        I think I’ve heard about this legend, but I thought Hotel Galvez sat on the original site. ?

        Also, you don’t have to be a ghost to say “What the hell is a Monster High?” I went to Target yesterday with my four-year-old daughter, who only cares about princesses at this point, and was astounded to see there were more Monster High dolls than Barbies.

        1. Elsajeni*

          Hmm — I don’t doubt that the Hotel Galvez is on the site of some destroyed building and possibly claims a haunting because of it (there’s no shortage of storm-related hauntings in Galveston), but the address for St. Mary’s is consistently listed as around 69th and Seawall, and the Galvez is much further east than that. There’s a different historic orphanage, the Galveston Orphan’s Home, that’s on 21st and not too far from the Galvez, but that building survived the storm.

      1. Selkie*

        There’s some amazing tours of Edinburgh, especially of Mary King’s Close, a street that was sealed and buried during the time of the plague.

      2. Elizabeth+West*

        There are famous ghosties all OVER the UK. I’m going on the Llandaff Ghost Walk the night I get to Cardiff, Wales. I’m sure it won’t be scary, but it should be fun, wandering all over Llandaff with a torch listening to scary stories!
        I just hope I don’t run into a black dog! 0_0

    4. Anonyby*

      Aside from the big well-known ones (Winchester House and Alcatraz), there’s also a haunted Toys-R-Us over in Sunnyvale. Supposedly it goes back to when the area was farmland, long before the stores were built.

      1. Christy*

        I remember seeing the Toys-R-Us ghost story on Unsolved Mysteries back in the ’90s. They went out all out explaining the back story. Something about a farmhand fell in love with the farmer’s daughter, but the farmer was having none of it. All made up or embellished I’m sure.

    5. Stephanie*

      There’s a nearby mountain range in the Phoenix area that is supposedly haunted after a prospector died in the mountains trying to find gold. There are reports of sounds of gunshots and that it’s the ghost of the prospector trying to detour others from finding his gold mine (no mine has been found).

    6. Chris*

      I tried posting on my phone, but for some reason my comments won’t submit via phone :( Apologies if it shows up later.

      Traverse City has ghosts all over- the lighthouses and the old insane asylum are the most popular, but the one that creeps me out the most is at the old Bower’s Harbor Inn. The ghost is that of a jealous woman that hung herself from the elevator shaft after her husband died and discovered he left everything to the nurse (1920’s). She targets nurses in particular, and supposedly pushed a nurse down the stairs, breaking her back. I have eaten there, and there is a definite feeling about- the hair on the back of my neck was tingling and that feeling like you were being watched didn’t stop until we pulled out of the parking lot.

      If you do check out the old state insane asylum, building 50 is the most famous portion.

    7. De Minimis*

      I work on tribal land [not exactly a reservation, but land that belongs to a tribe here.] We have a mix of newer and older buildings. There used to be an Indian boarding school on the grounds [think the building is still there, but boarded up] and an old hospital [my employer used to be located there.] There are a lot of newer buildings now, but it’s in the same area.

      Just about everyone in all the buildings, old or new, has stories about ghosts and hauntings…hearing weird voices, smells…my favorite one is from our janitor. He was cleaning up after we had closed, and had just cleaned the glass doors in the front. He came back a few moments later and saw small handprints all over the front door. This was in the evening, and there would have been no children around [we aren’t really near any houses or any places where kids would be wandering around.

      1. Claire*

        Now that I’m not on my phone:

        The Mackenzie Poltergeist is one of the most “well-documented paranormal phenomenons” in the world, supposedly. He’s associated with Greyfriar’s Kirkyard, particuarly the Covenanters Prison and the Black Mausoleum. Mary King’s Close is popular with the tourists, and there’s always the Vaults under the South Bridge, which are fascinating to tour even if you don’t believe in ghosts. The Castle and Holyrood Palace both have their share of ghosts stories associated with them, my favourite being the Tunnel Piper (the ghost of a lone piper sent to explore hidden tunnels leading from the Castle to the Palace under the Royal Mile. His piping ceased halfway down the Mile, and he was never found. The sound of his pipes can sometimes be heard from the Castle, supposedly).

        My other favourite Edinburgh ghost was Jane of George Street, although she hasn’t been sighted in a long time. She’s supposed to have started haunting George Street before her death, which pleases me.

    8. danr*

      Our local papers just had a piece on Hanger 1 at Lakehurst. And you can finds tales of hauntings and devils anywhere in the New Jersey Pine Barrens.

    9. brightstar*

      A nightclub here used to be a feed mill where a little girl supposedly died in an accident and was used as a temporary mortuary in the flood of 1927. And it’s supposed to be haunted, with things moving around and strange noises. I haven’t been there in about 7 years and never saw anything when I did go there.

    10. Not So NewReader*

      Anything connected to the Revolution or the Civil War. We have a former battlefield here where I am told soldiers from both sides can be seen still fighting the battle.

      Go with caution on these things. Museums and parks have found it to be a helpful way to promote their history. I am sure stories are embellished.

    11. Liane*

      There are all kinds of ghost stories about places in Arkansas. Search for Mount Holly Cemetery in Little Rock. Every year around Halloween, high school drama students do a presentation there. Each one dresses up as someone buried there and tell the person’s story. I haven’t been yet but intend to.
      There are a number of governors and senators buried there, as well as David O. Dodd, hanged as a Confederate spy at age 15 or 16.

    12. littlemoose*

      Supposedly the Lemp Mansion here in St. Louis is haunted by a woman’s ghost. The Mansion offers B&B weekends, which I really want to try sometime.

  35. Brightwanderer*

    Question for people who engage in creative projects (writing, art, music… anything really): any tips on how to keep yourself producing while working full-time at a day-job? I just went full time at the start of August – and it’s a job I like and was thrilled to be asked to continue in on a full-time basis – but I’ve been so wiped out at the end of every day that I feel like I can’t work on my current project at all. It’s a serial story and what I want to do is write it and post it online so I can get people reading and then maybe, at some point, make some money off it – but the first step is Actually Writing It and at the moment that’s really hard. I’m not aiming for NaNoWriMo daily amounts or anything – just 15 or 30 minutes a day would be fine, to keep it ticking along, but I’ve been too tired even for that. (Alternatively, some reassurance that I’ll get used to the full time schedule and have more energy soon would be nice…)

    1. Loose Seal*

      I think it takes time to build up stamina when you’re suddenly working full time, even if you enjoy the work. So you may find that after a few months, you’re just not as wiped out. In the meantime, can you look at ways to alter your schedule so you are getting in some writing? Maybe get up 15 minutes earlier and write a bit or eat a quick lunch at work and then use the rest of the time to write. Or try dictating ideas on your commute home (assuming you’re by yourself in a car). Or keep and notepad and pen in the bathroom and jot down notes while you’re otherwise occupied.

    2. BRR*

      I think you need to figure out how it works best for you so that you’ll realistically do it. Don’t lie to yourself and say you’ll write for two hours every night if you won’t. Some people might need to do it right when they get home because if they sit down they’re done. Others might want to cook dinner first then do it. I used to play the oboe and found it very difficult to keep up once I got a full-time job. It was a major factor when I decided to just give it up (in addition to not playing at a high enough level). Sorry if that’s a bummer.

        1. Brightwanderer*

          Not my first job. :) I was working full time until about 18 months ago when I was laid off, and then found this 3 day a week job. Part of why I’m so taken aback by how tired I am is that I was doing this for years before… but at that point I also wasn’t really trying to keep writing during the week. Still, I’m sure I wasn’t falling asleep within hours getting home before.

          And yeah, persuading myself that 15 minutes a night is still progress has been the first hurdle.

          1. BRR*

            Can you write during lunch? I used to do some school work during lunch because it was easier for me to stay in productive mode during the work day and not do anything once I got home.

    3. Clerica*

      If you have a computer at your job or can feasibly bring your laptop, can you get there half an hour early and write then? If the office is empty it might even be easier than trying to do it at home where your bed is calling you or you feel like you should spend the extra time doing chores.

    4. Tris Prior*

      I have an art-related side business in addition to working FT and it is TOUGH to motivate myself when I come home at night exhausted so I feel you. I’m curious to read other responses because so far the only thing that works is literally forcing myself (sometimes with a side helping of negative self-talk in the vein of “if you do not finish this how do you expect to sell it and make money, you big slacker…. which, well, I’m trying to do less of because that sucks.).

      Working in smaller increments of time helps too – sometimes I literally set the timer for 10-15 minutes and tell myself I’m going to work until it goes off.

    5. Not So NewReader*

      I have no clue about your specific setting. But with work and projects around here a key for me is to quit for the day, at a point where I KNOW what my next step will be. That way the next time I pick it up, I can start immediately. If I don’t know what my next step is then it will be a while before I go back to it.

    6. krisl*

      I changed jobs recently, and even though I was already working full time, I started feeling wiped out at the end of the day because I was learning so much. Also, my old job wasn’t easy, but I was used to it, so just the change (and worrying if I’m doing a good job) was rough on me.

      It will get easier.

      In the meantime, what about 5 minutes a night? I know that sounds like no time whatsoever, but it’s a lot better than 0 minutes, right? One thing that got me exercising (although I stopped and have got to get back to it, I actually did exercise regularly for quite a while) was doing just 10 minutes a night. Set your goal really small, and it’s easier to get to, and you can build on that.

    7. BB*

      My only suggestions are to make sure you get enough sleep so you don’t feel as tired. If you have any PTO, take them. I’ve also noticed from other friends like you, that it was hard for them to write something after work. You need to detach yourself more from work so you can relax and write. If you are just out of ideas and inspiration, go see a movie, theater, museum. The key is getting to that relaxed state so ideas can come to you.

    8. TL*

      I try to do a lot of photography (though not for money) and one of the things that I do is go places where I bring my camera, but don’t force myself to take pictures. For instance, I’ll go hiking but I won’t get my camera out until I see something that really sparks my interest and makes me want to take a picture – and then once I’ve started, I’ll keep on doing it. So maybe designate a spot as your “writing spot” and then go sit at it every day for 15 minutes and open your word processor, stare at it, and if you write, you write, and if you don’t, you don’t…. I don’t know if that would actually work but maybe.

    9. Elizabeth West*

      I do it at lunch. I wrote Bank Robber Book at lunch, mostly. It’s been hard to do that with Secret Book, but last week, I wrote a chapter that was so good it made me giddy. :D

      I try to write at home in the evenings and on weekends too, but lately, with trip planning and NOW everyone decides to plan activites (!!!), I have not gotten as much done as I wanted to. So I’ll be working on vacation. :P

  36. Chocolate Teapot*

    I did some laundry today, and it appears that the building Washing Line Hogger has been out in force. Most of my laundry doesn’t take long to dry, but it is annoying to hang sheets and towels in a limited space when the Washing Line Hogger has taken up one line with socks, one with underwear and another with shirts. Plus there are some things which are already dry and should be moved.

  37. Anon Accountant*

    I have an issue with my family. Due to seizures that are thankfully controlled now my drivers license was revoked. I should be getting it back in October. My immediate family I live with loan out my car to my 17 year old cousin. She’s gotten the car with a full tank of gas and returned it with an almost empty tank. When I mentioned if this happens again she had to put some gas in it or not drive it as far, it escalated into a huge quarrel. My car averages 35/mpg Honda civic so I knew she drove a lot that day.

    On several occasions they’ve loaned her the car Friday and I didn’t see it until late Saturday or Sunday. It’s registered in my name so technically it’s not theirs to loan out. When I told them don’t loan it without asking me they said “it’s not like you are using it right now”.

    Yesterday I out my foot down and now they won’t speak to me. If I tell her it’s ok to use the car then fine. My beef is when they don’t ask and just toss her the keys without my permission or knowledge until I get home from work (aunt or coworker takes me home). Just had to get that off my chest.

    1. Ruffingit*

      You’re legally responsible for that car so I don’t blame you for being upset. I would take the keys and hide them or remove some easily removable car part so it won’t start. Possibly also store the car at a friends house. It’s ridiculous they are loaning your car out without permission. Is the 17 year old going to pay for a new car if she wrecks it? I doubt it. This is messed up do what you can to prevent access.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Ruffinit’s nailed this one. You can tell your family that if she takes the care without the owner’s permission that is technically stealing. If she gets into a mishap with the vehicle you are going to tell the police that you never gave permission for the vehicle to be borrowed.

        PLUS, your insurance probably does not cover her as a regular user of the car.

        I would leave the car there with an almost empty tank. You’re not driving it at the moment so there is no need for the tank to be full or near full.

        Now they are not speaking to you? wow. So this is the role model they are providing for the younger people in the family? You don’t get what you want so stop talking to the person. They put themselves there- stick to your guns. I am betting they would not let her take their cars like that.

      2. Persephone Mulberry*

        Gut response: Agreed, I would take back the keys! I would also talk directly with the cousin and say you don’t mind loaning her the car, but that she needs to ask YOU for permission and return it in the same condition she borrowed it, and if she can’t do that then she’s out of luck. As for the relatives, I would tell them it’s not about whether or not you’re using it right now, its about common respect for other people’s property. And if they want to give you the silent treatment over it, fine, but then I for DAMN sure would not be lending out my car.

        Secondary response: you’re living with family – under what terms? Do you pay rent, pitch in for groceries, etc? Basically, do they maybe feel like free access to your car while you don’t need it is possibly a trade for putting a roof over your head and driving you around? Not saying they’re correct, but wondering if that’s their perspective and that’s why they got huffy when you pushed back on the car issue.

    2. Artemesia*

      When my husband was in the army, his father let his brothers drive his car and he himself gave up his own car and drove the car. My husband had earned the money with after school jobs to buy the car. When he came back from the army to go to grad school, the car was trashed. They ruined the clutch, left it with 4 bald tires and he had to junk it two years later.

      Cars wear out and young people who aren’t responsible for fixing them ride them hard. And if she gets in a serious accident and causes a million dollars in damage e.g. paralyzes someone or something, YOU are liable. I would move that car elsewhere and move yourself elsewhere as soon as you can. A room in a share house would be better than this. I would also get ahold of all the keys and not let it be possible for them to lend your car without your permission.

    3. Mister Pickle*

      If you aren’t driving the car until October, and if your cousin used almost all of the fuel, it sounds like the car isn’t going anywhere anyway until someone buys more gas for it?

      Can you hide the keys or something? On re-reading your text, it sounds like there’s a lot more stuff wrong than just this car-lending issue.

    4. SherryD*

      Cars cost money to buy, insure, maintain, and gas up. It’s great for this girl that she gets to drive a car for free, but in the grown-up world, that’s not how it works.

      It sounds like your family is helping you out with a place to stay and with rides to work, so I get why this could be a touchy subject.

      I don’t know what advice to give! Could you get the cousin and the family to agree to these conditions?
      – She asks for permission
      – She pays for gas
      – She stays under a certain number of miles per week (You could take the number of miles you expect to drive in a year, and divide by 52.)
      – She will be responsible for any possible damage repair bills

  38. BRR*

    Aww I’m sorry. It’s tough when people get mad at you for things that are well within your right. They really need to be more objective about the situation. It’s your car and you can say no and you don’t need a reason.

  39. Sandy*

    I live in a city full of stray cats, and Friday, I had a weak moment and brought one home. She’s only about two weeks old, and she was filthy, scared, freezing cold, and being poked with sticks by a bunch of local kids.

    Hot her home, bathed her, gave her some anti-flea and tick meds, gave him a warm bed, and she’s doing much better. Still sickly (more of that later), but settling in well and the dog adores her.

    Only problem? I’m allergic and my husband is dead-set against having a cat.

    Took her to the vet today. She has some kind of bug, he’s not precisely sure which. We basically laid out three options:

    1) we give her the weaker set of drugs and some special food and hope that that takes cares of the problem.

    2) we give her the stronger drugs and she may be too weak to handle them and dies.

    3) we put her back out on the street and she probably dies.

    Either way that doesn’t involve tossing her put on to the street, she spends more time at our house getting used to the place and us (me) getting attached to her.

    In a city of strays, everyone who wants a cat already has multiples…

    1. Not So NewReader*

      I’d go with option 1 and search for a new home at the same time. Maybe you know someone outside of your city that would take her.

      1. Sandy*

        All off them bursting to the seams. Nobody here spays or nesters their animals, so the city is full of stray dogs and cats. The latter are especially prolific. They live (and breed) in the dumpsters, and are about as ubiquitous as squirrels back home.

        We’re going with option one for now because I have no heart for leaving a two week old kitten to die, but I foresee getting a wee bit attached…

    2. Clerica*

      Why is your husband so against a cat if you already have a dog? I could see if he wanted no pets at all, but a dog takes a lot more work and having to be home at a certain time.

      I know you don’t want to hear this, but…I think the kitty is yours now. :) You’re too kind to put her back out, and after a couple of weeks you’ll be like, hubby, pick up some Benadryl and wipe the sour look off your face. We own a cat now.

      1. voluptuousfire*

        Put the call out on Facebook or your preferred social media outlet of choice. There is always someone who is willing to take in a wayward kitty. Also DO NOT PUT THE CAT OUT ON THE STREET! That’s never, ever, ever right.

    3. Mephyle*

      Option 3 should be to put her to sleep, not let her die on the street. But hopefully that won’t happen. We live in a country where there are stray animals everywhere, but there are also people who take in rescues and work hard at finding them homes. It can be done.

      1. Jen+RO*

        I am also in a country with a lot of strays, but also a lot of websites/FB pages that deal with finding them homes. I put up my older tomcat for adoption on one of them and I found an adopter about a week later. (And then I decided that I can’t bear giving him up!)

  40. Kyrielle*

    I’m switching off to a new handle here – there are too many Laura’s, at least three of us counting Laura2, and I fear it’s causing confusion. I’ve used this a fair amount on the ‘net, so it’ll work here as well, I figure. (I preferred using my real first name, a little, but not when it’s confusing.)

    Anyone get to see the aurora borealis this week?

    1. Mimmy*

      Ahhhh no, I’ve always wanted to see them! I heard they might be visible as far down as New York. There are quite a few trees where I live, though, so I probably wouldn’t have been able to see them even if I tried :'(

      1. Kyrielle*

        They revised the forecast the night of, that they wouldn’t come as far south…we looked but didn’t see. Staying up another hour or two and driving further would have improved our odds, but not by much – and with two small kids I couldn’t justify it.

        I’m with you, I’d love to see them in person some day. And didn’t get to this time, though I hoped for a day or two I might get a chance!

    2. Diet Coke Addict*

      NO, and I was terribly upset! They were visible in my area–so I hear–but we were under horrific cloud cover from nonstop storms and rain.

      1. Kyrielle*

        Ugh, I’m sorry. :( At least in our area they turned out not to be visible at all, which for some reason feels better to me than them being there but hidden. (Which is silly, but still how I feel.)

  41. Treena Kravm*

    Can anyone think of a type of non-profit that would actually use dinner-sized paper plates. I randomly have 500 fancy eco ones that I paid ~$80 for and won’t use, so I’m looking to donate them for the tax deduction, but I don’t want to just dump them somewhere where they won’t be used. They’re still unopened, so maybe Goodwill or something along those lines but any other ideas?

    1. Diet Coke Addict*

      Churches in your area would probably jump at those. Especially ones that have functions, or host meals monthly/weekly/whatever. Call around to local churches or religious orgs, and if they don’t want them they can probably direct you to a group that would love 500 extra paper plates.

      1. Aam Admi*

        With Thanksgiving and Christmas coming soon, many local charities would be planning holiday meals for the less fortunate. You might be able to find some in your area by googling “thanksgiving dinners in — city”. I see several listing come up for our city.

    2. Judy*

      Certainly daycare centers would be able to use them for crafts. (and possibly as plates)

      Talk with Girl Scout or Boy Scout councils, maybe they’d take them. I’d guess individual troops wouldn’t want that many. (A friend was getting rid of the bamboo growing in their yard, and the scout councils put a notice in their newsletter, anyone who wants some bamboo for crafts call 123-4567. I’m pretty sure a lot of rain sticks were created.)

      Especially if they are decorated festively, nursing homes might use them for special meals. (The one my mom volunteers at does monthly “birthday feasts”, but I’d bet they use their regular plates.)

  42. C Average*

    This week, my team at work is having a global summit. There will be a person from Tokyo, a person from Shanghai, a person from Amsterdam, and our U.S.-based team of nine. We’ve all met each other before, but we’ve never all been in the same place before.

    I am hosting a hash run for us one night. It will lead from the office to my house. (If you’re wondering what a hash run is, Google “Hash House Harriers” for an overview. It’s basically a run that involves a bit of route-finding, a bit of drinking, and a lot of silliness. I’ve been 100% honest about the nature of this event and it is 100% optional, but it sounds like everyone plans to participate.)

    What’s a good make-ahead menu for an ethnically diverse crowd of about 15? It’s Wednesday night, and I’m in school Monday and Tuesday night, so I basically have to figure it out today. I’m leaning toward three different kinds of homemade pizza and a big salad, but I’m open to suggestions. As far as I know, there aren’t any vegetarians, non-gluten-eaters, etc., in the crowd.

    1. C Average*

      If you’re wondering how I got 15 out of that, I’m including my husband and stepkids, who will also be there!

    2. Trixie*

      Maybe a whole-grain pasta salad with non-mayo dressing that can sit at room-temperature? I also used to make an Ina Garten tabbouleh chicken salad that was outrageously good. (Google chicken with tabbouleh, Barefoot Contessa.)

    3. Artemesia*

      I will make the Silver Palate Chicken Marabella recipe for this kind of thing — it can be prepared ahead and then takes about 50 minutes to bake and most ethnic groups are good with chicken dishes. With rice and a salad and some French bread it would be good to go and all of that can be prepared ahead except maybe the rice.

    4. C Average*

      Thanks for the great suggestions! I am going to bookmark these and make them for the family sometime soon.

      After pondering the matter (booked solid Monday and Tuesday, hosting dinner after a group activity Wednesday, lots of homework today), I’ve decided to be lazy and get a bunch of prefab options from Trader Joe’s and a big veggie platter and some beer. I found I just didn’t want to burn up a bunch of energy and money and half my weekend on people whose tastes I don’t really know.

      I remembered that this is what my mother-in-law always does when we visit, and it’s awesome because everyone finds something they like, she’s not stressed out, prep and cleanup are minimal, and we get to focus on the people instead of just the food.

      If my international colleagues conclude that Americans are lazy and cannot cook, well, I’ll sleep fine at night knowing they feel that way!

      1. BB*

        Good idea. I was thinking the pizza idea was too casual for an international business setting. Food in this environment should all be eaten with utensils.

  43. Clerica*

    So this thing happened with my father that had the potential to be irritating as hell, but I actually find it amusing. I was diagnosed with an autoimmune condition over the summer and had to radically change my diet. I waited until I had it pretty well nailed down to tell him because he’s the type who likes to argue with any path you decide to take and point out all the ways it won’t work. (I had decided not to take the traditional medicine cocktail if possible so I thought he would be scared for me–I don’t know him as well as I thought, lol).

    So I finish explaining the reasoning behind eliminating gluten, sugar, etc, and he literally doesn’t miss a beat and says, “You’ll also lose a lot of weight.”

    Thanks, Dad. Because being alive isn’t worth it if you’re not a size 4, I guess.

    Anyhoo, it’s been a couple weeks and we went out to eat again, and turns out…well, the best way I can think to explain it is that he thinks this autoimmune disease is cool and he wants it too. Not kidding. He’s decided that he’s had it all along and never knew it, despite always claiming he never had the symptoms (like he’d be so proud that he “never” felt fatigued because he’s just so healthy and gets enough sleep, etc while chronic fatigue is a major symptom) and despite the fact that you’d think in the extra 40 years he’s been on this earth, it would have manifested itself a while ago. His test didn’t show the antibody people with this disease have, but those damn tests, they’re not reliable, lol.

    You’d have to know him, I guess. He likes attention. He doesn’t like other people to get attention. He’s done other things where he appropriates other people’s issues or copies things they do. When I was a teenager, if I mentioned a book I was reading, he’d go out and buy it. I used to joke with my friends I should tell him I’m reading something with an innocuous title that was really an erotic novel and wait to see if he bought it. (If 50 Shades had been around that would have worked too). Now I gave him a disease. Cool. :)

    1. fposte*

      That is just bizarre. I love the mental sleight of hand that allows him to have a disease he has no symptoms of, and for the lack of symptoms to be proof of how awesomely he handles the disease. What does he do at funerals? “I’m dead, too, but the key is not to accept it and to keep standing up.”

        1. Catherine in Canada*

          This is why I am NOT telling my mother that I was recently diagnosed with Asperger’s.
          She’ll either i) “get” it too (but worse) OR ii) decide that it’s her tragedy that she has a defective child. (I’m 56 BTW.)

      1. Ruffingit*

        “I’m dead, too, but the key is not to accept it and to keep standing up.”

        OK, I literally LOLed at that. HA!

    2. Mister Pickle*

      As a father of two college kids, I have to comment re buying a book that my son or daughter was enjoying: yes, I do this sometimes. But it’s because I want to be better able to relate to my kids – people who’ve read the same book have something to talk about.

      As for the rest of it (gluten, attention, etc) – I won’t second-guess you, I don’t know you or your dad. But the book thing – I can for sure tell you that some fathers do this for reasons other than attention-getting.

      1. saro*

        I used to read the same books my baby brother was reading. There is a 10 year age gap so it was helpful to read together. :)

  44. BRR*

    TL:DR I’m having issues with Sallie Mae. I’m trying to switch my loans into repayment and their customer support makes Comcast look like Nordstroms. Looking for advice.

    I have student loans through Sallie Mae. Last year I lost my job but I was still in grad school so I filled out for in school deferment. Now that I have a new job (thanks AAM!) and am back on my feet I want to switch it to repayment. I know I could just start paying but I want it to just become automated plus I get a reduction in the interest rate through automatic debit which I can’t set up until they’re in repayment. I haven’t met their definition of part-time enrollment for over a year so I figured eventually my time would be up.

    I decided a couple weeks ago to call and ask them to switch the status. The person on the phone said they would send a notice to who needed it and it would take 7-10 business days. So I waited and nothing happened. I call back and a new representative says at first she says she can do it right away. I get placed on hold and was told it was done. It wasn’t showing up that way on my online account and she said it would take 24 to 48 hours to show up. I told the representative I had called before so I wanted to see why it wasn’t done before as promised. She has to check with her supervisor. She comes back and says her supervisor says I have to send in a letter to switch it to repayment. I asked her why she told me it was done and is now telling me it wasn’t done. She apologizes and says she made an error and I have to send in a letter.

    So after I prodded her for where to send it and what it needed to say she says I can upload it online. I look online and both options are for military service documents. She said use the first one. I said,”That’s for military service, this is for loan status.” She says she has to check with her supervisor. I hang up because obviously nothing useful was going to happen in this conversation.

    I then tried emailing customer support which replied saying I needed my school to send them a letter that I was no longer in school. I have attended multiple schools so this isn’t very specific not to mention that since I’ve been told multiple ways I’m not going to try and get my school to confirm that I’m not enrolled (which usually they only confirm enrollment).

    In a situation like this where it seems nobody has the correct information (I will call Sallie Mae out on poor training when I file a customer service complaint) and nobody seems to care, does anybody know what I can do to get this done?

    1. Chris*

      I’m sorry- I’ve dealt with Sallie Mae customer service, and the only thing I found was to keep on them. Take names, demand ticket numbers/reference numbers and troll their online faq- I wanted to switch to income based repayment because they wanted $795 of my $1100 month paycheck, and couldn’t comprehend why that wasn’t feasible. I had three different agents before I found one who directed me the right way, and when I called to renew, I had to repeat the whole dance.

      Good luck! (And I see that Sallie Mae is switching hands, so maybe the customer service will improve…)

      1. krisl*

        Also, are they on facebook? Some companies get very helpful if you (calmly and nicely) explain the issue there. I think they don’t want everyone to see that they’re doing a bad job.

    2. Liane*

      Is Sallie Mae actually part of the US government? If so, call the local office for your federal representative or senator. Their staffers are very good at sorting out problems with federal agencies.

    3. TL*

      I stopped using Sallie Mae after one suggested I round up my payment to the nearest thousand. (I was using this interest-free deferred tuition payment thing my school had, where you could pay over the course of the semester instead of at the beginning.) Anyway, my freshman year, the number was wrong and when I called to talk to them about it, they suggested I round up from the ~$3800 I owed to $4000 because it was easier. After I regained the ability to talk, I made it very clear I would pay only what I owed, down to the penny, and I never, ever used them again.

  45. FX-ensis*

    I have another point – I forgot to add it to the last one….

    Why would people who say they like you and respect you, and act in ways suggesting that, say to play it by ear when you ask them out? And even when they’ve asked you to hang out from time to time?

    1. Apollo Warbucks*

      Maybe they’re keeping their options open, and seeing how things work out with some one else, maybe they’re not that into you but don’t know how to be direct about it or anyone of 100 other reasons.

      Either way don’t waste your time on them

    2. Artemesia*

      When people demonstrate that they are not that ‘into you’ believe them. When a guy is interested you know it.

    3. Ruffingit*

      Liking and respecting someone, acting as though you do, and asking to hang out from time to time are pretty much hallmarks of friendship. One thing I’ve learned about relationships through my many trials and errors in that arena is that if someone wants to date you, you’ll know it. “Playing it by ear” is a person who is not interested enough to waste your time on. Find someone who doesn’t have to wait and see, they are more worthy of your energy.

      1. FX-ensis*

        As said below, it’s platonic, though I do think the person in question is attractive (and I suspect she thinks I think this). The mixed signals are confusing, but then I think she just wants to be loose friends, and I’m fine with that, it’s her choice. Examples are it was my birthday in August and she left a happy birthday message on my wall, and added me on Linkedin.

        lol..it IS confusing, but then before I met her (we do a class together) I was in a rut of a sort, so I take the positive that at least I can get women to like me (sounds loserish in a way, but then I never had many female friends before now).

    4. Stephanie*

      Keeping their options open or s/he isn’t that into you and thinks being evasive/vague is an easier letdown than just saying “FX-ensis, I like you, but don’t see you in that way.” S/he also could want it both ways and want the companionship/dating, but not want to be the vulnerable one who makes the first overtures.

      1. FX-ensis*

        The thing is it’s just platonic from my end, or at least I don’t want anything romantic since I don’t think I’m her type.

        I just don’t like the ambiguity here, as she asked me out to a friend’s function but then when I asked her out she said play it by ear.

        I guess I’ve realised she just wants to be acquaintances/casual friends at best, it’s a reality I’ve come to terms with lol.

        1. Stephanie*

          Yeah, it sounds like you might be the backup friend. She doesn’t want to go to a party alone, so she calls you. I’d just let this one gradually fade out. No use investing a lot of energy into a friendship that both parties aren’t fully invested in.

    5. Jen+RO*

      I’m a sucky “initiater”. I really do want to hang out, but sometimes my introversion gets the best of me and all I want to do is watch TV. The thing is, I always end up enjoying myself if I get my butt out of the house, but making those plans… ugh. I’ve told this to some of my friends and they know that they just have to insist until I give up – otherwise, I’m pretty likely to cancel the plans, especially if they happen after dark. I’m like a hen, I get sleepy when there’s no light…
      (And I also worry that the *other* person doesn’t really want to see me and was just being nice by making plans!)

  46. Calla*

    Gift ideas?!

    My dad has helped me out a lot lately, and also has had some minor but initially scary health issues during the same time. I want to get him something nice as a thanks, but I’m terrible with gifts unless I know something someone specifically wants. He is 53, Arkansas-born and current Texan, a truck driver, has a motorcycle he loves, and is into space stuff and telling me to be more zen. Previous small gifts I’ve gotten him and he really liked have been ghost pepper flakes (I inherited my “the hotter the better, if I’m crying it means it’s good” attitude from him), caffeinated soap (for those long days), the Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter movie, a shirt from the Air and Space Museum, and a Willie Nelson book. I’d say under $100 is a preferred guideline — I just moved and have some upcoming vet bills — but not hard and fast max.

    1. BRR*

      Is there some sort of spice set but with all hot ones? What about hot sauces? There are a lot of hot sauce gift sets.

    2. Trixie*

      Do trucks some with navigation devices these days? The refurbished Garmin I gifted someone was the best idea in years. Prepaid gas cards. If he has any favorite fiction authors, maybe books on tape/DVD. Spicy hot chocolate for road trips. Having his car/bike detailed. Time the batting cages, mini golf, or shooting range, whatever his fancy. Homemade frozen meals for when he’s home.

      1. Calla*

        I’m certain he has some kind of GPS, there’s no way he’s doing constant cross-country drives with just a paper map… I hope. I like the books on tape and bike detailing (I’ll have to subtly find out when he last had it detailed) ideas!

        1. Judy*

          Some sort of MP3 player, especially if his local library has the checkout of audio books. You could work out the procedure and teach it to him.

          I always listen to audiobooks when driving for travel, and through my library, I can download them for a 2 week window.

      2. danr*

        Be careful with the GPS. Truckers need ones that don’t send them down routes for cars with low bridges and weight limits.

    3. acmx*

      Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Persig
      The Martian by Andy Weir
      Packing for Mars by Mary Roach
      Food gift basket. Maybe one that’s more easily eaten in the truck? Maybe candy, if he likes that during the drive (although I feel slightly guilty suggesting junk food)
      Book (or collection you make if no actual book) of motorcycle rides? (the only one I know of is Tail of the Dragon in TN)
      Brewery/distillery tour. I’ve taken my dad to Marker’s Mark and we dipped our own bottles and I had a special label made for him at a distillery in Ireland (whose name escapes me).

      1. Calla*

        I think he has Zen & The Art, and he doesn’t drink–it’s funny, when I look for “gifts for men” so many of them are sports or beer and he doesn’t care for either! (Well, he watches football, because 99% of Texas does, but he’s not a fanatic.) I’m looking at some snack-type gift baskets right now though… Found two sites called Broquet (lol) and Mancrate (also lol) that have some neat options!

  47. Sunflower*

    Has anyone ever dated someone who is on a different path than you?

    I started dating a guy this summer who is a bartender at the beach. For the past couple years, he’s done the same thing. Works insanely hard all summer and lives off that for the rest of the year and just travels/moves to different places and does as he pleases. I have a more structured life. 9-5 job, enjoy my weekends, live in one place, etc. Summer is over and I find myself missing him more than I thought. He wants me to come visit him at the beach(only an hour from me) but I feel like this is doomed. He never sees himself living in a city and we haven’t really talked about where he sees himself in the future (ie if he plans on settling down eventually). He’s 32 so he’s not exactly fresh out of college or trying to ‘find himself’. He seems to enjoy the flexibility his job gives him and he never talks about what he plans to do later on in life. I don’t know if the issue is him not being in one place or if it’s our schedule differences. I really like him but I don’t want to get involved and get hurt over something I feel like I knew all along wouldn’t work. Help?

    1. BRR*

      I think an important aspect to relationships is what I call the “operations” aspect. My SO and I enjoy keeping similar hours, enjoy watching netflix most of the time but also like to occasionally go out, and want to travel to the same places. Things like this are important because it’s how you prefer to live your life. So I can’t say I’ve dated someone different but I really enjoy being with someone who is the same.

      1. INTP*

        I agree with this. Everything doesn’t have to be identical, but it should be compatible. You shouldn’t have to essentially change the way you live your life to accommodate each other.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      Try to find out what his goals in life are. See if those goals are in the general direction of your goals.

    3. saro*

      While I agree it’s helpful to have a partner who is on the same rhythm as you, I’ve seen it work when so-called ‘opposites attract’. Are you at a place where you can discuss this frankly and openly? I guess if you and I were talking face to face, I’d advise giving it a try, having some honest conversations, but not spending too much time on the relationship if it’s clear there is no way it will work.

    4. Jillociraptor*

      First, I think you should trust your gut. Or at least trust it enough to investigate that feeling further. When you think about why this seems doomed, what do you think about? Maybe you’ll find that what’s at the root is your assumptions about what an adult relationship would be like. That’s probably surmountable if you want it to be. But maybe you’ll find that you can’t imagine meeting some of your other life goals with this person as your partner. Your gut is telling you something important so you should give it a chance to tell you what that is!

      But I’ve seen many relationships like this work. I went to school with very high-achieving, intellectually ambitious people, and many of them have married people who are more free spirits. It only works if both of you assume that there’s no absolute value on what you prioritize — that is, that you don’t assume that eventually he’ll “grow up” and act like a “real adult” and he doesn’t assume that you’ll eventually “loosen up,” because your own way is the right way to live.

      You seem to be pretty even-keeled about his decisions even though they’re very different from yours, so if you find something benign at the bottom of your gut feeling, I say go for it. But do listen to that little voice in the back of your head. It knows you well.

    5. Anonanom*

      Every time I have tried to do this (I never learn) it ends the same way. I get a ton of guilt for, well why can’t you just flake off work for two weeks and go to Costa Rica with me. Tomorrow. Why are you such a stick in the mud? You need to relax and enjoy life and not take things so seriously.
      I have a lot of respect for the ability to live like that, but its not my path. I grew up never knowing how we were going to pay the next electric bill, I need stability and money in the bank and knowing where my next paycheck is coming from. I love to travel too, but with a date on the calender a few months from now and time to clear up work priorities first. This works for me, in the same way I have friends who live the exact lifestyle as your bartender friend works for them.
      That may not be your reality, everyone is different, but I echo the other replies. You need to decide if you would be okay with this, and if you can be flexible, or if he won’t fault you for not being able to be as flexible as he is.

  48. Miss Anxious*

    So I asked a couple weeks ago about anxiety and medication and what to do. My primary care doc has put me on 10mg lexapro. After 4 weeks, I wasn’t feeling much of a difference so he’s increased the dose to 20mg. Honestly, I’m confused as to how to know if it’s working. I was never severely depressed. Every so often, I have days where I can’t get out of bed for no reason. Are these supposed to stop? Social situations are always up in the air for me. Sometimes I freak out terribly, but sometimes I’m fine. Anyone who has been on this med or something similar, how do I know if it’s working?

    1. BRR*

      For me it was two things. One was that my mood felt more stabilized. Like if you charted my mood it would be more consistent instead of random. The second was I had previously felt like there was a hole inside me and the medication helped it feel not as empty. I was also never severely depressed. I will say lexapro never helped my anxiety that much, it was mostly for my depression.

      Psychiatry is kind of throw spaghetti at the wall and see what sticks. It doesn’t sound like you’re having an amazing reaction to it and you might want to ask about other medications.

      1. Trixie*

        This isn’t specific to medication but I wonder how much we would really learn about ourselves if we chartered/journal things more. My sister was training for Ironman or something, and I think she noted how she felt each day/time she trained, what she ate/slept, how her day was overall. THe idea may have been when to take it easy and when to really push yourself.

    2. Calla*

      I’m on meds for severe depression, so it probably is a bit easier for me to nice than you, but you should be able to tell, it just might take more than a month. For me, it was hard because a lot of it is triggered by outside factors, as it sounds like anxiety is too. So yeah, sometimes I feel absolutely down for no reason, but part of my depression is also the smallest normal things triggering me into that so if you’re having a really good period in life with few outside factors acting, it can be hard to tell–but a good doctor/psych should be able to help you sort that out. My first psych just was like “It’s normal to be upset by things that affect you,” but my current psych says “Yeah, moving/new jobs are stressful but it’s not really normal to have suicide idealization because of it, so we’re tweaking your meds.”

      I also agree with BRR’s comment. When I’m on the right meds I definitely feel more stable.

      Anyway, long story short:
      1) Give it time and try to pay close attention to your behavior. Did you make it through a situation with less panic than you would have before?
      2) Report that back to your doctor; if you’re not sure if something is working, he should be able to provide some perspective.

      Good luck!

    3. Kathryn*

      So the usual rounds with psych meds are try first med on a low dose, try it on a medium dose, if it looks like its doing something, try it on a higher dose, if not taper back down and then try a new med. Lather, rinse, repeat. It takes forever and it is really frustrating when you are suffering depression now and need to work for months to have a shot at getting better. And the med trials can and do take months to years to find a drug or combination that works for you. Unlike some other parts of medicine where we think we have a clue what is going on, depression and chronic pain are very much trial and error. Lexapro may not be the right med for you, it wasn’t for me, and that’s okay.

      I highly, highly suggest tracking some factors that you can relate to your depression and anxiety and write them down daily rather than trying to remember and ‘feel’ a mood shift. For many people, how long they sleep or stay in bed, eating and exercise patterns, and social interaction can be pretty telling about mood and depression. For me, leaving my house is telling, I get very closed in when I’m stressed or doing poorly, but when I feel happy I want to get out and do things. Days where you can’t get out of bed are a good thing to track – fewer of them probably indicates that something is helping. Some people like writing down subjective mood descriptions as well, but I prefer objective measurements. Part of the issue with being depressed is that the same thing you are trying to help function better (your brain) is trying to measure if it is functioning. I prefer having data, which is easier to analyze, if less nuanced.

    4. Overachiever on Break*

      I realize I’m a little late to the party here, but I’d like to give my two-cents. I have dealt with multiple bouts of severe depression with some anxiety, and my brother has dealt with severe anxiety with some depression – both run in our family. I don’t have any specific advice about lexapro, but just a few things I wish people would have told me, especially in regards to medication and self-evaluation, when I was first diagnosed.

      Your experience here sounds similar to the first medication I was put on (celexa). For me, it “worked” in the sense that it eventually dulled the strong emotions I was feeling for no apparent reason, but it left me feeling like everything was dull and I was in a fog. I wish I would have spoken up earlier to say that I was unhappy with this medication, because it isn’t just about “working” or “not working” with these meds – it’s what makes you most comfortable! Now that I’m on a med that’s a good fit for me, life is totally different. I know that it’s the right med for me because I feel like myself when I’m on it. It’s okay to ask about other options. Sometimes it’s because of side effects, or it isn’t working well, but it’s always okay to ask!

      I would agree with other commenters keeping a journal of your mood or anxiety levels for a while will definitely help evaluate the medication choice. It’s worth trying to find some semi-objective indicators that work for you, and keeping track of those in your daily logs, too. For me, these are things like, “I kept my mouth shut when I was irritated by that lady in line at the grocery store I’ll never see again” (I have horrible impulse control and a short fuse when I’m not doing well), or “I actually took some time to work on my crochet project today” (because I suck at doing anything, including things I enjoy, when I’m down). The more you can come up with, the better. This will 1) give your doctor(s) some better indicators to go off of, and 2) give YOU some points of introspection you can reflect on in terms of your condition’s impact on your life. Now that I specifically know what behaviors my depression tends to bring about, I can self-monitor for when they may be getting worse, which tells me I may need to see my doctor again.

      Finally, think about looking into a care team that goes beyond your primary care doctor. Psychiatrists that have much more experience dealing with these conditions can often be more responsive in medication changes and sometimes have subtle insights into what medications may be better for an individual. Also, psychologists or counselors can really help with coping mechanisms. Of course, having these pieces working together is ideal. For a while, my brother saw a therapist every 1-2 weeks and a psychiatrist every 4-6 weeks. The two stayed in communication with each other, so if any tweaks were needed in medication, the psychiatrist could be considering options before he walked in for his next appointment. (Or get him to schedule his appointment sooner, if there was a major concern.) More often than you’d think, a little bit of legwork in this area can also turn up a lot of affordable options for this.

      It is disappointing how much of psychiatry (meds) is trial and error. Stick with it, though, because it can get better!

  49. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

    Dog training update.

    I posted about our dog issues in the context of a few open threads the last couple months. We have two older dogs, both of them rescues. One is relatively new rescue (a year with us) and one has been with us many years.

    Their inside behavior (where they choose to do their business) has gotten worse, and worse and worse, to the point where the inmates are running the asylum. My husband was at his wits end and I need tanker trucks full of floor cleaner.

    There are a bunch of things we tried but nothing would break the behavior of two older male dogs who don’t like each other much who were determined to get in a literal pissing contest. Their both being smart and crafty and sneaky didn’t help either.

    I FINALLY made a change that is moving us to progress!

    I gated off *everything*. Amazon must think I’ve had quadruplets from the number of baby gates I ordered. We’ve had the gates installed for a little over a week and the dogs no longer have free run of the house. (They are still in a bit of shock and trying to figure out how to defeat the gates, btw, which is funny.)

    They are with people all the time as there is almost always someone home, but they aren’t in any rooms by themselves, and they can’t sneak off and have a pee off on the living room settee while no one is watching.

    Not perfect, but damn well close to accident free for a week.

    YAY! Another few weeks and the behavior might actually be trained out of them.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      Perfect! I had to do that to the dog I have now, too. He would go outside and not finish taking care of things, then tell me he was done. A short time later I would find a mess in the house. grrr.
      I have gates all over, too. The problem is not as bad as it was but he is a crafty one so I have to leave the gates up.

      1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

        I wish I had done this a year ago! The entire first floor of my house is open plan, nary a door save the bathroom, so there were a lot of archways of odd sizes to measure and buy for. The family griped at me the whole time but come on people, would you rather worry about having to open a few gates to get from here to there or worry about stepping in yet another puddle of pee while wearing your socks (the worst!)?

        My fingers are crossed that if I can get through to them *my* territory, not your territory to fight over, we might get past the cattle chute set up atm.

    2. EG*

      Yay for outwitting the furry kids! Another thought is that maybe you could treat them every time they “do business” outside for a few days, to reinforce the behavior that keeps mom and dad happy.

  50. Elkay*

    I know I’m a few weeks behind the US but I’ve just watched the series finale of True Blood. What did everyone else think of it? I was really disappointed, it felt like the whole season could have fitted into three episodes. By the end of it I was ready to kill Bill. I liked the Jessica/Hoyt stuff but I wish the writers would decide if Jason is innocent/naive or self absorbed/selfish. I would also like to see an Eric/Pam comedy spin off following the ups and downs of Fangtasia and New Blood.