Wednesday, October 31, 2012

This is Halloween

Happy Halloween everybody!

I hope you are up to all sorts of shenanigans.

The most shenanigans I have going on is singing "Woody's Round-up" to my jack-o-lantern and waiting for trick or treaters to arrive. And of course, I'm not already rifling through the candy and eating it myself...

Here was my costume. (I didn't wear it on Halloween but to the Not-So-Scary-Halloween Party at Disney World earlier this month.)

In preparation, I did learn how to make a bird cage veil so if anyone has any upcoming nuptials I can share some tips.

Anyone have any interesting costumes?

Until next time, Happy Halloween.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Help Me! I'm Lost and I Don't Know Where I Am!

Have you ever gotten lost? I'm sure the women in the audience are saying, "Of course not, I make sure to use the GPS directions on my phone even when I'm only going around the corner". And, I'm sure the men in the audience are saying, "Of course not, I have an excellent sense of direction, those hunter instincts" even as they driving through a desert like the lost couple in Cars.

(By the way, is it correct to call it an audience in this media form? I guess your living room, smart phone, or office while hoping the boss doesn't come by can be part of an audience. But, that also assumes there are several people engaged in rapt attention...that one is iffy.)

Getting lost in a foreign country is both likely and unpleasant. My phone doesn't work over seas so I need to rely on, God help me, a map! And really, who wants to spend $14.95 on a decent map of every city you'll visit? That adds up quickly; you could buy a lot of food or booze with it instead. The alternative is you use the free maps handed out by hotels. These range from incredibly helpful to this:

Notice how the hotel and tourist sites are incredibly huge. This ensures that you have no idea where they actually are. It's better to make sure the images cover several blocks so you can get really close and then get lost wandering around piazzas and back alleys full of feral cats. And, if you happen to get distracted by something pretty, like beautiful Renaissance architecture or a hot guy on a vespa, the lack of street names makes sure you can never find yourself again.

What to do in this situation to avoid this scenario?

No one wants to end up praying near the front of a church for a holy intervention. Rome at least has cathedrals on almost every corner so you could do this as a last result. You could even do so inside if you'd like. If you're in Rome, I hope you're Catholic, I'm not sure you'll find another type of church.

So, the alternative. You could ask someone for directions!!!! A radical idea I know. I've said before that all Europeans speak English. While this is generally true, it may be hard to find someone who is fluent enough to tell you more than where's the bathroom. I got pretty good at this after having trouble finding the bus stop in Poland, Germany, and Hungary. To help out, here are: 

The Travelin-gineer's Helpful Hints for Finding Help.

1. If you see a service industry nearby (such as a hotel or restaurant) try there first.
2. If you don't see a service industry, look for someone who appears to be under the age of 35.
     2a. By under 35, I don't mean a child. Don't come off as a creeper.
3. Find someone who is alone. I found some young people are embarrassed to speak English in front of their friends if they aren't completely fluent. You are also less likely to be interrupting.
4. Approach someone with a smile in a well-lit, open area. Let's not celebrate a vacation by getting maced.
5. If this person looks at you puzzled, repeat with another individual.

There you go. I hope this helps if you are ever lost in foreign country. If you still can't find someone who speaks English, sorry. Maybe you should think about hailing a cab. 

Until next time, God bless America.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Oh Airlines, How I Loathe Thee

If you are going to be traveling any decent distance, you are likely to be flying. If you are, I feel sorry for you.  I've realized that basic customer service expectations are too high. Specifically:

-Your flight will leave on time
-Your flight will arrive on time
-Your bag will arrive with you
-Your bag will arrive in the condition in which you checked it.

This just isn't true anymore. To be safe, I now assume my bag will be lost or severely damaged on every flight. This is a good assumption because then you can pack to make sure you don't end up like Quinton in Quinton's Foremost Blunders Episode 1. Hopefully you at least have some clothes. I know Europeans are more comfortable with nudity than Americans, but I still think you'll have some issues if you try and prance about town in your birthday suit.

When I flew to Berlin, my bag was left in Miami. It didn't get to me for three days. And, I think I've figured out the culprit. Each of the last three times my bag was lost it was randomly searched. I guess my bag looks incredibly suspicious. Not sure why. It's just a red roll-ey bag. Maybe it works like a traffic light. Red means STOP!!!! and search? It seems so.

Unless you are incredibly lucky, your bag will be lost at some point. So, let's act like Boy and Girl Scouts, or characters of The Lion King, and Be Prepared!


Sorry, I got distracted with day dreams of being in The Lion King. Let's see what can happen if you don't pack anything useful in your carry-on. Here's Selma.

Ew, that doesn't look pretty. Let's analyze it so as to not make these same mistakes.

First, we see a grungy, grody skirt because she's been wearing the same clothes for four days. Next, we notice a swollen eyelid. Maybe she should of brought some contact solution, or at least her glasses. Pain or blindness can be a toss-up.

Look, there's a noticeable rash forming because she forgot her daily medications. Lastly, we notice the dirty hair and stink lines. You don't want to maintain your personal bubble with an odor. Maybe some toiletries would be a good choice.

Make sure you can comfortably live out of your carry-on for at least two days. It'll make you a lot more chipper if the airline fulfills their expectations and tries to ruin your vacation.

Until next time, God bless America.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Second Breakfast? Sounds Like Heresy to Me

I ran into an interesting phenomenon in Europe known as second breakfast. I still don't quite understand it. After all, while I generally stick to cereal for breakfast, most people I know consider coffee or a pop tart to be sufficient. And, some college students are fine with an un-toasted, frozen waffle and a Mountain Dew. Ahhhh, the breakfast of champions.

There are special occasions when a significant other may make eggs, sausage, pancakes, or even crepes (if they're feeling fancy) for breakfast. But, otherwise breakfast doesn't get much attention or acclaim. I was amazed to discover that Europeans seem to love breakfast enough to have it twice. Especially since they don't eat the same things for breakfast that I do. I don't consider tomatoes, cold sandwich meats, and cucumbers to be breakfast food. To me, that sounds like it's time for a picnic.

The idea of second breakfast caused me to raise a few questions. If you have breakfast twice, when do you eat lunch? Is it like an afternoon snack? Then what happens to dinner? Am I going to be eating at midnight?

So many questions. Oh nooooooooooooooooooooooo! It's absolutely overwhelming!

As most people are visual, I decided to explain this with a graph. I apologize that it is informal. I can just imagine past science teachers criticizing me for the lack of units. Hopefully none of you are grading me.

In case you don't remember anything about how to read graphs, I'll explain. First and second breakfasts occur at approximately 7 and 11 am, respectively. Lunch is around 2 or 3 in the afternoon and is the biggest meal of the day. Dinner is around 8 pm.

Remember this if you're ever looking for a restaurant. I ran into issues that some don't even open their kitchens until after 1. As I don't eat two breakfasts, I was frickin' hungry at noon and no one would feed me! And if you're looking to beat the crowds, eat dinner at 6. No one is going to be there so you can be as awkwardly American as you'd like. The waiters may even speak in their native languages so as not to bother you (wink wink). More like make sure you can't understand them insulting your habits.

Until next time, God bless America.

Back in Nebraska

Hello everyone! I'm back. I did not fall off the face of the Earth. A most wonderful thing called gravity made sure of that.

I spent the last week on vacation in the land of the mouse, otherwise known as Disney World. I hope you're proud of me. I never even wore a fanny pack or a poncho. It was a rather successful trip. After all, none of the following things happened:

-I was not patted down at the airport.
-The airport did not lose my bags.
-While they were delayed, I never missed a connecting flight.
-I escaped blister-free.
-I did not get a cold...or the plague.
-I was only once kicked by a small child, and never puked on by one.
-I was not trampled by a scary double stroller which always seem to be driven like tanks.

It is a little sad that no missed connections, lost baggage, or personal searches by TSA members means it was a successful airport experience.

So, I'm back and delightfully exhausted. Now it's time to get back to the important things. Like blogging. It's not like I have grad school or work to worry about. Hmmm, perhaps the discombobulation of dirty clothes and random-over-priced souvenirs which are currently hiding my floor should be the next step.

Until next time, God bless America.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Geometric Shapes = Genders?

Have you ever walked by the restrooms in the U.S. and not known which is the men's and which is the women's? I haven't. The little pictures are pretty self-explanatory.
Look, obviously a women's bathroom. Even if you can't read the word, "WOMEN", you still know. Her....stylish shirt dress gives it away at first glance. And, if you are still lost and think it may be a kilt, you can simply compare it to the sign on the other door.
While it is true that people can wear pants regardless of gender, I think the point of these are pretty clear.

I had always figured this was common worldwide. If I could tell the difference between cartoon humanoid cutouts and knew the words for men and women in whatever language was native, I'd be fine. 

I was wrong. Oh, the naivety of me. 

This is what I got for assuming others do things the same way Americans do.
What?!?! A circle or a triangle, what is that supposed to mean? Wait, I'm a smart woman. I made it through engineering school. I've taken 14 years of math. I should be more than qualified to tell the different between basic geometric shapes. I can logic this out.

Which to choose? Which to choose? Hmmm, do I think women are more likely to be represented by circles or triangles?

I guess we're curvy so maybe we're round, like circles.
But, I am wearing a skirt, and it is rather triangle-shaped.
And, we're known for being nice so would someone really consider women to have such pointy edges?
Really, do I want to consider myself a circle? I think that implies I'm fat. Stupid circle.

Argh....this isn't getting me anywhere.

Geometric shapes do not seem like a good alternative to little humanoid cutouts. Thankfully, some university students helped me out and I was able to avoid stepping into the men's restroom and being yelled at to leave in Polish. Or worse, stepping into the men's restroom and not being yelled at to leave in Polish.

Make sure to remember women are circles and men are triangles. It may come in helpful some day. Maybe I should start drawing people like this to try and ingrain it in your mind.
On second thought, I don't think so. Neither Josh nor I look very happy. I vote we stick with the humanoid cutouts.

Until next time, God bless America.