0

Open, Open Damned Bag

It’s been a long week so far, and I haven’t been too inspired to write…well, much of anything. I don’t really know why. But I need to be writing more, in general, so I thought I’d just let out what’s on my mind today.

I feel like I may have written about this before, so apologies if this sounds familiar.

Both yesterday and today, I bought something that came in one of those Zip-Loc pouches that you have to cut or tear before you can easily pop open. Or, I mean, “easily.” Both times, I cut/tore the plastic, only to not be able to get into the bag. One I eventually pried open with my nails, but for the other one I actually had to go in with scissors and make an incision, which meant I had to eat the whole thing because it didn’t really close all the way. Is there a more annoying sensation than wanting to get into a bag that’s designed to be easy to open, and having to resort to near violence to get at the treats inside? What did we do in a past life to deserve this? I mean, if the bag is designed to be easy to open, actually make it easy to open. Or tell us to cut it open.

Anyway. I ended up getting to enjoy the snacks eventually.

How are you doing?

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0

What Fresh Hell Can This Be: International Mailing

I sent a book to Texas this week that cost me $4.

I sent a book half that size to Finland, which cost me $22.50.

What is wrong with this picture?

**another update to this post**

One of my favorite hobbies is sending and receiving books via BookCrossing or PaperBackSwap. Now that I’m moving to a new place in August, one of my goals is to get rid of unnecessary stuff, including some of my extensive book collection. In the past few weeks, I have managed to read and send out 15-20 books to people, mostly via PaperBackSwap, which is domestic only, versus BookCrossing, which can be international.

Media Mail is one of the most wonderful things ever invented for sending books around the country. It starts at about $2.63 per package, going up a few dollars if it’s a particularly heavy book, and given that I’ve gotten a lot of books for free either as gifts or from friends, it’s a very small price to pay for the cost of a good read. However, Media Mail only exists in the USA, and I learned the hard way this week that the base price for international mailing is a criminal $22.50, which I paid twice, once to Finland and once to the UK. For that kind of money, you could probably buy at least 2 copies of the same book over there and still have enough left over for a cup of tea, or whatever the Finns drink (cocoa?) to sip while you enjoyed reading. To make things worse, while Media Mail has free tracking (which used to cost extra), you have to fill out an extra customs form to send things overseas, and there’s no tracking system, so if you’re sending something to, say, Istanbul, and it doesn’t get there, it could be anywhere from under the desk of the postmaster in Madison or in the back of a truck halfway to Syria, for what it’s worth.

One other option for international mailing is FedEx, which is also criminally expensive but at least comes with tracking. I used it just once to send something to Israel, and it cost me twice what the item was worth, but at least I got to see it bounce from Madison through Memphis, London, and Paris before it eventually arrived in Israel, safely. Never doing that again unless it’s a real emergency.

So how do we solve this? I have no clue. Write to my congressman? My postmaster? I don’t remember it ever being this costly to send stuff overseas, and at this rate if I keep offering books to people in other countries, it’s eventually going to bankrupt me.

For now, at least, I’m sticking to PBS, and the occasional domestic bookcrosser. I guess the days of fun international shipping are over. Sigh.

2

Undergrads These Days

So, this weekend I’m heading up to Eau Claire for the APO Sectionals conference, where I’m teaching 2 workshops on varying topics to (hopefully) a bunch of undergrads.

What’s really getting to me, though, is just how busy these undergrads are. Or seem to be.

I know that college students are at that age where they don’t yet know the meaning of commitment, or how to balance a cost/benefit ratio in life, but I think that it’s somehow gotten worse. Initially, 33 people from the chapter signed up to go to the conference this weekend, and now I think we’ll be lucky if even 15 make it. And there are some other groups that are not going at all, somewhat due to drivers/cost but mostly because of the all-too-vague “I’m busy.”

I mean, seriously. Too busy to take a weekend to have fun, learn, get a change of scenery, and study if you have a spare moment.

I know that school comes first, but usually, the phrase is followed by “I have an exam this week.” Only, it seems like I hear this from someone every week, for one reason or another. In the course I teach, we have just 2 exams – a midterm and a final – and I don’t think that either of them would require a student to spend 48 hours studying. But it seems like all these undergrads, whether they be in APO or students I teach, are constantly having exams in all their other classes, usually math and hard sciences. I constantly get emails from students who were absent that week saying that they had an exam right before and were tired after, or had an exam right after and studied all day right up until the exam started. One student emailed us saying that he had 3 exams in one day.

What is with all these exams? Why do they need to exist?

At this point, I try to put myself in the shoes of an undergrad, thinking back to my undergrad days, which were almost a decade ago. Granted, I did not have much of a social life, but I don’t ever remember having a constant barrage of exams, or a weekend where all I did was study. In fact, to this day, in my ten years of being a student in higher education, I have never even pulled an all-nighter. I remember doing some homework on weekends, but I usually spent at least 1 weekend a semester out of town, like the time I flew down to Baltimore for a play premiere, or when I drove to New York City and back in 48 hours to go to my aunt’s wedding. I worked a lot, and I worked hard, but I managed to have down time in there, which is why I did get down on myself a lot.

But that’s beside the point.

To this end, I look back even further, to my freshman year. I was leaning towards majoring in theater, but I still took the requisite English and Math courses. At the same time, my sister was a junior, majoring in early childhood education. I still remember talking on the phone with my parents my second semester, and my dad told me that I seemed to be working harder as a freshman than my sister had in her three years thus far. Granted, she didn’t graduate with a 3.5 GPA like I did, and she had this thing where she wanted to see how long she could go without going to the library (turns out that she never even set foot in the campus library, in all four years). Still, she got a job offer in her field, right out of college, and has had it ever since. Even though I only graduated with a 3.5, and granted, I didn’t get my dream job, I still somehow managed to muddle through, get my master’s and into my Ph.D. program. Both of the above outcomes, working world and higher ed, were feasible without constant studying or an all-nighter.

So, I don’t know what today’s college students’ excuses are. Unless my sister and I had the world’s easiest majors (which we probably did not) or were complete slackers, it seems to me that undergrads are working harder, and with the way this economy is going, probably for even less satisfying results.

I’m almost at that age where I say “kids these days…” with a dubious look, but something is definitely going on with today’s college students, whether it’s a lack of study skills or just a generation of vindictive professors.

4

Call Your Doctor if Your Annoyance Lasts for More Than Four Hours

Maybe it’s a function of watching reruns on Hallmark every night, but I’m getting so tired of seeing commercial after commercial advertising medicines. All with phone numbers and “please call your doctor.”

I mean, what is this all about? These commercials have been around for so long, and yet I don’t think I’ve met a single person who got on a medication after seeing it on a TV commercial. Well, I don’t think I’d know, but I feel like the kind of person who’d have done that is also the kind of person who would tell you about it.

Plus, there’s that gentle female voice reading you a laundry list of symptoms that sounds like a graduation ceremony at a private school for diseases. The commercial I saw tonight that got me thinking about this was for some anti-diabetic medicine, whose list of symptoms was so long and rushed that it took up the majority of the airtime. And what’s with all the background stock footage? A couple walking on a beach? An old man and a little boy fishing off a pier? A girl at her first piano recital? What do any of those have to do with anything?

Also, I hope you caught SNL last week, there was a bit starring Octavia Spencer, Leslie Jones, and Sasheer Zamata on medicine names. Sasheer played a character called Seasonique with a son named Dayquil. Who comes up with these things?

Anyway, now I’ve got a headache. Please excuse me while I get something to treat it. And by something, I mean a nice cold drink.

6

Need A Cure for Kicking the TV Habit? Get Sick

Hey y’all, or as my immune system might say, “hnff heck hack.”

It wasn’t working in a germ factory, or even going out with a wet head that got me congested and sniffly, but I think it might have had to do with some spicy fries I ate on Saturday night after Salsa Saturday and could still taste Sunday afternoon. Ever since then, I’ve been mostly just sniffling, with a few minor coughs and a sneeze here and there. It feels like I have water in my nose, and that my eyes just want to close. I’m not sure that it’s a sore throat, because cough drops only irritated it more. Today, while teaching my first class, I had a fit of hacking, at the end of which I pronounced “brb, dying,” and after one or two more coughs, pronounced myself dead.

But hey, when you’re teaching Samuel Beckett and the Theatre of the Absurd, it works.

Anyway, all I wanted to do after I got home from school and meetings was to lie down on the couch and watch TV.

Except…

THERE’S. NOTHING. ON.

I flip through channels, and go through the TV guide, and…nothing appealing. When I’m well, there are all sorts of things that I’d like to watch but either don’t have the time to or just forget about. But of course, when I want to relax and watch something good, all that’s on: sports, weather, news, infomercials, crappy Christmas movies (which could be its own generator, future post idea!), televangelists, murder dramas, pointless reality shows, and whatever’s on the Spanish channel.

I could go to bed early, or read or lesson plan or something, but I think I’ll just write a blog post about it and see where it goes.

7

Things I’m Sick of Hearing

This might develop into a series, but I’m pretty serious…it’s been a stressful week and I’ve discovered that my patience is already beginning to wear thin, despite being just the second week of school.

On The Phone

“Say that again?” – I don’t mumble, I speak clearly and actually usually a little too loudly into the phone, so either turn your volume up or pay attention because I’m pretty sure they can hear me in Connecticut.

In The Classroom

Can we play Sugar Salt? No. We cannot and we will never play that game, ever, again.

I have four things to say. No. One. Just choose one.

Can I please go to the bathroom? You went twenty minutes ago, and we have a break in another twenty, and you’re eight. You don’t need to.

I don’t want to play. Fine, go off to military school.

At the Jewelry Stand

When are you open again? Never. If you don’t buy it today, you will never see us again.

How much longer are you open for? I don’t know, are you planning on buying anything?

I’ll come back later. THAT’S A LIE. Never once has someone come back later.

How much for the dog? No. No. SHUT UP AND GET OUT. Seriously. He’s our pet. It wasn’t funny the first time I heard it, and it hasn’t been funny ever since.

Here’s what I want to say in response to that inane question, but can’t:

  • We sell jewelry, not animals.
  • I don’t know. How much for your firstborn child?
  • You are so clever! I have never had anybody ask that before! How ever did you come up with that?
  • Bad joke, you owe me twenty dollars.
  • Buy some jewelry now because you’re getting on my nerves.
  • SHUT UP AND GET AWAY FROM THE STAND AND OUT OF MY LIFE FOREVER.
2

Shame on You, Archer Farms Bagged Vegetables

So, earlier this week, Archer Farms bagged veggies were on sale at Target, so I bought some and made them. I usually have pretty good luck with store-bought bagged veggies, but these…

Were VILE.

First, I tried the broccoli/cauliflower/carrot mix. It smelled rancid after I cooked it, and too foul to eat. I had to toss it in the trash immediately. When I went out and came back later, I wanted to apologize to my entire floor for stinking it up with gross rancid vegetables.

And today, sweet potatoes. They looked okay in the bag, and when I heated them up, they didn’t smell too bad. But when I tasted them…

Sticky. Hard. Gross.

I bought Mann’s organic veggies and made them, and they tasted fantastic. Or at least what bagged vegetables in the microwave should taste like.

Ugh. Healthy eating should be less risky than this.