10

Final Paper of the Semester: This Is Not A Drill

So many potential titles for this post – “Final Countdown,” “The Last Night of the World,” “It’s the End of the Semester As I Know It,” “One Midnight Left,” “I am going to finish this paper tonight, dammit, part II” – but here’s the deal. I have one paper left, 15-20 pages. It’s due tomorrow at 1:00 PM, and as of 8:57 PM, I have exactly one page written.

So, game on.

Ride or die.

No sleep until Pune.

It’s all or nothing.

And during writing breaks, I am going to be live-blogging my progress, so stay tuned. I will probably be doing a pilgrimage up and down State Street. I’m currently at Michelangelo’s, with a sugar-free almond iced skim latte and a cheese sandwich.

I am shaking already.

UPDATES:

10:11 PM. One hour later, 1,011 words written – most of them probably crap – and only 6 sticky-noted pages covered out of about a million. Sigh.

11:19 pm. On my second latte. The coffee shop closed at 11, so I have migrated elsewhere, to the library. My laptop does not like being on campus and does not agree with the campus wifi so I might migrate again soon.

12:59 AM. Somewhere on page six or something. Took a night walk. Bad idea. Four more pages at least before I can think about sleep.

4:00 AM. Why the hell am I still awake? I’m typing like a madman to make up for the time I took off to take a walk. Probably none of what I’m writing will make sense tomorrow morning. Speaking of which, someone please wake me up in 4-6 hours so I can finish this thing. Around 2700 words at last count, so that means I’m just about at the bottom of page 9. 8 pages, not too shabby for one night’s work.

10:48 AM. Four hours of sleep, wake up to a fresh start, and probably too much of a Buzzfeed break = only about 10-11 pages. Gosh, could I go any slower? GAH. This next hour needs to be flawless.

Aftermath: 

So, all in all, I did not finish 15-20 pages. I got up to page 12, barely, but I did turn it in on time. I texted a classmate about it, and asked if it would have been a better choice to turn in 12 pages or nothing at all, and she said that she herself had once done something similar for the same professor – not a great option, but better than nothing. It’s only a first draft anyway, and I attached a note to it saying that even though I fully acknowledge that it’s only 12-ish pages, I did a lot of research and backing up of said research, and proofreading for grammar, syntax, sentence structure, and clarity, all things that have been issues, anyway, so I hope she doesn’t fault me for trying to get it right the first time. Hopefully it’ll result in feedback along the lines of, “…it’s short, but well researched.” Is that so much to ask? I would rather get that than have submitted 15 pages that were terrible.

But it’s been a six-continent day, so at least that’s happening.

Welcomes to North America (Canada and USA), South America (Peru and Brazil), Europe (UK, Switzerland, Germany, Albania and Finland), Asia (India and Saudi Arabia), Africa (Mozambique) and Oceania (New Zealand)!

10

Life on Mars?

This morning, I read something on Facebook about a shortlist of people going to Mars, so, naturally, I had to spend the rest of my morning on the couch in my pajamas searching for more information from the Internet.

And apparently…it’s true.

Founded by Dutch scientists Bas Lansdorp and Arno Wielders, The Mars One project is devoted to starting the colonization of Mars. According to their website, they are planning to send teams of four humans up to Mars in 2024 – as in nine years from now – to establish a settlement and…hang out doing scientific experiments, I guess? They are also going to host a reality TV show on these future astronauts as they undergo training (because reality TV makes things more legit). And anyone can apply – well, just about anyone, provided they are between 18 and 60, are in a certain height range, have a sound body and mind, speak English and/or another common language, and are willing to send themselves on what just might be a suicide mission, never to see the light of day (literally) on Earth again.

A quarter-million people applied, and today the list was whittled down to 100 of them – 50 men, 50 women – and released to the public. According to Space.com (and many other news sites), 39 are from the Americas (33 from the USA), 31 from Europe, 16 from Asia, 7 from Africa, and 7 from Oceania, and they range in age from 19 to 60. Most have advanced degrees in a field relating to astrophysics, which would probably be a good thing to have.

So, just who are these 100 people?

Mars One has all of their profiles. They seem like a motley bunch, from what little info there is on them so far on a poorly-designed website that looks more like Myspace than anything else. Maybe it’s just my computer that makes it load so slowly, but it doesn’t seem to have all that much information on them. Needless to say, I am thoroughly interested in just who will be our planet’s representatives to Mars, and because I’m a nice person, I went through all 100 profiles so you don’t have to, and have assembled my dream team of space cadets. Well, that’s not really that fair to say because most of them seem like fairly normal, well-adjusted people with an actual interest in going into space. Basically, these people are the ones to watch out for, and the ones whom I’d enjoy hanging out with for the rest of my years on this earth  life. (Ha, see what I did there?)

  • Electra, 37, AustraliaWith a name like Electra, how could you not want to send this woman to space? She describes herself as an agriculturist, dental surgeon, and geoscientist, and her interests include pole dancing, silkworms, and cats. I would pick her so we could have food, good teeth, and some quality entertainment.
  • Christopher, 43, USA. He is also interested in food, and specifically, making the first omelet on Mars. I enjoy breakfast foods. He’s a keeper.
  • Josh, 29, AustraliaOf all the people listed, he’s the one I could see myself being friends with in real life. He’s a comedian (hopefully a good one; there are only so many times a joke can still be funny in outer space) and he plays the ukulele, so maybe he could teach me how to and we could be the first Martian band.
  • Maggie, 24, UK. A PhD student in astrophysics at Birmingham, and among the younger ones on the list. Her choice of photo makes her look a little like Sailor Moon, so she’s got that down. She is also interested in possibly having the first baby on Mars, despite radiation affecting fertility, but hey, a girl can dream, right? (Well, actually, they’re all dreaming). But she seems adorable and fun, plus she’s a geocacher, so that right there would make us instant friends, and we could amuse each other by having treasure hunts all around the Red Planet.
  • Maggie, 30, USA. This Maggie, among other things, makes high-end costumes and has a business selling the largest zippers in the world. I am not quite sure what that means or why we need them, but I would love to hear Zipper Girl explain it to me. The only thing is, I would not want her to be on the same mission as the other Maggie. After thirty minutes of their mission-mates calling their name, turning around and going “what” at the same time would get old and annoying. Plus, wouldn’t it suck to have to be known as “Maggie L.” on Earth, kind of like the multiple Ashleys on this season of The Bachelor?
  • Kenya, 36, USA. She is a world traveler, a blogger, and seems like an overall nice person. She reminds me a lot of my friend Monica back in Houston whom I miss very very much, motherly and caring yet fun and agreeable. Call me what you want, but having a mom figure in space might be helpful, especially in reminding me to tighten the strap on my oxygen tank when going out for a walk and putting on a scarf and hat, for heaven’s sake, because it’s cold out there and we only have so much aspirin.
  • Etsuko, 50, Japan. Etsuko wants to open the first sushi bar on Mars. This is all you need to know about Etsuko.

Finally, there’s the question…would I ever go to Mars? There are some positives, like never having to worry about debt or taxes or running into people from high school. However, there’s only a limited amount of things like food and medical supplies and, oh yeah, oxygen in space, which would make things difficult. Not to mention the loneliness…wouldn’t it suck if all of a sudden (or over time) everyone in your group died, and you were pretty much alone for all of eternity? Plus, there’s no Starbucks, Kohl’s, or Target on Mars yet, so I’d probably kill for a caramel macchiato, and all my Kohl’s cash would expire.

Oh well.

At least maybe we could find some actual interplanetary competition for the Miss Universe pageant.

 

16

That’s SoMG: The New Jersey Horse Meat Mafia

It all started with a pot of coffee.

Last week, on my way back to Madison, my dad and I were sitting at the rest stop on I-90 northbound in Belvidere, Illinois, having some Starbucks and gearing up for the final leg of the trip. My dad does not drink coffee anymore, but he did in high school. So, I asked him if Grandma drank coffee. He said that she always had a pot of coffee ready, and usually she and her step-niece Ida from down the street (all names hereinafter have been changed due to protect the privacy of the individuals, and also because it’s fun to make up names) would spend the afternoon in one of their kitchens, drinking coffee and talking for hours. I had never heard of Ida, so I asked the question that launched the story of the century.

“Ida who?”

“Your grandmother’s step-niece.”

“Yeah, Grandma had a step-niece, Aunt Susanne’s stepdaughter from her first marriage.”

“Aunt Susanne had a stepdaughter?”

“Yeah, from her first husband, Alfred, you know, the one who committed suicide.”

“…”

“You don’t know that story?”

“Well, obviously, no, I don’t.”

“Oh, goodness, it’s a long one. Once we’re back in the car, you drive, and I’ll tell you the story.”

<pause button>

That was the beginning of what turned out to be an interesting and very juicy family scandal that was too good to keep to myself. So now, I share it with you all in the first ever episode of…

That’s So Jacob presents:

That’s SoMG: Scandals, Secrets, and Shockers That Will Make You Slap Your Hand Over Your Mouth

Imagine, if you will, Are You Afraid Of the Dark? meets E! True Hollywood Story.

Now, onto the show.

<play button>

Episode 1: The New Jersey Horse Meat Mafia

Bavaria, Germany, 1898.

It all started in a tiny farm town where a young Jewish woman named Huldah was spending another summer helping out some local families. Huldah was from a farm town of about 1,000 people, but this town’s population was even smaller, barely in the triple-digits. Every summer since she was old enough, Huldah would go to the smaller town, stay with a family, and do various chores around the house and farm. Over the years, she came to know most of the people in the town, to the point where she felt comfortable just walking into someone’s house to say hello and ask if they needed some chores done. There were only a few girls her own age in the town, and one of them was unusually fat. This girl’s name has been lost to history, so we’ll just call her Fat Girl.

One day, Huldah was just walking around town, and she decided to call on Fat Girl. She goes to Fat Girl’s house, opens the door, and hears a bloodcurdling scream coming from the kitchen. She runs into the kitchen to find her friend giving birth on the kitchen floor. Apparently, Fat Girl’s weight had been sort of an advantage in the predicament she’d found herself in; she had slept with one of the non-Jewish farmhands, and was able to hide from everyone the fact that she was not just fat, but also pregnant. That afternoon, she gave birth to a fair-skinned little boy.

Well, once the baby came, she couldn’t keep the secret for much longer. As was the custom in those days, she and the baby disappeared for a little while, “to an aunt’s house,” until the storm blew over. By the time she returned home, a young Jewish bachelor had moved into town, and with much prodding from Fat Girl’s family and friends, the two were married, and soon had children of their own. After awhile, another child showed up at the house one day: a little blonde boy whom they called Ernest.

Now, back to Huldah. She got married and had a family of her own, giving birth to three children. The oldest was a girl called Susanne, then a boy, and the youngest was my grandmother.

In the early 1930s, Susanne came of marriageable age. Through the grapevine, Huldah found a young man called Alfred, and the two were married, and not long after, they welcomed a child of their own, a little girl they named Penny. Soon after Penny’s birth, Alfred went to visit an uncle he was quite close with who ran a furniture store in America, in Baltimore, Maryland. He stayed for a short while with him before returning home to Susanne and Oenny in Germany. Alfred and his uncle corresponded frequently via mail, and one day in 1933, Alfred gets a very short letter from his American uncle, saying:

“Alfred: Come back to America. Take your wife and your daughter and leave Germany at once.”

The family had been aware of the rise of the Nazi Party in their country, because, well, how could you not. Their lives were not as affected as others, and until this letter came, they had no idea of how dangerous the Nazis actually were. So, the whole extended family made plans to immigrate to Baltimore, leaving Europe for good. Through good planning, the first to make it out of Germany were Alfred, Susanne, and baby Penny, setting sail for Baltimore in 1934. Penny celebrated her first birthday at sea, becoming a minor news story once the family landed in Baltimore.

The whole family, being farmers, was familiar with the cattle business, so as the rest of them trickled over – my grandmother, her mother Huldah, and all the rest – Alfred decided to set up a meat processing center in Baltimore. Through friends and acquaintances, he found a business partner who had come from a nearby part of Germany and also knew the meat industry. His name?

Ernest.

By the time Huldah finally made it over in 1938 – the last one – Alfred and Ernest’s meat business was hugely successful, churning out sausages and bratwursts for the people of Baltimore every day. When her son mentioned his business partner’s name to his mother, her eyes lit up.

“Ernest, from the next town? The blonde one? His mother was my friend!”

Yes, after close to fifty years, the boy born on the kitchen floor, and the boy of the woman who helped bring him into the world, became business partners.

As stated before, the business was hugely successful. Ernest kept a relatively modest lifestyle, but Alfred showered his family with money and expensive things: a house, cars, clothing. Susanne didn’t have to work, but she owned and ran a small grocery store while she raised Penny.

The reason Alfred and Ernest’s business was so successful was because of the source of their meat. Unlike other local meat markets, they cast their net somewhat wider, finding a supplier in New Jersey who offered them meat for extremely low prices. Once in Baltimore, Alfred, who was more of the businessman of the two, marked up the price of the meat to align with the higher prices in Baltimore and earn them an incredibly large profit.

Meanwhile, a journalist sniffs out a news assignment based on whispers and rumors; that A & E weren’t getting their beef from local farmers, but from some place in New Jersey. Undercover, the journalist acquires the name and address of the New Jersey meat suppliers, and goes there to find two incredible, game-changing secrets.

One: the meat they are selling was not beef – rather, illegal horse meat.

Two: the whole operation was run by a New Jersey mafia family.

Needless to say, the news breaks in a grand fashion back in Baltimore. People, some of whom have become ill from the company’s meat, are outraged at this deception and demanded answers. The newspaper prints the offending meat packers’ names, and Alfred and Ernest were now on the front page. Of course, Alfred and Ernest hired a lawyer to handle their case, one of the best lawyers in the state of Maryland. He agreed to defend them in court, telling them the best possible result (a minor fine) and the worst (three to five years in prison). But the damage to their business and social reputations would be irreplaceable. Confident as ever, Alfred invested in the lawyer, and everything was going to turn out most likely in their favor, due to lack of concrete evidence other than newspaper reports.

The trial came closer, but it became too much for Alfred. As much as he maintained that he was going to win the case, he was growing increasingly paranoid and upset, and Susanne was starting to worry. However, as comforted as she was in her lifestyle, worrying was not something she did often. Alfred began staying home for longer and longer periods of time. On one of the days leading up to the trial, Alfred went to work. That afternoon, he was found dead, of a self-inflicted gunshot wound from a gun he’d purchased without Susanne’s knowledge and kept in his office.

Susanne and Penny were in shock.

The trial, however, went on without Alfred. As it turned out, Alfred was the one who communicated with the New Jersey supplier, and the details of that arrangement went with him to his grave. Ernest testified that he knew nothing about Alfred’s dealings, and got off with a minor fine, no jail time. His reputation and business suffered a bit, but ultimately, Ernest lived to see the daylight, daylight that Alfred would have most likely seen had he managed to stay alive for the trial.

By this point in time, Penny had grown up and moved out of the house, and down to northern Virginia. She blamed her mother Susanne for her father’s death and all that went along with it, and they maintained very little contact over the years. Though Penny retained friends from childhood through high school and frequently came to visit them in Baltimore, she rarely visited my grandmother, who helped raise her, nor her own widowed mother, who married Irving, a neighbor and widower himself (his wife, whom Susanne had known, had died of cancer at a relatively young age) living with three children of his own. Penny never accepted her stepfather and step-siblings, who came to appreciate Susanne and eventually, regard her as their own mother. Though Irving was a decent husband and father, he also led a flashy lifestyle, financing it through his new wife’s money; money that was not going towards Penny herself.

Through the years, my father and his sister kept in touch with their first cousin Penny, but from a distance. She married a man called Woody, who was not particularly religious and also not a particularly…well, let me put it this way. Ernest, her late father’s business partner, remained in business but never offered Woody a job, as he had to other family members. Eventually, upon Ernest’s death, the business and the money stayed in his family. Her father’s uncle, the man with the furniture store, hired Woody as a salesman, but Woody did so poorly that he had to fire him. So, they kind of did their own thing, now living in the Washington DC area. My father and the others in the family remained in contact with Cousin Penny and her husband Woody, but they never quite found out how they got their money; Penny didn’t work, and Woody only gave vague answers about “business,” saying “it was fine.”

The final chapter of the story commences one hundred and one years after it began, in 1999. My aunt, now a mother herself, became a grandmother for the fifth time, to my little cousin Emily, that January. By this time, communication with Cousin Penny had slowed to a trickle; interaction happened only at a select few “state occasions,” weddings and bar/bat mitzvahs. No letters, phone calls, or emails, otherwise. The new baby’s parents – my cousin Hillary and her husband – live in Washington, DC, not too far from the suburb where Cousin Penny resided. As a gesture of good faith, Hillary picked up the phone and invited Penny to a baby naming party they were holding for Emily, in May of that same year. Penny said she couldn’t come, her husband was sick.

Well, sometime later that year or in early 2000, Woody died. My aunt, father, and grandmother did not hear about this until many months later, around the time my father was preparing the family invite list for the Event of the Century – okay, it was for my bar mitzvah, that November. The three of them sent Penny a sympathy card, and received not a thank-you note, but a very long and nasty letter, accusing my grandmother and aunt of abandoning her in her time of need (this is the woman who abandoned her own mother), not visiting Woody when he was sick, not bothering to attend his funeral (which no one on our side of the family knew about, since no one had even told us how sick he was, or when he died), and other things that were apparently so rude that the three of them came to a decision to unceremoniously declare Cousin Penny and her children persona non grata.

I didn’t know it at the time, but my father quietly deleted Penny from the invite list, and my bar mitzvah was the first major family event that Penny was not formally invited to.

They have not attempted to contact her again.

Growing up, I knew of Penny’s existence and the fact that she was Aunt Susanne’s daughter, but nothing else. After Aunt Susanne died in the 1980s, we gradually lost contact with anyone associated with her, including my grandmother’s close friend and step-niece Ida, who was somewhat younger than her. My grandmother would have been 103 last year, so it is quite possible that Ida is still alive somewhere, in her nineties. Over the years, some of my father’s cousins have had brief contact with Ida’s children, but not for many years now. Their many afternoons of coffee and conversation are now lost to memory.

By the time Dad finished telling the story, we had driven over an hour from Belvidere to Madison, and were only a few blocks away from my apartment.

So there’s that.


Now that it’s inordinately late, off to bed for me. Once again, only a five continent day for me (no South America) but let me acknowledge those that did check in today from North America (Canada, USA, Mexico, Guadeloupe [first time, welcome!], and Puerto Rico); Europe (France, UK, Germany, Switzerland, Liechtenstein [first time, welcome!], Italy, Norway, Sweden and Spain); Africa (Mayotte); Asia (India, Vietnam, and the Philippines) and Oceania (Australia).

7

Presenting Miss Universe 2014 (?), or Miss Universe’s Presents

Every year

Sometimes, the Miss Universe Pageant occurs to crown the most beautiful woman in the world according to Mr. Donald Trump. Because Trump couldn’t get his shit together, this week, the third week of January 2015, is the 2014 edition of the pageant. It is happening in exotic Doral, Florida, USA because the venue in Kiruna, Sweden melted, and the second choice, a theatre in southern Cameroon is closed for ceiling repairs. Among the exciting things the 88 girls have been doing are playing golf, painting a wall, and swimming around in a small hotel pool. I wish I had made that last sentence up.

Although I am neither for nor against beauty pageants, some of the activities they do, when taken out of context, look utterly pointless. For example, they did a gift auction, where each contestant brought some piece of crap from her home country, put it on a table, and hope someone buys it so they can fit some more hotel washcloths and half-used mini-shampoo/conditioners in that hole in their luggage. Recently, the pageants have been around Christmas, so at least the auction seemed semi-genuine; now that it’s in mid-January, it’s like “here’s something that someone gave my mom that she wanted out of the house,” or “here’s something I bought at the terminal just before I got on the plane.”

Now, you can see what kinds of souvenirs you can get when you visit Spain or China or Guam. I’ve taken the liberty of ranking each of the 88 gifts from worst to best so you don’t have to.With that said, if you want to follow along, there is a website where you can see them posing next to the gifts they brought.

 

88. Miss Bahamas didn’t even show up, so she gets a 0 for effort.

87. Miss Argentina apparently just brought herself, because she’s fabulous.

86. Miss British Virgin Islands also brought herself, because she is just too cool for all this.

85. Miss Venezuela brought her game face and her head, on which to place the Miss Universe crown.

84. I have no idea what Miss Georgia brought. She looks like she doesn’t either.

83. Miss Albania brought a tissue from a recent nosebleed…or so she says.

82. Miss Aruba brought a fancy Swiss watch. Some assembly required.

81. Miss Singapore brought a box of stuff she found in her gardening shed.

80. Miss Ecuador brought a blob of something golden.

79. Miss Indonesia brought a seashell…maybe?

78. Miss Panama either brought a rusty nail or a mummified finger. 

77. Miss Netherlands cut something from a newspaper and put it in a frame. What, no windmills?

76. Miss Brazil brought a fire alarm.

75. Miss Sri Lanka brought one of those boxes to small to put anything in.

74. Miss Slovenia brought a paperweight.

73. Miss Czech Republic brought her car keys.

72. Miss Croatia brought a tie.

71. Miss Nicaragua brought tie pins.

70. Miss Chile brought a hat.

69. Miss Sweden brought a snow globe.

68. Miss Finland brought a coffee mug.

67. Miss Korea brought an extra pair of shoes.

66. Miss Spain brought a Lonely Planet she bought in the airport in Madrid.

65. Miss Italy brought the book she read on the plane.

64. Miss Lithuania brought the menu from her country’s fanciest restaurant.

63. Miss Ukraine brought her high school yearbook.

62. Miss Guam brought a basket of papier-mache flowers.

61. Miss Norway brought my garage door opener. Thanks for costing me $100 for a replacement, Miss Norway.

60. Miss Portugal brought a sculpture of a basket or something.

59. Miss Turks and Caicos brought a sculpture from her hotel room’s patio.

58. Miss Jamaica brought a Usain Bolt workout DVD and something sparkly – nope, wait that’s the girl standing behind her.

57. Miss Peru brought her childhood troll doll.

56. Miss Slovak Republic brought a play set with a strange black arm-shaped tree.

55. Miss Nigeria brought a wooden sculpture of some guy killing a chicken.

54. Miss Tanzania brought a taller sculpture just to spite Miss Nigeria.

53. Miss Israel brought a coffee table book she stole from her grandmother’s nursing home in Fort Lauderdale.

52. Miss Puerto Rico brought a lace shawl she stole from Miss Israel’s grandmother.

51. Miss Saint Lucia brought a framed photograph of that face everyone thought they saw on the moon that turned out to be some rocks.

50. Miss Trinidad and Tobago brought a framed mouse pad.

49. Miss Mauritius brought a painting she made at one of those “paint-it-yourself” places.

48. Miss Dominican Republic brought a painting that will scare young children.

47. Miss India brought another painting that will scare young children, and looks like aliens from a distance.

46. Miss Angola brought a painting you’ll have to cover with a sheet when hosting your six-year-old’s birthday party.

45. Miss Gabon brought a painting from the Phoebe Buffay Collection.

44. Miss Serbia brought a painting that looks just the right size to hide an iPad in.

43. Miss Kosovo brought some monochromatic prints of Mother Teresa that would look fantastic at Black Hole Coffee House in Houston opposite the Lindsay Lohan ones they currently have.

42. Miss Colombia brought a necklace she made all by herself at summer camp.

41. Miss Egypt apparently went to summer camp with Colombia.

40. Miss El Salvador brought either a lovely little plate or a giant Christmas ornament that will break in your luggage.

39. Miss Mexico brought either a huge clutch or the menu from the hotel’s restaurant.

38. Miss France brought either an expensive scarf or the lint from her dryer.

37. Miss Bulgaria brought some traditional dolls that may or may not double as feather dusters.

36. Miss Kenya also brought dolls, but they look suspiciously like Barbies.

35. Miss Poland brought dolls that are also folk dance trophies.

34. Miss Ireland spent most of her money on that fancy plastic wrapping for her basket.

33. Miss Uruguay brought the magic rose from Beauty and the Beast.

32. Miss Hungary brought some pink ceramic bunnies that will look right at home on your dusty knick-knack shelf.

31. Miss Costa Rica brought a pink purse. I’m hoping that it has a Target gift card in it or something. Keep your eye on that one.

30. Miss Lebanon also brought a purse, but it’s shinier.

29. Miss Malaysia also brought a purse, but with a jeweled clasp.

28. Miss China’s overbearing grandmother couldn’t make it, so she brought her remains instead. Miss China is a heat-seeking revenge machine.

27. Miss Greece brought a sculpture of a wreath that doubles as an earring rack.

26. Miss Russia brought ceramic boots that double as vases.

25. Miss Haiti brought a drum that you know is going to leave glitter all over your house once your cat decides to play with it.

24. Miss New Zealand brought a pin depicting The Very Hungry Caterpillar.

23. Miss Philippines brought some pretty pearls that will suck if it turns out they’re plastic.

22. Miss Turkey brought the world’s biggest earrings, except she lost one.

21. Miss Australia actually brought a decent looking necklace that does not look like it came out of a gumball machine.

20. Miss Great Britain also brought a piece of silver jewelry. Boring.

19. Miss USA brought some pieces of gold jewelry. Also boring.

18. Miss Kazakhstan brought a fierce silver necklace that will kick the crap out of Australia and Great Britain’s silver necklaces.

17. Miss Belgium bought a necklace as well. Disappointingly, no diamonds.

16. Miss Switzerland brought a Swiss watch. Surprising!

15. Miss Bolivia actually brought a decent-looking piece of abstract art that is going to be a pain to jam in the backseat of your Camry.

14. Miss Guyana went shopping with Miss Bolivia but at least got an interesting frame for it.

13. Miss Guatemala brought a cigar box with a random picture on it.

12. Miss South Africa brought a nice photo of Nelson Mandela and what looks to be his nail file.

11. Miss Canada took things waaaay too seriously and brought a hockey jersey full of autographs, presumably of hockey players, or of whoever she passed it around to on the plane from Toronto.

TOP TEN BEST GIFTS

10. Miss Ghana’s gift isn’t too bad – some wooden candlestick, a finger bowl, something that might be a piggy bank – but I’m more interested in her dress which is apparently made entirely from Chupa Chups wrappers.

9. Miss Paraguay brought a tiny chocolate cake. Yum!

8. Miss Thailand brought a bowl of soup. At least I hope there’s some soup in there.

7. Miss Japan brought a silk handkerchief, presumably unused.

6. Miss Myanmar brought a table runner that’s going to be a bitch to clean.

5. Miss Austria brought an adorable traditional dress for your baby daughter and a DVD of The Sound of Music to watch until she starts singing “Do-Re-Mi” every time you get in the car, in which case you can burn it.

4. Miss Germany brought a cute cuckoo clock that your grandfather will comment on every time he comes over for dinner, and then launch into a long story everyone’s already heard.

3. Miss Ethiopia brought some kind of beautiful musical instrument. There’s nothing funny about that; that’s kind of a nice little conversation piece. A+, Miss Ethiopia.

2. Miss Honduras obviously took a page from the winner’s book and brought a lovely crystal decanter and two glasses.

AND THE WINNER IS…

1. Miss Curacao, who brought some rum from her island. She should get an automatic Top 10 spot just for that.

0

Is There An Explanation For This?

For these past few days, I’ve been running on adrenaline and the occasional bite from the Chabad House; doing a presentation and having three days of holiday will do that to you. I think I did okay on my presentation. I’ve been so tired though, and was just going to skip posting today until a weird sound woke me up from half-sleep, and now I’m wide awake.

So, last week I went to the optician to have an eye exam and get a new prescription for contacts. The eye doctor was wonderful and friendly, and thanks to my health insurance, fees were minimal; I only paid for the contact lenses themselves, and knew I’d be paying something.

A few days later, I get a letter from my insurance company. I dig out my checkbook and prepare to write a check as I open the envelope, only to see…

An Explanation of Benefits.

Basically, a bill marked “THIS IS NOT A BILL” with no return envelope (the actual bill, which looked exactly the same, arrived yesterday. I paid it today).

What is the importance of this Explanation of Benefits document, then?

Health Insurance Company, why did you have to kill another tree to mail this useless piece of future recycled paper to me? Especially when it is the exact some document as the bill I’ll be receiving in the mail IN THE NEXT FEW DAYS? Am I supposed to have a backup copy in case the original goes missing? Will your office cease functioning without my payment of $18.96 – money which, because I read the bill which tells me where it will go, I know why I’m being charged what I’m being charged and where the money will go? It’s like getting a receipt at a grocery store, telling you what you bought, and THEN getting another receipt, which actually requires payment. Or something like that.

There is something about this that makes no sense, other than you sending me another false reason to get excited when I open my mailbox.

Anyone? Bueller? Bueller?

Now that I’m turning my mind in little circles, I’m getting tired again. Please excuse me while I get ready for bed, unless I have to get ready to get ready for bed for first. Actually, that’s kind of what I’m doing right now.

Before I do, welcome to my first visitors from Luxembourg and Madagascar. Such fun and diverse visitors lately!

5

Turbulence: You May Experience Jerks

The title pretty much says it all.

But to give you some context, it started this morning, when I was supposed to be getting ready for class but reading Facebook on my phone as usual, and I came across an article from a newspaper in New Zealand about this. By the time I had thought of a response, I had long lost the link, so I found an almost identical article here, in the Washington Post.

The article I linked above adds some scenarios that I didn’t encounter in the New Zealand article, so I’m just going to focus on the first one. It happened on an El Al airplane leaving New York (Kennedy, presumably) for Tel Aviv. Several dozen Orthodox Jewish men, some of them rabbis, refused to take seats near women, as Jewish law forbids close contact with non-related women, see one of my negia posts for more on that. After getting all the men seated, the plane finally took off, only for the men to stand back up during the flight and congregate in the aisles, rather than sitting next to women. This made life difficult for everyone else on that eleven hour trans-Atlantic flight, especially when the men offered passengers money to switch seats before takeoff.

I have to say, well done rabbis. You sure showed that plane full of people your true colors. Well, your true monochrome, that is. Now, you’ve not only gotten yourselves a reputation for being jerks, but this stunt will absolutely do wonders for the image of Jews, specifically the Orthodox, around the world. The world is not tailor-made for Jewish people; I’ve learned that the hard way, going to school on Jewish holidays and not being able to eat much from menus in places like Applebee’s, Wendy’s or the entire state of Louisiana. You’re right in the fact that it’s just not fair sometimes. But you have to pick your battles, and when you’re faced with being stuck in a giant metal tube for eleven hours with one hundred or so other people who are trying to live their lives, just sit your ass down and make your your seat belt is securely fastened. This whole not-sitting-next-to-women crap has gone way too far. The Talmud says that men and women may touch in unavoidable situations or during goal-oriented tasks, such as passing plates around a table, doing the laundry, or moving furniture. Why can’t travel fall under the same category? After all, nobody goes on a plane just to sit there and do stuff for the rest of their lives; it’s a temporary situation, so open your book, crank some Miami Boys Choir up to full volume and suck it up. The fact that it’s almost Rosh Hashanah makes it even worse. It’s like, you want to get written in the Book of Life? Try acknowledging other human beings.

I actually have two personal stories about this. The first happened in Israel. I was flying back from Cyprus, and my then-girlfriend surprised me at the airport to accompany me back to Jerusalem in a sherut (shared taxi). The principle of the sherut, especially at Ben Gurion Airport, is that you hand the driver your suitcase and pile in, sitting wherever there is a seat. Not a hard concept. It was late at night, and in our sherut there happened to be, other than us and the driver, five others: an elderly couple, a secular Jewish guy, another guy, and a younger Haredi woman traveling alone, which is a rarity. There were plenty of seats in the van, so we clambered into the back row. The couple sat in two of the front seats, and the Haredi lady sat alone next to a window. The secular Jewish guy enters the van and sits right next to Haredi lady, who asks him to give her some space, because she’d rather not sit next to him. He moves, but as soon as we’re all packed in and the motor starts, he lets Haredi lady have it, laying into her for being a Haredi, always wanting her own way, not living in this century, having so many extra privileges for being religious, and so on. Keep in mind that it’s creeping close to midnight, and we’re all tired. Haredi lady says something back to him, and he keeps going. I can barely see her face in the moonlight, but she looks like she’s on the verge of tears, so the other guy and the elderly couple come to her rescue, while we watch bemusedly from the backseat. It basically lasts the whole ride back to J’lem, not letting up until he gets out. Thankfully, he’s the first stop. After he is off, she breathes a sigh of relief.

The second story happened at Kennedy Airport on New Year’s Eve. I was on my way to Vienna, Austria, to meet DAT for the Slovakia Winter Retreat and I was boarding the plane for the first leg of the trip: New York to Zurich, Switzerland on Swiss Air. Not a lot of people fly on NYE, which is fantastic, because there is plenty of leg room. It seemed like I was among the only American on the flight. Everyone else was either going back to Switzerland, a religious Jew connecting to Israel, or a brightly-clothed African who, as I later learned, were all connecting to Douala, Cameroon. I get to my seat, and there is a super-religious Israeli girl about my age sitting in the window seat of the row. In my pajama pants, Edward Gorey t-shirt, and bright green DAT headband, I look anything but Jewish. She very visibly rolls her eyes and starts chattering in Hebrew to her friend who is standing right there. I did not catch all of what she was saying, but she was mostly bitching about having to sit next to a boy the whole time and how much this flight was going to suck. All while I’m sitting right there, pretending to stare off into space but actually listening and understanding most of their conversation.

People are starting to settle into their seats, and a lovely flight attendant comes over to me and asks me for my meal preference. She then asks if the religious girl is also sitting in this row; by this point, she has gotten out of the seat and is standing in the aisle pouting. She then addresses her directly, that she needs to sit down so she can get her meal preference, and the girl either ignores her or does not understand her English. I whisper to the flight attendant that I can speak Hebrew, and I proceed to get Miss Orthodox Jewish Bitchface’s attention by locking eyes with her and saying in rapid and pretty-well-accented (if I say so myself) Hebrew something along the lines of:

“Listen, honey. This nice lady wants to know if you’re sitting here, so you can get the food you want.”

The religious girl doesn’t look so much surprised as she does disgusted that I’m even talking to her (in her own language!) and says something like:

“Maybe I’ll sit here, maybe I’ll sit over there with my friend, I don’t know, whatever.”

I translate this to the flight attendant, who tells me she needs the girl to sit down in a seat because we are preparing for takeoff and she needs to know what the hell this girl wants to eat. Just doing her job. I translate this into Hebrew and convey it to the religious girl, who walks off in a huff with her nose in the air. Turns out I will not be seeing her for the remainder of the flight.

I turn to the flight attendant:

“Yeah, so from the bitchy display we just saw, I take it she’s not going to be eating on this flight. And if she gets hungry, well, tough luck.”

I earn some brownie points with the flight attendant, whose life is made easier by drawing a line through the religious girl’s name on her list. I feel powerful, and a little bad that she won’t get any food, but frankly, with the way she talked about me in front of my face and how she brushed off both me and the flight attendant, she didn’t deserve the delicious hot rolls and free champagne. If you don’t want to cooperate with me, someone who is trying to help you potentially get the food that you want/need, fine. But don’t take it out on a lady who’s just doing her job.

People. Entitled people.

Anyway, gentlemen…you can always swim across.

***

Works Cited

Sullivan, Gail. “Ultra-Orthodox Jews delay El Al flight, refusing to sit near women.” Morning Mix. The Washington Post. 26 September 2014. <http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2014/09/26/ultra-orthodox-jews-delay-el-al-flight-refusing-to-sit-near-women/&gt;

9

OH HELL NO NOT THIS AGAIN.

One of the perks of my new apartment building is the underground, temperature-controlled parking structure. It costs a little extra but in a city where parking is high demand and a state where cars freeze to death in the winter, it’s an investment. When I signed the papers in December of last year, the parking spots had not been assigned yet. When I asked the leasing manager which spot was mine, she said, “They’re just about all open, so take your pick.” I selected a spot right at the front, that would be easy to get into. It’s not so easy to get out of, but I’m working on it, but it’s definitely a prime location.

I came in from shopping last night, and…there’s a car parked in my spot.

This is the EXACT reason why I didn’t want to have to deal with having just a parking lot pass again without an assigned spot. This past year, I had a pass to park in a specific lot, and if someone without a pass was parked in the lot (very easy to do, since the lot is not gated or guarded) and you were the unlucky person who didn’t get a spot, then you had to park either far away or at a meter, risking being ticketed or towed. It wasn’t really that bad until June, when summer classes were going on and since the weather was nicer more people were coming to visit the school I guess, and even though some people may have gone home for the summer, there would still be five or so unauthorized cars parked there at any given time. The company that I rented the spot from ($135 a month, thank you very much) had signs up about ticketing and towing, but there would be cars there that wouldn’t move for days. I called to complain almost every day, to the point of tears and basically got “we’re trying as hard as we can.” One day, I tried calling the number of the towing company on the sign, and found out that they had been out of business FOR A YEAR. I even called an actual towing company, only to be told that since I wasn’t the property manager, I was not authorized to do anything. Basically, there was nothing I could do other than pray for someone to leave so I could take the spot which I paid for.

Now, with an assigned spot, I was hoping that this problem wouldn’t happen again. Especially since there are only 26 spaces in the lot.

Fast forward to last night. So I get home at about 11:30 PM, after spending the day shopping, and, you guessed it, car parked in my spot. Big black Ford Expedition truck. It had a building parking permit decal in the back window, just like I have, so I gave him/her the benefit of the doubt, that maybe some jerk parked in his/her spot, so I parked in the spot next to it and hoped that I wouldn’t get in trouble.

After spending all day yesterday unloading boxes and shopping, I decided to take most of the day off, not even leaving the apartment until well into the afternoon. I had all but forgotten about the situation when I got down to the parking lot and saw the Ford Expedition still there, only now it had a sign taped to the back:

To the tenant who rents this spot: My truck will not fit in my assigned spot, so I am going to be parking here. I am working this out with the management. My spot, #24, is open. Sorry for the inconvenience.

Since it was now after hours, I had no one to complain to. Being the reasonable human being that I am, I went to space #24 to see if a switch would be possible. And…it’s a compact car only spot. Between a wall and a pole. Before I left, I tried getting my car into that spot, but once parked, there was no way I could get out the door.

I left the parking lot to do my shopping, passing the black Ford Expedition and its little “sorry” sign taunting me from the spot that I selected and signed for last December.

Okay, here’s what’s wrong with this picture…wait a minute, the answer to that would be EVERYTHING. Aside from the obvious jerk move of PARKING IN MY SPOT, you had to leave the most patronizing note ever. “Sorry for the inconvenience?” If you were really sorry, you wouldn’t have parked there all night in the first place! “Working this out with the management?” Yeah, I’m pretty sure that if there were an issue, the management would contact me before YOU PARKED YOUR BIG ASS TRUCK IN SOMEONE ELSE’S SPOT. Then comes the fact that you paid for a compact car only spot, either assuming your car would fit or blatantly forgetting that you have a truck that’s as big as a studio apartment, which you obviously need for all the hay bales, woodpiles, and livestock you have to transport here in Madison.

Anyway, when I got back tonight, the Ford Chutzpah was gone, so I parked in my spot.

I might not ever move my car again but at least I got my spot.

8

On Dealing Coke

Wow, a daytime post! Shocking, I know.

So, I just went to CVS to get some toothpaste and a snack. I go over to the frozen section to see if they have Lipton diet iced green tea, aka the feel good drink of dieting champions, and I noticed that instead of the usual logo, it says something like “Lisa” or “Rob” or “Brittany”.

Huh?

Apparently, Coke and Diet Coke have this new campaign called #ShareACoke where they are putting people’s names on the labels. Just random names. No significance whatsoever. I guess the thing they’re trying to do is encourage you is buy more of their product and share it. Like, if my name was Alicia, I would go into a CVS and be like, “I’m not thirsty and I don’t drink soda because it’s cool to say that, but OMG that bottle of Diet Coke has my name on it, it must be sign from above that means I must buy it and drink it and cherish it forever and you know what? I wasn’t thirsty when I started this thought but I’m getting there. Screw society, I’m buying this.”

Or something like that.

It’s not necessarily a good idea or a bad idea, per se, but it makes my curious mind wonder. What do they really mean by share a coke? Are they promoting communicable diseases? Or could it evolve into a peer pressure thing, like, you’re waiting at the bus stop with your Coke and I can come up to you, show you my license and be like, “Hi, I’m Brooke, and your bottle there says that you should share your drink with me, and since it’s a written contract that you bought yourself onto, you are obligated to give me a sip from that bottle, bitch?” Or could it evolve into a pickup line thing, like “Hey, I noticed that your bottle says share a Coke with Mike, so how about dinner on Saturday night?”

Does it make the bottles like those racks of key chains at truck stops and gas stations, forever alienating those Americans who have names like Julio or Tabitha or North West, forever searching the racks in vain, knowing that there is no mini Wisconsin license plate nor Diet Coke out there for you? (Although if your name is Julio, you might want to stop at a gas station in Texas where they usually have a rack of stuff with Spanish names next to the normal rack).

And finally, how literally do I have to take it? If I buy a coke that says Lisa on the label and I am feeling generous or I don’t want to finish it, should I seek out one of my exactly two Facebook friends named Lisa to share it with? I actually have a friend named Lisa here in Madison, although she may be home for the summer. The other one lives in Boston, and it would probably not be the best idea to wait for her to show up here or mail a half empty Coke to Massachusetts. Or, maybe I could try to find former child actress from The Facts of Life and recent runner-up on Survivor Lisa Whelchel and see if she’s thirsty? She probably isn’t currently within driving distance of Madison and who knows, maybe she’s more of a Pepsi gal? Although for some reason I think she probably likes Tab or Snapple.

Anyway.

Just bought toothpaste and chocolate-covered pretzels, and then walked over to Electric Earth for some iced coffee.

2

On Colorblindness in the Theatre

Today, one of my friends posted this as his status on Facebook:

You know what really grinds my gears? When all white high schools put on black shows like Aida and The Wiz.

I’m not usually that person who goes there with someone’s Facebook status, but I found this to be somewhat offensive and felt the urge to say something.

So I did a little research, and responded, saying something along the lines of:

I don’t think that this is a fair statement. MTI, the company that holds the rights to Aida and is very strict about their rules, suggests that ethnic actors would be good for the show, but does not say that the director must cast actors of color; that would be discriminatory. Plus, if it’s high school, it’s for educational purposes, and some rules may not apply.

By the time I pressed the comment button, several other of his friends, black and white, commented similarly, saying that The Wiz was based on The Wizard of Oz, Quvenzhane Wallis is going to be the next Annie, Broadway had an all-black Hello, Dolly!, that not all schools have black students (or enough interested in the arts to cast the show), etc. I was not alone.

His response to me?

Jacob, when did I say MUST? You’re the only one talking about licensing; I’m just saying that they shouldn’t be putting on shows about my people. White people telling the stories of colored people is wack.

My response?

Maybe directors at these schools choose those shows because they like the beauty of the story, not to mention the music and the message. Aida and The Wiz are just as much part of the American musical theatre canon as My Fair LadySouth Pacific, et cetera. They have all the rights in the world to put on whatever show they like; you don’t have any control over that.

His response?

Seriously?

Over that?

A little background: this friend, whom I’ll call Kevin, is an African-American guy I met at the 2006 APO nationals, and again at the 2008 nationals. When I met him, I thought he was funny and nice. I haven’t seen him for a long time, but we’ve remained friends on Facebook. His posts are, one could say, inconsistent. One day, he’ll post something about how black stereotypes are wrong, and the next day, he’ll post something that is a complete stereotype (one of the hard things about Facebook: detecting sarcasm), something like “Oh honeychile’ there is some fake weaves in this here bar.” I always thought that if you’re a person who hates stereotypes, don’t go slinging them around, and then get offended when someone calls you out on it.

The topic of colorblindness in show selection and casting is something I’ve wanted to write my thoughts on for a long time, and I guess now is as good a time as ever.

Since Kevin started us off with high school, let’s rewind to the early 2000s, aka my high school days, where I was so involved in theatre that I actually got a little plaque about it. 100% of the students in my school were Jewish, and 98% of the school was, you could say, white. That didn’t stop us from putting on shows with nonwhite characters. I mean, what are we supposed to do…Fiddler on the Roof every year? Sure, we did some very white-bread shows (Hello, Dolly! and Bye Bye Birdie come to mind), but we also did West Side Story and South Pacific, despite having very few students of color in the school. We didn’t do Aida or The Wiz, but I don’t think anyone would have stopped us had we done them. The two shows Kevin chose, actually, are particularly bad examples…Dreamgirls and Hairspray would’ve been harder to pull off, owing to the racial nature of the plot, but apart from blackface, I don’t see a problem with a school that is entirely or predominantly white putting on Aida or The Wiz.

Kevin, you are a well-educated and well-spoken person, but this is not the 1990s and you’re not Lauryn Hill (who, by the way, apologized for her remarks about white people). If high school theatre went by your logic, does that mean that high schools that don’t have any Asian students shouldn’t put on Flower Drum Song or The King and I? Or that a predominantly black school shouldn’t do My Fair Lady or The Sound of Music?

Sheesh Louise.

Back to my high school days. In my freshman year, we did both West Side Story and South Pacific. Our West Side Story, in particular is a great example of exactly why casting should be talent based, and not looks-based. Two of the main characters, Maria and Anita, are quite clearly Hispanic. We only had one girl with a Hispanic background in the whole school, and even though she auditioned, she didn’t get either part. The part of Maria went to a white girl, who I think did a pretty good job of playing Maria. She was not wearing any sort of makeup other than stage makeup, and she didn’t speak with a Puerto Rican accent, but she got the job done. Anita, on the other hand, was played by one of the only other non-white girls in school; a girl of East Asian descent who happened to be a very talented dancer. Though the character of Anita does a lot of dancing, she also sings. The girl who got the part did not. In fact, she refused to sing, period. For “America,” another Shark girl took her role, and for “Tonight,” Anita sat onstage while the other Shark girls sang around her, as if she was getting ready for a party. I can’t remember what they did for “I Have A Love,” – that number might have been cut for time – but she didn’t sing a note. It was a shame; even though she is a very talented dancer and looked beautiful in the part, she was not cut out for Anita at all. Several of the other girls could have done that role even better, and would have loved to have Anita’s singing lines all to herself. For South Pacific, the girl who played Anita didn’t get Bloody Mary or Liat, roles she probably wouldn’t have liked anyway, instead, she danced in one number while other non-Asian girls played those parts. In contrast, when we did Bye Bye Birdie, the Hispanic girl I was talking about was a front-runner for the role of Kim McAfee, arguably one of the most white-bread roles in the American theatre, and when I’m talking front-runner, I mean that out of all the girls who auditioned, she got called back and was probably in the top four of the director’s choices for the role.

Moving right along, you also say that ever-so-problematic phrase “my people.” Okay, so you’re saying that these are the stories of “your ancestors,” like the Cowardly Lion and the Scarecrow? Let’s look at the facts. Part of the beauty of The Wiz is the inventive music, which makes it different from The Wizard of Oz but does not make it exclusively for one race. And funny you should bring up Aida, a story from Africa with music and lyrics by “your people”…Tim Rice and Elton John. The original Aida is about as black as a lightly toasted pizza crust; it was a story created in Italy. Furthermore, the story is about Ancient Egypt, and even though Aida was Ethiopian, the other characters may or may not have been dark-skinned. Traditionally, Cleopatra is thought of as “black” or “African,” but even though she was born in Africa and lived there, she had Macedonian and Greek ancestry through Ptolemy. She was most likely olive-skinned if not white, and possibly had green or blue eyes and blond hair. In all likelihood, she probably looked more like Jennifer Aniston than Cicely Tyson.

Now, I don’t know your actual ethnic background, but I do know that you were born in America, and that were you to go to Jamaica or Ghana or Kenya and proclaim them to be “your people,” they’d probably all either laugh at you, or think that you were weird without saying anything to your face about it. The Wiz is as much your story as The Wizard of Oz is my story; basically, not really. All the people in these shows are fictional characters who have been and will be portrayed by actors of many ethnicities, and even mixed ethnicities. I think that’s as far as I’m willing to go in this post about defining ethnicity/race, so let’s move on to another topic.

Before I left Houston, my friend Monica and I were having lunch and talking about musical theatre. Monica is a singer and actress, and I was working on Fiddler on the Roof in Baytown. She also happens to be African-American. When Fiddler entered the conversation, she said something along the lines of how she wouldn’t fit into that show; if you put her in villager clothes, she’d probably look like a slave, which might be true. I agreed with her, saying that even though she could sing and act Golde, it would be tough for her to pull it off. In hindsight, I think I was wrong. In fact, I think she’d make an awesome Golde, regardless of whether Tevye or anyone else in the cast was black. In fact, we did have a black girl in the chorus; granted, she was very tiny and hardly noticeable onstage, but she was there and dressed like a villager. Furthermore, when The Crucible was done at U of H, there were many black actors among the citizens of Salem, and not just Tituba; in fact, the girl who was initially cast as Elizabeth was not only black but of Caribbean descent, and race is very much an issue in that show. Had she stayed, she would have made a wonderful Elizabeth.

If an actor can do the part well, they should indeed, regardless of color. And if a mostly or all white high school wants to do The Wiz, I don’t think there is anything wrong with that.

Oh, and Kevin? Good job showing your true colors; defriending someone who disagrees with you on something in a very nice way without getting riled up about it is obviously a sign of maturity.

That was sarcasm.

And I probably didn’t want to be friends with you anyway.

5

Twenty Questions for That’s So Jacob

One of the most curious places on the Internet is Yahoo! Answers. Even though Yahoo! has been on a decline since the 1990s, but for some reason, Yahoo! Answers is still there. And people are still asking questions, every day, big and small. I haven’t yet asked any, but I’ve answered a few.

But tonight, I’ve decided to answer a few more.

I’m going to go on the site, answer the first twenty questions that come up, to the best of my ability, and post the responses here.

1. Michael asks:

Hi, I ordered a skateboard deck from amazon and the trackijg info on amazon shows the seller shipped the packaged today and the provided a tracking number. Below the tracking number in the status section it says 
We’re sorry. “We are unable to retrieve more tracking details for this shipment.” So I took the tracking number provided and checked all of the shipping companies and none recognized the tracking number. The company that’s listed on amazon as being used for shipping is FedEx SmartPost. I even called FedEx and they said they can’t see any package in their system. Why is my tracking number not recognized by FedEx tracking system and why doesn’t amazon have any info on its whereabouts?

Dear Michael,

Some things in life are meant to be mysteries.

All kidding aside though, sometimes it takes a day or two for the number to come up in the system. Other times, I’ve received things I’ve ordered online with that same message, and they’ve just shown up anyway.

2. Kayla asks:

I recently bought biotin at target because I heard it helped hair and nail growth. But then I further researched before taking the pills and I heard that it makes you break out in pimples. Are these true?

Dear Kayla,

I have no idea. I would probably rather rely on nature if I had a problem like that.

3. Alysha asks:

I have a membership card for Hot Topic that gives me points when I buy stuff or even visit a store. I was wondering if there are other stores with the same kind of cards? And if there, can anyone tell me? 

This is not a credit card by the way. It just gives me points so I can get discounts later or access to member events. I do not want credit cards or anything like that lol. Just ones that I get points for and get discounts later.

Dear Alysha,

Absolutely! So many stores have membership or rewards cards program. Starbucks has a membership rewards program as well, where you can download an app to get free drinks. Check your local supermarket to see if they have a club. Look at your favorite stores’ websites for more information.

4. Stephanie asks:

Like, I don’t get the difference between foundation and concealer. Okay, maybe. Foundation I think makes like the skin glow and give a pretty skin color look? And concealer might like cover acne and stuff? I don’t know!! I also don’t get like how people put it on. Makeup, I mean, basically. Like their routine, pretty much. I just put on makeup twice or once a week. I get foundation, smear it on and put on masara, a bit of eyeshadow and face powder. I don’t even know if I even do it right or not. Can someone just tell me how you put various products on, before or after another product? Makeup routines? The right way to put makeup on? Thanks!

Dear Stephanie,

One word: YouTube. Search for “makeup tutorials.” Cheaper than a fashion magazine!

5. James asks:

I feel betrayed and I don’t know what to do. This all happened a few days ago and ever since that day, I became very antisocial and did activities by myself. This is not how I wanted my summer to start -.-

Dear James,

Sounds like rough stuff. If my friends betrayed me, I’d ask myself…did I really want to be friends with them in the first place?

6. Jill asks:

I’ve read many times that regular makeup (oil based and creme makeups like Cover Girl and all those popular commercial brands) will not stick to silicone surfaces and look discolored, I understand that only silicone sticks to silicone. I learned that the best way to color silicone is alcohol-based makeup palettes, however, if silicone sticks to itself than would using silicone based makeup work? Like the Temptu brand or any other brands that use silicone in their foundations? It makes sense to me but I can’t find any information anywhere that it would work. If anyone does know, would this last over silicone all day and keep it’s color? Thanks very much.

Dear Jill,

I’d definitely say a silicone based makeup. Also, I think many spray products (spray tan, etc) use silicone.

7. Kiiashi asks:

My daughter is 6 months old and has been cutting her teeth in recently. Two are fully cut now and she’s cutting 2 more. Is she too young for me to brush her teeth now that she’s getting some in or do they need to be a certain age first?

Dear Kiiashi,

I was at Target recently and saw that in the baby care section, they have training toothbrushes that are small and soft. You could probably look at the age range on the back of them. Also, if she is not eating solid food, I guess that she’s not at risk of staining them with anything. Best of luck with your dental hygiene quest!

8. Naz asks:

Made a hair mask from Coconut oil, 1 egg, and vanilla/banana yogurt. 
Can I leave it in my hair overnight? 
Don’t normally use yogurt.

Dear Naz,

Put a shower cap on it, and in the morning you can pour it in a bowl for breakfast!

9: Holland asks:

Dorothea 

Theodora 

Ilithiya / Eilithia (pronounced, ill-ith-ee-ah & is a real greek girls name) my personal favorite 🙂 

I know Ilithiya is difficult to spell and pronounce but keep in mind we WILL be calling her Thea.

Dear Holland,

All those names are very nice! But remember, she’ll have to use that name on her college applications, credit cards, and when calling US Airways to book tickets to see her grandparents in Athens. I love the name Eleutheria, it’s Greek for “freedom” and she could be called Thea. There’s also Althea, Mathea, or even Cynthia. Whatever name you choose, she’ll still be your adorable daughter.

10. Kevin asks:

Where to get locator chip installed in my child?

Dear Kevin,

North Korea?

11. Colleen asks:

Do i need a work permit in the summer?!?! Im looking for a job (any job suggestions will be fantastic as well. Im a 15 year old girl in georgia)

Dear Colleen,

I had a summer job as a 15-year-old in Maryland. I got a work permit through a woman who was a secretary at my junior high school, who was also a notary. Popular jobs for teenagers include lifeguarding, babysitting, lawn mowing, deck washing, or tutoring kids. Good luck!

12. Lisa asks:

‘She have aids so I didn’t ask her out’ does this sentence make sense? Or should it be she got aids…?

Dear Lisa,

In this case, it’s past tense. “She had AIDS, so I didn’t ask her out.”

13. Sonja asks:

Favorite book?

Dear Sonja,

All of them.

14. Niamh asks:

It’s sunday morning and i have done an all nighter, will this effect my sleeping pattern as i have school tomorrow (monday) and i have to get up at 6;00, please help me out, if you have any tips on what i should do, please dont hesitate to give me advice.

Dear Niamh,

Sleep is important for restoring the body and aiding mental strength. Be careful and try to avoid too much sugar/caffeine lest you “crash” later.

15. Jacob asks:

I don’t really know what it’s called or how to fix it but if I do something stupid and embarrassing like everyone does eventually I will literally obsess over it for days and it drives me crazy…. any idea how to fix this

Dear Jacob,

First of all, awesome name. Second of all, you might have a type of OCD. I’m not a doctor, but remember…people won’t remember the things you did but how you made them feel.

16. Newty asks:

My friend is having problems reading and listen, some time he loose his consciousness for a seconds and comes back to normal. Is this something to do with neuroscience. What diagnosis should i suggest to him. He says that he has to read at least 3-4 times to understand the contents and he doesn’t like reading more lines as he get distracted soon. Also he finds himself distract when somebody is talking to him he misses out many points that were told to him.

Dear Newty,

I’d suggest focusing. No TV, no music, no interesting things in the room or on the walls or out the window. Maya Angelou used to write in a hotel room and request all the paintings be taken off the walls.

17. Jasmine asks:

I absolutely love people and wish I could easily talk to people. I’m 14 years old and had such bad social anxiety I had to be put into homeschool in 7th grade because I was fainting from anxiety attacks everytime I stepped within 60 feet of someone. I still am in homeschool and it’s just depressing to me that I don’t get to have the same experiences with friends and relationships as other teenagers. I’ve talked to people i’ve known since elementary school online and they say things like “we should catch up” and I say “yeah sure” and never get back to them. I’ve even canceled dates. It’s mostly because I feel weird looking and just well, weird in general. I don’t share much interest in things that other people do. I’m short (only 5’2), i’m curvy (not fat I have a flat stomach but a big butt and thighs), I have a weird face shape, I don’t dress very fancy just a tshirt and skinny jeans, I can’t even have small talk or be looked at without choking. It’s just horrible. Is there any advice anyone could give me to try to tackle this whatsoever?

Dear Jasmine,

I’m so sorry you’re suffering. I have had depression and social anxiety all my life, and I’ve tried a lot of things, and honestly, it’s different for every person. For me, it’s been finding out who I am, what I’m good at, and what I like/dislike; a strong sense of self is important, and in learning about yourself you might learn about others. I have good and bad days, but my best days are ones when I go out and do activities I like. Maybe joining a youth group or Girl Scouts would help you meet new friends your own age; don’t rely on the Internet. It’s summer, and I’m sure there are plenty of activities around you…look into taking a class in dance, acting, or public speaking, or audition for a local community theatre production. As far as inside of you, taking meds is not a shameful thing; seeing a psychiatrist might be beneficial. If none of these things feel possible for you yet, just do something small and creative, like a silly YouTube video or a funny blog; I have one. Good luck with things and remember you’re not alone.

18. Olivia asks:

I’m 14 turning 15 in a few months. I am really interested in modeling and acting. I have been for a few years. I have also started running to lose weight and working out. I have blonde medium length curly hair and blue eyes.
I’m about 5.5″ (that was a few months ago) and I’m close to Toronto Area.
I just need advice on how I could “break in” to the world persay. Also, both my parents work so they would not be able to stay on set or a shoot. Would this mean I would have to wait until I am of legal age to model/act? Is there any chance for me if I don’t have community theatre in my town (and the closest one is Musical which I strongly dislike)? And how could I model for companies like Garage, Walmart, etc? How would I find a legit agency? And would I have to pay them money or is it a scam?
Thanks to everyone who takes the time to answer!

Dear Olivia,

First of all, be VERY careful. Have a parent or older relative (aunt/uncle/sister/brother) with you, you never know who wants what.

Second of all, I think a lot modeling/acting “schools” are scams. Self-promotion is so easy in this day and age. Make a website and a resume, and a passport photo place could take a very nice and inexpensive photo; many high fashion models do their first series of headshots au naturel/very little makeup, looking straight at the camera expressionless. A white top makes it extra elegant. Camera phones have also evolved to take great pictures.

Third, I am sure you could act locally with your parents’ permission and possibly a waiver.

Fourth, if you live near a college/university, contact their theatre department; students are always looking for readers/actors.

19. Christina asks:

So I’m visiting my long distance boyfriend soon and I’m staying with him at his parnents house. (Both 18 by the way) anyways I got a blank thank you card with a gift card to his parent’s favorite resturant. How do I express my thankfulness to them? I’m not good at putting words that I express together. Thank you!

Dear Christina,

How about: Dear Mr and Mrs Jones:
Thank you so much for your hospitality. Please accept this gift as a token of appreciation for opening your home and your heart to me.
Yours truly,
Christina

20. D asks:

I’ve been getting a lot of social and mental problems lately and I feel I need to see a psychologist about it. I’m not wanting to meet one in person, I just want to be able to email one and ask for help in that way. Does anyone know any good psychologist sites and ones where I can email? Thanks 🙂

Dear D,

http://www.psychologytoday.com connected me to someone who really helped me a lot. Good luck!

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