Monday, April 14, 2014

Placeholder Post

Once again I find myself frantically writing two papers at the same time for graduate school and no time to blog. Additionally, I was in Chicago for a week which added lots of things to blog about but was detrimental to my having time to actually do it. Real posts forthcoming in about two weeks. Until then here's the short version:

  • StereoNinja saw his first Blackhawks game and nearly left his jaw in Chicago where he dropped it in the United Center. He now totally gets why I thought the Slough Jets and their "arena" were fucking hilarious.
  • I WENT ON A SUBMARINE. A SUBMARINE YOU GUYS. (It was not in the water.)
  • FYI, if you have an hour and 45 minute layover in Dublin on your way to Chicago, it will not be nearly enough time to get through U.S. immigration pre-clearance and security between flights. This won't be a problem, however, because literally HALF of the people on your flight will be in that same line and they will delay the flight for twenty minutes because my country's obsession with security theater is insane. 
I will now go bury myself in anti-pornography literature and try to critique it rationally without shouting "BITCH YOU DON'T KNOW MY LIFE!" to an empty room.

Friday, March 21, 2014

They're Baaa-aack

I've been feeding the next door neighbors' cat all week because they are out of town. I say "neighbors' cat", but it's really a stray cat called Hissing Syd, who won't come within 10 feet of people, but who will sit exactly that distance from his food bowls and look around in judgement if they are empty when he gets there much in the way of a normal house cat. I grabbed the cat food and was about to walk through my back door when crumpled in the door jam I saw the biggest spider I have ever seen in England. So big in fact, that I looked it over for some moments actually thinking "maybe it's not a spider. Maybe it's a scraggly piece of something that fell off of a bush." But nothing else in the world has leg joints in exactly those places. Nothing. I seriously didn't know they had spiders as big as this here. I think it must have followed me here from the U.S...from Texas probably (I'm made to understand everything is bigger there). It wasn't moving and looked as if it had been smushed by the door, so I made the assumption it was dead and closed the door on it. Then I grabbed the cat food, went out the front door (after very carefully checking the entire doorway for spiders, because if I missed something and then came back and there was one outside THAT door I wouldn't be able to get back in the house), walked halfway across the island to the common entrance to the marina, and then all the way back to their garden while muttering "ohgodohgodohgod" with my heart trying to escape from my chest the entire time to feed the goddamn cat. I am now back in my own house, have texted StereoNinja to inform him that I am NEVER GOING IN THE GARDEN EVER AGAIN. I am checking everything in the house for spiders before I touch it (I looked inside the Dorito bag) and experiencing a mild to moderate level of general panic that I know will subside gradually over the next few days UNLESS another spider appears.

What I hate about this phobia is not so much that it controls where I can go and what I can do - there are work arounds for that, obviously, as I've just walked clear across an island to feet a cat sitting 30 feet from my backyard - but the (I assume, I'm not a psychiatrist) post traumatic stress that I end up living with for days, sometimes weeks at a time. And the effect is cumulative: seeing another spider in that state doesn't just extend how long it lasts but heightens that feeling. I was already in that state before the incident today from a small spider I saw on the outside of my car a few days ago. I've walked the two miles into town twice since then rather have to face getting in my car. I tell myself I'm getting exercise, but I'm really just paralyzed by the thought that if it has gotten in the car I'll be trapped with it and no one can help me.

It's the worst time of year for me. Spring is when all the spiders come back, and just to reiterate, I live IN a river. In the past few weeks, I've seen StereoNinja lunge across a room to step on a spider I hadn't seen yet and go into the toilet and immediately come back out again to get the bug spray before going back in there calling over his shoulder "I didn't just see three spiders in there." I've seen two in my bedroom when he wasn't home that I had to spray myself before texting completely insane yet wholly serious messages to him: that I needed him to remove their dead bodies when he got home and then burn our duvet, or that I was moving to France. And now it's effecting him too. He used to see a spider and not have any sort of reaction at all but now when he sees one he has almost a fear response - not of the spider itself but more like "Oh god holy shit there's a spider in the house kill it immediately before Amber finds out AAAAGGHHHH".

Ugh. You guys. IT WAS SO FUCKING BIG and it was ALMOST INSIDE MY HOUSE. I don't know how to stop thinking about it. Even the "research" I'm doing on "extreme" pornography for my next paper isn't helping me. SINCE WHEN CAN I NOT CONCENTRATE ON PORN?

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Cockles And Mussels, Alive, Alive, Oh

Having seen the weather report in our area for last weekend (a month's worth of rain in 48 hours), and having failed to remember to plan anything for a trip to Prague (remembering stuff is not StereoNinja's forte and my ongoing depression battle is fucking with memory type things - I'm feeling quite a bit better by the way), StereoNinja and I decided on a last minute escape to Dublin for the weekend. (It's a good thing we did - while the flooding did not return to the levels it was at when our only road got swallowed by the Thames, we found out from neighbors that the power was out to the island from late Friday morning until Sunday afternoon. Everything in our house from the oven to the the heating is electric. It would have been like camping and as previously explained I do not camp.) And I'm kind of in love with it now.

I had never been to Dublin before, and StereoNinja had never managed to go there while also having a good time. Since I really don't know a lot about Ireland, I didn't have any real expectations of what it would be like. What it is like is awesome. Without travelling anywhere else on the Earth I haven't already been, I will say with total confidence that Dublin has the friendliest cab drivers in the world. Seriously, apart from one or two guys (we took cabs EVERYWHERE because we decided to escape rain by going someplace that was also pissing down rain because we're imbeciles) every cab driver wanted to know all about us and what brought us to Dublin, professed to adore America, gave informal city tours complete with history about buildings (which sometimes have no windows because England used to tax windows so they just built them without any because fuck you), gave solicited and unsolicited advice on what we should see and where we should drink, and generally rounded fares down to avoid anyone have to deal with coins which I thought was great because I despise them.

I was a bit worried before we got on the plane about whether there would be anything for me to eat there. Since I don't like potatoes, and the stereotype of Ireland is that everything is made out of potatoes there, I was somewhat concerned that I might starve to death. This turned out to be entirely unfounded. The restaurants in Dublin are universally spectacular, based on the fact that every time one of us said "Do you want to just go in here?" the food there was so good I had to be restrained from humping it. Maybe the best Italian restaurant I've ever been to in my life was in Dublin (amaretto tiramisu you guys. AMARETTO TIRAMISU). We went to a french place for lunch and I loved it, and if you remember I wouldn't eat much of anything when I was in actual France.

We also partook of Dublin's many museums. Recommended for nerds: The Science Gallery at Trinity College, currently running the "Fail Better" exhibit - a collection of inventions that didn't work, but which led to advances in science or some other positive contribution. Recommended for sheer hilarity: The Ireland Natural History Museum, which seems to basically be a room full of taxidermied animals of varying age, quality, and disrepair. The fucking massive extinct deer skeletons near the entrance are singularly impressive. The basking shark hanging from the ceiling, if I'm being kind, has probably seen better days. To be fair to the museum, the upper and lower floors of it are currently closed, but on the other hand it is severely lacking in any information on the animals apart from their name.
Deer: huge; impressive.
Basking shark: c'mon, man.

Our first cab driver, upon hearing that we wanted to go hear some real Irish music, directed us to the Brazen Head, which is self described as the oldest pub in Ireland. It was described by the cab driver as "nearly a thousand years old". It's actually a little over 900 years old, but I suppose "nearly a thousand" is correct depending on where you're rounding from. We met a nice German kid there, but did not meet the Brazilians who were also in the house. I know they were there because of the gregarious and extremely drunk Irishman who kept shouting at them, "BRAZIL? BRAZIL? THE FUCK ARE YOU DOING IN DUBLIN ALL THE WAY FROM BRAZIL?" There was a little group in the corner playing, who unfortunately had a broken amplifier and were therefore mostly drowned out by the noise from the table of vapid, oblivious women who were all talking at once AS LOUD AS POSSIBLE and failed to notice either the music or the collective death stare of literally everyone else in the room. That was until an enterprising guy at the next table started a shushing campaign that grew until the ENTIRE pub would hiss at them every time they got out of hand.

We also checked out the Guinness Storehouse, home of all things Guinness. For those of you Americans who have been to the Budweiser brewery in St. Louis, just, no. The Storehouse makes that place look like a miniaturized Lego model of a brewery, it is that massive. Additionally, when you get up to the top where your free pint of Guinness awaits you, not only do they take the time and care to draw you a lovely shamrock in your foam, but the 360 degree windows that make up the walls of the room give you an aerial view of the entirety of Dublin and beyond, all the way to the mountains in one directions and all the way to the sea in another. Of course, I used the opportunity to text Cap and taunt him because I am an asshole sister.
Enjoy your beer, insignificant speck of a human.

Dublin, with its abundant cabs, myriad of pubs, river flowing through it, cool stuff to do, nice people, great food and many college students, reminded me quite a lot of Chicago. Except for this one thing that happened that made me realize how spoiled Americans are. Because one thing we have precious little of in America is domestic terrorism. When bombs go off at the Boston Marathon or Oklahoma City or the Atlanta Olympics, they are weird, isolated things that shock us because it is not a thing that happens in America, so infrequently in fact that we don't even think about it and take that for granted. Meanwhile, in Dublin, in our first cab on the way to the hotel, the very friendly cab driver/tour guide/historian said to us, "This is a great area right here. It used to have statues absolutely everywhere, on all these corners. But of course the IRA blew them all up." And he said it with such casual resignation, because stuff used to blow up there - a lot - and that was his normal. So, you know, be aware of how lucky you are and shit, because you could think that all your statues blowing up is normal.

ANYBUTT, I fucking LOVED Dublin, as evidenced by everything that came out of my mouth while we were there was prefaced by "Next time we come, we should..." and that's just not something I typically say because I am of the television generation and easily bored. You should totally go there if you like doing things that are fun and/or being around nice people. You should probably also be okay with a bit of rain and own an umbrella.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Shove It, Popeye

 I am sitting on the counter in the kitchen. StereoNinja is about to fry some spinach because everything he eats is gross.

Me: I guess I should help you or move. I'm practically sitting on the spinach.

StereoNinja: You look like you'd rather sit on it than eat it.

Me: Well it looks more comfortable than delicious.

Sunday, February 09, 2014

Drownin' In The Rain, We're Drownin' In The Rain

Remember when I said the water was receding? Well it's now worse than it was when it crested the last time. Lake Titicacao is indistinguishable from the river and it's all flowing so fast that we've been watching ducks go by backwards since they aren't strong enough to swim upstream or even stay in one place. Also rain is forecast in my town for at least the next five days. The only road out of the island is impassable by anything other than a monster truck, and conversations with other islanders about what we can do about it amounted to "Yeah, you're pretty much screwed." Being as my car is roughly the size of half a semi-truck tire, I'm effectively stranded in my house, conveniently (?) during reading week, meaning I don't have to swim to the station to catch a train to London for class, so I've got that going for me. StereoNinja bought us both waders today, which I put on to try them for size and am now still wearing them. I told StereoNinja it was for safety:

me: I'm leaving these on.
StereoNinja: You're going to just wear them around the house?
me: Well, in a couple of hours the water might be in the house.

But really it's just because I'm pretending to be a fisherman. I'm trapped, don't judge my methods of entertaining myself.

I'd like to point out that the last time it rained this much in England, my country didn't even exist yet. Speaking of my country, sorry about all the snow there most of you, and for those of you in California, if you can figure out a way to get this water over to you, you're more than welcome to have it.

Monday, February 03, 2014

Are You Ready To Explain Some Football?

Last night was my first Super Bowl in exile, and I have to say, seriously, what the fuck. But let me back up a bit.

I had managed to get excited about the Super Bowl in a way that I hadn't gotten excited about Christmas or my birthday. And I prepared for it as well: I dressed up in all the NFL branded clothing that I own, I made Rice Krispie treats shaped like footballs, and I drank an enormous amount of caffeine so I could make it to kickoff at ELEVEN FUCKING THIRTY local time. I commandeered StereoNinja and his teenage daughter to watch it with me because all my other friends have "jobs to go to in the morning" or some shit, and we all ate a cheeseball I had made, despite them both eyeing it with suspicion at first because no one here has ever seen a cheeseball before. StereoNinja had watched some of the Seattle game with me two weeks ago, and so at least had basic concepts figured out like downs and field goals; his daughter had no experience and insisted the game was called "handegg".

The pregame show was that we didn't get a real pregame show. What we got was some Irish guy I've been told is called Colin Murray and is famous for something, and a very uncomfortable looking and disinterested Terrell Davis, whose name Channel 4 managed to misspell. My best guess is that Colin Murray has never seen an American football game before in his life, and I spent the hour before kickoff screaming things at the tv like "FIELD! IT'S CALLED A FIELD." and "NO YOUR HEADSET ISN'T WEIRD THAT'S JUST HOW THEY ARE BECAUSE IT'S A FOOTBALL GAME". Even StereoNinja was annoyed, and displayed his recently gained knowledge: "Yeah. It's not called a pitch goal, it's called a FIELD goal. And why does he keep touching everybody?" because he was, Colin Murray that is, touching his co-presenters on the arm or the shoulder with an an uncomfortable degree of frequency. Meanwhile whatever he was saying was so confusing, Terrell Davis stopped listening to him and and started absentmindedly picking at the edge of the table on live television.

And then the game started. I'm assuming many of you saw the start of the game, and potentially the rest of it, so I don't need to tell you what a clusterfuck that was for Denver from LITERALLY THE FIRST PLAY OF THE GAME. What I did have to do was begin my companions' American football education by trying to explain what a safety is because of course I did. I also had to explain a shotgun formation because I had previously told StereoNinja in great detail and with extensive demonstrations how the quarterback lines up under center, which was not at all an exercise in crotch grabbing disguised as sports education SHUT UP. And throughout the game I was struggling to justify to StereoNinja my belief that Peyton Manning is the greatest quarterback of our time, AND that the mistakes he was making were not always his fault because the offensive line apparently decided not to play. Based on that game I wouldn't have believed me either.

It was actually kind of fun explaining things that it hadn't occurred to me would need explaining because I've just been watching it all my life. Like how a false start works:

StereoNinja: What happened?
me: False start. That guy jumped.
StereoNinja: WHAT? He barely even flinched!
me: I know. Doesn't matter. You can't move until the ball is snapped.
StereoNinja: What about that guy? That guy is moving. And that other guy is moving too!
me: Oh, right. Some of the players are allowed to move. But not the ones on the line of scrimmage.
StereoNinja: On what?
me: Um, on the blue line.

and flags and timeouts:

StereoNinja: Someone threw their gloves on the field.
me: No they didn't.
StereoNinja: Then what are those yellow things?
me: A penalty flag. The officials throw them when there's a penalty.
StereoNinja: Why?
me: .....because that's how they do it.
StereoNinja: Penalty?
me: No.
StereoNinja: But they threw that red thing.
me: That's a challenge flag. The coaches throw them when they want to dispute the call on the field. Um, but you can only do it a few times. Also if you get it wrong they take one of your timeouts.
SN daughter: What's a timeout?
me: It's so you can stop the clock. You get three per half.
SN daughter: But the clock is already stopped.
me: No, the play clock not the game clock.
SN daughter: What?
me: Um.

I did get some amusing help from StereoNinja with explaining the game to his daughter, such as first down: "Do you see that yellow line? That's how far the ball has to go. Also that line isn't really on the field." and she did seem to grasp what was happening overall as evidenced by this comment: "The oranges suck. The catchy man can't even catch it."

We stayed up for the halftime show for some reason where I learned that Bruno Mars can play the drums and thinks he's James Brown and the Red Hot Chili Peppers still can't afford to buy shirts apparently. But by then it was 1:30 in the morning and it didn't appear the game was going to be a contest of any sort so we just went to bed. So my first Super Bowl in exile probably could have been better, but I certainly was having a better time than Peyton Manning was.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

England: They Have Stuff Too

Here's another example of "little differences": Last night, StereoNinja and I went to dinner at a steak restaurant called Cattle Grid. It was the most American thing I've encountered since I've been here. Now, I have no evidence that its intention is to come off as American, but it absolutely fucking does. It has a very American decor to it, authentically, not "this is what we imagine America looks like" decor, a menu that list its beef and pork dished under the headings "COW' and "PIG", enormous American sized portions of things including a massive rack of barbecue ribs the likes of which I have never seen here, onion strings which I have also never seen here before and which caused me to actually audibly gasp when they were offered to me and a highly American looking desert menu meaning we didn't order any because StereoNinja couldn't get a cheese plate (also that whole thing about the giant portions). There were only two things that gave it away. One was a completely disinterested server - not a bad server, just a man who was clearly not working for tips. The other is a thing that keeps happening to me every time we eat somewhere which is StereoNinja has to remind me to properly arrange my cutlery. Because unlike America, where they are watching you and waiting for you to slow down, or coming by to refill your drink since it's free refills ALL THE TIME in Fatassland, and they ask you while they're there "Can I take your plate?", the only way to have your plate cleared here is to align your fork and knife right next to each other across your plate. If you leave your utensils either on the table or strewn about your plate all willy-nilly in the wrong configuration, you will be sitting there waiting for the check (cheque) for hours. It's like the Bat signal for "I have finished my meal." And I ALWAYS forget.

Right so, anyway, not my point. What I actually meant to do right now was write about some of the things I love about being here, because I feel like all I've done is complain so far, and it's really not that I don't like it here, it's just that it's not home yet. So here's a few things that I think are fantastic that you have thus far dropped the ball on, America:

Roast dinner. Yeah, ok, we have roast dinners in the U.S., but there are certain designated days for them which are Thanksgiving and Christmas. The rest of the year you just are like "Oh won't it be great when it's Thanksgiving and we'll have roast turkey again?" Yeah, um, yer doin it wrong. Because it is Roast Day here EVERY SUNDAY. You can make a roast at home or you can go to a carvery or you can go round someone else's house - whatever. Oh and another thing: Yorkshire puddings. Get in on that, Murica, you are missing out.

QI. There is not a show being produced right now on American television that I am aware of that is nearly as awesome as QI. A show that is funny AND has Stephen Fry AND you get to learn cool stuff? It's like an arrow of joy aimed straight at my little nerd girl heart. I am particularly overjoyed when there's an episode that has either Bill Bailey or Jeremy Clarkson who say they funniest things and know some of the weirdest shit. And I lose my fucking mind every time I actually know the answer and shout things at the television like "NO! It's because it has a three foot long tongue!" or "Oh my god, I know this one! IT'S A THING FOR EXTRACTING BOOGERS FROM A CORPSE!"

Road signs. I find the road signs here to be generally more helpful than the ones in America. Like, coming up to a roundabout or a slip road (this is an on or off ramp), there will be a sign with a picture of the exact roundabout or shape of slip road you are about to encounter. But that's not even what I like about them. The best thing about the signs is how ambiguous they are if you don't already know what they mean. Before I started driving, I started making up my own meanings for some of the ones I thought were funny.
Windsocks are dangerous

WARNING: Killer duck

Sad wiener

No perspective

I didn't make up a meaning for this, I just want to vandalize it and make it into a centaur.

Beware of men with giant umbrellas
Caution: Bra in the road


See, so some stuff is great, but it's not gonna get me a slice of Pequod's or an episode of Tosh.0.