How to Deal with Freelancing Uncertainty Explained via Vanderpump Rules GIFs

I feel like a broken record, but hey there. I know, I know. I’ve been MIA in the blogging world.

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Well, I am contributing to blogs, but they’ve been on behalf of clients. Not this blog. This blog has been neglected, like a lonely, unwanted redheaded stepchild.

Which is part of the “problem” and a good problem to have…..I’ve got clients and they need words!

But I miss writing on this blog all the time. There’s hardly a day that passes that I don’t think of or run across something that I think would be blogworthy. Or, more likely, something that I think I’d like to remember in the future and that I don’t trust my rusty, old brain to remember.

Throughout my teens and 20s, I wrote in my journal pretty much every night. I still have a lot—although not all–of them. Mostly, I have the ones from my late 20s. And they are hilarious and cringeworthy and poetic and wonderful—all at the same time. It’s a regular, low-rent, pre-social media version of Vanderpump Rules in there. I can usually only read a couple of entries before I become exasperated or embarrassed by the whole, ultra-meta exercise, but nevertheless, I’m so glad I have them and can refer back to them. And there are actually some really beautiful and moving bits in there that I’m really proud of, although those are the least likely items to ever be shared.

Anyway, now to the present. Or, actually, to thoughts of year end. As 2017 closes, I’ve been thinking a lot about how the past year has gone, especially professionally. It has been a bit of a rollercoaster career-wise, to say the least.

getting real

I guess if I had to sum up 2017, I would sum it up this way: How comfortable am I with uncertainty? And also, because I’m not in this alone: How comfortable is my partner with my work uncertainty?

The first two years of my freelance career were pretty dang awesome. I had a lot of former colleagues sign up as clients right away and I am so, so grateful for that. I was also smart enough to take my own freelancer financial advice: cut way back on the spending and kick up the saving, so I was able to put aside a good chunk of rainy day funds.

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So, when a client decided not to renew my contract at the beginning of the year, I didn’t stress too much about it. I figured I’d find some other clients, and while I certainly have, they definitely haven’t been the lucrative, retainer-based client that I’d lost.

Another regular client has scaled back their needs quite a bit (but is still providing some work) and a couple of others who dropped off were never really consistent anyway, so again, I didn’t sweat it. I thought I’d just kick up the networking and new clients would be lining up.

a catch

It wasn’t exactly like that. It took a while to line up new clients and there has been a lag while we got up and running on projects and another lag between when I turn an item in and when I get paid.

For the first time since I started freelancing, I felt like I was churning and churning output and not feeling financially secure. For the first time, I had to dip into my rainy day fund to pay myself, which, mentally, that’s fine, that’s what it’s there for, but is still a bit scary nonetheless. Not just for me, but for my ever-patient, ever-supportive boyfriend. There were unspoken questions that hung in the air between us during every conversation about my money and freelancing: What’s my plan? How many months would I dip into my savings? Should I start applying for a steady job?

Luckily, it hasn’t gotten to that point. Slowly but surely, things have started to pick up again. In the past six months, I’ve taken on a variety of new projects – small ones that are big lifts with low pay but satisfying in other ways, medium-sized ones that are not the most exciting in scope or topic, but pay well and are consistent, and a large-sized project that is scary and challenging and is stretching my skills as a writer.

When I talk to other people who are looking to get into freelancing, one of the first questions they have is “how do you balance your projects so you aren’t taking on too much and still making enough?” I definitely do not have the answer to that. Three years in, I’m still figuring it out.

Right now, I’m saying yes to almost every project I get offered. I know that’s not sustainable long term and some difficult decisions will have to be made at some point. But for now, I’m going full throttle. As a result, this blog will get updated when I can. In fact, I’m also trying to set a better work schedule for myself in 2018, and blocking off time for blogging is definitely one of my work schedule goals. We’ll see.

cautiously optomistic

So, back to my 2017 theme: how comfortable am I with uncertainty? Throughout this slow summer, I discovered that I am surprisingly comfortable with uncertainty. Blame it on my nomadic, gypsy childhood, or the fact that I’ve had to pull myself up by my bootstraps more than a few times in the past, but something makes me sure that I’ll figure it all out. That doesn’t mean I don’t have sleepless nights and anxiety attacks over all this uncertainty, but I just believe in myself. And so does my wonderful life partner/manpanion and boyfriend, who actually might believe in me even more than I do, and for which I am also very grateful.

mink lashes

Reality TV Time: Below Deck Mediterranean

My travel-buddy-for-life XFE and I just got back from a soccer roadtrip through the South, which was basically 3,000 miles of varying degrees of traffic and highways broken up by stops for soccer (go Tottenham), kitschy tourist locales (I’d never been to South of the Border, but I have now), barhopping at country honkytonks (Nashville might be my new favorite place ever), ice cream from gas stations (literally, every day) and tons of Southern food (hello pimento cheese)—all in all, pretty dang awesome.

But before we start down that 3,000 mile road, can we please just talk for a minute about Below Deck: Mediterranean? Because the reunion is tonight and I. Have. Thoughts.

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First of all, killing me with those beautiful Croatian backdrops there, Bravo.

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We went to Croatia in 2013, including Split and Dubrovnik, which are both prominently featured on the show. It was amazing to see the same medieval streets again on the TV screen and it really, really made me want to go back.

Nighttime in Split, Croatia
One of our 2013 photos

In fact, there was one scene where they went to pick up some guests from their hotel right outside of Split instead of at the dock. And wouldn’t you know it, they were actually picking up the guests from the same hotel we had stayed at, Le Meridien Lav (scene of the infamous French fry décor).

So yes. Killing me. Making me want to book another trip immediately.

But, more importantly, I think this was probably my favorite season of Below Deck. And that’s because I felt like this season really shined a light on the social hypocrisy that exists when it comes to gender stereotypes.

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Love triangle, cruising style.

You already know what I’m talking about. There is, of course, the Malia-Adam-Wes love triangle. I cannot believe how much grief that poor girl got. And for what? For casually dating/getting to know two guys and figuring out which one she might like? Guys do this all the time and no one bats an eye about it. In fact, I believe Mr. Andy Cohen has a whole other show on one of the main networks where contestants date (and sometimes even kiss) three different people in the course of a week!

I was also very shocked that it wasn’t just the aggrieved, jilted Adam who was giving Malia grief. It was the other male deckhands and even the female stews. Hey ladies, how about you stop clutching your pearls over whether Malia is kissing two grown men and giving Malia a high-five for evening up the score a bit. #sistersdoingitforthemselves

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And Adam, maybe you should go check out this museum in Zagreb dedicated to broken relationships. You could have a good cry, donate that hat you lent to Malia, and then maybe some healing can begin.

Below Deck Mediterranean in Croatia
Same street in Split we were on.

I’m actually more bothered by the fact that they’re all co-workers. I’m a firm believer that you should not poop where you eat and dating co-workers falls into that category, which is why I’ve never dated a co-worker. (I’ve also never dated a boss and Wes was a blind idiot for making Malia his second-in-command over Bobby, who clearly has more experience).

Then there’s the whole Hannah-passenger-Jason and Bobby-passenger-Paola business. Again, do I think any of them should be smooching on passengers/clients? No, absolutely not. But the hysteria that surrounded Hannah’s transgression compared to the virtual shrugging of the shoulders when Bobby lurked (multiple times!) on his Tinder match (dude, what are you doing checking Tinder when you don’t even have the night off?) was so annoying and hypocritical.

Hannah and Jason on Below Deck
I will give you credit, Hannah: If you’re going to break the rules, a good-looking millionaire is probably a good route to take.

Even Max admitted to how hypocritical his reaction towards the exact same situation involving crew getting involved with clients was when Bobby went creeping downstairs to get a smooch from a girl who may or may not have been a paid companion of the primary.

jerry and some of his ladies
Jerry the charter primary and some of his..ahem…guests.

Anyway, it was a great season and hopefully, there will be more discussion of this sexist hypocrisy business at tonight’s reunion. After all, what’s good for the goose is good for the gander, right? Or, as the Croatians say: Velike ribe male proždiru (big fish devour the small. I’m not sure that actually applies here, but I wanted to include a Croatian proverb).

bobby below deck
Bobby learning how to use an iPad (with an assist from the more tech-savvy Bugsy).

 

Hotel Crashing: 4 Other Places We Stayed in Sri Lanka

Because I really cannot top our stay (and odd massage experience) at the Signature Amaya Kandalama, I’m condensing (ha!) the rest of our hotel accommodations in Sri Lanka into this one little (ok, NOT little) post. Most of them were one-nighters anyway, with the exception of the beach house in Unwatana. But they each had their own odd charms.

Langdale by Amaya in Nuwara Eliya – This is another Amaya Spa and Resort and a hotel listed among the Small Luxury Hotels of the World. The description on the SLH website says Langdale is “a picture of old-world elegance in Sri Lanka’s tea-growing heartland,” and that is certainly true.

Exterior of the Langdale Amaya, Sri Lanka

It’s got a very old school, British colonial feel to it, which is always something that makes me slightly uncomfortable, especially in a country as colorful Sri Lanka where the culture is just so vibrant. And that tea country setting is just spectacular.

 

Instead, the Langdale feels like a stuffy British outpost/country with impeccably manicured grounds (the grass looks like a carpet), squeaky floors, a preponderance of chintz and even a dusty reading nook at the top landing. If I were to compare it to something in the U.S., I definitely would not put it in the luxury category. Maybe, more like an inn or a bed-and-breakfast.

Continue reading Hotel Crashing: 4 Other Places We Stayed in Sri Lanka

Ode to Del Ray

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Every day I swear I’m going to sit down and write a blog post. And every day, I get sucked into the crazy news cycle coming out of Washington. Comey. Russia. Obamacare. EB-5 visas. Executive Orders. Emoluments. Sessions. I end up going down a news wormhole, spending waaaaay too much time scouring Google News and Twitter for the latest updates and news tidbits.

Every damn day.

And, today was no different. I’m finishing a couple of large projects, finalizing some paperwork and payment stuff, and finding and following up on new leads. I’ve had a fairly productive last couple of days, so today was going to be the day I could just sit down and focus on blogging.

I was having my coffee and watching CNN this morning (I know, I know. Tempting fate there.) when I saw a breaking news story about a shooting in Alexandria, Virginia. I live in Alexandria, Virginia. So, of course, I had to hop on the internet to find out what was going on, and that’s when I heard about the GOP baseball practice shooting that took place in the lovely Del Ray neighborhood.

Del Ray holds a special place in my heart….it’s where I lived when I first moved to D.C. 15 years ago. I was in a rush to start my new job and so I rented an apartment in that I found on Craig’s List, sight unseen.  A friend in the know assured me that Del Ray was a good neighborhood with an easy commute and cheaper than downtown D.C. She was right, although “cheaper than D.C.” is still a hell of a lot of money for someone just starting out in the area. But still, it is a charming, quirky little neighborhood and I loved living in the thick of it.

Del Ray is also very close to our current house in Old Town. In fact, the practice field where the shooting took place is just a mile from my front door. I walk/run past it quite often. I walk/run in that neighborhood when my own neighborhood – the historic and touristy Old Town with its grid streets, boutique shops and restaurants, and heavier traffic (ie: stop sign runners) — seems too chaotic or crowded.

In comparison, Del Ray and the adjacent Rosemont neighborhoods are very still with little to no traffic during the day. I go that direction when I want to avoid stop sign runners and mindlessly meander through quiet, tree-shaded streets lined with Craftsman-style bungalows with strollers parked up on their porches.

Besides, my favorite coffee place is right across from that very same baseball practice field and I like to stop there for a well-deserved (or not) iced coffee on my way home.

But this week has been really hot, even in the shade, so I haven’t gone for run (or even a walk) in Del Ray this week. And I still haven’t sat down and written a blog post.

Let’s try this again tomorrow.

The Most Dangerous Job in Sri Lanka

Hey. Let’s talk about driving. Specifically, driving in Sri Lanka. Or as it should more accurately be called, defying death every single breath.

Sri Lanka road safety

I live just a short metro ride away from downtown D.C. in a very lovely, historic neighborhood with all the restaurants and shopping my little heart desires located just blocks from my doorstep. Literally, there I live two blocks from both a Trader Joe’s and a larger, conventional grocery store. I work from home, but when I did work in an office every day, I took the metro, which is an 8-minute walk from my house.

These days, when I have an appointment or something that necessitates I go into D.C., I usually metro or take Uber. Which is all just to point out that 1) I’m used to putting my life in the hands of transportation strangers, and 2) my driving skills have certainly not been tested in quite a while and are probably not honed into a fine laser beam of awesomeness, so I’m not judging any Sri Lankan drivers skills or finesse.

But, I will point out, we’ve been to lots of countries where there are few (if any) traffic signals and whole families zip around piled up on mopeds, slipping in and out of traffic like they’re being carried along a fast-moving river current. And while these road encounters were sometimes heart stopping, nothing prepared me for the calamity and chaos of Sri Lanka’s roads.

Sri Lanka buses

First of all, “roads” is a pretty generous term. Sri Lanka does not have the best road system. It’s pretty limited and seems to rely mostly on old cart tracks, some of which have been paved, a bit. Sri Lanka’s first major highway, the 80-mile E01, opened in 2011. For comparison, Smithsonian.com notes, the U.S. interstate system is 46,876 miles long.

But mostly, while in Sri Lanka, drivers like ours (Thilani, aka Tilly from SL Driver Tours) must navigate narrow, two-lane highways crowded with cars, trucks, buses, “collective” buses (private for-profit buses that compete with the city buses), “gypsy” buses (vans with people hanging on to the sides, the tops, the back), tuk tuks, mopeds, motorcycles and bicycles.

Tuk tuk artwork in Sri Lanka
Tuk tuk artwork in Sri Lanka

There are no traffic lights or signals (except in very big cities like Colombo or Kandy) and there appear to be no traffic rules whatsoever. People are honking and passing and overtaking nonstop.

By the way, these roads have no shoulders to pull over to or use for passing, so people use the middle of the road to pass, resulting in a head-on game of chicken as vehicles bear down from the opposite direction.

The sides of the road, meanwhile, are packed with stray dogs, food stalls with open fires, makeshift vegetable and fruit stands, and people walking (there are no sidewalks), including children walking to school as early as 4:30 a.m., when it’s still dark out. Overhead lights are few and dim, making for especially dangerous driving conditions at night. The first note in my trip notebook is “Driving is pretty intense.”

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Do you want to share a narrow windy road with this delivery truck?

Sure, we’ve been on worse roads (the 50 km rutted and congested road from the airport in Arusha, Tanzania comes to mind, as does the road from Siem Reap to Phnom Penh in Cambodia). But I’ve never been somewhere where none of the cars were blaring music or talk radio. It’s completely silent except for the sounds of honking and some yelling. It has got to be the most dangerous job in Sri Lanka. Maybe the world.

Tilly told us that four people die every day from road accidents in Sri Lanka, but actually, the number might be higher than that. In 2015, more than 2,700 people were killed in road-related incidents. Luckily, we didn’t see any accidents during our 10-day stay, but that’s probably due only to the skill of our excellent driver, Tilly.

Car from SL Driver Tours
My view for most of the trip. Tilly definitely provided premium service, without injuring or killing anyone.

The guys over at World Nomads also have a pretty good description of the driving conditions in Sri Lanka.

An Overview of Sri Lanka, Privileged Tourism and Getting in My Own Head

On paper, Sri Lanka was a no brainer for us—our logical next vacation destination. It has a lot of the things we gravitate towards as travelers—we like South/Southeast Asia (admittedly, one of us a bit more than the other). We love the spicy food in this area of the world, with the focus on fresh fish and vegetables. We like learning about a new country’s history, architecture, and culture. Sri Lanka presented us with plenty to see and do, the weather was warm (which always means there’s a good excuse to spend the afternoon by a pool with a cold local beer). And it’s very, very affordable.

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The curry in Sri Lanka was out of this world.

 

Sri Lanka is very much trying to put its recent violent past behind it, but devoting so many resources to fighting a civil war has definitely left the country a bit behind the eight ball as far as development goes. It is very, very poor and people are struggling. They’re relying on tourism to help economically and, from a marketing standpoint at least, it appears to be working.

All during our year of planning, we kept hearing about other people who were going or had just been to Sri Lanka. I don’t know if it was because it was finally on our radar or if it had just reached the popularity tipping point, but all of a sudden, it seemed like Sri Lanka was more sought after than a hot cheerleader at prom (or, a Harvard acceptance letter. Shoutout to ya, Priscilla Samey). Bloomberg added Sri Lanka to its list of 20 places to go in 2017, Huffington Post said it was the one country you should go to in 2017, and even that travel authority Vogue declared it a “destination that stimulates all the senses.”

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Postcard material, courtesy of Sri Lanka. I took this picture. With a point and shoot camera. No filter.  Sunsets really did look like this.

The Lay of the Land

Sri Lanka is certainly diverse in terms of geography. This former Portuguese/Dutch/British colony—aka Ceylon—has beautiful beaches to the south (packed with foreigners, we noticed). The cooler, hilly mid-part of the country is much cooler and is incredibly lush, green and misty, and packed with tea fields/plantations (full of visiting tourists and smacking of British colonialism still). The northern, historic Golden Triangle area has caves and crumbling temple cities and all the accompanying tourists turning bright pink under the scorching sun.

Polonnaruwa temple
Sweating it out at Polonnaruwa temple

Sri Lanka is also quite the hikers’ paradise and everywhere we went—from the mountaintop cave temples at Sigiriya Rock Fortress and Dambulla to Adam’s Peak and Horton Plains Park near Ella, there were opportunities to slip and slide over some dangerous trails—if you could stand the heat and oppressive humidity (we could not).

Dambulla caves
At least it was cool (if a bit crowded) at the fabulous Dambulla Cave Temple in northern Sri Lanka.

Instead, we drove. Or, more accurately, we rode in the backseat while our driver Tillie ferried us around the country for 10 days. During that time, we saw wild elephants lumbering along the side of the road (there are over 2,000 wild elephants in Sri Lanka). We drank from king coconuts, including one we purchased for 400 rupees from a man on the side of the road with his teeth stained red from chewing betel leaves, mixed with tobacco, and areca nut. We rode a very old train from Nuwara Eliya to Ella. We spent a confusing and sweaty morning wandering around the old Dutch fort town of Galle–confusing because nothing, even churches, appeared to be open that day, and yet we almost got swept up in some sort of parade of some sorts. We talked to giggling school children who wanted to practice their English at the otherwise disappointing Temple of the Tooth Relic in Kandy. And we ate. And ate. And ate.

Temple of the Tooth Relic, Kandy
An offering station at the very crowded and rather underwhelming Temple of the Tooth Relic.

As Vogue noted, Sri Lanka does stimulate all the senses. But the biggest “sense” it stimulated in me was a sense of déjà vu and maybe, even, just the slightest bit of a letdown, which, I know, sounds maybe a bit harsh.

What’s the Problem, Poe?

As we’ve previously encountered in other countries in Southeast Asia (I’m looking at you, Bali. And Thailand), there’s this major confusion over what tourists want, with a heavy reliance on tourist traps, whether it’s “turtle hatcheries” that house a collection of sad, little cement enclosures too small for the turtles living in them, or the “tsunami photo museums” which had neither photos (they were faded color print-outs from the Internet) nor were organized in anything resembling a museum.

Vendor in Galle
Vendor in Galle selling cool “joos.” NOT a tourist trap. 

Then there were all the tourist traps we just said, “no” to: wooden mask carvers, the multiple spice farms, the elephant sanctuaries, the moonstone mines, the stilt fishermen—all of which are (generally) staged, and less focused on education/more focused on accepting donations/taking photos in exchange for donations.

This reliance on tourist traps in a depressed economy is completely understandable. It is a very, very poor country. The people are struggling and are trying to find ways to get by—and increasingly, that seems to be relying on tourism. The saddest bit is the clustering and proliferation of one particular type of tourist trap. Instead of one spice farm or turtle hatchery, there would be like, 20 of them, all identical and all lined up right next to each other.

Railroad crossing in Sri Lanka
Tuk tuks at a railroad crossing in Sri Lanka

In the end, it all just comes off as feeling very exploitative – on both sides. I hate saying, “no thank you,” repeatedly. I feel defensive and like I have to keep pushing people away who really need the money and why don’t I just go to the damn moonstone mine and buy some damn moonstones even if I don’t want or need them?

Or, when we do cave in and visit one of these places, I end up feeling like it wasn’t a great experience and like I didn’t really learn anything. I feel self-conscious, looking at these sad, little makeshift tourist traps and expecting more. I feel like I missed the disclaimer that screams “all this place is supposed to do is elicit enough sympathy to make you reach into your pockets and throw some money at your guilt.”

Sri Lanka wedding
A Hindu wedding in Sri Lanka (NOT a tourist display….at least as far as I know).

So that was my struggle with Sri Lanka. And with travel and tourism in general. I know there are countries out there that need it, that are counting on it, and that want us to come and visit and spend our money. So go. Go see places, even if they might make you uncomfortable, even if they might make you sad or confused. Go and see if you can spot a wild elephant, slowly weaving its way in and out of the trees along the side of the road on a cool morning in the middle of Sri Lanka.

Wild elephant in Sri Lanka

 

A Dayquil-Induced Rant Against Pretentious Food Porn Magazines (Mainly, Saveur)

I was deathly ill last week. I was fairly certain it was the summer plague or typhoid. I’m not sure. My guess was walking pneumonia, but I’ll admit I tend to be a bit dramatic on these issues sometimes.

It started with a sore throat, some harmless coughing. Then, over the course of the next couple of days, it hit all the stages of grossness—stuffed up nose, phlegmatic cough, painful throat and ear canals and general miserableness.

I moved downstairs to the couch (in an effort to save XFE from both catching my disease and losing sleep from my coughing). And during those many long nights and days alone ensconced in my couch, drenched in Vick’s Vap-O-Rub, drinking cup after cup of Throat Coat (ok, and a hot toddy or two) and hopped up on various cold medicines, I had a lot of time to think about life’s mysteries and how precious good health is, and most importantly, the state of our household magazine subscriptions.

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Continue reading A Dayquil-Induced Rant Against Pretentious Food Porn Magazines (Mainly, Saveur)

Lance, Food Fraud, Citi: Things That Have Annoyed Me This Past Week

Blah. That’s how I’ve been feeling the last week or so. Just….blah.

I guess I’ve had a case of the blues. The sads. A big, old basket of existential ennui. The icky, cold and miserable weather did not help. I have no get-up-and-go when the weather is this cold.

I (mostly) blame the Lance Armstrong versus Oprah extravaganza.

 

Although I read the entire original report and come to my own conclusion on the doping allegations, it was all still too new and raw. Which made the timing of the whole interview particularly jarring. I know that many people feel that it was the right thing for him to come forward and make a total confession (although, I would argue, his confession seemed a bit halting and not really very complete), I feel like it was too soon to hear his mea culpa. It’s like he just wanted to get it over with and out of the way. Not really sincere.

The reason I even care a smidgeon about this whole thing is because he was my first cover story for a major newspaper. I was working on the business desk at the Austin American-Statesman and wrote a story about Armstrong’s marketability in the wake of his second Tour de France win. It made it onto A1, and I have that cover story framed in our guest room.

His smirking interview kinda takes the wind out of those pride sails now.

To top things off, it seemed like all the news last week was disappointing as well. First, came the news that Trader Joe’s Two Buck Chuck was now going to cost $2.50. My sangrias and I are not very happy about this.

Then, I read about this new thing called ‘food fraud,’ whereby manufacturers fake out consumers by just out-and-out lying or diluting certain products. Like pomegranate juice made out of water, citric acid and red food coloring. My pomegranate martinis and I are not very happy about this.

Beyonce was accused of phoning in that incredible inauguration performance. After a couple of tense days of not knowing, it appears she’s been cleared of the allegations. Still, it does shake one’s belief in public performances in ginormous venues in frigid conditions while wearing ridiculously large rocks in one’s ears. And if we can’t count on that, whither humanity??

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Look how pleased yet surprised she is. And Biden looks just delighted.

But the final straw came when I heard the strains of this commercial emanating from my television.

Yes, for some reason, Citi has decided to relaunch this atrocious commercial upon the unsuspecting public. I cannot begin to convey how much this commercial irritates me. I was so relieved when it stopped clogging up the airwaves and the fact that it has been unleashed again makes me so, so angry. I almost poked my eye out with a mascara wand the other morning when I heard it come on during Good Morning America.

Listen Citi, just climb your damn rock and shut up about it already.

As a woman, which is clearly the market Citi is trying to target with this ad, nothing about this commercial makes me want to run out and sign up for any Citi products. Not the wailing, wanna-be Florence and the Machines song in the background. Not the clever double entendres (‘oh, look, nylon rope as a substitute for nylon stockings. How clever and empowering!’). And would it be so wrong for me to want to just buy a pair of pretty shoes using a Citi Visa, instead of feeling pressured to buy climbing shoes and climb a stupid rock? Why can’t I like diamonds instead of excruciating physical exertion?

In fact, the whole commercial is having the opposite effect of making me want a Citi Visa, so they should just cool it.

As you can see, I’ve put way too much thought into this whole thing. I’m sure a therapist would have a field day with all this.

therapist

Don’t Be That Guy: The Finance Department

As a writer, I work in the communications division of my organization. We’re very spread out, mostly along the second floor of our building. Although, our poor copy editor is on the fifth floor, which makes for very interesting walkabouts during the editing process.

Anyway, by some weird twist of assigned seating fate, I sit near the Finance Department. Let me tell you, every pre-conceived stereotype of what a Finance Department employee is like (well, not EVERY stereotype) but most of them have been shattered by my observations of this species of particular worker.

For one thing, they are really, really loud. I was shocked at how boisterous they are in greeting each other. They act like it’s been months instead of mere hours since they last rested their wondrous gaze upon one another.

I had always assumed people who dealt in accounting were by nature very serious, but oh no, they are quite, quite jolly. Their peals of laughter reverberate off the cubicle walls.

True story: I told two of my communications coworkers the other day that it’s like a Finance Department Rave every morning. My coworkers, in turn, suggested that I put on some techno music and join in the early morning festivities. Fast forward to this morning — I heard someone playing techno music out of their phone as they were walking towards my office. Thinking it was one of my coworkers, I said (outloud) “Aaaaaawwwww yeah! Let’s do this” and started dancing at my desk with pens held aloft like glow sticks. A few seconds later, a Finance person walks past my door with his music blaring and sees my own little personal rave. I. DIE.

Other observations: They do not discuss the latest accounting scandals or software, but rather, they love to talk about their various health ailments, of which there are quite a few, including, of course, the expected carpal tunnel syndrome. No doubt acquired while raving hard — Finance style.

But it doesn’t stop at just work-related injuries. There are apparently buttloads of weekend shenanigans that put our delicate little Finance crew directly in harm’s way. It’s not at all unusual to see a group of them congregating around one of their own who has come in with a fresh new cane or arm brace. They gather in the kitchen (they love themselves some free Flavia flavored-coffees. The syrupy and sweeter, the better) and cluck over this latest injury, hanging on for all the details while the company’s bills wait patiently.

“So there I was, vaulting over my fat cat to replenish my cheese platter when I rolled my ankle and that’s why I’m using crutches today.”

They also love to talk about food. They are quite the foodie bunch and often weigh the merits of different cheeses in different recipes. I heard quite the discussion yesterday about white cheddar and gouda. It was a regular Top Chef over here.

What they do not like to do, however, is clean out the kitchen refrigerator. Or, my personal pet peeve, place smaller items (like sodas, or containers of cottage cheese – no, I don’t know their thoughts on that particular cheese, but I’m sure I’ll learn about it soon enough) on shorter shelves, thereby leaving the taller shelves for someone with a tall item, say, a lunch bag (ahem, me).

Also, I would have expected the Finance Department, which deals with the very delicate issue of money and bills, to display a bit of circumspection and respect for privacy. But no. I have heard about the most egregious abuses of company-issued cell phones, in part, because the Finance person in charge of resolving phone bill disputes often gets into very loud and heated phone conversations about it. It’s been, to say the least, illuminating.

So, to sum up, if you live for danger, like to party, walk on the wild side, enjoy fine food and Flavia coffee, you might want to consider a future in accounting. They are a really, really fun bunch.

Book Clubbing (and Who Do You Think You Are, Anthropologie?)

Can we be uber-lame (besides just using the term “uber”) and start a blog book club?

You might think that such an idea was inspired by the Great Poe (not me, the other great Poe, that Edgar dude) or by the fact that I am, technically, a writer (as in: somebody actually pays me a wage based on writing. I know. Crazy!). And therefore, you might think that the first book of this new book club would be somehow Poe-related. But no. You would be wrong on all counts.

THIS is what has inspired my desire for a book club:

I’m not intrigued by the title, per se. Although, it is quite tantalizing. I need to lose a few myself, but I’m already familiar with how drinking can lead to weight loss and I’m really not interested in hugging toilet bowls, thanks.

No, I’m intrigued by the fact that Lady Gaga’s ex has a book out.

My first thought was, “Oh, it must be a pamphlet or a coloring book. Just look at his lovely outfit. That will definitely teach kids how to color within the lines.” But again, no. It’s apparently, 272 pages long!

AND, it’s about losing weight by running! In marathons!

Wait a minute. He’s a runner? I’m a runner! Mind? Blown.

The book came out on March 13 and he already has 41 reviews on Amazon, mostly full of praise. Here’s one of my favorite, less-favorable ones:

I’ve read the book and I know the author personally. I used to drink at the bar he worked at. He had a beer gut. He was maybe 20 pounds overweight. He wanted to look like his emaciated skinny-jeans-wearing clientele. So he cut way back on his drinking, and started exercising and eating better. Is that really book worthy? I mean it’s not like he’s Jared Fogle (the subway guy) and he lost 245 LBS. It’s not even really a “drunk diet.” About halfway through the book he concedes that he cut way back on his drinking. The only reason this was even published is that he used to date Lady Gaga.

He does look a bit chubby in this photo. But it could be the skeevy face pose.

I love the fact that that reviewer is (1) not at all impressed; (2) holds Jared Fogle up as a fitness guru worthy of following  (which he may be, but I still think it’s a funny criticism of Luc) AND he knows exactly how much Fogle lost; (3) thinks this guy only got published because he used to date Gaga (which was also one of my first thoughts); and (4) is offended because this isn’t really a “drunk diet.” Yes, sir, you should be ticked that he does not offer tips on how to drink your way to thinness.

So, color me intrigued, I’m ordering the book.

SIDE RANT: Anthropologie, we need to have a talk. I have a gift certificate for around $50. Anthropologie has many, many cute things, mostly for women much smaller and more Zooey Deschanel-ish than myself.  I saw someone today at work wearing a cute necklace that she said she’d gotten from Anthropologie a few years ago. “Hmmm, I thought. That’s a great idea. I should see if there are any accessories that catch my eye.”

Oh, they caught my eye alright.

What the hell, y’all? This necklace is $498 dolllars. That’s dollar bills for those of you who missed it. As in American money units.

Oh, I think to myself, why it must have super-rare precious stones with magical boy-catching powers and high-faulutin’ metals taken from the hot core of the Earth in a dangerous extraction process that kills those who even attempt it. Why, it must be one of those “blood necklaces.”

It says it’s made of brass, resin and horn.

OoooooooooooK, so it must be made by some poor indigenous ladies in Africa or Southeast Asia or something and that price tag would support her whole family for like five years AND help the village build a much-needed well and avoid malaria through clean drinking water (Disclaimer: I might not have that right. I might be confusing mosquito-borne illnesses with water-related ones).

No, it says it was made in Belgium. That $498 goes to some pomme-frites-and-mayo eating (yum) hausfrau scratching out a living in the hard-tumbling country of BELGIUM.

Seriously, Anthropologie. What’s up with that? Who do you think you are? (By the way, it’s not even a cute necklace!! )