Thursday, May 31, 2007

I Think I Know Why D.C. Ranked Poorly on GMAC's Driving Survey

This CNN article references a national survey of drivers that GMAC recently conducted, the results of which conclude that about 10% of American drivers would fail a written driving exam. Sounds about right. Out of all the states surveyed, our fair District tied with Maryland and New York as the 5th worst average score on the list (click here to see the full list). Annoyingly, Virginia tied with Alabama and Nevada for 15th best average score. I say "annoyingly" because I fear drivers from the Old Dominion State, especially if they are behind the wheel of a minivan. Through much personal growth, I have come to realize that this is a difference in driving style. And by "style," I mean that I come from a state that thinks it's cool not to know driving rules.

Anyway, since I have a long-running fued with Hubby about who has right-of-way at a four-way stop intersection, I was inspired to look up right-of-way rules. For those of you dying to know, in Maryland and Virginia, right of way goes to whomever gets to the intersection first. Usually. Virginia also offers up this confusing caveat, taken directly from their driver's manual:

"When two vehicles approach an intersection not controlled by traffic lights or signs, neither vehicle has the right-of-way. Generally, Virginia law states that when two or more vehicles approach an uncontrolled intersection from different directions at the same time, the driver on the LEFT must yield to the driver on the right."

So no driver has right-of-way, but the driver of the left must yield? Doesn't that mean that the driver to the right has a little thing called right-of-way?

Hmmm, I thought, wonder what DC's right-of-way rule is? Does it agree with Maryland, or Virginia, sandwiched as it is between them?


Can you stand the suspense?

Yeah, I can't either. Know why? Because the DC Department of Motor Vehicles does not publish a handbook detailing all the rules of the road online. Go ahead. Go to I'll wait.

I'm sure you found the handy DC Driver's Examination Study Guide. It's a series of multiple-choice questions -- the answers are in the back -- which theoretically allows you to refresh your memory on test topics. I don't know if DC publishes a driver's manual at all, or if it simply declines to post one online. But don't most folks choose to get their goverment forms, booklets, and sundry other documents online these days? So I'd think if they had a manual, you'd be able to find it there. Which leads me to believe that maybe the don't actually have one.

That would explain the ranking, doncha think?

(Maryland still has no excuse, you goobers.)

Friday, May 25, 2007

Lemme Serve Ya Up Some Random

1) I had an overwhelming urge for carrot cake a couple of days ago, so I zipped over to the neighborhood bakery. There was something I hadn't noticed about the "Pick Up Your Order Here" was handwritten...on a needlepoint canvas. Just weird, you know? If you're not going to poke a few stitches into the canvas, why use the canvas? Why not just make a regular old sign?

2) Today was my sister's college graduation. There was a fella sitting in front of us who made me ache for my Grandpop. He wore suspenders and a plaid short sleeve shirt, which was GP's uniform. He also wore a belt, which made me think he was taking no chances with gravity.

3) I think as you get older, you start pluralizing and possessivizing stores and restaurants unnecessarily. It's Nordstrom, not Nordstrom's. It's Barnes & Noble, not Barnes & Noble's. Taco Bell, not Taco Bells.

4) There must be an opiate in baby shampoos and lotions. After bathing my little 'uns, I can't stop breathing in their heavenly scent. I actually used Huggies Shea Butter Baby Wash the other day. Know what? I loved it.

5) I'm thisclose to bribing my almost 3-year-old to use the potty. I'm serious. I'm talking cold hard cash. Or Wiggles paraphernalia. He tells us he's just "too busy" to try sitting on the potty. But he's not too busy to announce the need for a diaper change...

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

And Now Back to Our Regularly Scheduled Program*

Lordy day, has life been busy the past couple of weeks. Business travel, professional classes, family parties, baby showers, jury duty (my daycare provider's, not mine, which is almost worse). If I believed in astrology, I'd be looking to see if some obnoxious mythological entity (Pan?) was living in my house of whatever. Or in my actual house. It's possible, given what chez moi looks like right now.

Anyway, all of this is to say that I will resume more regular posting in the near future. Like maybe today. It all depends on whether or not a blog-worthy event surfaces in the maelstrom of my personal life.

[Editor's Note: Isn't that a little bit sad? That in the unfettered publishing medium of a blog I recognize that many of my day-to-day activities are so much dross? Don't go thinking that I'm exhibiting false humility here. A highlight? The Girl most assuredly does not like applesauce. You'd think we were feeding her chana masala or something given the vehemence with which she spat the appley goodness back at yours truly. See what I mean? I love my life, but snippets like that do not a Bloggie warrant.]

I'll check back in with ya soon. 'Til then, ponder this: a goodly number of web surfers wipe out on this page because they are looking for pictures of Jello 1-2-3. Who knew it was so popular?

*Every blog that I read eventually posts something along the lines of, "I know I haven't posted for awhile, but I promise I'll be back!" And those posts are usually six months old, with nothing following them. So, see ya in six months! Just kidding...

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Three Appointments Down, Two to Go

Just got back from the dentist, and I look like a refugee from Moonraker. Why? Well, it's a little bit of a long story...

I'm having a crown replaced. I'm beginning to think that my teeth are made of shale. Honestly, you don't normally hear about 31-year-olds getting crowns, and it's even more rare to hear about 31-year-olds getting crowns replaced. This means that this stretch of my jaw is a two-time loser. Three-time loser if you count the intermediate temporary crown that went three rounds with an ill-advised caramel and lost. Riesen, confound your deliciousness!

Anyway, my dentist will install the permanent replacement during my next appointment. Why he couldn't just shove it in today, I don't know. The temporary crown that he used, however, is the inspiration for this post. When I got back to the office, I went to the ladies' room to check out my smile now that I'm not all gappy on one side. And what did I see winking back at me? Why, it was a tooth with a silver patina.

Now, I'm not vain. Okay, I'm not super vain. But I'm a little chuffed that I wasn't forewarned that this temporary would be so completely different from the rest of my teeth. All I can think is that this is how Bond henchman Jaws (see picture above) got his start. He had a crown replaced, and at the temporary stage, he gazed at his visage and thought, "You know, that silver tooth makes me look bad ASSSSSSS! I must get me a mouthful of these!" This is prior to the dawn of Grillz, where having a mouth of metal took a lot of dedication.

Oh well. Early June is just around the corner.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Starbucks Drive-Through Etiquette

There's a drive-through Starbucks at the first intersection on my commute from office to home. It beckons to me every day. The flesh is willing, and so is the spirit, so I have made a deal with myself: I will only take advantage of this convenience iff the light is red AND there are enough cars in the lane in front of me such that I am stopped right next to the Starbucks entrance. The traffic elements only align this way about once every two weeks, and Friday was just such a glorious day.

Happily, I whirled my steering wheel around, pulled up to the drive-through menu/receiver thingy, and placed my order. There was a line, so I waited for the car in front of me to move. And I waited. And I waited. Normally, it takes all of five minutes to complete the circuit and be on my way, but it was about ten minutes before the line moved, and there were still two cars in front of me. I figured that the credit card machine or some other technical glitch must be causing the hold-up. Annoying, but what can you do?

When I arrived at the window, I held up my exact change in an attempt to speed up the process. The cashier leaned out of the window to collect my cash and said, "Sorry about the wait. Someone ordered a pound of coffee and it takes awhile to grind."

What? Someone ordered a pound of coffee AND requested that it be ground at the DRIVE-THROUGH window? Dude, there are certain things that necessitate parking, actually extirpating yourself from your SUV, and walking into the store. An order that requires about 10 minutes to complete is one of these things. In the grand scheme of things, 10 minutes isn't exactly a lifetime. But it drives me a little bit nuts when my fellow Earthicans don't subscribe to the notion that we should do what we can to avoid inconveniencing others more than we need to.

Friday, May 11, 2007

I TOLD You: Nobody Puts Baby in a Corner

Check out this survey. Apparently, Star Wars tops men's most-watched movies list. Natch.

Whaddya think it is for women? Dirty Dancing. Of course it is. (Most) women love this movie. (Most) women want to marry this movie. (Most) women want to have ten thousand of its babies. Listen to a conversation among a gaggle of the fairer sex; they will quote from this movie like a bunch of conventioneers quoting Star Wars, Star Trek, and the Simpsons. Need some evidence? Well, these items are up for sale. Seriously, screen Dirty Dancing, and women will stop mid-sentence to stare slack-jawed at the screen.

My favorite moment of the film is the expression on Penny's face (in the background) when Baby's father whips a javelin of a needle out of his big black doctor's bag. Right. A woman who's just endured a botched abortion administered by "a guy with a folding table and a dirty knife" is frightened by the prospect of a shot? Class A acting.

Per the article, most of the rest of the movies exclusive to the men's list are pretty violent magnum opera (Alien, Godfather, Diehard, Terminator 2, Bladerunner, etc.). Interestingly, there are a few movies that popped up on both lists...these were Star Wars, The Terminator, Jaws, and the Lord of the Rings Trilogy. I'm guessing that this is a direct result of women not being able to coerce their boyfriends, husbands, neighbors, brothers, fathers, cousins, landscapers to turn the channel when the credits start rolling on these flicks.

But most of the movies that show up just on the women's list are just way too saccharine for my tastes. In addition to the saga of Johnny and Baby (née Frances), here's what the double-X chromosome collective thumbs-upped: The Sound of Music, It's a Wonderful Life, Pretty Woman, Grease, and (here's your wha-huh? moment) The Matrix.

The exclusively-favored-by-women movies all share a thread of emotional rescue. You can argue with me about The Matrix, but really, wasn't Trinity "rescued" from the grittiness of her renegade life by hooking up with the One?

Oof. Sorry, didn't mean to veer into a cultural studies essay. But...I've had the time of my life, and I owe it all to you. (My second favorite part of Dirty Dancing? When Johnny puts the needle on a 45 rpm piece of vinyl, and a very 1980's sounding duet blares from the speakers. If it were my movie, Dr. Who would bungee jump en scène and explain that Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes time-warped into 1962 to record this song on some futuristic material that provided crystal clarity. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why Hollywood isn't knocking down my door for screenplays.)

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Commuter Rule

Know what? If you're going to slap a "Jesus Saves" bumper sticker on your car, or go to all the trouble to get Registered Nurse license plates, then DON'T cut me off on the beltway. The disconnect is too much for my caffeine-addled brain to comprehend.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Graduating? I've Got One More Class for Ya.

Shortly, the Baltimore-Washington Metro Area will be awash in caps and gowns and U-Haul trucks hauling the junk of newly graduated twenty-somethings to locales near and far. In honor of the 10th anniversary of my graduation from a storied institution of higher learning, I present the realities that confronted me during the transition from student to theoretically independent adult:

1) Health insurance is necessary, no ifs, ands, or buts about it. If you're temping or working a gig that provides no health care option, go here and get it independently. When I was 21 (Holy Mother of God, was that really TEN years ago?), I forked out a measly $100 per month. It's worth it. You don't want to debate if you can muscle through strep throat without magical antibiotic elixirs. Oh, and if dental insurance is an option at your place of business...GET IT. Again, if you have a Grand Canyon-sized cavity, you'll want it tended to and you likely won't be able to afford the hundreds of dollars it'll cost out-of-pocket.

2) Try to be financially independent from your parents, because if you accept subsidies from them, you also must accept advice, frowny faces about the quantity of shoes you've purchased, and admonitions about the expense of going out to eat.

3) On the financially independent tip, the rule of thumb of your monthly expenses* is:
  • 30% housing (this includes rent/mortgage, utilities, etc.)
  • 20% car/transportation
  • 15% total food & drink (includes going out)
  • 10% savings
  • 10% retirement
  • 8% personal insurances
  • 5% entertainment/donation
  • 2% personal care/services
It's easier to do this now than it will be later, so you might as well set up the framework at the start of your budgetary life. Understand that YOUR STYLE OF LIVING WILL NOT BE THE SAME AS YOUR PARENTS', or even the same as it was in college since your parents likely paid for that as well. These next few years will mean roommates, eating cheaply, and possibly selling some of your stuff on eBay to finance nights out. Oh, and pay your bills on time. You don't want to apply for a car loan and get turned down because you owe your gym eighty bucks.

*This is based on gross pay. Gross pay is the dollar amount you start with. Net pay is what you have left over after FICA, social security, taxes, and pre-tax benefits take their collective bite. I think it's called Gross because it is gross how much disappears before you even cash your pay check.

4) And again on the financially independent tip, DO NOT BUY STUFF YOU CANNOT AFFORD. Sounds simple, I know, but this is a humdinger of a lesson to learn. And by "cannot afford," I mean, "cannot pay for with cash." Do not use credit cards as a buffer. A little tiny balance is good to start a credit history, but pay most or all of it off every month. I speak from mad crazy unfortunate experience on this. That $100 dress that I bought for a formal dance in May of my senior year of college likely cost me $1,000 by the time I paid it off. Credit cards aren't inherently evil, but man alive, a person racks up some unfathomable interest charges over time.

5) If you move to a new city where you know zero to three people, make some friends. And try, oh try, to make them outside of the office/graduate school as well. If you have a half a dozen friends or so from different walks of life, then you won't be totally reliant on only a few people to stave off loneliness. I know it's awkward making new friends, but it's a little easier if you meet people in places you already go for fun, like softball leagues, or church, or book clubs, or whatever. You'll already have something in common, right? If you're friendly with people from only one area, like the office, then you're facing all kinds of gossipy incestuousness. And who needs that in the work place when you are trying to build a career?

By the way...IM, e-mail, texting, MySpace, Facebook and blogs don't count as friends. You can't go out to a bar with your blog. So, keep in touch with your old friends, but not to the exclusion of making new ones. Modern messaging devices make it extraordinarily easy to reach out and touch someone, but that can stunt your ability to forge new relationships that will connect you to the here and now of your life.

6) Sometimes it's better to live with someone you don't know very well instead of someone you do. When you know someone really well, it's easy for them to walk all over you and take advantage. So, if you don't think you can have healthy conflict with an old pal (i.e., tell her calmly and matter-of-factly that you really didn't want her boyfriend to move in with you, or that you aren't her maid service, or that he needs to ask if he can borrow your things), then go for the tabula rasa of someone you only sort of know, like a friend of a friend, or a cousin's college roommate.

7) If you choose to move back home with your parents, set a time line for moving out. Can you really become whomever you're going to be if your parents are telling you that you should be home by midnight, or that you're working too hard?

8) Speaking of working too hard...You might have a college degree, but you're still going to have to do grunt work. So, get over yourself. You might have a Bachelor's in Political Science, but you'll be low person on the turnbuckle, and you're going to have to learn the ropes before they'll trust you with anything besides filing.

9) But if you get to a point where you are having nightmares about a job, it might be time to quit and move on. Unless this is the third job you've quit in as many months, don't worry about what it will look like on the work experience time line on your resume. As someone who has hired her fair share of recent grads, if I saw that someone had a year or two at a job, that assured me that s/he wasn't flighty and wouldn't be a waste of my training time. Anyway, some offices are just plain dysfunctional. If you can't answer "YES" to at least two of the following questions, break out your local paper's Help Wanted section: (1) Do I like what I'm doing? (2) Am I learning? (3) Am I happy with what I'm being paid?

10) Don't have a job lined up yet? If you have a degree in something that doesn't logically plug into a job opportunity (shout out to my fellow English majors), then you will need to point out how your vast knowledge of 18th Century Women Writers applies to that marketing job at the museum. Because if you can't figure it out, how are your potential employers supposed to do that?

I won't be able to give any of my own offspring this advice for a good twenty years, and even then it'll likely be dismissed with a roll of the eyes. Oh, and uh, wear sunscreen. Me, I wear sunBLOCK because any exposure to the sun's death rays and my pasty self will explode into flame. But you crazy kids, you can get a way with just the 'screen.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Question: How many dental tools in MCV's mouth at the same time?

Answer: Four. The suctiony thing, the little round mirror, the scrapy hook thing, and something that looked like a power drill with a dayglo orange shield. I'm hopeful that it is a real dental tool and not a surreptitious mind-wiping device. What? All of you know that trivial knowledge is anathema to secret organizations the world over. Of course these secret organizations are going to attempt to disable the greatest threat they've ever known. (Alright, 30 seconds of Googling reveal that it was a curing light. I still like the mind-wiping idea, though.)

Today I enjoyed the second of the five dental visits I scheduled at the end of February. Our mission today was to install the post for the crown that I lost whilst preggers with my daughter. My dentist was reluctant to do any dental work that would necessitate X-rays or novocaine shots, which are apparently 98% of all dental services, or 100% of all dental services I required. So I'm making up for lost time.

For what it's worth, I've never been scared of going to the dentist. When I was a kid, my parents didn't have dental insurance, so we didn't go every six months like you're s'posed to. Nope. We only went when our teeth HURT. So I learned that if your teeth ache, you go to the dentist, and BLAMMO! When you leave, you feel fine. Who doesn't want to sign up for that?

Thursday, May 03, 2007

I Thought Toys Were Supposed to Inspire Children!

Last week I went shopping for birthday gifties for children (why are so many kids born in April/May/June)? Anyway, I was cruising up and down the aisles and I saw this:

Doesn't that kid look embarassed? Here's the description of the Pretend and Play Office Space per the manufacturer:

Everything kids need for a pretend day at the office fits inside an official-looking briefcase. The 74-piece set includes a planner, pretend stapler, cell phone with sound, ID badge and many other office essentials - even a stack of write and wipe paychecks and a refillable crayon "pen."

ID Badge? Stapler? PAYCHECKS?!? Listen, I'm all about realistic expectations. Not every child will grow up to be a ballerina or an astronaut or a super hero. But, to quote Gary from John Hughes' Weird Science:

"Why are you messing with the fantasy? We know about the reality. Don't ruin the fantasy, okay?"

This toy is geared toward 3 to 8 year-olds. What 3 year-old needs rewritable paychecks? Sheesh.