Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Pro-tips 3.0

1. If you can, budget for emergencies. You never know when, say, your car might turn into a smoke machine instead of a reliable form of transportation, or you might have to fly home at a moment's notice, or you get really sick and need powerful meds.

2. You WILL spill your coffee. You will. Just accept it.

3. Ladies: please do not shell out hundreds of bucks for high heels. Instead, keep checking back at places like Payless and Ross. I have three great pairs of heels, and I've paid about 60 bucks for all three pairs. Combined. Holla.

3a. Ancillary to the above, go buy this heel right now. I've been looking for it for 2 years: Black leather, not too high, not too pointed (unlike the witch heels that are so popular right now), extremely comfortable, 20 bucks. I think yes.

4. Email has a handy lil button called "Reply All." USE IT. Trying to arrange meetings or come to a consenus on an issue via email is really difficult when one person doesn't get all the details.

5. Conversely, sometimes you should NOT hit "Reply All." Use your imagination on that one.

6. When a military commander (or any other guest) stops by for an impromptu business meeting, do not leave your Google search of him up on the screen. Bad form.

7. Learn how to smoothly defuse awkward moments. Like the above.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

After the natural disaster, a man-made one: Election 2012

I spent this electoral season in our nation's lovely capital - epicenter for the man-made disaster that has become our electoral process. Luckily, I don't own a TV, so I was relatively sheltered from the various attack ads trying to convince undecided voters which way to swing.

That does not mean, however, that I was sheltered from the campaigning.

I have several good friends on both sides of the aisle who are die-hards...subsequently, my Facebook feed looked something like this in the days prior to November 6:

"Knocking on doors in the good ole District Blah Blah! Let's turn it red!"
"Last chance to make a difference, America! Yes we CAN."
"If Obama wins, socialism wins. Seriously I'll move to Canada. Not even joking."
"Anyone who votes for Romney is voting for the 1% and hates minorities and gay rights. Weep for America."

And then there were others:
"Can't wait for this election season to be over. Gonna go stab myself in the eye now."
"Why can't we all just get along? I LOVE EVERYONE!"

I simultaneously agreed with and disagreed with all these statements. As an independent moderate, I can identify with portions of both the Democratic and Republican platforms. (I won't enumerate my political beliefs further here, if you're interested we can grab coffee sometime.) As a human being, I too am sick to death of assualt-by-soundbite and pointless blustering. However, I DO think it's counterproductive to alienate your friends with sharp, and sometimes bigoted, opinions on a social platform that isn't built for longer, open, rational discussion.

This pic, via Twitter, is from Election Night at Busboys
rather than a debate, but you get the idea.
Same type of crowd. 
That's why I appreciated going to the various Prez and VP debates. This town is a Mecca for political nerds, and almost every bar hosted their own watch parties. So I gathered my peeps and we clustered in places like Busboys and Poets - imagine not a seat open in the house, all eyes glued to the TV, loud comments from supporters and/or haters, stout beer and sweet potato fries, and laughter at various presidential missteps.
I can't imagine the bars back home would get this worked up over politics. Cat/Griz football, maybe, but politics, no.

I'm more a foreign policy buff than a domestic policy one, so I particularly enjoyed the last debate. For your amusement (and mine), a brief recollection of my favorite moments (from all the debates):

I won't lie, the Democrats seemed quicker on their feet (other than the first debate) and better able to connect to my generation via the media. Sorry, Mom. [Enter political rant about media bias here.]
When Election Day came, things seemed pretty quiet, at least to me. But then, I worked from home on purpose that day to avoid the frantic rushing about town. I cast my ballot quietly, and my precinct saw a minimum amount of drama.
However, the liquor store (maybe I should start calling it my "fine wine shop" since people seem to get the wrong idea when I say "liquor store") was the place for citizens to air their opinions. Democrats and Republicans streamed in by the dozens - and you could tell their mood based on what they bought. Champagne = we're gonna win. Vodka/whiskey/bourbon = we may lose, and if we do I'll need to drown my sorrows. Champagne AND liquor = I'm prepared for anything. Beer = general partying. Because why watch sober.
A few customers, who shall remain NAMELESS (because I legit don't know their names) strolled in like they owned the place, utterly confident of a win and utterly convinced that I needed to agree with them. Badgered me repeatedly about how their guy is obviously the only guy to vote for.
Yeah, like I'm gonna share my views with a boozed-up die-hard on Election Night. In a liquor store. 3 blocks away from the Capitol building.
Hey, I'm just the cashier. Do you want a bag with that?

Thursday, November 1, 2012

How to prepare for a disaster

Most of you know by now that DC got off fairly light from Hurricane Sandy. New York and New Jersey weren't so lucky, and I'm still praying for recovery efforts there.

Hurricane Sandy was the first time I had the potential to be in a real natural disaster. Out in Montana we don't have much beyond forest fires or the occasional flood, and my home there is on high ground so floods wouldn't affect us anyway. Michigan occasionally gets tornadoes, but nothing serious ever happened while I was there.

As such, I had absolutely no experience upon which to draw for preparations for Hurricane Sandy. I should have read useful sites like this one, but alas. I did not.

Instead I went to the grocery store with a friend. We wandered vaguely around, picking up items and then putting them down again -- you need a stove to heat up canned soup, you need milk in order to eat cereal, you need a fridge to store pudding. None of those things work without power. I finally settled on some tins of canned fruit, along with some other odds n ends. For some reason I thought it'd be great to buy mango Jello. Post-hurricane treat?

Despite people tripping over themselves for it, I simply couldn't bring myself to buy water. For one thing, the price had been jacked up. For another, water seems like such a ridiculous thing to spend money on when you can get it, for free, right out of the tap.

A few girls in my college dorms bought bottled water because they said the tap water "tasted funny"...

Some families in developing countries walk for hours to get potable water; I wasn't gonna waste my limited college funds on bottled water because the tap water, while perfectly drinkable, "tasted funny."

Since my roomie was of the same opinion, we got creative.

We emptied out old cider jugs and filled those with tap water. Same with old honey jars. I happen to save the *cough cough* occasional wine bottle, so we filled a couple of those up to the brim. In all, we probably had at least 5 gallons of water. Ahem hem, WATER, not wine. And definitely not whiskey. Or bourbon. No beer either. In fact, there was no consumption of alcohol at all during the storm. None whatsoever.

I felt pretty proud of myself.

In the end, all the water wasn't necessary. Very few areas in the District lost power -- although we did have some pretty intense rain and wind (I was sure to park my car on a street with no huge trees; dealing with an insurance claim for weather damage would be just about the last straw with my car). 

I hope any of you reading this, if you were affected by the storm, are safe and sound.