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My friend Sarah recently wrote a blog post about a cruise we took to the Bahamas with my mom, aunt, and couple other people. She is AWESOME and you should not only check out her post about the cruise (especially because this post will make little sense if you don’t read hers first) but ALL THE POSTS. I tried to leave a long-winded comment, but blogger told me I could not ::sigh:: So below I reproduce my original comment on it. Blogger you cannot stifle me!

“Thanks, scolding TSA agent.”
–Heh heh heh. Maybe she figured “If my boss sees me scolding her REAL BAD throwing away this tube of toothpaste will appease his taste for the blood of large containers of toiletries.”

“Surprisingly, after that first day, we didn’t see them at all! WOO!”
–Yeah, that was amazing. Maybe there is a higher power.

“‘It’s sunscreen time!'”
–It sure as hell IS!

“Bro-ing out and being general douchecopters…”
–This may be my new favorite word.

“And dudes: if complete strangers are coming up to you while you are in line for breakfast, asking how you can be standing after the night before, you might want to pull up the reins on the drinking. Just a bit.”
–This should be posted on bulletin boards of every college dorm.

“Seriously, for four nights I had chilled fruit soup, which was AWESOME.”
–And PRETTY!

“He was acting like they’re swimwear. They are NOT. I took pictures.”
–I LOVE LOVE LOVE that you took this pic! (And I giggle maniacally—yes it’s possible—every time I see it.) Too bad neither of us were able to snap a pic of Mr. Orange Trunks.

“But then we found out that the chameleons were loud as fuck and not that hard to find.”
–LOUD AS FUCK!!!

“The cruise director was named NOONAN, and he was kind of a jerk. We picked on him the entire time.”
–Nooonan. Ew.

“I AM proud to be an American, but that song is hideous, melodramatic schlock!”
–Seriously! Ugh. Almost ALL of the staff members on board are from other countries, which is completely awesome! The cruise ship doctor I saw was Cuban and lives in South Africa. I had a really interesting talk (muffled on my part due to the swollen uvula and all) with him about SA and was telling him how my coworker has been there several times and loves it. One of the best things about going on a cruise is meeting all of these people from different countries. And to be sitting there in an audience that was mostly fawning over themselves to cheer for this guy and this saccharine, empty song—they gave him a fucking standing ovation—while all but one of the staff members around us who are working their asses off to bring more drinks to these patriots are from other countries made me, to put it mildly, really uncomfortable.

“Our hotel (TropiRocks? I think) was small and charming, with a small and charming owner, and a dog, and a cat.”
–Yes, TropiRocks! It was indeed charming! He was indeed charming! And the framed picture of his dog in our room was also charming!

“We found Markham Park, which had a dog park called ‘Barkham Park’…”
–As one who has come to enjoy bad puns as a aide effect of having a boyfriend who spouts them constantly, I thought the name was almost as cute as the doggies.

“The sun was out, and then we saw a rainbow all the way across the sky…”
–WHAT’S IT MEAN???!!!

“Coming home, we ran into a guy who was flying with a cat in a carrier. The cat was so calm and not even drugged!”
–He and his cat were both pretty fabulous. I enjoyed meeting them.

“I had nightmarish visions of a tiny room, me with absolutely nothing to confess, but being pressured to confess anyway.”
–I would pay to be a fly on the wall during that interrogation.
–“Ma’am, are you aware that these toiletries do not pass TSA regulations for carry-on luggage?”
–“Okay, yes, I hated The Kid with a fiery passion! But that doesn’t mean I killed him!! You can’t link me to that overpass!”
–“Uh…ma’am? I’m going to have to have you sit tight here a second while I grab my supervisor.”

“Without NOONAN coming over the loudspeaker, mangling the text that he’s supposed to read in his annoying David Schwimmer-esque voice.”
–HAHAHAHA! Perfect end to an awesome post! I enjoyed reading it immensely (like, probably a little too much). And guess what, Sarah, guess what?!

IT’S SUNSCREEN TIME!!

PostSecret is “an ongoing community art project where people mail in their secrets anonymously on one side of a homemade postcard.” The secrets are then posted on the PostSecret blog, and some are collected and published in book form. Under some of the secrets, blog creator/administrator Frank Warren posts a few e-mailed reactions from readers. Today another new set of secrets went up, including this secret. Among the reactions Warren included under the postcard was the following comments: “STOP putting naked pictures on the blog! I don’t care if it’s an actual postcard! Some of us are referring young people to this blog to HELP them – not scar them more with an abrupt naked picture” and “The honesty and controversy in your project has always impassioned me. But there is a line. And you crossed that line today.” (Also included were two comments supportive of the postcard: “what does it say about us that this realistic (and i think beautiful) picture of a female body part could ‘scar’ us?” and the delightfully snarky “Half of young people have their own vaginas.”)

Now keep in mind that the only body parts actually visible in the picture are the fronts of each thigh and a portion of the lower abdomen. Search high or low, but there is nary a labia (nor any other part of the female genitalia) to be found. So what is so offensive about this picture? True, the text of the postcard is about the artist’s first orgasm, but I would lay money on the fact that on average there is at least one postcard every week on the site that mentions orgasm. So it would appear that the complainers are simply splitting hairs. But it just so happens that those hairs are of the pubic variety.

Apparently the site of untamed pubic hair is just too much for these viewers. After all, a postcard just two before the postcard under fire depicts a man’s torso. Again, no genitalia is visible in the picture, but the lower abdomen just shy of the man’s penis is. This postcard had no e-mails of protest listed below it, but why not? It’s strikingly similar to the other postcard except for one thing: his lower abdomen is free of pubic hair. So one could reasonably deduce that had the exact same postcard of the woman’s thighs and abdomen been submitted sans pubic hair (that is, if the lady pictured had shaved her lady parts rather than go au naturel) it would not have been charged with either “crossing the line” or as having the potential to “scar children with an abrupt naked picture.”

“Hey!” some of you are undoubtedly yelling right now. “Pubic hair has NOTHING to do with it! All you’ve done is set up a straw man and eviscerated his dry and scratchy intestines. Our objections were meant for BOTH nakie postcards. These images will corrupt our children! These images are the most disgusting and inappropriate thing that has ever appeared on this otherwise kid-friendly website.”

If that IS the objection, I guess they’ve got me there. I mean, pictures of bellies and thighs stand out as pretty risque–okay downright disturbing–on a website that posts secrets on such fluffy subject matter as abortion, bestiality, masturbation, adultery, suicide, organized religion, rape, and racism, among many others.

Have I ever been offended by a postcard on PostSecret. Yep, I sure have (that example I linked of bestiality comes to mind). But wow, what eye openers those secrets are. And that is part of the whole point of the website. Personally, the only thing I found appalling about the contested secret was its grammatical errors. But I would never demand that Warren stop posting cards from those who don’t know the difference between “your” and “you’re” on what is, after all, his own damn blog. Post away, Frank.

I went shopping for jeans today, a special kind of torture that should be reserved for those in one of the inner circles of hell. While trying on about ten pairs for every one that actually fit, I realized I had inadvertently grabbed a pair of skinny jeans. Ironically, they actually fit. Knowing how much difficulty I have in finding jeans that fit, I gave them a split-second extra glance before rejecting them. I thought to myself, “I know they are in style now, but I just don’t like skinny jeans. They just remind me of very bad 80s fashion.”

About ten minutes later I was in the fitting room yet again, this time next door  to a teenager of about fourteen and her little sister of about ten, both of whom were accompanied by their grandmother. The fourteen-year-old kept extolling the awesomeness of the skinny jean. At one point she lamented that she liked a pair, but they were only skinny on the top, not on the bottom. The grandmother, trying to be helpful, said, “Well, if they are skinny on the top, they count, don’t they?”

“Grandma,” the little sister piped up, “you don’t know anything about skinny jeans. They have to be skinny the WHOLE way down, not just on the top!”

I bit back a laugh, but then had a sobering thought: Is my insisting on wearing bootcut jeans equivalent to a 1987 high school graduate insisting on wearing her hair in a feathered mullet? Have I become THAT woman? The one who insists on wearing the style she likes no matter how out of date it becomes?

This is a disturbing though indeed, but I doubt even that realization will get me into a pair of skinny jeans. I mean, they are sooo 80s! Almost as bad as having a mullet…

While editing down a tweet the other day to make it fit into the dreaded 140-character limit, it occurred to me that tweeting is a great way to hone one’s copyediting skillz (the z-spelling is preferred by Chicago in the new CMOS16, I hear). Copyediting is all about choosing the perfect word and punctuation to convey the author’s meaning as clearly and precisely as possible. Every word and stroke of punctuation counts. On Twitter, not only does every word count, but every character does too.

My twelfth-grade English teacher loved the English 101 textbook we used in class a little too much (she referred to the author by her first name and would giggle–chortle even–a little too enthusiastically at every lame witicism the author employed to make learning about basic writing skills “fun”). But there was one concept in that textbook that I remember well and use in my copyediting every day: “pruning away deadwood.”

At the time, the hapless 17-year-old that I was did not really get this concept. Doesn’t using 8 words where 3 will suffice make you sound smarter? And what’s so wrong with using passive voice? Again, more words equal better writing, RIGHT?!

Now I know better. (The answer to those questions is a definitive NO.) And while my writing is still sometimes a tad too wordy–like I have to remind any readers of this blog of this–I like to hope that I have become very adept at cutting out the wordiness from others’ writing, which I have a safe and healthy distance from.

Pruning the deadwood while copyediting is somewhat akin to applying Occam’s Razor to philosophical problems. The simplest and most direct solution is often best. And what is tweeting if not perfecting the art of parsimony in language?

While many who deal with language on an intimate basis every day bemoan the existence of sites like Twitter that seem to encourage the unraveling of the English language into barely recognizable shreds, I think that Twitter is a opportunity for copyeditors–and writers, too–to perfect their craft.

A couple weeks ago an unfamiliar number called my cell phone while I was at work. I don’t answer calls from numbers I don’t recognize because I figure if it’s important they’ll leave a message and I can decide whether or not I want to call back. I don’t like feeling like I’m being ambushed into talking to someone I don’t know and most likely do not want to have a conversation with. The number called twice in a span of about four hours, and I ignored it both times.

Meanwhile, I got an email notification that my Capital One credit card statement was ready. Don’t you love the internet age? Gone are the days of sending out a stack of paper bills each month, stamps firmly affixed,  hoping that the post office doesn’t lose the payment on its way into the money-grubbing hands of your creditors. With a few quick clicks, your payment is completed in all of thirty seconds. And if you make or schedule your payment as soon as you get those convenient little payment reminders, you’ll never have a late payment again! Huzzah!

Well, you can imagine my consternation when upon logging into my Capital One account I was notified that my available credit was $0 and I had a payment overdue! Say what?! I always pay off my card in its entirety (current balance rather than statement balance) each month, and I pay it off as soon as I get the email notification.  My Capital One card was my very first, so I’ve had that account for six years or so; I  have never missed a payment.

I called Capital One to see what was up. After requesting to speak to a native English speaker (the last thing I needed was to not be able to understand the person), a woman came on the line with such a thick southern accent that I could hardly understand her any better than the Pakistani fellow who answered the first time. She explained to me in her twang that I had failed to make a my last payment on time. I informed her (in an only slightly annoyed tone) that that was simply impossible, and I gave her the information I outlined above.

I made an online payment right then and there while I was on the phone with her, telling her I would pay my account off but would close that account if they didn’t wave the late fee since I genuinely believed it was a mistake on their end and I had been a loyal customer for seven years yet they were treating me as if I had done something wrong. The woman told me they would wave the late fee as a curtesy just this once, and that was that.

Less than an hour after I got off the phone with Capital One, the mystery number called AGAIN. I finally broke down and answered the phone with a rather brusque hello. Guess who? That’s right, it was Capital One!

Capital One: “Are you aware that your account is no longer in good standing?”

Me: “I just payed off my card; it is in good standing.”

CO: “You just made a payment today?”

Me: “Yes.”

CO: “Oh. Okay, thank you. Have a good day.”

So I thought that was the end of that. Oh, silly naive me. Of course it was not the end of that. I logged into my account a week or so later, and it said I owed the amount I had just paid the week before! Incensed, I called up Capital One. I had reached a new level of incensity, if you will. I told the man who answered (rather rudely, I’ll admit it) that I had made a payment on my account the week before but that my online account was not showing it. He replied that they had been having some trouble with their website and that some payments hadn’t gone through!! Did Capital One call or email me to let me know that I’d have to remake the payment? Of course not! They can manage to call 8 times a day (without ever leaving a message) to tell me that I’m two days late on my payment, but they can’t be bothered to let me know that a payment I made through THEIR website–which I have absolutely no reason to suspect might not go through–hasn’t been processes because of an error on their end! Could this be what happened the first time my payment was “late”? Most likely!

I immediately told the man on the phone that I wanted to pay off my account and close it. He actually had the gall to ask me why! “Because this is the second time in as many months that you guys have screwed up a payment I’ve made, that’s why!” He didn’t really have anything to say to that.

So now I am down one credit card. It’s a shame, too: Capital One was my “pretty” card. It had a picture of Van Gogh’s Starry Night on it. Oh well, it’s back to boring cards for me. I must be growing up.

* * *

Speaking of my “grown up” credit cards, one of them is an Amazon.com rewards card through Chase. I get a $25 Amazon.com gift certificate every time I spend $2,500, which is totally sweet. It’s like getting free money! Because of the rewards, I use that card the most (which is probably what they’re going for).

I called Chase because I had a question about my bill. The lady, who seemed snooty from the second she got onto the phone, went through my charges to show me how the bill balanced up for the total due. She was acting like I was being incredibly rude and stupid for not understanding immediately why the total due was what it was. As she listed off my charges, I could tell she was judging me by how many times I had used my card at the liquor store. “Gates Circle liquor AGAIN for 32.03.” I mean seriously, how rude! I would think one of the big no-nos in that industry would be commenting on customers’ spending habits! Snooty credit-card phone lady is probably no fun at parties.


Irvine in the city

Dev’s been really into Irish folk music for the past year or so. It all started with a 2004 reunion concert DVD of Planxty, the Beatles of ’60’s Irish music. In March he bought himself an Irish bouzouki and swore he’d never pick up a guitar again.  True to his word, the bouzouki (whom I’ve dubbed Souki) is hardly ever out of his hands. He really has found “his” instrument, and it’s a delight to hear him play it.

If Planxty was the Beatles of Irish folk, Andy Irvine is its John Lennon. It’s not an exaggeration to say that Andy Irvine is one of Dev’s musical heroes. Although he is sixty-seven, Andy still tours fairly regularly. Last month, Dev and I were musing on how cool it would be to see Andy in concert. I commented that since there’s no telling how long Andy would still be touring, we should look into planning a trip to Ireland or England–where we’d surely have to go to see him live–around one of his shows. After checking Andy’s website for tour dates, imagine my delight at being able to tell Dev that he was playing in NYC the following month, a mere four hours from my and Dev’s place! I called for tickets the next day and secured two FRONT ROW seats.

Dev’s sister Gwyn met us in NY for the concert. We had about six hours to kill before the concert and had a great time (despite the drizzly rain) walking around a bit, meeting my high school friend Reshma for a drink, and going to a music store.

We went to a little cafe close to the Irish Arts Center for dinner before the show. It was good, but our waiter was more focused on being “absolutely fabulous” for his buddies who came in than on serving us our food. I didn’t mind waiting for my dinner  since my cranberry iced tea truly was fabulous, but I was less tolerant when my fudge brownie got waylaid in the four-foot distance between counter and our table when our waiter intercepted a gaggle of boys in a kiss/hug fest.

After dinner we showed up at the Irish Arts Center somewhat embarrassingly early, but we were tired of wandering around in the rain. Upon arrival we were informed that we’d get to meet the artists after the concert. (The show was part of the Masters in Collaboration series in which two artists perform together. John Doyle, another Irish musician, was the second artist in this show.)

This show brought new meaning to the term “intimate venue.” The theater  held only about 100 seats, and our front-row seats were less than ten feet from Andy and John. The acoustics were phenomenal. As our waiter from the cafe would undoubtedly say, the music was “absolutely fabulous”! Dev was in a state of amazement through the whole show. He just kept shaking his head from side-to-side as if he couldn’t believe what we were witnessing. Not only was the music unbelievable, but the onstage banter had the perfect mix of humor and storytelling. Andy and John played two forty-five-minute sets and ended with one of Dev’s favorite Irvine tunes, “Never Tire of the Road.” For their encore, the creator of the Masters in Collaboration series, Mick Moloney, joined Andy and John onstage with his mandolin. Moloney knew Andy from his Planxty days when Mick was playing with another of Dev’s favorites, Paul Brady.

They had a small reception in the lobby after the show where we had the chance to meet Andy and John briefly. It was a pleasure to be able to shake Andy’s hand and tell him how much his music means to us.

It’s a night none of us will forget any time soon. The only downside is I’m afraid no gift I ever give Dev will compare to this one!

Cecelia, my Honda Civic, has the car equivalent of toilet paper sticking to the bottom of her foot. There’s a mysterious white cloth hanging down from her undercarriage. I have no idea what it is, and since I only see it (and therefore only think about it) when I’m going out to my car  in my work clothes in the morning, I’ve yet to get close enough to really inspect it. Besides the fact that it’s, you know, kind of gross.

~*~*~*~

Now I admit to being a little squeamish about touching something that I just know must be filthy (e.g., a white cloth that has been dragged under a car for the ether knows how long), but some people take cleanliness to an extreme that just doesn’t make sense to me.

I work in a fairly small office. In the section of the building where my office is located there are only about eight women who use the bathroom located in our part (give or take the random other ladies from other parts of the building who might conceivably need to use our restroom while at our end). Well you’d think that our toilet was open for use by prostitutes and drug addicts considering the lengths to which some of my fellow office mates will go to avoid touching anything. Now I understand why women want to hover when they encounter a toilet like this, but do they really think they are going to catch some dreaded disease from the one of the seven other women who they work with who share their toilet?

I once heard one office hen complain that it’s really difficult to turn the light off and open the door without touching either light switch or doorknob. Am I wrong in pointing out (not to the hen herself, of course, cause I’d probably be branded the office dirtball within the 3.2 seconds it’d take her to gossip to the rest of the office brood) that these items in the bathroom are generally touched only before one uses the toilet and after one washes her hands? But what do I know? I’m just a dirtball.

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