Monday, March 31, 2014

Adios, Miami!

I am very happy to say that after giving Miami a try, I have moved back to Chicago and will be starting my new job tomorrow.  This will be the first in a series of posts involving our time in Miami.  I think that after some reflection, I can now be more honest with my thoughts and views.  It wasn't all bad, but it wasn't all great, either.

To provide some background, KB received a job offer in Miami last Spring that seemed too good to pass up.  It meant renting out our place in Chicago, quitting our current jobs, buying a car, leaving our friends, and trying a new life in a new state in a new city - a city in which neither of us had any real experience.  It was a gamble to be sure.  But to prevent us from wondering "what if?" for the rest of our lives, we gave it a shot.  And I am so proud of us for doing so.

There is a joke that Miami is the "Capital of South America", and I will tell you now that it's not really a joke.  The South American influence is so abundant, you get the overwhelming feeling that you are living in another country.  The glitz of South Beach will blind you to how the city operates on a day-to-day basis.  It didn't take long for Miami to lose what little charm it may hold.

In Chicago or even DC for that matter, when meeting a recent transplant who shared that they just moved to the city, it was natural to respond with "hey, welcome to Chicago!" or "oh cool, what neighborhood did you settle in?" or even "what's been your favorite part so far?". When we met people in Miami and told them we were new to the city, their responses every time would be a negatively leading, "how do you like it?" which was said with the chin pulled in and an eyebrow raised.

Well, for us anyway, we didn't like it, and I will give reasons following in the next few days.  Suffice is to say that we went to Miami with all the best intentions.  And we are mature enough to look at Miami and say, "it's not us, it's you", and close the door behind us.

I've been in Chicago (quietly) for just over three weeks, and KB will follow along in another three.  On March 4th, we loaded 95% of our belongings into a moving van, which I then drove the 1,421 miles from Miami to Chicago. 

Leaving a sad, waving KB behind on the sidewalk as I drove away was undoubtedly the hardest thing I've ever done (and I've been through some tough scrapes!). When I finally arrived in Chicago, I text the pic to the left to Kevin.  He said it was one of the prettiest sights he'd ever seen.

Tomorrow I start my new job.  I'm scared and excited.  But will no doubt be going through my day, trying to remember every detail to share with KB later.  Six weeks of living apart is the ultimate price we are paying for this, but the eventual reunion in the city we love will be amazing.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Fictional Characters Whose Names You Don't Know

I read all this on mental_floss and thought it would be fun trivia to know.  So I am sharing with you to impress your friends and family.  Here are the names of several fictional characters Enjoy! 
All right, lets start with the most logical place, breakfast. The Pillsbury Doughboy's name is Poppin Fresh, first name Poppin, last name Fresh. Everyone knows that, right?  But you probably should also know that he has a wife, Poppy fresh, and two kids; Popper and Bun Bun Fresh (one of my favorites). His cat and dog are named Biscuit and Flap Jack.

That guy smirking at you from the oatmeal cannister is not William Penn; the good people at Quaker Oats refer to him as Larry. In 2012, Larry got a mini-makeover. His hair was trimmed, he lost a little weight, and Quaker says he acquired "more radiant skin from his daily oatmeal mask".

Before he was a distinguished captain of the S.S. Guppy, the good Captain Crunch was Horatio Magellan Crunch.

Thanks to a marketing campaign in 2009, Mrs. Butterworth was finally given a first name; please call her Joy in all future correspondence.

In 1916, 14-year-old Antonio Gentille entered Planter's Peanuts contest to create a mascot. His winning entry was a version of the dapper Mr. Peanut we all know and love today. And he also suggested the name, Bartholomew Richard Fitzgerald-Smythe.

Those fortunate enough to be on a first name basis with Mr. Clean call him Veritably. That's right, Veritably Clean. The name comes from a "Give Mr. Clean a First Name" promotion in 1962.

The Michelin Man's real name, Bibendum, means "drinking to be done" in Latin, and people used to refer to him as the Road Drunkard. The name comes from a bizarre, early advertisement, that showed the Michelin Man holding a questionable cocktail of nails and broken glass, with the tagline, "Michelin Tires: Drink up obstacles!"

Mr. Whipple, the poor grocer who so desperately wanted his customers to leave the Charmin alone, did have a first name: George.

So, did you know that the friendly little bird over on Twitter goes by the name Larry? Larry Bird.  Yeesh. 

Before he was simply Geoffrey, the Toys R Us mascot was known as Dr. G. Raffe. Boo.

The next time you land on the 'go directly to jail' spot on Monopoly, direct your disgruntlement at Officer Edgar Mallory, the cop who inhabits that space.  And while you're hanging out in jail, feel free to chat up Jake the Jailbird, who's been serving time since 1933.  And when you get that unexpected ten dollar windfall for coming in second place in a beauty pageant, you need to thank Rich Uncle Pennybags. Rich Uncle Pennybags used to have a wife whose name was Marge, but you know how repeated bankruptcies can affect a marriage.  Don't worry, I'm sure she got Baltic and Mediterranean Avenues.

Barbara Millicent Roberts, better known as Barbie, was named for creator Ruth Handler's daughter, so that must have been great for Barbara's body image. And here's the rub: Barbie's long time love and fellow fashionisto is named Ken Carson, and is ALSO named after Handler's offspring. That's right, the real Barbie and Ken are siblings!  Eeww.

The perpetual patient in the game Operation is an unfortunate fellow named Cavity Sam.

According to Toy Story 3 director Lee Unrick, Woody from Toy Story has a last name, Pride.

Minch Yoda, at least according to George Lucas' earliest notes.  I'm sure he took some good-natured ribbing back in his Jedi training days.

For most of us, the evil queen from Snow White has always been known as "the scary lady from the Disney World ride." Her occupation was her name, which was scary enough.  Simply mention Evil Queen and everyone thinks of this woman, or perhaps Leona Helmsley.  But early promotions for Walt Disney's first feature length animation film referred to the world's worst stepmother as Queen Grimhilda.  I don't know - if I was a king looking for a new queen and came across a woman named Grimhilda, I would get a serious case of foreshadowing.  Marrying a woman who has the word "grim" in her name couldn't possibly lead to the happiest of marriages.

In a Peanuts comic strip, Peppermint Patty's real name is Patricia Reichardt.  And Linus' annoying teacher, who sounded suspiciously like a muted trumpet, Miss Othmar, who later got married and became Mrs. Hagameir.

Now, over to Archie comics. Of course, Jughead's parents didn't name him Jughead. They named him a much better name, Forsythe P. Jones III.

And on the subject of comics, Comic Book Guy on The Simpsons is really named Jeff Albertson.  Creator Matt Groening wanted to call him Louis Lane. This seques nicely into...

Big bird's friend Snuffaluppagus has a first name, Alouicious. Alouicious Snuffaluppagus.  Speaking of Sesame Street, in a 2004 episode Cookie Monster admitted that before he got hooked on cookies, his name was Sid. You know Guy Smiley, from Sesame Street? Yeah, his real name was Bernie Liederkrantz. 

Dana Carvey's judgemental, lips-pursing, holier-than-thou church lady, has a name: Enid Strict.

If you go by the 1995 Casper movie, Casper's family name is McFadden.

Although Shaggy probably fits him better, the frightened ghost hunter's real name is Norville Rogers.  Scooby has a more proper name as well, Scoobert Doo.  The rest of the gang is made up of Frederick Jones, Jr., Daphne Blake, and Velma Dinkley.

And from Gilligan's Island, the full names we don't know are Jonas Grumby, better known as Skipper, Roy Hinkley is the Professor's real name, Mary Ann's last name is Summers, and Gilligan's full name is William "Willie" Gilligan.  Along with Ginger Grant, Thurston Howell III, and Lovie Howell, you can now invite them all to dinner and use proper place cards.

Other television names:
Angus MacGyver
Salvatore Assante, aka Turtle from Entourage
Wilson W. Wilson Jr. from Home Improvement
Aristotle Nostradamus Shannon, aka Bull from Night Court 

And just one more thing, Columbo. On his police badge, Lt. Columbo's name was Frank, but many sources will tell you that his name is Philip. However, that's not true. It's a copyright trap that first appeared in the book The Trivia Encyclopedia. When Trivial Pursuit later included a question with the incorrect answer, the author of The Trivia Encyclopedia knew that they had used information from his book, and so he sued. But then the court ruled in favor of Trivial Pursuit, saying that facts, even false ones, cannot be copyrighted...

which is good news for me.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

PhD in Organization

I have a special talent that everyone needs, but not many people possess.  I am an organizer - not of people, but of things.  I love putting items where they ought to/should be.  I get some kind of endorphin rush when I have organized a space, files, storage, etc.  I wouldn't necessarily call myself a "neat freak", but I do live by the mantra that everything has its place.  A few examples:
  • Every photo I own is scanned and stored on a drive, organized by year, then month, then event.
  • I've kept a personal calendar since 1982, all of which are scanned onto a drive.
  • The clothes in my closet hang in ROYGBIV order.
  • My bed is made every day.
  • I have a metal muck box (Kevin calls it my "cube of importance") in which all my important papers are kept.
I believe that disorganization is the physical manifestation of one's mental and emotional states, a reflection of where one is in life.

I know this is a skill for which some people pay handsomely.  I should start farming myself out to friends who lack this skill.  I know one friend in particular who could REALLY use help.  I wonder what professional organizers get paid?

Monday, March 10, 2014

Holiday Bonuses

So, I've been holding on to this one for a few months to see if my mind would change.  But not so, as I am still annoyed.  Again.

Back in December, I received the following in an email from the management in our condo building:
Dear Residents: During these beautiful holidays, and a time for caring and sharing, it is also a time for (building) employee appreciation. For your convenience, the BOD has placed a donation box at the front desk to show gratitude to employees of the (building) community. We must thank our employees for assisting in maintaining and beautifying your home and ours. We wish you a wonderful holiday and the happiest of new years.

Thank you, BOD and Management.
First of all, I find this extremely presumptuous. Secondly, it just feels wrong. But more importantly, it is the responsibility of the building management to dole out holiday bonuses to ITS employees. These folks work in a hospitality industry. It's their job, literally, to provide excellent customer service. This email would be the equivalent to me sending an email to the staff of my company letting them know I am putting a bowl on my desk for their "monetary thank yous", you know, since I helped them out all year. In other words, doing my job.

I liken this to be the business/professional side of tip jars that are placed in coffee shops and small stores.  And we know how I feel about that.

The staff is nice enough here and the place is clean for the most part, except for the pool deck which had a Michelob bottle cap sitting in the same location for two months. Of course neither liquor nor glass are to be at the pool in the first place, according to the building rules. Which I follow. Perhaps I should put out my OWN donation box for following all the rules and being an ideal tenant.

This is the first time we've lived in a concierge building, so I am wondering if this is usual. In Chicago, we didn't have a concierge, but we did have a cleaning service that cleaned the common areas once a week. There was never a request on their behalf from the building management for holiday donations. 

So can you see why I think this is out of line?

Monday, March 03, 2014

Actresses Who Annoy Me

I am super excited that Cate Blanchett won the Best Actress Oscar on Sunday night.  I've loved her since I first saw her in Elizabeth in 1998.  She's always good and she seems like a fun and nice person as well - someone with whom I would like to be friends.  On the flip, there are a few actresses in the biz who, for various reasons, just annoy the hell outta me. In no particular order, they are:
  1. Maggie Gyllenhaal
  2. Julianne Moore
  3. Zooey Deschanel
  4. Kristen Stewart
  5. Julia Roberts
I've written about Maggie on my blog already.  And despite that post being more than 5 years old, my opinion has remained the same.  So moving on.  These are just my perceptions.

Julianne is just awkward.  She's got the worst posture I've ever seen on an actress, her laugh always seems fake, and her mouth always looks like she needs a glass of water.  She looks dry.  And she seems to pick roles that portray her as an offbeat underdog for whom we are supposed to root and sympathize.  Her characters are usually whiny and helpless and I can't help but think she's like that in real life.  And c'mon, her acting on "30 Rock" was atrocious.

Zooey - oh God, Zooey - where do I start?  The girl has two expressions:  1) blank stare and 2) blank stare with wider eyes.  That's it.  When you've seen those two expressions, you've just witnessed Zooey's entire emotional range.  She doesn't even try.  And I can say the same for her singing, if we can call it that.  It sounds like she's still laying in bed with a mic on her pillow and she just staring at the ceiling, getting through it.  And the Siri commercial where she's looking at the rain and asks her phone if it's going to rain today?  Wake up and brush your bangs!  "Siri, are there any signs of active brainwaves?"

Kristen.  Kristen.  Kristen.  She's on the same plane as Zooey but on the opposite end.  While Zooey seems to live more on the positive side of life (rainbows, fluffy clouds, unicorns, what?), Kristen always looks like the guy in front of her just farted.  Her big go-to pose of vulnerability is acting like she's cold or shivering while she tucks her hair behind her ear.  I feel like if I met her, I would catch myself whispering to her because she always looks like either she's suffering a hangover or we just intruded on her nap - regardless of the time of day.  And her poetry sucks.

Joooolia.  Beyond all those teeth, that fake laugh (I mean did you see her overreact in the Oscar audience on Sunday night?), and her holier-than-thou attitude lurks a condescending she-devil (I know people who have worked with her).  She seems like a mean girl who would gather her friends around her at a party to deliberately let you know that she is leaving you out.  Her acting is never above so-so.  She only won an Oscar because the other 4 actresses that year (all amazing!) decided to tell the Academy to screw itself.  Or something.  There's really no other explanation.

This list will continue to grow over time.  I'll probably write an update in another 5 years or so.  But who do I actually like, you ask, other than Cate?

Meryl, of course.  Duh.