Friday, December 11, 2009

5 Ways the Internet Enrages Me

Lately, the makers of popular websites have felt the need to control me and my Internet usage. Subsequently, I've been feeling a somewhat irrational level of rage that will soon push me to abandon these sites that practice the following annoying tactics:

1. Facebook Privacy Notice

Facebook, I will view your privacy changes when I am darn good and ready to and not a moment sooner. If you continue to preempt my regular usage of your site and force me to read things I don't want to read, and make me use functionality of your site I don't care to explore at this present moment, then I will take my patronage elsewhere. Pass the word along to your advertisers.

2. MSN Automatic Bing Searches

I've added the Google toolbar to my Firefox Internet browser. I like Google. I trust their search results. I occasionally enjoy their "I'm Feeling Lucky" function for a good laugh, not to mention Google Scholar, which is a graduate student's lifeline. In other words, Google is my search engine of choice. Except, of course, when I visit and try to start a search in my Google Toolbar.

See above.

When I started typing "Searching Bing" the site somehow preempts my Google search and enters the text into the Bing search bar. In this manner, only "Searc" ends up in my Google search bar while "hing Bing" winds up in the Bing search bar. I hate this. I hate this a lot. You see, I don't want to search Bing. I don't want to be made to search Bing. In fact, I don't think I want to be my homepage anymore.

3. Green Bay Press Gazette webpage ads

I admit it. I'm originally from Green Bay. As such, I enjoy checking out the local news every day, and so I go to the Green Bay Press Gazette's website. However, a new ad feature they've installed at the top of their homepage is beginning to annoy the crap out of me. You see, when I navigate to the homepage, I immediately scroll down to read the headlines. However, as the page is still taking it's sweet time loading, 9 times out of 10, the ad at the top of the page begins expanding, pushing down all of the content below it as I'm trying to read it. You can imagine how impossible it is to read text on a website when it is constantly moving and reloading. In case some of you have missed my recent announcement, any ad that interrupts my attempts to read web content will ensure that I will never purchase that advertised product.

4. Autoplay Videos
The time for excuses is over, Internets. Any producer and/or web designer worth his or her salt will know how to install a video to "Autoplay: false." The fact that you don't do so tells me you do not value my time or independent decision-making faculties. Not to mention the fact that the ancient PC in my office repeatedly gets an Internet Explorer error on video streaming, and, thereofore, autoplay videos mean that I cannot view your website beyond initial loading. Therefore, I have little value for your website and/or product.

5. Being told what to do*
Ultimately, the result of the previous four items is to tell me what to do. I don't appreciate this. I am an educated adult, and I am a savvy web user. I do not need anyone telling me what to do with my Internet usage, especially companies who do so in the name of profit.

*Number 5 is really a conclusion that can be drawn from numbers 1-4, however, a list of 5 sounds much better than a list of 4, don't you think? Ergo, I elucidated.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Milwaukee's 99.1 Made my Night

Thank you 99.1 for including a session of call-in requests at 10:00 PM for my drive home. The following is a delicious exerpt of that portion of your broadcast that had me laughing aloud.

Host: Who's on your mind tonight?
Caller: My ex-fiance
Host: Oh, your "ex?" I'm sorry.
Caller: Yeah, we were together for seven years.
Host: Did she give you the boot?
Caller: Yeah. She wanted to explore more options and have more experiences.
Host: Wow, you were together for a long time. How old are you?
Caller: I'm 23. She's 21.
Host: you were together seven years?
Caller: Yeah.

Me: (Furiously doing math in my head) That's statutory rape!

Host: (crickets chirping)
Caller: (breathing)
Host: Well, I'm gonna play a song for you and I hope it makes you feel better.
Caller: Thank you.

The Song:

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Single in the City: Restaurant Wars

Lately I've been enjoying Milwaukee's dining options solo. I got into the habit when I lived in Hungary, and, upon returning to the U.S., it seemed reasonable to try out new restaurants on my own.

Hey, I'm single and I can't always wait around for my friends to be free for dinner.

That said, it's quite disconcerting just how NOT normal it is in American society for people to eat alone. Try it sometime. And pay attention to the hostess's face when you tell her you are not, in fact, waiting for someone but will be needing a table for one.

Once again, that said, I've decided on a new blog feature entitled "Single in the City" where I take on the land of coupledom and grouptainment to see how establishments make the grade for us single folks. Points for friendliness of staff and lack of weird factor.

First up: Rock Bottom Brewery

The hostess at Rock Bottom Brewery greeted me with a smile for my solo lunch. Never asking if I was waiting for anyone, she simply asked if I would like a table in the bar or in the dining area. I chose the latter.

Once seated, the waiter took my order, only blinking an eye when I ordered a beer in the afternoon on a weekday and not when I sat alone in the booth for 2 hours.

While the restaurant was a bit empty, the staff never once made me feel awkward or inadequate for enjoying my dining experience solo. I did get some work done, so I didn't come in unarmed this time. However, my waiter was very attentive, yet not so much so that it made it seem he was trying to make up for my lack of company. If you've every dined out alone, you know what I mean.

Final Score: Gold Star
The staff at Rock Bottom were friendly and just the right amount of attentive. They didn't try to rush me out of the restaurant out of empathetic embarrassment or a desire to fill the table with more profitable group. Even more, the other customers did not seem uncomfortable with my lone status, in fact, they didn't even seem to notice.

Tune in for my next installment when I recount my experience at Chancery in Wauwatosa, and the suburban housewives seated at the next table who talked about me and my poor, single state the entire time I ate.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Really Dying Happy

Today when I arrived on campus an extraordinary thing happened that completed my life's journey.

After I parked in the ramp, I headed over to the College of Communication building two blocks away. As per usual, the red light at the intersection dictated which way I crossed first. This time I crossed East first, and then South toward The Al.

As I made my way past The Al I heard a trickling sound.

"That's funny," I thought, "It's not raining."

I looked toward the building, and sure enough, a homeless man was urinating on the corner of The Al.

Thankfully, he was turned away from me and so I did not have to witness the indecent exposure, however, I could see that he was creating a rather impressive waterfall of a wet spot on the nice buff-colored concrete.

I had two options:
1. Call Public Safety, after which they would arrive just in time to see the wet spot drying with no perpetrator, or
2. Go on my way and glory in the fact that my time at graduate school is now complete.

I chose the latter.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Dying Happy

I recently had a life-altering experience. I fulfilled a long-held dream of mine that, now complete, means that I will die happy. This past weekend I played bingo at the Oneida Bing & Casino in Green Bay, WI. I've never played bingo at a casino before, always preferring to keep my gambling addiction hidden in church basements and at grandma's house. However, I can tell you that the Nite Owl session in Oneida is a dream-fulfilling experience that I'll never forget.

The night started young at 7 P.M. My mother, and gambling compatriot (read: enabler), insisted we arrive early as the crazy bingo players usually do. Afterall, you cannot have a fulfilling bingo experience without following in the footsteps of the crazy bingo players.

After purchasing our packs and special games, we sat in a haze of secondhand smoke until the 9 P.M. session started. At 8:50 P.M. on the nose, the current session ended and we made a run for a table spot. Our goal was not to find the best spot, per se, but to find the best spot that would most enrage the habitual bingo players. You see, many crazy bingo players stake out the same spot every day and, at heart, are very, very superstitious people. Our goal that night was to infringe on that superstition.

Finally settled in for the long haul, we proceeded with the bingo experience. Twelve games later and none the richer, I took a moment and looked back on my time. Here's a rundown:

1. Most every game had the prefix "Crazy" attached to it. For example, we weren't just playing bingo, we were playing "Crazy Bingo." I concluded that the crazy bingo players could, in fact, only play crazy bingo. It makes a strange sort of sense.

2. Daubing is a must. Though the casino now offers computerized bingo games, the satisfyingly wet, ploppy sound of the dauber highlighting your latest numerical triumph is not to be missed.

3. Troll dolls do not help you win. Only successfully getting a bingo will help you win the game. Any charms, amulets, and, yes, troll dolls are unecessary and only make you look ridiculous.

4. The WI Smoking Ban cannot come soon enough. Unfortunately for this bingo player, The law does not apply to casinos. Alas, perhaps my bingo playing days are preemptively quashed.

5. "Don't embarrass me" was the one thing my mother told me when we started. Apparently, monitor bingo is a big no-no (calling "Bingo" based on a number shown on the monitor without waiting for the caller to announce it first).

6. Also prohibited? Talking. The serious (aka: crazy) bingo players get mad at you for messing with their concentration.

So, was it worth it? Indeed, it was. I now have plans to drag all of my friends to play bingo with me to share in the life-altering experience. And, of course, to snicker. Mustn't forget the snickering.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Drinking Games

Usually I don't like to post my debaucherous exploits online for all to see, but this is a matter of public service. You see, this past weekend I was witness to the creation of two new drinking games. Only you, Internets, can benefit from a retelling.

Game #1: Indian Style Apples
Supplies: Apples 2 Apples game cards, creativity, opposable thumbs

1. Each player chooses a red Apples 2 Apples card
2. Place card facing toward other players on forehead
3. Players try to get each other to guess the word on their cards following the rules of Taboo (you cannot say the word or any derivation thereof in your description)

Alternate turns with green Apples 2 Apples cards

Game #2: Bitch, please
Supplies: Bicycle playing cards, copious amounts of booze, mild-to-medium level buzz

1. Players deal cards and play Go Fish
2. Instead of saying "Go Fish," when player asks for card you don't have, you say, "Bitch, please."

Game works best when riding on a mild-to-medium level buzz. You should be drunk enough to find "Bitch, please" hilarious, yet sober enough not to slur.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Halloween Hijinks

People ask me what my costume will be for Halloween. I dodge the question with a vague and unsatisfying response. Mostly because I don't know, but also because I want to seem mysterious. Here are a few hints as to what I'm thinking...

Hint #1

Hint #2

Hint #3

But which will it be?

The Lost Months

Hey! It's been two months since last we spoke.

Sadly, interesting things have not been happening in my least not pleasantly interesting things, and so I have not felt the need, nay desire, to post. It seemed needless to burden you with the crazy things, and so I've simply kept silent.

I realize now that may have saddened you. I am heartily sorry.

Shall I promise I will be more regular in my posting? Perhaps I will keep it on the safe side and promise I will TRY to be more regular in my posting. Does that suit? Let's shake on it.

I feel better about this already.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

This Day in History

August 19, 1958: My mother was born

Happy birthday Mom.

August 19, 1989: Pan-European Picnic

I had always heard about this when I lived in Sopron. The legend still lives on and the story is openly shared by proud Hungarians, but I never understood how important the event was to the fall of Communism in the Eastern Bloc.

Hundreds of Hungarians and East Germans gathered at the Hungarian-Austrian border to take advantage of the short time the border gate would be open. Somewhat taking the border guard by surprise (but not really, read more here) the people escaped from Communist to political sanctuary in Austria. What made the escape peaceful was the border guard's decision to not deter the citizens from leaving.

The Pan-European Picnic was one of the many events that marked the fall of Communist power in Eastern Europe. By September 11th of that same year, the border in Hungary was permanently opened.

Since living in Sopron, I've learned that there are many reasons the town's citizens are a proud people. This is just one more feather in their cap.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

I'm a Social Media Rockstar

Today I attended "Be a Social Media Rockstar" in Green Bay, WI. The conference was hosted by the Green Bay Area Chamber of Commerce, and covered topics like LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Blogging, and YouTube for local professionals and organizations.

Each session included How To tips for the novice, while best practices and effective uses were shared for the pros.

For example, I learned that blogs must be updated at least once per week as a best practice and in order not to alienate your readers (sorry, readers).

Effectively chastised and motivated, I am rededicating myself to this little piece of Internet. I promise to update more often.

Dinosaurs are Extinct

My favorite breakout session, however, was the "How to Sell Social Media to Your CEO." This is a topic many of us come across in our daily professional lives. In the session we talked about how some CEOs are alpha-male dinosaurs, and don't understand the importance of harnessing the power of social media. Therefore we must present social media marketing using traditional marketing pitch formats. This can be troublesome at times; ROI can be difficult to calculate based on number of followers, for example.

But we learned that there are resources out there for professionals on the cutting edge who want to bring their CEOs over to the dark side. published an article titled Web 2.0 the ROI Case that highlights convincing examples of companies who've harnessed the power of social media to lofty results. For example, "P&G now boasts that over 50% of the company's new product development is now crowdsourced from outside the company." published the results of a survey called Online in Troubled Times that talks about how brands are looking to digital media in the tight economy. published an article, How successful brands live their difference that states that "a brand that generates little to no conversation will be killed by one that does," in a testament to the importance of a company's social media presence.

The conference was a great resource for those interested in exploring what social media can do for their business. It was also a great place to network - both through social media and in person. I made several connections I look forward to building, utilizing, and sustaining in the future.

All in all, a productive day I think.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Starbucks Now Serving Alcohol

Have you heard that Starbucks is test-piloting a new store brand in Seattle that will stay open later, serve alcohol, and have live entertainment?

One of my favorite parts about living in Italy was the café culture. I could walk into Café d’Italia at 7:00 in the morning and enjoy a cappuccino and cornetta. At lunch I could pop in there for a Panini and Europe coke (for those who’ve never been overseas, Europe coke is so much better than American coke). In the evening, after dinner, I could enjoy a glass of Montenegro or a couple of beers (or both) until the wee hours of the morning. Every visit would include a chat with locals, and I would often see friends from town hanging out at Jake’s. In a word, the cafes in Italy were the heartbeat of the town, and part of their purpose was to be open all day and provide a place for people to congregate, relax, and talk about the day.

I’m not saying that I could envision myself at a Starbucks from morning ‘til night. For one thing, I don’t like their food that much. However, I like the idea that I can get my morning coffee in the same place where I enjoy my nightcap. I’m past the point in my life where I want to go out every night and get wasted. Now I like to be a social drinker, and I have a glass of wine while I visit with my friends for 4 hours. The ambience of a relaxed, cool coffee shop at night while I’m enjoying a drink with my friends would be a welcome respite from the loud, bass-thumping bars we usually have to frequent.

I hope that this new concept will live up to its promise and that the public will like it enough to support it.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Assisi, Italy

Our group went to Assisi last Sunday. We left Cagli in a rain storm, and arrived to find Assisi, not only dry, but sunny and beautiful as well. It was well worth the nausea-inducing bus ride.

Words cannot describe how beautiful the city was, but perhaps a few photos can.

Yep, that's Assisi on top of the hill. It kind of reminded me of The Lord of the Rings. We walked all the way up the hill from new Assisi. It was a long way up, but well worth the view.

This is the view from the top of the hill by the cathedral. St. Francis is buried in the lower chapel of this cathedral. Both the lower and upper chapels of the cathedral are magnificent, however, they do not allow photography.

The old town surrounding the cathedral is full of alleyways and walkways around the streets. The effect is very charming, and I'm sure it's easy to get lost if you don't know where you're going.

This is a shop that sells, you guessed it, cheese and well as spices, olive oil, wine, and pasta. I had to take a picture, because a) totally my favorite kind of shop, and b) the decor was fabulous.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Culture Shock U-Curve: A Video Presentation

Yesterday we were charged with presenting on Lysgaard's U-Curve theory of cultural adjustment. Knowing this topic backwards and forwards from numerous lit reviews, I decided to suggest that my group make a little multimedia presentation that would best "show" how we've experienced the U-Curve, rather than just "tell."

The four stages of the U-Curve are:

Honeymoon: You've moved overseas. Overseas is pretty darn awesome. You love life and everything in it.

Crisis: Dear Sir and/or Madam, living overseas sucks when you have to actually figure out how to complete tasks like paying for the toilette, ordering a cappuccino, or asking for directions.

Recovery: Now that I know enough to say "Vore uno cappuccino," and, "Dove le bagno?" things are looking up.

Adjustment: Overseas? This isn't overseas! It's home!

Below is the result of our collective efforts.

And that's the U-Curve theory of cross-cultural adjustment in a nutshell. Not only was our apartment dark and scary (though the landlords were FANTASTIC), it also had parasite-infested beds that made us itch. After a quick visit to the hospital, we got antihistamine and a new, bug-free apartment.

Corpus Domini: Cagli, Italy

Last weekend was the celebration of Corpus Domini in Cagli, Italy.

During Corpus Domini, a procession travels through the streets of Cagli and visits all twelve Catholic parishes. The path is lined with anise and rosemary, and the townspeople decorate the portion of the street in front of their house with floral designs.

Corpus Domini begins at the Duomo in the main square, and the procession begins with a priest bearing a cross, walking on the floral pathway. The town's scout troop follows along the edges of the street not covered in petals. Then the city's band follows, playing a marching dirge.

After the band a procession of Cagli's priests follow bearing an ivory canopy. Under the canopy one priest carries the body of Christ to each parish. After this, all the townspeople follow, crushing the flowers beneath their feet. As the herbs are crushed, they release a pungent, earthy fragrance into the air that hovers for hours after the festivities are over.

Our day began early with our landlords, Giampietro and Daniela Chegai. We, the graduate student team, helped Giampietro prepare and place his floral arrangement in the street.

Every year Giampietro designs a cross of flower petals and wheat. This shot was taken from the window of my apartment, and shows the beginning of the procession with the priest bearing the cross. Along the side you can see the scouts walking along the floral pathway.

Unfortunately, I do not know the history behind the celebration. One of the other student groups is producing a story on the topic and I hope to learn more then. In the meantime, the town of Cagli has organized a special procession of saints for the Americans tomorrow, and the boys will be taking part by bearing one of the canopies. Perhaps there will be another photo blog post tomorrow!

Until then, Arrivederci!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Cagli, Italy: A Small Town of Kodak Moments

My eye starts twitching with stress very time I think about the enormous amount of photos I have on my computer and need to upload to Flickr. So instead I've decided to put up a few snapshots to satiate your burning desire for Italian snapshots. Enjoy. Captions follow photos.

Beware next time you travel to this small town in the Appenines. While you can drive 50 kilometers an hour through the winding streets of old town, you must restrain yourself from carrying, mentioning, or using a trumpet. At least that's what I assume from this signage, because if they hate trumpets so much that they put it on a street sign, then they must mean "ban" in the strongest sense of the word.

Such is the view from my apartment on Via F.M. Tocci. The building we live in was built in the early 1300's. While quite dank, the landlords are the sweetest couple with the cutest, if naughtiest, little 3-year-old boy I've ever seen.

Editor's Note: My nephew, Ethan, is the cutest 3-year-old boy I've ever seen. He is, however, NOT the naughtiest. This, therefore, makes Adriano qualified for the above superlative.

This is why I love Italy. No more words needed.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Obama Invited to Dinner with Italian Family

On Thursday my classmates and I were invited to dinner with an Italian man, Emidio. Last weekend we had met him at the Festa de la Republica celebration in the main piazza of Cagli. Last night was the dinner date.

After meeting him in the piazza, and riding with him through a harrowing, Italian car ride to his house at the top of the mount in New Cagli, we arrived to the most beautiful panorama.

Emidio's house overlooks the entire old town of Cagli, as well as the three mountains surrounding it. The view was breathtaking, the cats were cute, and the cherries from the tree in his backyard were delicious. Suddenly the stress from the past week evaporated. And this was before we even got inside the house.

Inside the house Emidio's wife was cooking us dinner. She is the chef at Buona Scena, a restaurant that overlooks one of the mountains near Cagli. As she was finishing the antipasto, the appetizers, Emidio showed us his new plasma TV and satellite cable.

He kindly flipped through the channels until he came to an English news program, Fox News. It just so happened that it was 7:30 p.m. in Cagli, and 12:30 p.m. in Green Bay, WI, where I am from. Fox News was showing a live broadcast of President Obama's speech at Southwest High School in Green Bay - less than a mile from my parents' home.

Politics of Change

Having lived overseas while George W. Bush was President of the United Staes, and now living overseas while Barack Obama is President, I feel in a unique position to realize just what America's last election meant to the world.

While I can't speak for everyone, those I've talked to have a sense of hope and adopted pride that the U.S. took a step toward progress by electing our first President of mixed race.

Diversity is also a strong issue in other countries, in fact, my team and I are producing a story on that very topic in Cagli. But what makes some countries different, is that they seem to look to America to set the tone and pace for progress. That's not all-ecompassing, mind you, but when Americans elected Barack Obama as President, the world saw us taking a step in the right direction. And they want to follow.

Progress Translates

I knew Obama was planning to speak in Green Bay on Thursday, I just never thought I'd be able to watch the live broadcast...from Italy.

So there I was, sitting with a nice, Italian man and two American girls, watching the President of the United States speak in my hometown while I was half a world away. It was a great moment.

I've only been learning Italian for 10 days, and so all I could say was, "Sono di Green Bay! Ma abito a Green Bay!" to try to show my pride to Emidio that the President of the United States was speaking from my home town.

Emidio, bless his heart, understood perfectly.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Throwin' the Deuces

The funny thing about cross-cultural communication is that the familiar suddenly takes on new meaning. Even nonverbal communication may cause cultural misunderstanding as one gesture can have several meanings across a variety of cultures.

Take the American sign for peace, for example. All one need do is hold out one's pointer and middle fingers together in a "V" and the universal sign for solidarity is understood.

But do the same in England and it's another story. Because throwing the deuces in England is a big F.U. to whomever is on the receiving end.

This is why I found my visit to San Pietro at the Vatican City in Italy a bit more entertaining than planned. I'm sorry if I offend any Catholics with the following - it's meant in good humor.

You can't tell by this picture, but dude below is throwing down as we speak. Unfortunately, I run average height and the snapshot is lacking for adequate perspective.

This guy and his lady helpmates are actually quite welcoming. He's sitting forward in his seat as if to show his excitement at your arrival. However, if you're English, his message is entirely different.

Beware if you're a Brit, because this bronze pope is the first to welcome you into San Pietro. "Welcome" is a relative term in this discussion.

Peace out!

Sunday, June 7, 2009

A talk with Miss Cleo

Yesterday the other graduate students and I were taking a stroll through the streets of Cagli. Having woefully underpacked (me, anyways), we were on a mission to get our shop on. Having spied a delicious Italian leather handbag store during our earlier tour of the town, we decided to head in that direction and drop of a few Euros.

On our way through the streets, trying to figure out exactly where that particular store was located, an elderly lady heard us speaking English from her terrace.

Her companion called down to get our attention, and the lady asked if we were Americans.

We replied that yes, indeed we were.

As we stood there, talking to her as she stood 2 stories up, another lady walked by and invited us in. Being of the philosophy that, if you're visiting a foreign country and the locals invite you somewhere you go, we went.

We ended up staying for over an hour, drinking Cokes, and talking to Cleo, a Cagliese woman who used to live in Denver, Colorado. Through Cleo's English, Carla's Italian, and our collective broken Italian, we pieced together the story of Cleo and her family.

An Italian-American Love Story

Cleo Anderson, now 92 years old, speaks beautiful English. She should as she spent much of her adult life with her husband in America.

They met after World War II, when he was stationed in Italy. They fell in love and were married.

Cleo's sons and grandchildren still live in Arizona, and Cleo and her husband used to live together in Cagli.

Her husband died three days ago.

When we inquired about her surname, Cleo teared up and explained that her husband just passed away.

We struggled to hold back tears ourselves, until Carla, Cleo's caregiver, came in with refreshments.

The lack of stronger shared language skills in our group kept the rest of the conversation light.

We told her we were journalism and photography students living in Cagli for only a month.

Carla and Cleo encouraged us to visit Cagli again the future, and even invited us back to live with them. If that doesn't necessarily pan out, we certainly have plans to visit them often while we are in Cagli.

While this sweet lady's memory is fading, and her life now a little lonelier, she encapsulates what is so beautiful about this small town.

That four curious students visiting Italy can have a lovely afternoon in the company of two dear women, determined to enjoy a moment of true Italian hospitality and genuine cross-cultural understanding.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Big Knockers

Yard space is something a 13th century town has little of. The medieval stone homes built inside the Old Town wall are directly on the cobblestone streets, and the only space left between each complex is an alleyway that leads to the few gates of the city. So Italians in the small town of Cagli have developed a different way to show off their creativity and pride in their home.

Lace curtains, clean windows, expertly planted and beautifully arranged window boxes, and elaborate doorways are all ways that modern Italians take pride in their ancient homes. Especially the doorways.

Most of the old homes have stone archways supporting a heavy wooden door. The Romans were nothing if not expert arch builders. No doubt the stones are likely the original pieces placed by workers long ago. The wood doors, however, may be more modern.

Most outer doors that you see on the street are merely entryways into a courtyard, if the home is built around a courtyard, or they provide entry into a hallway that leads to several family apartments. Most places have electric buzzers for visitors to announce their presence to each apartment, but before electricity, people had to rely on knockers making enough noise for people in the apartments to hear.

Some of these knockers can still be seen, and the design and ornateness is just another way for Italians to show off their creativity and design. Below is an example from Rome.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

A bit of Home-a in Roma

Milwaukee, all the training you done give me came into play the other night.

There I was, full of Italian vino and pasta outside of Termini station. All this Milwaukee gal wanted was a beer (birre), but Italy is not exactly well known for its brew.

My apartment, being close to Termini, was a convenient location to hit the late-night supermarket in the station, and so I decided to take a gander and see what kind of oat soda I could find.

After one lap around the supermarket, I finally find the proverbial goldmine at the end of the rainbow (read: aisle). A delicious Weissbier being just the thing, I take a half liter and pay up.

A kindly Italian man was nice enough to pop my top (of the beer bottle, that is, sicko), and I walked out of the doors tasting the delicious alcoholic bounty of hops, wheat, water.

"Aaaaah, this is just what I needed," I purred.

The three Australian men standing next to me did a double take.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Progressive Dinner in Hungary

Location: Sopron, Hungary
Time: 22:26

I just got back from English Club at the Púskás on Várkerület. It was the perfect opportunity to meet up with more friends, and before English Club I had tea with Harriet and a delightful Danish lady at the Liszt Salon. I taught her the term "progressive dinner" as we continued our visit at English Club.

Needless to say, a WC was in need before the evening was finished.

When I used to live here, English Club in Sopron every Wednesday night was often the highlight of my week. People from several nations who just happened to be in Sopron gathered together for beer and English conversation.

Tonight we had three Hungarians, three Americans, one Austrian, one Dane, one Canadian, and one unidentified male (we were sitting at different tables and so I didn't get a chance to speak with him). There was also a Frenchman at the Púskás enjoying dinner. While we invited him to join us, he declined to instead watch Manchester United battle Barcelona in the Champion's League.

Two great things happened at English Club.

First, I killed with this joke (thank you, Rachel):

Second, I learned that if you speak a little of the local language the restaurant will charge you local prices. This could also be filed under the category of, "You know you've graduated past the point of being a tourist when..."

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Memories Seen Through Rose Tinted Glasses

Location: Sopron, Hungary
Time: 20:30

Jó Ested Internets.

I spent the day at Bérzsenyi Daniel Evangélikus Gimná old stomping grounds. I got to chat with two of my favorite former students, blessed as I am, and visited a few of the current English classes. I truly miss it here, but I can't tell if it's because I've learned so much since I've been gone or because I'm simply a tourist and loving life right now. I feel that if I came back and did the same work I would be much more effective because I know what I was doing wrong before, and I understand the culture better. However, this could just be the rose tinted hue of remembrance.

Do you ever notice how memories are more positive than the actual reality? For whatever reason, and I'm sure a psychologist could tell me why, we have selective memory when it comes to our past and we seem to remember much more of the positive than the negative.

In Hungary I find it's the opposite.

Hungary is a country steeped in history, tradition, and remembrance, and a lot of that remembrance is melancholy at best.

For example, I remember a trip to Budapest a few Octobers past during a national Hungarian holiday. The country was remembering the revolution of 1956. Granted, I was educated in the American school system and know shockingly little about world events, however, I do know that any revolution against Communist Russia in 1956 was unsuccessful.

I mentioned this to my Hungarian colleague, asking why, if they failed, do Hungarians celebrate the revolution?

She replied, "because we tried."

And that is a great summation of the Hungarian spirit. They don't have much to celebrate by way of successes. Another colleague, at a different time, lamented, "we always pick the wrong side."

She, of course, was speaking in regards to conflicts and past world wars.

But while they don't have many successes to celebrate, they have a few attempts to remember. And they do so with gusto.

Because the spirit of Hungary isn't about victory. The victory itself is in the attempt.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Hungary: Land of My...

...well, certainly not "forefathers," but that title sounded so nice and ostentatious.

I am currently in Aszod, Hungary, yesterday I was in Sopron, Hungary, and the day before that I was in Vienna. Life is good.

I am visiting old haunts and great friends in Eastern Europe before I head down to Italy for the summer. I can't convey how much I've missed it here, being back it has taken no time to jump right back in to living the Hungarian life...including trying (poorly) to speak what little Hungarian I can (i.e. not much).

Soproni beer. Paprika chio chips. Palacsinta. Gesztenye Puree. Nescafe. I am doing as much as I can to eat and drink my weight in delicious Hungarian treats. I have 15 pounds of luggage weight to fill, and plan on doing so with wine and beer, in addition to what I may ship back to the States.

Gotta run. Store only open from 9-12 on's surprising it's open at all!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Tomorrow MKE becomes Gokewaukee

I've been trying to put off this post. Unfortunately, and for reasons unknown so say some comrades who watch American Idol, Danny Gokey, Milwaukee's own, is becoming quite the prospective finalist for Idol. I'll let them explain their stance, to which I adhere. Afterall, they are more articulate.

However, due to Gokey Day tomorrow in Milwaukee, I feel the need to roll my eyes via the Internets. I've never watched a full episode of Idol. Sure, I've caught snippets here and there, and read some press and know the general format of the show. For the sake of full disclosure, I must admit that I love the Slovak and Hungarian versions, Megasztar, but I'll defend myself because those versions actually include contestants with talent and judges who know what they're talking about, not to mention where they are on any given night (I'm talking to you Abdul).

Milwaukeeans have been freakin' flipping their lids for this guy since day one. Tweeps have been all a-twitter, bloggers have been all a-blogging, and the local news stations have been all but foaming at the mouth for a chance to claim a piece of this national stage.

Tomorrow there will be a parade. The Gokemeister will perform a mini-concert for his worshippers, and he will get free entrance to the hottest show in town - the Brewer's Cubbie's game - for the low, low price of squawking out the national anthem.

As my comrade put it - did CC Sabbathia get a parade when he pitched his balls off last season and was instrumental in getting the crew to the playoffs? Did Waukesha'sErin Lobdell, of Survivor, get a parade for being a finalist this season?

What's the big deal with Gokey?

I have no clue, and so I am escaping Milwaukee before it becomes CrazyTown for safer, and saner, climes.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Marquette Continues to Up it's Coolness Quotient

FLASH-mob: noun, a large number of seeming strangers performing a choreographed act in a public place then immediately dispersing from whence they came.

Today an event happened that I have not seen the likes of since my undergraduate days at the University of Minnesota many moons ago. I was but a young lass, a sophomore, when walking across the mall in front of Northrup, a girl started singing. A boy joined in, and they fell in love as students around them danced and sang as one large broadway-esque chorus. The love story ended on a stirring crescendo as the players dispersed and went on their merry ways.

I later learned this production was the heroine's final project for theater class that semester. Her professor was surreptitiously grading her from the steps of a nearby building. A+, girl, A+.

Today in the central mall at Marquette University, a similar number was performed for passersby.

Members of the graduating class showing visiting prospective students just how fun MU can be, and saying a raucous goodbye to their classmates. Lovely.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Pork, the other flu virus

I'm leaving the country in 3 weeks. The new swine flu business better not hinder my plans.

Right now, airlines and airports are taking charge, issuing warnings, and taking precautions with plans carrying passengers who exhibit flu-like symptoms. Read more here.

I will do whatever you want when I land in London, British Airways. Take a blood sample, have me cough into a breathalyzer that detects the flu virus, whatever you want. Just let me go to Hungary.

Also, if you read the story linked above you will read about LAX installing hand sanitizer dispensers throughout each terminal. My question is, why antibacterial sanitizer? Flu is a virus.

Friday, April 24, 2009

I didn't forget about you, Internets

Hello Dear Reader. Lately I've been sucking at this posting business. I apologize. Let's just say the last two weeks of school are mayhem.

To summarize the happenings of my life as of late:

My first year of graduate school will be finished next week. Obviously by this post you can see that I am assiduously working on the final project and paper I have due early next week.

Only 26 days left until I am in Europe. On May 20th I fly out to Hungary, and then will meander down to Rome, Italy for a summer class with my faculty advisor. Mere numerals cannot encapsulate the amount of Soproni, Tokaj, Kekfrankos, and Borolo I will drink in the duration of my stay.

I will quite possibly be dividing my time during the months of July and August between Milwaukee and Green Bay. I foresee a lot of commuting, but a good chance of a job opportunity post graduation as the result of said commuting.

I must study. And so, with this brief recap I leave you. Please stay tuned as more frequent updates will commence once next week ends.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Mighty Life List #21

Some would consider my Mighty Life List a Bucket List by another name. My opinion is that a Bucket List is too morose. We shouldn't be striving for these achievements simply because we hear the minutes of our mortality ticking away. A Bucket List is something people make up when they realize they've been sleepwalking through life for the past X amount of years, and now want to make sure they fulfill these accomplishments with the time they have left.

We should instead be simply striving to live life to the fullest every day, no matter what age we are. Death is just a part of life, not a deadline of adventure that we need to meet.

And so, with this mindset I created my Mighty Life List when I turned 25. I have no immediate plans for my life to end, and I am far too young for a midlife crisis. Quite simply, it's a list of things I have always wanted to try, accomplish, and/or learn because I am a curious person, and there's no time like the present.

As I was scanning through it today, I realized that I can check off #21. Last weekend, over the Easter holiday (Passover to my Jewish readers), my stepdad bought a kite for the little nephews to play with.

The kite was a jet plane from Sam's Club, came in a tube with a dozen small pole-like attachments, and no clear instructions. My stepdad and brother-in-law spent roughly 2 hours trying to figure out how to put the thing together. After what seemed like an eternity of my four-year-old nephew asking, "is my kite ready yet?" his kite was indeed ready.

Really, you can't blame him for being impatient when the thought of flying a jet plane kite has been planted in his head.

To be completely honest, I wasn't the one holding the string. But I'm going to count it any.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Reason #483 that I am a Nerd

Dear Discovery Channel,

You've kept me in suspense for far too long. You may remember a little love letter I sent you last year, DC. Well the subject of that letter is why I am writing to you today.

Season 5 of Deadliest Catch premieres tonight, after what has seemed like an eternity. You left me with many questions last year; questions I need answered.

Will Phil return for another season? Or give up the hard life of a crab fisherman in favor of his health, and turn the business over to the next generation of Harris men? Will Edgar bite the head off a fish within the first 5 minutes of the premiere? (Answer is No!!!!)

Which boat will win the crab count, and which captain will win the Captain's Wager? And finally, the most important question of all, will the Bon Jovi theme song still manage to make my heart flutter?

Only time will tell, DC, but know that I am here for you all the way. Thank you, Discovery Channel, thank you for providing me this delightful Blue Collar TV porn. I am sure it is only for my benefit, and not just because it's a ratings goldmine.


Saturday, April 11, 2009

Lambeau Peeps: Green Bay Packer Peep Pictures

Intelligent Traveler Blog over at National Geographic Traveler is hosting a contest called "Peeps in Places." You may remember me mentioning it. As I am out of Milwaukee for the Easter weekend, I did my dutifully dutiful duty and took my peeps pictures in Green Bay. I enlisted the help of my parents, we racked our brains (wrack versus rack? answer here), and realized that the Green Bay Packers are the only iconic tourist attraction in town.

Being the good sports they always are (pun unintentional), my parents donned the mantle of shamelessness, and helped me set up shots in Lambeau Field, the Packers Hall of Fame, and Titletown Brewery. Sidenote: I don't care what you say, Green Bay is "Titletown." I'm talking to you, ESPN!

We were asked what the heck we were doing with the peeps only about a hundred times. Once, especially, when I tried to sweet talk (no pun intended) my way into the Hall of Fame to take a picture of a Lambeau Peep...I mean, Leap (pun intended).

All in all, the photos came out rather well, even though I did not have my own trusty Canon. They're on my Flickr page, but I figured I'd share them with you here in order to celebrate Easter, Green Bay style.

I call this one the "Peep Leap." In the Packers Hall of Fame, visitors can try their hand at a Lambeau Leap. Crowd noise is piped in when you hit the wall. This little peep isn't so sure he'll make it over.

This iconic Packer statue was located outside the Packers Hall of Fame before it moved into Lambeau Field after the stadium renovation. The statue has since been relocated to Titletown Brewery, a restaurant perfect for the visiting Packer fan in need of a good dinner. This receiver offers the perfect photo opportunity...turns out the football is not his goal, rather a delicious sugary peep is what he's after.

Outside of Lambeau Field are bronze statues of Vince Lombardi and Curly Lambeau. I asked Curly what he really wanted out of life. Being that he's made of bronze, he's not much of a talker, but he did happen to point to his heart's desire.

I call this one "Blue 52 peep." If you're a Packer fan, you know what I'm talking about. Bart Starr, Brett Favre, Aaron Rodgers - no matter the quarterback, instead of a pigskin, you're getting a peep.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Peeps in Places

National Geographic Intelligent Traveler is hosting a photo contest this Easter season.
The photo challenge is entitled, "Peeps in Places," and one must take a picture of the delicious, neon-colored confection in a tourist destination.

From Intelligent Traveler Blog:
Here's how it works: take a photo of one or more Peeps (original chicks, pink bunnies, or others--we're not biased) in any travel destination, add your photos to our Flickr pool, and then tag them "NGTpeeps." Please limit your entries to three per person.

The deadline for the contest has been extended to April 13th.

Opening day at Miller Park, Quadracci Pavilion and Windhover Hall, The Bronz Fonz...the possibilities for great peeps photos in Milwaukee are endless. Get out there and do us proud!

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Preteen Flashback but with Booze

Last night I had the great privilege of helping my friend M celebrate her 29th birthday. Wanting to do it up right, she got a group together for some old school rollerskating followed, of course, by a groupie-band-following experience of which I will describe in a moment.

But first, the Skate Land.

Skate Land, of course, is not as great as Skate World, Skate Universe, or Skate Galaxy, however, it brought me back to my preteen years of owning the skate rink at Shawano County Park in Shawano, WI. And by "owning," I mean "dominating."

When M first invited me to her skating party, she asked that we invitees not think less of her for wanting to partake in such a tween activity. I replied by saying that I owned my own skates, and was hardly in a place to be judging anyone.

The night proved to be exactly what I expected for my preteen flashback, but with the addition of Breakdancing Skate Guy, Twilight Emo Guy, and a good friend of mine, who shall remain nameless, who stayed in my locker and occasionally made the evening more enjoyable.

After skating ourselves into oblivion (and thankfully not to the ER), we reverted back to our post-21 selves and headed to the least likely of all places, a "night club" in a bowling alley. I use quotations marks because I refuse to seriously call this place a club, even though the proprietors insist on doing so on their website. I forgot to bring my cleavage with me, or so I assumed when I compared my outfit to whom I can only imagine were townie prostitutes in the establishment's ladies room.

Thoroughly chastened for my lack of adequate fashion, I spent most of the evening in the balcony, raining down my judgment on others. It was fun.

A local band was playing, and the forty-year-old, recently-divorced, female groupies were just as entertaining as the forty-year-old, All-American Rejects wannabe band members. That is, until forty-year-old lead singer got felt up by one overzealous divorcee. At that point it was all I could do to keep down my dinner.

The only question remaining at the end of the evening was how the band could provide a video background that included clips from Dark Knight, among other popular movies. Copyright infringement, anyone?

Nonetheless, some of the tunes were dance-worthy and so I shook my tailfeathers with the best of 'em. However, I refused to dance in the cage. Just because your wood-paneled pub has a stage, dance floor, and cage dancer doesn't mean you've got yourself a hip nightclub. I'm talking to you, Pete Wentz lookalike who was running the soundboard.

All in all the evening reminded me of the time I was in Eagle River, WI, and my friends and I were joking that we should pick up some townies. We succeeded in drawing the attention of two male townies on a crotch rocket, and immediately threw them back in the townie fishpond, then hightailed it out of Eagle River. While I didn't catch any townies last night, the sentiment was the same.

It was a highly entertaining and much enjoyed evening.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Open Letter to THAT Person

Dear THAT Person,

Thank you so much for deigning to use your left-hand turn signal at the intersection today. It was kind of you to think of me as you belatedly realized that other human beings were in your vicinity.

I sincerely apologize that, as you sat idling in the middle of the intersection during the green light, that I was left unsure as to where you were going. There's no excuse for my lack of ESP, and I know that now. I don't know why I, too, was then left hesitating as I did not want to continue through the intersection for fear that you might turn and crash into my driver's side door. The ensuing horrific car crash would, no doubt, bruise three of my ribs, break my tibia, and potentially cause me internal bleeding. This ridiculous notion left me hesitant to make the first move, and I don't know if you can ever forgive me for that.

Please accept my humblest of apologies for beeping my horn at you. I seemed to have interrupted your texting. I will be forever grateful that, as the light turned yellow, you finally flipped on your blinker, indicating that, because I was venturing straight, I did, indeed, have the right-of-way. This left me wishing I could flip something of my own at you, and I am so glad that you were not able to read my thoughts at that moment. I will carry the shame of that vicious thought with me forever.

In hindsight, I realize that you were merely doing me a favor. You see, as I was forced to wait through another red light, I was able to rethink my past actions and finally understand that I was in the wrong in this situation. After all, this is your world, and I'm just living in it.


Yours Truly

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Questions this weekend left me

I spent the weekend at a friend's house enjoying a TV and movie marathon, as well as too much food as is humanly possible to consume in two days. As I sit here contemplating the events of days past, I am left with the following questions:

1. It snowed yesterday. In Wisconsin. On March 28th. Not only is this unacceptable, but it leaves me wondering...will the geese start flying south again?

2. Rather than cook breakfast this morning, we were so lazy that we shoveled off our cars and drove to the Flat Top Grill (of which you can read a review by my friend here). The restaurant boasts a mongolian barbeque dinner by night, and a mongolian breakfast barbeque by day. In other words, they provide you with a host of mixings and you can create your own pancake, french toast, or omelette made-to-order. While the breakfast was crazy delicious (like Mr. Pibb + Red Vines), it left me wondering...can one die from eating a pancake made from an entire bowl of chocolate chips and Reese's peanut butter cups? (the answer is an uncomfortable no)

3. We watched The Shining on Saturday night, because I had never seen it in it's entirety. In fact, the only part I've seen was the kid on the big wheel staring at the twin girls as they said, "Come play with us!" right before the twister took out the drive-in movie theater. Yes, that's right. The only part of The Shining that I saw was the clip shown in the movie Twister. Gotta love that Helen Hunt classic.

Anyway, after viewing that cinematic gem I had to wind down a bit before going to bed. I mean, who wouldn't have to wind down after having their nerves shot by listening to the nails-on-chalkboard shrieking of Shelley Duvall?
Short story long is that I started reading Twilight for the first time. I am now 100 pages in and have already found ripoffs of three major TV shows and movies. My question is this: Does anyone really believe the author when she says she wrote her sci-fi/paranormal love story without knowing anything about the mainstream, pop culture sci-fi/paranormal love stories that came before it? (the answer should be no)

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Me on The History Channel???

In the mornings I have a routine (I'm a creature of comfort): make coffee, turn on TMJ4 so I can watch Susan Kim try to hide her hatred for Vince Vitrano's soapbox, and check my email as I wait for the coffee to finish.

This morning was no different, but I found this surprise in my inbox:

SUBJECT: History Channel - Vatican Museum
MESSAGE: Hi there,
I am working on a documentary for the History Channel called "XXXXXX & XXXXXX: XXXXXXX." I am emailing to request permission to include your photos of the Vatican Museum in our program.

Thank you so much for your time and consideration.

Best regards,

Associate Producer
Prometheus Pictures Inc.
XXXX Sunset Blvd. Suite XXXX
Los Angeles, CA 90028

So, yes, the title of the post was just to draw you in so that I can brag about my work possibly being shown on The History Channel for 4 seconds during a documentary. Honestly, I imagine this message was sent to everyone who has photos tagged "Vatican" on Flickr. And while my work may not even be selected, it was a cool way to start the day.

Also, disclaimer, I hope they were only contacting me because they wanted free shots, and not because they first contacted the Vatican and the Vatican denied them access. Because if the Vatican said no, then I may hear about it from my faculty advisor, who happens to work for the Vatican.

Regardless, there's no law that says one cannot share one's vacation photos with one's blog readers. And so, for your viewing pleasure, here are a few fun photos from my visit to The Vatican. Captions follow photos

This tapestry shows the Last Supper being conducted around a square table. Apparently this artist isn't afraid of breaking the fourth wall.

The art in the Vatican Museum isn't relegated to the walls. Every nook and cranny is covered in carvings and frescoes. This is a ceiling panel in one of the ornate rooms.

Quite possibly my favorite room in the Vatican Museum - the Map room. Perhaps it's because I like history, or because I like maps, but this room's gold ceiling may also have something to do with it.

Ah, the money shot. I'm sure I got yelled at for taking this photo (people are not encouraged to take photos in the Sistine Chapel), but I'm also sure I didn't care. C'mon, Vatican Museum Guards, you just made us speed walk through miles of museum corridors to get to what we really came to see, let us take a photo!

You can see the rest of my photos on my Flickr page.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Top Ten Slogans WI Should've Chosen

While I can't take credit for the following hilarity, a poster on Green Bay's Press Gazette website commented on their story covering WI's new slogan. Packerfantimmy posted the following list:

Top Ten Slogans the Wisconsin Tourism Office Should have Chosen:

10. Wisconsin: because 'sober enough' here is 'too drunk' everywhere else

9. Wisconsin: we won't make you eat lutefisk

8. Wisconsin: our size 4 is your size 12

7. Wisconsin: only two out of three serial killers live here

6. Wisconsin: less snooty than Michigan, more drunk than Minnesota

5. Wisconsin: come for the cheese and brats, stay for the world class UW heart clinic

4. Wisconsin: even our band geeks are cool

3. Wisconsin: where you never have to wonder "hey, is it legal to shoot that?"

2. Wisconsin: proudly maintaining our 3-1 bar/church ratio since 1848

And, the number one slogan the state tourism office should have chosen is:

1. Wisconsin: Smell our Dairy Air

I have another to add,

Wisconsin: Nothing tips like a cow.

Any other suggestions for slogans that Wisconsin should've chosen instead of "Live Like You Mean It?"

(Sidenote: Wisconsin's brand is "Originality Rules." The irony? WI's new slogan is or has been used by real estate agents in California, authors, motivational speakers, and Bacardi rum. That neither rules nor is original)

Live Like You Mean It...or else!

It looks like Wisconsin is getting a face-lift, and rather than go with the Cat Lady's style of plastic surgery harshness, the state has opted for a more new age-y feel.

The Journal Sentinel article linked above states that the new logo with the statement, "Live Like You Mean It," is intended to correlate with Wisconsin's year-old brand of, "Originality Rules."

To which all of us Sconnies reply with a collective, "Huh?"

We have a state brand? And that brand, "Originality Rules" was given to Wisconsin??? A state that:

a) No longer seems to support initiatives that boost creativity (WI film tax incentives)
b) Is deplorably behind in 21st Century developments (smoking ban, or lack thereof, which, I guess, could be construed as "original")
c) Is only now discussing plans that will boost the economy by efficiently connecting it to other Midwestern states, cities, and economies (Regional Transit Authority, and high-speed rail lines)

Need I continue?

My point, of course, being that Wisconsin may promote that originality rules, but that doesn't mean actions follow suit.

Now, don't get me wrong. I'm not bashing Wisconsin. I think we're a great state and I'm proud to call it home. All I'm saying is that I would appreciate it if, after going through all of the trouble and expense of developing a brand, you would live by that brand not only in words but in actions as well. I guess I just think that it's sad that Wisconsin always seems reactive rather than proactive, at least on issues that matter the most to me.

But perhaps I'm completely wrong. Just look at the new logo. Maybe the slogan, "Live Like You Mean It," really just means, "Learn To Walk On Your Hands."

Comments? Any Sconnies out there that think the new logo rocks? Any folks that think WI is off its proverbial rocker?

RAVE: Virgin Mobile

I'm sorry, Internet, for the recent blog silence. I owe a few posts from past happenings, and I shall get to them posthaste (no pun intended). But today I'd like to discuss Virgin Mobile.

Approximately one and a half years ago I was in the market for a new cell phone. I'm not the kind of girl who needs all of the bells and whistles and, in fact, am not your normal girl who talks on the phone for hours on end. Ergo, I was looking for a cell phone provider who would have a cheap monthly plan with unlimited texting and a couple hundred minutes.

Enter Virgin Mobile. While VM's phones are not top of the line when compared to iPhones or other such crazy phones that do everything but bake cakes, they do not require a contract, and users are able to switch between monthly plans and pay-as-you-go phone service whenever they wish.

For my money, they were the best for what I needed, and their coverage was adequate for where I live and travel. Thus, I decided to go with their most expensive phone, the Wildcard, mostly because it had a keyboard.

All seemed well in my world until I charged my new phone in my car. Every time I plugged my phone into the car charger, I noticed the car charger became unbearably hot after a few minutes of use.

Now, with my Verizon Wireless, I was used to keeping my car charger plugged in at all times, and then plugging in my phone as I traveled. With my Virgin Mobile, the one time I tried this, the charger got so hot it started smoking.

Sidenote: I have a Prius, and the charger was plugged into the outlet in my console, which is next to the iPod A/V jack. I was first alerted to the fire hazard when I smelled something burning as I was driving. The smoking Virgin Mobile car charger also burned out my iPod A/V cable, but luckily did not affect either of the outlets.

I thought, perhaps, the problem was due to a faulty charger, and so I finally got around to buying another one last week. I was not pleased to discover the same problem. I emailed the company that manufactures the charger, and Virgin Mobile PR to report the problem.

A few hours later I received a response that the company would look into it (this was last Saturday, the message came from a Blackberry), and today I got another message asking for more information on the issue.

While the problem is not yet solved, and it seems that it could just be isolated to the Toyota Prius, I am impressed by Virgin Mobile's prompt customer service response. When I sent that first email, I fully expected an automated response, someone replying that I should look through the website's FAQ's, and/or some other kind of brush-off. Instead, even though this may be an isolated issue, the company has been very responsive.

Please leave a comment if you've experienced a similar overheating problem with your Virgin Mobile car charger. I'll keep you updated if there are any further developments.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Fun with Photography

Originally uploaded by MsQuarter

I like world travel. So much so that I am planning a month in Italy this summer, with a few weeks of excursions in Eastern Europe. The last time I was in Eastern Europe I was living and working in Hungary. I took as many opportunities to travel as possible, and got to see some great places. In a nod to all of the fabulous countries I've visited, and in preparation for my work in Italy, I am introducing a new blog series entitled "Fun with Photography." In this series I will highlight a photo from my travels as a way of telling you, dear reader, a little bit of the history behind the photo and the country in which is was snapped. Hope you enjoy!

This particular photo was taken in Bratislava, Slovakia. My mission organization was holding a spring retreat in Blava, and we had a few hours to explore Old Town. Throughout Old Town, hidden among the streets and squares, you will find a handful of delightful bronze statues. This one, a real eavesdropper, could be mistaken for a real person with that casual stance. If only it weren't for the historical getup or matching bronze-colored clothing and skin tone. The gentleman on the bench must be a little uncomfortable with that guy always looking over his shoulder.

If you ever get to Bratislava, keep an eye out for the bronze paparazzi man, and the bronze sewer worker.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

UPDATE: Movie Recap

You will remember that a few weeks ago I left a little bit of my soul at the Mayfair AMC theater after seeing this bomb of a movie.

My Blogger friend, mcarnold, has completed the recap of the "film's" storylines, and you can read mcarnold's post here where she recaps the Jennifer Connelly, Scarlet Johansson, and Bradley Cooper "love" triangle.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Postcards from the Past #2

I am an excellent pen pal. And so is my best friend, LB. LB, in fact, is such a good pen pal that she sends me postcards that have no rhyme or reason, and would not make sense to anyone unless they were really, very drunk.

Speaking of drinking alcohol, people in Slovakia tend to drink a lot of it. I hate to generalize, but in my experience, Slovaks are likely to offer you several shots of slivovice if you are over to visit for the evening. Slivovice is similar to a schnapps, but, in my estimation, packs a bigger punch. So you can imagine what several shots of it will do over the course of a few hours. All of that alcohol may just make the following postcard make sense.

LB used to live in a tiny town in the Slovak mountains called Tisovec, where she bought this card. She called the store "The Random Postcard Shoppe," and every time she went in to buy something, she'd laugh at the nonsensical postcards and the lady would look at her disapprovingly.

I can't say I know why LB got the disapproving looks, because look at the card. It's silly and nonsensical! We have a dog holding a pistol, dressed in a cowboy bandanna, and wearing my grandma's straw hat. This straw hat has bullet holes in it, which says to me that Cowboy Dog either shot himself or was in a Wild West shootout. Oh, and don't forget the "Wanted" poster next to doggie that has Osama Bin Laden's reward set at $100.

Oh, and don't forget the phrase on the card. It says, "I admire your courage" in Slovak. That's hilarious in anyone's book, and if I were an old lady minding a postcard shoppe in Tisovec, Slovakia, then I would not scowl at Americans who found my cards amusing and nonsensical. The end.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Milwaukee: The Little City that Could

How cool is Milwaukee?

Two weeks ago I got to meet Shirin Ebadi, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, of which I still owe you a blog recap. Today I get to meet Nelson Melo, a Columbian coffee farmer featured along with Milwaukee's own Alterra on The Discovery Channel's How Stuff Works - Coffee. (it aired Jan. 22nd, and I can't find the full episode online)

This Little City that Could never ceases to amaze me. Organizations around the area work hard to bring in the best and the brightest from around the world, so that we, the folks who live here, can learn and grow. As an academic at heart, I appreciate that.

Milwaukee's Bucyrus on Modern Marvels

Tonight at 7:00pm (and right now, in fact) The History Channel features Milwaukee's own Bucyrus on Modern Marvels. You can learn more about Modern Marvels: The World's Biggest Machines here.

I used to lived in Cudahy and drove past Bucyrus on my way to work every morning, yet never knew what the company did. Turns out they make really, really big machines.

In addition, Tim Sullivan, President and CEO of Bucyrus is the board chair for United Way of Greater Milwaukee. In 2007, Sullivan co-chaired the United Way's Community Campaign. The company nearly doubled its United Way contribution in the past two years. So, in addition to making really big machines, Bucyrus makes really big charitable contributions.

As someone who used to work for a United Way agency in Milwaukee, I'd like to thank Mr. Sullivan for that delicious meal at the Midwest Airlines Center in September 2007, during the campaign kickoff luncheon.

Tune in to The History Channel tonight (7pm) to learn more about impressive, man-made machines.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Episode 1: Postcards from the Past

Last night I rediscovered what a pack rat I am as I came across years of postcards my friends have sent me. I'm generally an excellent pen pal, and my friends reciprocate. We keep our eyes peeled for funny cards and send them back and forth occasionally. All of this post office patronage has resulted in a rather large collection of cards, which I've decided to share with you, lovely readers. In a new, weekly series, I will post a selected Postcard from My Past for you to enjoy.

First up:

I admit, it was hard to pick the first one as I didn't want to go too awesome and set the bar unbearably high for future postcards, but I also didn't want to choose the most boring card and lose reader interest in this new endeavor. Thus, I chose Threatening Granny.

This little gem was sent to me by a friend when I was living overseas. For Christmas she came to visit, and we met in Ireland. Instead of a delightful vacation in an English-speaking country that I so desperately needed, we spent the week incredibly ill and bouncing from hostel to hostel. After I returned to Eastern Europe, and she returned to the United States, she sent me this postcard to cheer me up and make sure I was still alive.

My absolute favorite part is that, somewhere in the midst of sending this card, some water damage happened right by Grandma's mouth, so that it now looks like she is smoking a joint. Classy. I wonder what kind of pie that is.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

VD Recap & Playlist

Inspired by this post from, I've decided to list my top love songs in honor of VD past. Some are classics, while others are just plain classy. In no particular order, here are my Top 5 tunes I recommend for anyone making a new boyfriend or girlfriend a mix tape...if people still made mix tapes. Sorry, Rob Gordon of High Fidelity.

1. Feels Like Home by Chantal Kreviazuk - I am determined that someday this will be the song I and Mr. Quarter will dance to on our wedding day.

2. Someday We'll Know by Hall & Oates - Imitators need not apply.

3. Love is Everywhere I Go by Sam Phillips - I especially like that this song celebrates that feeling you get when you're first in love and everything is sunnier because of it.

4. This Time by John Legend - Honestly, what woman could say no to a man with this song in his arsenal?

5. Touch by Jonny Lang - A seriously, seriously sexy song.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Thoughts about VD

Hah! I bet you thought I was going to be talking about venereal disease in today's blog episode. Well, dear reader, you are wrong.

The "VD" to which I refer is Valentine's Day, which, I suppose has enough VD (the former) to go around.

Generally, I am not a fan of Valentine's Day, even the one time I happened to be dating someone at Valentine's Day. Proponents of VD will say, "it's a holiday based on the life of a saint by the name of Valentine." Bah. There were several saints named Valentine, and none of them had anything to do with sentimental love. Only martyrdom.

I digress. Today I have some thoughts about VD:

1. Horror movies are the best way to celebrate VD.

2. I'm slightly confused as to why marketers would latch onto this holiday so vehemently. Why pin your hopes for a high profit on a holiday that, by its very nature, assures you the loss of the business of a large percentage of the population?

3. Grocery shopping the day before VD is a depressing affair. All men in the store take the same path - floral section, candy aisle, card aisle. I couldn't look them in the eye tonight; it was just too sad.

4. Giving away handguns with the purchase of jewelry is a very bad idea.

5. Couples should be encouraged to be nice to their significant others every day of the year, not just February 14th.

Those are my thoughts. Tomorrow a friend of mine is having a belly dancing party, and afterward the single ladies are heading to the Hook Up or Throw Up at MadPlanet. Although attendees are not required to hook up or throw up, it's sure to be a fun shindig.

Before I go, in somewhat related news, Jim Stingl, Columnist at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, wrote a very interesting column today on an ill-fated love story. It is both creepy yet touching, and I don't know how he accomplished this.