31 August 2006

Lucky Jim

I just started listening to Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis. It is an anglophile's dream. All Oxbridgey and full of very dry humor. The main character, Dixon, is new to, and trying to keep, his teaching post at a we're-not-quite-Oxford-or-Cambridge university. He has to remain in the good graces of an absent-minded professor named Welsh. Here are some funny bits:
  • Niggling mindlessness
  • When listening to Welsh drone on in no particular direction, Dixon realizes he needs to remain "present and conscious"
  • Pretended effort of memory
  • Dixon's internal dialogue: "How had he made his bad impression? The most likely thing he always thought was his having inflicted a superficial wound on the professor of English in his first week."

An easy, but fun, target

A sticker for your mobile phone.

30 August 2006

Amaze strangers, delight your friends

More to feed word lovers. New words, courtesy of Word Spy via Mental Floss:

guyliner n. Eyeliner designed for and used by men.
It is the '80s all over again. Duran Duran here we come.

rejuvenile n. An adult who enjoys activities and things normally associated with children. —adj., v.— rejuveniling pp.
I prefer to think of this in a fun-loving, 'let's go down the slide' way, rather than to think of Michael Jackson.

Word Spy has a great cache of new words to delight your word-loving self, such as:
fridge Googling pp. Running an Internet search based on some or all of the contents of one's fridge, looking for a recipe based on those contents.
On The Splendid Table radio program there used to be an occasional quiz on this theme. A caller would list for the host, chef and food lover Lynne Rossetto Kasper, a few items from his/her fridge. Lynne would have to make up something edible, with just those ingredients, on the spot. Quite entertaining!

You go, girl, from the Universe

Today's Note from the Universe is rather horoscopey but I like it.

The system works, Sophzilla.

Imagine it.
Move towards it.
Has to happen.

It always works.

I'd elaborate... if it were possible -

The Universe

P.S. Sophzilla, it's working right now... quick!

29 August 2006

Sanders Says

I listened to Tim Sanders' book, Love Is the Killer App earlier this summer. It was great! One of the best business books I've read in a long time.

The title sounds all fluffy and feel-goody. And in some ways it is. But it's also about how being a nice person who shares knowledge and contacts, what he calls a 'Love Cat,' can also lead you to success in business. Pretty simple but some of the most powerful ideas are. He's a huge proponent of reading -- for your own edification but also so that you can share what you learn with others. Good info on his Web site, including free articles and book excerpts.) And he's not some yap, yap with ideas and no successful business experience. He was Leadership Coach and Chief Solutions Officer at Yahoo!

Sanders just launched a blog called Sanders Says about, "business, culture and spirit." There are a few posts and it looks like we're in for some interesting and fun info.

28 August 2006

State Fair!

I don't plan to go to the Minnesota State Fair this year, but I love to hear about the new and odd findings. The State Fair is a huge deal. There are often 100,000+ visitors each day. When I go I love to look in the creative activities building -- full of jams, cakes, quilts, etc., all homemade, at the animals -- mostly the cows, horses, sheep and pigs (I always hold out hope for piglets), and of course, the pet center where you can see all sorts of different dogs and where once I watched a dog being spayed.

Food is a big part of the Fair and there's often a new food-on-a-stick each year. This year it's hotdish, tater tot hotdish to be exact, with a creamy mushroom dipping sauce. I wonder if it has peas in it. I don't like peas in hotdish.

Check out Sheriboo's fabulous post, with photos!, on her Fair experience.

27 August 2006

Say it, Ray!

On tonight's Word for Word, there was a rebroadcast of a speech by Ray Suarez, The Politics of Faith in America. It was fabulous!
Could Thomas Jefferson be elected president today? Could Dwight D. Eisenhower? Could any candidate who doesn't have a strong religious faith or doesn't speak openly about it win the White House?
Suarez says we need to be careful about who we're asking to do what. If we need someone who knows how to get the garbage picked up and keep the streets lit, that's what we need to vote on. Can the person get the job done? Their particular faith tradition, or lack thereof, isn't relevant for the job description.

Suarez quotes a recent study that said 75 percent of Americans believe "God helps those who help themselves" is in the Bible. Actually, it was from Benjamin Franklin.
"'God helps those who help themselves' is a very American notion and it is the antithesis of a Christian notion. It flies directly in the face of almost everything Jesus taught. Being a Christian nation might mean finding a way to stop being the wealthy industrialized nation with the highest rates of murder and violent crime on the planet. Being a Christian nation might mean finding a way to climb off the bottom of the league chart of wealthy nations in government giving to the world's poor."
He shows the folly of the very secular and the very religious. According to Suarez, the secular ascribe nothing or only negative to religion's impact and the religious exaggerate the impact on the founding and growth of the country.

He's an excellent speaker and scholar. And also quite funny with lines such as the "secure bunker of ignorance." He reminds us that the separation of church and state is a very good thing and the divisiveness in faith and politics in the U.S. isn't effective. He reminds me of what is good about the U.S. Something that doesn't happen very much, for me, these days. Take a listen!

26 August 2006


Last month I went to the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum, and though it was as hot as Hades, I had a lovely time. This summer's special is the Secret Garden Exhibition. Different artists developed secret places throughout the gardens. Some are quite whimsical and others are just plain odd!

These bushes reminded me of the hydrangea that were at my Grandma and Grandpa's house.
Two of the secret gardens. The one on the left looks like it's sculpted out of ice. A very interesting juxtaposition since the day was hot and humid. The one at right looked like an igloo. It was huge.

I love these chairs made of shrubs!

The Arboretum is quite a treasure. There are over 1,000 acres of gardens, including a brilliant hosta glade. It's run by the University of Minnesota and does a heap of horticultural research, including developing some new breeds of apples. A new maze garden will open next year.

Well that just makes sense

On the Trendwatching site, there are tips for budding trend watchers. To me they seem like basic good ideas for an interesting life. A few:

  • Never dismiss anything too quickly. Many of today’s success stories, from the camera phone to the Airbus 380, were dismissed and ridiculed from the day they were imagined, announced or conceived.
  • Ask questions. Why is something happening? Why was it introduced? Why do consumers like it? Or why do they hate it?
  • Try stuff out: the proof of the pudding is always in the eating.
  • Read a random magazine every week (buy one you would normally NEVER read), or a random blog!

23 August 2006

Fun, fun for word lovers

Double-Tongued Word Wrester records undocumented or under-documented words from the fringes of English. It focuses upon slang, jargon, and other niche categories which include new, foreign, hybrid, archaic, obsolete, and rare words.
Spamigation: The abuse of bulk legal action.
Take a haircut: To accept a valuation or return that is less than optimal, especially to partially forgive a debt.
Headache ball: The large, round, steel ball weighing 500 to 1,000 pounds that hangs from the end of a construction crane’s cable.
Punch list:
A to-do list (of items requiring immediate attention); any list of significance.

22 August 2006

Decaf it yourself!

No more shakes, no more "all we have without caffeine is Sprite." This development sounds very fine but I'm a little skeptical. And I wonder what all those molecules look like. I don't suppose you could see them with the naked eye. Schade (too bad).

From Business Week:

Do-It-Yourself Decaf
The DeCaf Co. says it can "stir" away the caffeine jitters. Can the outfit sell its concept to beverage giants and java junkies?

...The DeCaf Co., a San Francisco startup that has proven that the technology can indeed be used to extract caffeine from coffee, tea, or sodas. It has come up with a wand-like instrument that bears a resemblance to a tongue depressor and lets the holder literally "stir" the caffeine out of a drink. One spin around the cup for half-caf, and another to take out more—up to 70%, according to the company's research. Caffeine-hungry polymers coat the stick, grabbing and pulling the hyped-up molecules out of the drink.

21 August 2006

Operation... whatever I feel like

Another blog I read referred to Ernie's blog, particularly the post on the invasion of Panama, Operation Just Cause. Brilliant!

In a similar vein, I am so sick of Bush's catch-all excuse, "That's what the terrorists would want." Something you don't want to do? Boss wants the project done earlier? Spouse won't cooperate? Get your way by using "That's what the terrorists want," or similar. With the five-year anniversary of Sept. 11, 2001 approaching, it's going to get worse. If I was a survivor or lost someone on that day I would be furious with the way he uses the memory of that day.

OK, rant over now. Putting away my soap box.

19 August 2006

No-Sin Zone

The No-Sin Zone with Mrs. Betty Bowers, America's Best Christian, is one of my new favorites.

Whether or not your a church person I think you'll enjoy this very sarcastic take at the nastiness of some in the religious fold. It includes Betty's advice column, "Loving Christian advice to unsaved trash and other hell-bound sinners." In the store you can buy items with the graphic at right as well as some with her photo and "God told me to hate you" on them.

You can also send someone an e-buke. "Send someone a compassionate, yet ferocious, Christian rebuke.

...Most True Christians find that they are often without the moments necessary to give everyone they meet a good, old-fashioned ear-splitting rebuke…

Well, Mrs. Betty Bowers' Christian ministries is about to change all that by using the otherwise demonic Internet to deliver well-crafted rebukes to people in need – or those who simply rub you the wrong way.

18 August 2006

A little knowledge is dangerous, in my case

Why the template changes over the past couple of days? Well in the dictionary, under "A little knowledge is a dangerous thing," there's my name: Maria. I don't really know much about HTML except how to make things bold and italic.

The other day I wanted to change the Sophzilla colors. I ended up, how I do not know, erasing half the code in the template, thus destroying the blog. I had to go to a Blogger-supplied template. I used the brown one but there wasn't nearly enough room for links. And besides, I like action and color. Last night I found the sunburst template that was here earlier today. I had to re-install all the links, etc., but I loved the color and sunburst. Happy! Colorful! Hooray!

Could I leave well enough alone? Oh no! I wanted to re-install the subscribe button (via Feedburner. I don't completely understand it but it's very cool as is Rick Klau's blog). Again, I wrecked the blog. Back to a Blogger-provided template.

Unless I am being guided by a professional, e.g., Dash, I will leave well enough alone. Good thing I wasn't experimenting with something dangerous!

The sign says "Attention! Do not use! Danger!"

Wurstteppich or rug sausage

There are a number of sausage cross-section looking rugs at Wursttteppich. They are quite cute and as they are made from wool, safe for vegetarians. Accordinag to the designer the rugs are a charming fusion of sausages and rugs. OK, doesn't really work in English as I can translate. Their motto includes "Sausage is too beautiful only to be eaten." Price varies on size and model (salami, ham sausage, bologna and blood sausage).

17 August 2006

Chicago miscellanea

No idea what this is advertising but I like it.

Sculpture at Navy Pier.

Flower in the indoor gardens at Navy Pier.

Cars looking like they're about to go off the edge at Marina City -- two towers that look like corn cobs.

One more place invaded by advertising

On grocery store conveyor belts. From Ad Age:
"Conveyor belts have never been on anybody's radar screen for marketing," said Frank Cox, president-CEO of EnVision Marketing Group, a Little Rock, Ark., firm with a patented system to print digital, photo-quality ads directly on conveyor belts. "But a store with eight to 10 checkout lanes, well, you're talking about 100 square feet of wasted ad real estate."
As someone who works in marketing, I find this intriguing. As a consumer this makes me want to cry. We're already over stimulated and over advertised. It seems like every surface is becoming the equivalent of those annoying chasing Christmas lights. No wonder everyone is medicated.

Take me back to the lunch room

Archie McPhee always has the best, weirdest stuff. I love the Lunch Lady action figure. She comes with various unidentifiable foods and even has the slightly beefy arms!

Silly universe

Today's Note from the Universe:

Just for the record, there isn't a single thing I would change about you.
The Universe

I even love your funny clothes.

16 August 2006

Lovely Chicago

I had a great few days in Chicago. The conference I went to was suprisingly good and I met up with two great friends for fun. I just love Chicago. Lovely architecture, Lake Michigan, the Art Institute. I'm always ready to go again.


I'm addicted to Overheard in Minneapolis. People post things they overhear in the Twin Cities. Most of the postings are really funny, quoting people who are self involved, crabby or just plain dopes.

Here are some things I've heard lately:
  • Is barf the same thing as vomit? (My eight-year-old niece to me.)
  • Did you comb your hair with a nervous chicken? (Mary Lucia on The Current, quoting her father.)
  • Do you get the feeling he wanted to grow up to be national hall monitor? (Panelist on Wait, Wait Don't Tell Me, referring to Joe Liebermann.)
A couple of funny things:
  • Plaque: Five out of four people have a problem with fractions.
  • In the back of a truck, in those holes where you'd fasten a truck top, two poles, one on either side. On the top of each, a female mannequin head.

Stu Pooh Pooh's the Blues

Welcome to Optimism is one consistently good blog. I read it at work for ideas in the marketing realm. They also provide some just plain fun and goofy stuff. Every Monday they post Stu Pooh Pooh's the Blues. It's about an hour of this and that audio, not always appropriate for an underage audience. In this week's episode there is a hilarious bit by Jerry Seinfeld about crime. And, there's also a gentle-listening version of Panic by The Smiths (sung by the Puppini Sisters). I was very glad not to have liquids in my mouth when it came on. It's one of the funniest things I've ever heard. If you don't know The Smiths or Morrissey it might not be as funny. The Smiths are quite often extremely dark. (For example: "If a double decker bus, killed the both of us. To die in your arms, the pleasure, the privilege would be mine.") Note: there is a Dolly Parton song you'll have to get through to get to Jerry and The Smiths in this week's edition.

I love The Smiths. Their songs become ear worms quite easily. During my brother's wedding weekend in Las Vegas* the song Bigmouth Strikes Again was in my head all weekend. Not exactly wedding material: "Sweetness I was only joking when I said, I'd like to smash every tooth in your head. Oh sweetness, Sweetness I was only joking when I said by rights you should be bludgeoned in your bed." And to top it off, my brother hates The Smiths.

*Unlike many Las Vegas weddings, Mike's wasn't in a chapel called Wee Kirk O' the Heather or the Chapel of Love. It was in a big Catholic church. Very interesting juxtaposition. The reception was at a big casino/hotel. Can't remember the name of the place, something Station?, but I later learned that a friend was at the hotel the same weekend but we didn't run into each other.

15 August 2006

Periodic tables

I don't know that I ever memorized the whole periodic table in chemistry. Science knowledge just swam around in my head and then exited, unable to find a spot to land.

The Table of Condiments that Periodically Go Bad is one I could maybe remember. Who knew that hummus can go off after a week? I guess condiments are just more applicable to my world.

At a coffee shop in Chicago I saw the Periodic Table of Desserts. It, too, would be more memorable than the elements table. There is also a pictoral version (below).

14 August 2006

Simple pleasures

Some of this evening's lovely simple pleasures:
  • Took Sophie for a walk after work. Her body language is so happy on walks and she adores smelling the whole neighborhood.
  • The weather is lovely again. Low humidity and high 70s (about 25C).
  • My neighbor is barbequing something and spreading one of my favorite summer smells -- lighter fluid.
  • A lovely salad with salad cream. I found salad cream at a cool grocery in Chicago. I got hooked on it while I was in England. It's not so easy to find here.
  • And lastly, listening to music by Eros Ramazzotti. (Bambino Nel Tempo and Yo Sin Ti are current favorites.) What a great voice! I have no knowledge of Italian so he could be singing something really foul. But he makes it sound so nice!

It's a terrible thing to lose one's mind

At work we were just mourning the fact that our brains aren't able to handle all we need to remember. "Why did I leave my desk?" "Why did I walk over to the printer?" "Where did I leave my water bottle?"

Multi-tasking and too much to do certainly take their toll. I thought it would be nice to have a secondary brain to house the information that falls through the cracks. Kind of like how cows have more than one stomach. To which Sheriboo replied with the soon-to-be-classic line, "I just want to remember what I already know."

Fun with German

I have a German flip-a-day calendar on my desk. Every day there's a new vocabulary word and sample sentence. I just love words so this is right up my alley. (Hmm... how do you say that in German?)

Here are two recent words and sentences that made me laugh, for different reasons:
  • der Honig -- honey. Das war kein Honiglecken.
    That was no picnic. But literally it means, that was no licking of honey.
  • die Muttersprache -- mother/native tongue. Duetsch is nicht meine Muttersprache.
    I am not a native speaker of German. This made me laugh because anyone who heard me speak German would probably think I sound like a hillbilly without me pointing it out! By the way, hillbilly or hick in German is der Hinterwaeldler, or in my case, die Hinterwaeldlerin. It literally means backwoodsman/woman.
I just love the word die Waffenruhe -- the word and what it is. Ceasefire. It literally means weapons quiet. Isn't that grand? And I love that there's a ceasefire in Lebanon. How are you supposed to broker a peace when you're still shooting at each other? Keep praying for peace man!

11 August 2006


I found this story quite confusing yet oddly fascinating. It's from Water and Wastes Digest. A pub I did not know existed. There really is a newsletter for everything. (There was a link to this story in a marketing e-letter.)
Membrane Sales for Food & Beverage Processing to Reach $230 Million by 2011
August 4, 2006

According to a new technical market research report, Membrane Technology for Food and Beverage Processing (MST030B) from BCC Research, membrane sales for food and beverage processors will reach $185 million in 2006. At an average annual growth rate (AAGR) of about 4.6% through 2011, the market should reach the $230 million mark...

Manufacturers are placing increased emphasis on using membrane methods to replace functions formerly performed by chemical processing. One area of focus is removing or minimizing problems associated with diatomaceous earth (DE) in beverage processing. Substituting membranes for DE in these applications contributes to a more positive environmental impact, protects the health and safety of the labor force, and more efficiently and economically resolves maintenance and disposal issues...

Shudder. I just finished listening to Don't Eat This Book: Fast Food and the Supersizing of America by Morgan Spurlock (of "Supersize Me"). It was full of reasons why not to eat processed or fast food. Cleanliness or lack thereof, treatment and feeding of animals (cows eating ground up cows, that's wrong), energy consumed by production, treatment of workers, the continual sitting of most Americans, etc. So many reasons to say No! Membranes, however, has put me over the edge.

10 August 2006

Oh my grossness

Lorelee pointed out this blogworthy image at a Chicago 7-Eleven. Chili and plastic cheese for your 'meat' hot dog. The drips looked solidified. I wonder how long they had been there.

Art Institute of Chicago

This weekend was my first visit to the Art Institute of Chicago. I was at a conference. Lorelee took the train up for a couple of days of fun!

The museum is superb! So many gorgeous and moving pieces. And some really odd ones, too. Above left, "A Group of Houses and Figures" by Lyonel Feininger. It's funny. Perhaps not on purpose.

Here are a few pieces that I really liked. I guess I'm simple in the art world. I want it to be pretty or moving. "Pergola with Oranges" by Thomas Fearnley

Cheeky little monkey, part of "Still Life with Monkey, Fruits and Flowers" by Jean Baptiste Oudry

Very beautiful and intricate bracelets.

09 August 2006

Young football player dreamland

If you are between 6 and 9 and live near Munich your football (soccer) dreams could come true on Friday. The Bundesliga kicks off with FC Bayern M√ľnchen vs. Borussia Dortmund and they're looking for 11 kids to walk hand-in-hand as with the players as they go onto the field. Then the kids get to watch the game, I'm assuming they get great seats!, with their mother or father. Schade (too bad)! Tori, my eight-year-old niece lives in Minnesota. She would love this!

Kevin Kling!

We have Kevin Kling tickets! The description does include something about possible audience participation. That makes me shudder. But for Kevin, I'm willing to brave the possibility.

My friend MJ loved Kevin Kling. A couple of years ago I went to visit her in the hospital just after she had cancer surgery. She was her usual exuberant, crazy self. She asked me, "Guess what I got for my birthday?" Before I could answer she yelled, "You'll never guess! Some friends took me to see Kevin Kling and we got to go backstage and meet him!"

Kevin Kling is a hilarious storyteller. Some of his stories are about growing up and all the trouble he and his brother got into. You can listen to his advice on winter survival. He says things like this, about his dachshunds: "I've never seen so much can-do attitude in such a cant'-do body.


Today's Note from the Universe.
Remember, the illusions in your life - good, bad and ugly - thrive on attention. Something to consider when choosing which to keep and which to Kung Fu.
The Universe

08 August 2006

Airport chatter

Yesterday as I was waiting for my flight to Minneapolis there were four 30-something women sitting near me. They had been in Chicago on a 'girls' weekend.' They were talking at length about Brittany Spears and commenting about celebrities in a magazine. "Look! She's not wearing her wedding ring in this picture."

My cubicle

For everyone in cube farms.

04 August 2006

Tea Partay, Preppy Rap

Smirnoff has this new ad for their tea. It's phenomenally silly. New England gangstas, "Yo, yo, where my WASPs at?"

Left Below

I received an e-mail today advertising a Webinar, "Top 10 New Technologies for Internal Communicators." The vendor shall remain unnamed. It was typical hype but it closed in an obvious-to-anyone-who-can-read scare tactic.
Other leading companies are already using these technologies. Can you afford to be left behind?
Slimy on several levels. They're advertising to communicators. People schooled in messaging. Ergo, they should read right through this frightfully lame attempt to get them to register out of fear.

On the up side, it led me to remember the Left Below edisode of the Simpsons. It makes fun of the rapture rants in the Left Behind books and includes these classic lines:
  • [Homer walking around, ringing a bell and yelling] It's the end of the world. God loves you! He's going to kill you!
  • [At the end of their interview, newsman Kent Brockman to Homer] Well we have 30 seconds left. Any other cuckoo yip yap?
  • Marge: Homie, I'm glad you're getting exercise. I just wish it wasn't crazy exercise.
    Homer: Marge, in a world gone mad, only a lunatic is truly insane.
  • Mo: I'm going to steal God's secrets and sell them to satan.
I still think the e-mail was slimy.