rock chalk, jayhawk, k-u.

Used to be, the only time during the year when I would miss having TV was during the NCAA men's basketball tournament. However, thanks to my friend the internet, this is no longer a problem. I entertained the idea of hooking up the computer to the TV so that I could watch it on a marginally bigger screen, but apparently TVs made in the mid-90s just weren't built for that. A guy at work told me that a new TV would only put me back $300. I have to admit, that's not all that expensive for how nice televisions have gotten. But the one I have works perfectly well, has a remote, and only cost $15. It's probably got another five or ten years of good service left.

The point is, I've been watching basketball. The tournament this year has been thrilling. There have been upsets and buzzer-beaters and just good, tight games. Josh watches with me. I think he enjoys that his girlfriend gets so much enjoyment from sports. He also is amused to see how emotionally involved I get. He should see my mother.

The first year they put the tournament on the internet, you could only watch the first two rounds of play. At some point, they must have decided that this streaming thing was really going to take off, because now you can watch all the games for free. Every once in a while, I'll have connection problems, but overall, it's been a good experience. There are commercials, and they are special internet commercials, like the one where the Ruby Tuesday waitress tells you to get off the computer and come down to watch the game at her restaurant where you can get overpriced and greasy appetizers. Advertisers are paying for the right to show their commercial on the internet broadcast. I'm sure most of the ads are ones that are shown on regular TV.

Coke Zero is a big advertiser of the internet broadcasts, and they are kind enough to rotate four commercials. Since there are fewer advertisers, you tend to see the same commercials over and over. Although, come to think of it, that happens on regular TV, too. Two of the Coke Zero ads are about basketball, specifically wild and crazy fans. They show clips of college students acting insane while wearing ridiculous getups, and then they compare that madness to that of a soft drink with real Coke taste and zero calories.

The two schools they chose to feature were Duke and Kansas. After seeing the commercials only once, I thought they were just using the same shots, since both teams use dark blue. But the footage is different. The Duke kids are not doing anything particularly Duke-ish, but they are called the Cameron Crazies. And they do that thing where they make a lot of noise while someone is shooting a free throw, but everyone does that. As a matter of interest, the Cameron Crazies do still yell out "SEE YA!" whenever a person on the opposing team fouls out. I remember them doing that when I was a kid, and the tradition lives on. I guess they pass it down every year.

Despite my Tobacco Road loyalties, I actully like the Kansas commercial better. In fact, it led to one of my other favorite things about the internet, which is random knowledge. The narrator said something about a "Kansas rock jock jam" and how it was possibly not as much madness as real Coke taste without the calories. I didn't know what a rock jock jam was, so I looked it up. Another awesome thing about the internet is that you can search for "Kansas rock jock jam" and it will know that you really meant "Kansas rock chalk chant."

The Rock Chalk Chant is just that - a chant - that Kansas fans use at games. It has one line - Rock chalk, jayhawk, K-U. That line is said twice slow, then three times fast. The rock chalk refers to a kind of limestone that is found in that part of Kansas. The chant was written over 100 years ago. I have always liked Kansas, because I am like our President in that I am half-Kansan. When we visited Kansas for the last time a few years back, Josh and I decided that we needed to pick Kansas teams to root for, because we love a good rivalry. So I picked Kansas, and he picked K-State. We talk trash to each other about this rivalry, even though we really don't care anything about it at all. I never really considered that any other state could have the kind of rich basketball history that I associate with the schools right here in North Carolina. Part of that is the recency illusion - most of the success around these parts has really happened in the last 30 years. But that's my whole life, so as far as I'm concerned, we've always been awesome.

However, reading about the Rock Chalk Chant has led me to believe that Kansas has an illustrious college basketball heritage. Also, their program was started by James Naismith, the original Dr. J. As far as basketball credentials go, that's pretty good. Turns out, he's been the only basketball coach in the history of the school who finished with an overall losing record.

In any case, I am now even more of a Kansas fan. I walk around the house, saying the Rock Chalk chant. It's way better than a drink with real Coke taste and no calories.


the wrong side of the room.

Josh asked me how the wine tasting went, and my response was lukewarm. "I think I sat on the wrong side of the room." Maybe it's just a grass-is-greener perception, and the conversation on the other side of the room was not any better. They sure looked like they were having fun, though.

Seating is important. Whenever I find myself in social situations where I will have to sit in one seat and talk to the same people for any amount of time, I stress over who will be near me. The first priority is to avoid those who are outright unlikeable or just plain boring. Then you want to try and get near whoever will make the time the most fun. There is timing in this, but I've never really figured it out. If you show up too early, then someone undesireable may sit next to you. If you show up too late, then the choice of seats will be limited. Also, I like to be slightly to the side of the middle of the action. I can't handle the center - too much pressure.

Sometimes it's easier to just stay home.

I can bring my own fun, I promise. There are some social situations in which I flourish. I can be funny and thoughtful and ask good questions. But there are other times where I am simply awkward, aloof, and disengaged. Maybe I should be working more on being the kind of person that other people will be happy that they sat next to, rather than trying to figure out how to pick a seat.

When I sat down, the left side of the room was two-thirds full. There was room for me. But I decided to go for the mostly empty right side of the room. I was hoping that it would fill up with interesting people.

But it ended up that the right side of the room was a small circle, with two girls on the end kinda off by themselves. I was one of them. The other girl was probably spending her time stealing furtive glances at the left side of the room, when she wasn't checking her phone anyway. We talked, because even though I paint myself as a social retard, I do know how to act. She told me about how she used to work in TV, but now she was a recruiter. I should have asked more questions, because I'm sure she had lots of interesting stories to tell about both those careers. Some people need drawing out. But by that point, I had used up all my saved-up extrovert points.

When she mentioned that she was using her phone to check college basketball scores, I thought that finally we had found some common ground. Being from Connecticut, she was keeping tabs on the UCONN/Syracuse game. She also hates Duke with a passion, but many people do. She said she was surprised when she moved here to find that some people actually love the Blue Devils with equal fervor. Did she think that Coach K just put an ad in the paper offering cash to anyone who would show up at the stadium (bonus money for being painted blue)?

She also held a grudge against Christian Laettner. Okay, fine, he did stomp on a guy once. The evidence is in, and I think he was probably a jerk, but it was great when he was on your team. I told her that if it made her feel any better, the high point of his entire life was probably over when he was 22. Some people peak early. I have to admit, his was a pretty good peak.

I think talking about Christian Laettner was the highlight of my evening, just for the nostalgia of it. I need to start bringing more of my own fun.


superb owl snacks.

Josh had a break in his last tour, where he was home for about a week and a half. He came home on Super Bowl Sunday, and I planned to have Super Bowl snacks all ready for him. After last year, when he burst into the house demanding Vienna sausages instead of homemade meatball soup, I determined that I would not be caught unprepared. I was going to be an awesome girlfriend by remembering his annual urge for meat-based products from a can wrapped in dough-based products, also from a can.

As I predicted, he sent me a text message during the day, requesting that we have Super Bowl snacks for dinner. Actually, he requested "superb owl snacks." These kids and their texting.

Despite my awesome girlfriend intentions, I really do hate Vienna sausages, and so while he was on tour, I decided to try and figure out a better product. I tried a few biscuit recipes and wrapped them around some good kosher hot dogs. This plan actually worked out pretty well, since when it's just me, I rarely have the motivation to spend more than ten minutes on dinner preparation. Pigs in blankets are remarkably quick, even when you go to the bother of making your own biscuit dough.

The first recipe I tried was all wrong. It was a drop biscuit, and so it didn't have the flaky layers that the canned crescent rolls have. So I specifically googled "flaky biscuit recipe," and this recipe was what I found. If you are at all interested in making yummy biscuits, please follow that link, because it has helpful words and pictures that I am not going to reproduce here. It tells you in very clear terms how to make biscuits properly, because apparently great hordes of people have failed at this. When I first made the biscuits, I did not know that I was overcoming a major obstacle. I was just following a well-written and clear recipe. But then a couple of weeks later, I read an article in the paper about cooking classes at A Southern Season, which is a fancy-pants grocery store in Chapel Hill. It's the kind of place where I want to have everything, but buy nothing because the prices infuriate me. They have a class just for making biscuits, where a well-paid chef in a starched apron reveals the secret about making flaky, fluffy biscuits. The article told you the secret - don't overmix the dough - and probably pissed off the people who would rather only reveal the secret to people who have paid for the class.

Now you don't have to pay for the class either. DON'T OVERMIX. Your owls will not find your snacks to be superb.

Anyway, I made the dough, did not overmix, and wrapped the result around Nathan's Famous hot dogs, cut into thirds. The result was pretty good, but not really what I would call Pigs in Blankets. I'm sure the difference is similar to my preference for blue box mac and cheese. I've made the stuff from scratch and I just don't want it. I want it from a fifty cent blue box, and I want it with cut-up hot dogs. So when it came time to serve Josh his annual serving of nostalgia, it was back to the can.

The bright side of this story (and don't think I've given up on my quest to put a pig in a better blanket) is that I now know how to make biscuits. I announced this to Josh over the phone while he was somewhere in Florida, and he didn't seem that impressed. Maybe because when you're travelling all over the country with your rock band, you're just not that concerned with your girlfriend's quest to make awesome breakfast breads. In any case, he seemed to have completely forgotten I ever mentioned it until last week. He decided he wanted an omelet, and I decided I wanted biscuits. He was not enthusiastic about biscuits, because an omelet takes ten minutes tops, while biscuits conjure up an image of a old lady in a Hardees apron clocking in at 5:30 in the morning. I told him that the biscuits would take ten minutes to mix up and then when I put them in the oven, he could start the omelet. Twenty minutes later, we had omelets and biscuits. People tell you that making things from scratch is hard, but those people are lying to you.

He was eating his second biscuit when he asked me when the heck I learned to make biscuits like this. Throughout the rest of the day, more of the biscuits continued to disappear down his gullet.

Now I've already shared the biscuit recipe and more importantly the secret about not overmixing, but I'm going to include a little bonus recipe for you. I'm going to tell you how to turn these delicious regular biscuits into bo-berry biscuits.

It would probably be fair to assume that most of my readership is Southern and thus already knows about Bojangles, but I'll be optimistic about the reach of my writing and explain anyway. Bojangles is a Cajun/Southern fast food restaurant. They serve fried chicken and biscuits and dirty rice and sweet tea. They also feature something called a "bo-berry biscuit," which is a regular biscuit that has blueberries in it and is topped with a sweet glaze. It's inspired, really. It's like they mixed the jam right inside the biscuit!

I've already given away so many secrets today, so what's one more? There are no actual blueberries in a bo-berry biscuit. There are blue pellets that when cooked, explode and taste like blueberries. I know, I know, I was terribly disappointed, too. I felt a little betrayed, actually. I did not feel that way when I found out that Taco Bell mixes a lot of soy with their ground beef, because who ever trusted meat from Taco Bell anyway? But I trusted Bojangles when they implied that there were actual blueberries involved in a bo-berry. Now I know the sad truth that bo-berry is not just a cute name, but an actual thing. A bo-berry is a little blue exploding pellet.

If you would like a minute to absorb this sad truth, please, take your time.

I would not feel comfortable disillusioning you so if I did not have a remedy. That remedy is actual blueberry biscuits which are made with actual blueberries. Now all we need is a catchy name.

  1. Make the biscuit recipe found here. When you get to the step where you add the milk, also add in 1 cup of blueberries. I find that frozen works very well because it means the berries will stay intact while baking. That way, no one will ever confuse them for blue pellets. Then mix, but not too much. Please click on her pictures of what the dough should look like to know when to stop mixing.

  2. Bake as instructed.

  3. While the biscuits are baking, mix 1 cup powdered sugar, 4 teaspoons water, 1 teaspoon vanilla, and 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice.

  4. Take the biscuits out of the oven and brush the glaze over each one.

  5. Eat. Enjoy. Feel superior to those who eat blue pellets. Feed one to your owl.


take that!

Josh has a particularly awesome coat. Actually, he has a few, but the one I'm talking about in particular is a long, green German military coat. It's thick and warm, goes along with that whole military chic thing, plus has the added bonus of being foreign. Seriously awesome coat.

I kind of hate it.

I know you're all surprised, seeing as how I have a particular affinity for that which is awesome. Unfortunately, this coat was given to him by a previous girlfriend. He has a couple other presents from previous girlfriends, but they don't bother me. It is this coat's very awesomeness that irks me. Without the coat, she was just a girl he used to date. But enter this military trenchcoat, call it Exhibit A, and we suddenly have evidence that she might have been awesome, too. Is she awesomer than I am? If we lined up all the presents he's ever gotten from a girlfriend, would the coat be the best one, beating out everything I've ever given him?

Thankfully, these silly thoughts don't trouble me much, because the German coat mostly stays in the closet along with several others. In fact, his current favorite coat is one that would be associated with me. It's a NASA coat. He bought an aviator jacket at a military surplus store and then sewed patches on it. If he were to have future girlfriends, they would hate that coat, because he bought the patches at the Kansas Cosmosphere when he went to move my grandmother out of her farmhouse. Take that, future girlfriends!

One day a few months ago, he had pulled the German coat out of the closet to wear. I had my usual conflicted feelings - wow, that's an amazing coat, how I loathe it - when it occurred to me to ask if there was anything of mine that he loved, yet hated because of associations with previous partners.

"The Muppet DVDs," he answered immediately. I mean, he didn't even have to think about it.

Ha! The Muppet DVDs!

Back in college, my boyfriend-at-the-time bought me a set of 15 DVDs of The Muppet Show. This was kind of a "best of" set, as the individual complete seasons hadn't yet been released. It was a big deal, because though we had been together for a long time, we were not in the habit of buying expensive gifts for each other.

Of course, I still have those DVDs, and I've watched them many times with Josh. Now I realize that his enjoyment of the show had been just a little bit soured by the knowledge of where they came from. Perhaps he had been imagining me laughing at Gonzo's wacky antics with another man. This is how illogical jealousy is, folks - it makes you hate awesome coats and Kermit the Frog. The fact that he was threatened by 15+ hours worth of puppet shows should not make me giggle, and yet it does. This reaction is an indication that I am not yet a Good Person.

As an epilogue to this story, I'm going to mention that Josh bought me the first three complete seasons of The Muppet Show for Christmas. Take that, future boyfriends!



Subject: Dirty Dishes
Sent: Tue 3/8/2011 4:45 PM
To: All Employees

Are those your dirty coffee/tea cups in the sink? If so…please be respectful of others and remember that you are not at home. Some of them have been there a loooong time, have mysterious things growing in them and are in desperate need of a washing. Thanks very much for taking care of this.

The dirty mugs appeared in the sink months ago. It was sudden, as if there had been some sort of morning social gathering where coffee was served. I don't remember anything like that happening in the office, but maybe I wasn't invited. I have my own mug anyway, one of the free kind that we all get whenever the marketing department designs a new one to give away to customers. It gets washed regularly, basically every morning before I use it again. If I were a different kind of person, I would wash it in the afternoons, once I'm finished with my morning tea. It's my morning tea, but it takes me all day to drink it. I usually heat it up for a few seconds in the afternoon. Sometimes I don't finish it at all, and the next morning it's still sitting there, cold and gross, the fat from the cream having risen and made swirly patterns on the top. That's when I dump it out and wash the mug so I can do it all over again.

It's the same with the travel coffee mug that I use on Friday afternoons, when the marketing woman and I go to get coffee at Starbucks. You get a discount if you bring your own mug, plus they only charge me for a 12 ounce, when the mug is more like 16 ounces. So every Friday afternoon, I have to go wash the crusty dregs from last week out of the mug. It's a little harder to clean the travel mug because of the cap, and so every time I have to use my fingernails to get in the tight spaces, I think it would have been easier if I had just rinsed out the mug last week. But I never do that.

I clean on an as-needed basis. I clean my house when guests are coming, I do laundry when I'm out of underwear, and I wash the dishes when I run out of spoons (or sink space). In college, we used to run out of spoons before anything else. My solution was to go to the thrift store and buy a dozen spoons for a dime apiece.

I had a roommate in college who wanted to wash each dish right after use. Her idea was that if we all did this, then there would never be a fight about whose turn it was to do the dishes, because we'd all be only responsible for ourselves. It was good in theory, but the other roommate and I wrecked it by always just setting dishes in the sink and walking off to do something else. Sometimes my dishes didn't even make it to the sink, and they sat in my room for a few days until someone else got frustrated enough to go looking for them. I would have preferred a different system, one where we all tossed the dishes in the sink and then one of us would do them all at once when the sink got full. This didn't really work either, as each of us had different tolerance levels when it came to a stack of dirty dishes. Our idea for when the situation had reached the point of being just too disgusting to continue varied. I think now that the only difference between a very messy person and a very tidy one is tolerance. Most people probably prefer to live in a clean house, but some people are able to live with the dirt.

See? I'm not messy; I'm tolerant.

At one point, my roommates lobbied the landlord to get a dishwasher, one of those little countertop jobbies. I didn't want to pay for it, and the dish situation really didn't bother me anyway. Between my tight purse strings and high mess tolerance, I was against the idea, but I was outnumbered. It didn't matter, because to get one, you needed a disposal in the sink, and no one, including the landlord, wanted to pay for that. I thought it was a waste of time anyway. We'd just end up arguing about loading and unloading a dishwasher if we had one.

Then I lived alone for several years, and there were no fights at all about dirty dishes. I was responsible for my own messes and I cleaned them up whenever my tolerance was tested. I would visit Josh and listen to him and his roommates bicker about whose turn it was to do the dishes, and I laughed inside.

We all got that email about the mugs yesterday afternoon, and this morning, I took one for the team and washed three of the ten mugs in the sink. I picked the cleanest-looking ones, figuring that since I was stepping up first, I had the right. Not that it matters, because no one else will wash any of them. I'll wash three more this afternoon or tomorrow, and keep doing that until they are all clean.

That's kind of the way it works at the office. Everyone creates messes, most of which are mopped up by the cleaning staff that comes in every evening. But the staff does not wash the dishes, nor do they clean out the fridge or the microwave. Those things remain dirty.

We have two microwaves, one white and one black. The black one is fairly disgusting. Months of exploded food are crusted on each of the six interior walls. Someone has been eating a lot of marinara. Truth be told, I hadn't even noticed it, because I usually use the white microwave. But the few times I have used the black one, the remnants of reheated lunches never caught my attention. The only reason I noticed it at all is because someone else mentioned it.

"We ought to just throw that microwave away. It's disgusting."

"You can't throw away a perfectly good microwave just because it's dirty."

"Why don't you clean it?"

"Because I don't use it."


"No. It's because I don't care."

Then my coworker was shocked, because I am female and he thinks that all females are very tidy. I wanted to be offended by the implication that I should be a neat person, that I should enjoy cleaning, just because I'm a woman. Hey, dude, I'm not supposed to be a software engineer either, but here I am. But more likely is that he really does think that all women are clean, having only shared living quarters with two women in his whole life. If both his mother and his wife happened to have low mess tolerance, then he might come away with the idea that we're all like that. Messiness is certainly more tolerated in a man than it is in a woman (See also: aggression, rudeness, being fat). Women, who are subject to this, too, help the perception by allowing it to drive their behavior. Women are supposed to be clean, and so they clean, at least for the sake of appearances. Why else would I suddenly develop an interest in the state of my floors when company calls? I certainly don't give two craps at any other time.

I met a woman recently who talked very openly about having a dirty house. She talked about clothes on the floor, dust bunnies under the couch, crusty dishes in the bedroom. Now it was my turn to be shocked, not because she lived that way, but because she talked about it openly and without embarrassment. I admired her honesty and unconcerned acceptance of her natural high tolerance for mess. Despite how often I announce it to the internet, I've not yet made peace with that part of myself. I felt embarrassed for her, wondering what the other women at the table were thinking. But I too am a victim of the stereotype that women are clean beings. Maybe the others were thinking, like me, that this lady's house sounded a lot like their own.