Dec 31, 2011

New Year's Eve

These are the little things that brought me joy this year, in no particular order.  Family and friends are implied, these are just the things that show what a truly shallow person I am:

Podcasts.  This American Life; Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me; and the Commonwealth Club.  All free, all easily transferred to my iPod and plugged into my car, where I would otherwise be bored and/or angry most of the time while I drive about completing my mundane chores.  What could be better than listening to Paula Poundstone crack wise with Peter Sagal on Wait, Wait?  Or hearing Ira Glass giggle while introducing a story on This American Life?  What a giggle that man has.  (Just as an aside, is there anyone left in the US of A who doesn't have Carl Kasell's voice on their home answering machine? Doesn't that get confusing when you call your friend Susie and Carl Kasell's voice tells you to wait for the beep, then you call your friend Todd to tell him the weird thing that just happened and you get Carl Kasell's voice on his answering machine, too!  You start to wonder if you're stuck in a Twilight Zone episode.)

Nonfat Frozen Yogurt.  Now, I know it must be packed full of calories because it tastes so good but man, the word 'nonfat' gets me every time. And it always comes with one free topping.  Free! There is the weirdest store nearby, Clear|Optometry, that sells very good frozen yogurt.  The store is half yogurt shop and half optometrist.  Really.  One half of the narrow, deep shop is high-end eyeglasses in display cases, and the other side has comfortable seating and a counter with a barista vending yogurt, ice cream, fresh brewed coffee, etc. There is even a very W-ish lounge upstairs where you can eat your yogurt, drink your Blue Bottle Coffee, and look down at the odd little combo shop below.

Caramel Sauce.  I used to be such a hot-fudge-only-on-my-ice-cream kind of gal but this year I discovered caramel sauce.  And especially burnt caramel and salted caramel.  Hoo boy.  Guess I have a bit of a food theme going here.  Hmmm.  Okay, I'll just throw in gratitude for good restaurants everywhere, especially our newly-discovered-this-year Jack's Prime and Flour and Water.

My Back Yard.  That expanse of green just makes me happy every day.  And the last owners left an old-fashioned glider for us.  They were getting divorced and probably neither one of them wanted the darn glider, but it's such a sweetly nostalgic piece of lawn furniture.  It sits way at the back of the yard, under a little arbor, and is surrounded by ferns that get in your face when you glide. Also, there is a very fat black and white cat that enters our yard daily through an opening at the back corner and sleeps on the glider.  I want to make fat cat's acquaintance but don't want to scare it off.  I like seeing it sun itself and knowing that it doesn't have a single obligation to clutter its mind.  Some days it follows the sun to the gravel walk, and then a little later to a child's bench, also left by the last owners.

Bay Area Weather.  Now most years, I wouldn't be grateful for Bay Area weather. I would grouse about fog and torrential winter rains and having to carry a jacket with me at all times of the year 'just in case' I find myself in a chillier microclimate.  For those of you who don't know the San Francisco area, it's known for having a plethora of microclimates, some that feel about as small as the space you're standing in.  Walk five feet and you need a jacket, walk another five feet and you want to add a scarf, turn the corner and you're back to a sleeveless shirt.  But, right now I'm in Vermont.  This is a different animal altogether.  Boots, scarf, gloves, hat, jacket, the whole nine yards of body coverage.  Ice on the car, the sidewalks, the streets, the steps.  So, I'm newly enamored of my very temperate home climate, and because the rains haven't started in earnest, I have a selective memory about what that climate is like.

And my New Year's resolution?  Well, maybe I'll make that on the fourth Thursday in November.

Dec 12, 2011

Happy Anniversary

Hello lovely readers!

Tomorrow marks the one-year anniversary of Is It Just Me.  Okay, the one-year anniversary was actually in September but that was just one lonely post announcing Is It Just Me with great fanfare, followed by three months of nothin'.  I began blogging in earnest on December 13, 2010.

So, let's review our year, sort of like an awards show montage of highlights for a lifetime achievement award:

My negative review of Cutting for Stone is the most read of any Is It Just Me post.  People search for Cutting for Stone spoiler, Sister Mary Praise letter, and many other permutations that bring them to my site.  The other most read posts are, in descending order; "Please Use the Wall Thoughtfully;" "I Think I'm a Little Agoraphobic;" "Well, Have You?"(body noises that shock your cat); and "Ba Da Da Dah Daaah" (buying and selling real estate).  Which tells me that Is It Just Me's demographic is literate, reality show watching, slightly agoraphobic homeowners with gas.  I'll try to tailor future posts to your interests.

And, to my great surprise, there seem to be people from all over the world who are wondering "Is it just me or are you pissed off too?" Top readership is in the United States, followed by the Netherlands in second place, and Russia gaining in third, but there are Latvians, Turks, Australians, Malaysians and other nationalities reading, too. When I started Is It Just Me, I expected maybe two or three of my best friends to read my posts moments before we got together for coffee so they could pretend they were actual followers.  They would say things like, "Oh, that was so funny, your post about ________."  And they would quote one or two lines to prove their devoted readership. They would slap their knees and laugh to show they had truly been amused. I would be narcissistically fooled. But Is It Just Me racked up over 4,000 hits in its first year. (I promise that not more than 3,000 are my views before I found the 'don't count your own views' button.)  Not exactly viral, but 3,900 more hits than I expected.

Now I know it isn't just me, and I hope you know that it isn't just you, either!


P.S.  A big thank you to my wonderful web designer Alana Heng and the talented Cheap Girl Draws, who drew the blog header. 

Dec 6, 2011

The Time of Good Cheer and Competitive Driving

In these first five days of the holiday season, I have experienced so many surprises from my fellow drivers that I have been scared and puzzled by their behavior.  Then I figured out what was going on! I believe a new sport has been announced for next year's Olympics called Most Unexpected Maneuvers on the Road, and half the population is in training.

Events include Sudden Leap From Roadside Parking.  Competitors (do we call them car-letes?) will be judged on the size of the opening in traffic they squeeze into, with the smallest spaces bringing the highest points; the speed at which the traffic is moving (anything over forty miles an hour virtually assures a win); the speed of the contender's vehicle as it jerks into traffic; and, like in figure skating, that nebulous style element.  Style points are usually awarded for the surprise delivered to the driver being cut off and are viewed by the judges on an instant replay camera, trained on the anticipated location of the second car. Facial expressions of the driver such as shock, anger, and especially fear all bring high style points, as does the throwing of items to the floor, particularly food or breakables, the spilling of coffee, etc. caused by the car stopping and the contents not.  If the hapless victim actually hits the steering wheel and inflates the airbag, a perfect ten will most likely be awarded by the Olympic judges.

A second event is the U-Turn in Heavy Traffic. Points are awarded pretty much the same way as the above.  High speed, small space, great surprise are all prized.  Also considered, though, is location. How bold was the location of the U-turn? Mid-block, school zone, entry to the mall parking lot, into oncoming traffic, in a crosswalk, these locations will all garner high scores.  The replay camera will again be used to record the facial expressions of the victims; wide eyes, open mouth, white knuckles, all bring extra points, and an actual scream picked up by the sound equipment may put the contender's score over the top to take the gold.

Another pair of events is the Left Turn From Right Lane and Right Turn From Left Lane.  Car-letes may compete in one or both of these events.  Points will be deducted for the use of a turn signal and added for the number of lanes crossed.  One lane is minimum and I've seen some drivers practicing a turn across up to three lanes.  These should be strong contenders on the US Car-lete team!

There may be a pedestrian event as well.  These competitors will step off the curb into oncoming traffic, usually far from a marked crosswalk.  They will wear dark, hard to see clothes, but will be allowed to add thin shoulder stripes in the colors of their countries' flags.  Absolutely no reflective patches are allowed and this event is anticipated to be scheduled for after dark.   These contenders will be judged on just how close they get to an oncoming car, with extra points awarded for actually making contact with metal. Competitors who roll across the car's hood are sure to garner high points.  Any car carrying traumatized children or the elderly will provide style points for the competitor.

From what I've seen so far this holiday season, the United States is well on its way to forming a strong, competitive Car-lete team for these new events.  So keep that in mind when you get cut off by a car-lete in training. Let's go USA!