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Friday, April 22, 2011

Lies, Lies Lies...Yeah.

My newest copy of "Reader's Digest," showed up in my mailbox, which means that I have another month of material that enriches and enrages me. I just finished an article about a professional ghostwriter sharing his experiences and his accomplishments. Aspiring to be a professional writer while attending a post-secondary institution that failed him beyond belief, he skipped formal academia and began writing papers for his classmates and has created an empire of cheating...to the tune of over sixty-thousand dollars a year. He accomplished his goal of becoming a professional writer, while making a lot more than many educators. Irony!

He chronicles the transactions with three kinds of students: the ESL (English as a Second Language) students that are given the cock and bull story about being able to gain an education in America without having to have a strong grasp on the English language, the hopelessly unfortunate (i.e. stupid) student, and the lazy rich kids. All of these students spend thousands of dollars for one person to make them appear intelligent and/or hardworking. He's written undergraduate response papers, graduate entrance essays and Ph.D thesis defenses. He's devoted thousands of hours to making people look good that are either incapable or too lazy to do it themselves, while still being considered the, "bad guy," for cashing in on inability and apathy. Is he really, though?

Part of me really hates this guy, but all of me really realizes that if it wasn't him, it would be someone else. In a society where every student is expected to go to college and every rich parent thinks that their child is gifted and deserves the best of everything, we create a kind of student that is willing to risk it all by telling tall-tales of their success and intelligence, while those without the rich parents or connections, however intelligent they may actually be, are left to work in the mall and do the jobs that have to be done. Without being too political, we've created a world without a middle class with people who are desperate to become rich to avoid having to work three jobs to be able to eat, live and pay their student loan payments. To be come rich to be able to afford a flat-screen television, a new car every two years, and a year vacation away from a job that they desperately hate (but lied their entire lives to get). Desperation is ugly.



You say you'll try harder,
But i think it's just too late.
Well, the car is revving in the drive,
and i'm not the sort to wait.
The bigger, the better,
Some nicked from old Saigon.
Collected from around the world
Love lies on and an and on and on and on.


That's my problem, though, isn't it? During my undergraduate experience, one of my professors told me that he tried endlessly to catch me plagiarizing, only to find that everything that I'd written was my own. More than any mark that I received during my entire post-secondary career, I found this to be my biggest accomplishment: to make a Professor realize that I was good enough to look like I was a liar that had stolen someone else's words. How completely ridiculous. In a world where grades, Magna Cum Laude, pressed suits, and well-connected families are everything, I can't lie and that is my biggest detriment. I can't provide a resume full of creative flourishes to a prospective employer, I can't write a cover letter full of nonsense to make myself seem like more than I am. I can't drop a name of a wealthy relative that knows a guy that knows a guy. I can't lie, and I wish I could.Best Blogger Tips

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Customary Units

People that do not work in Customer Service often like to squawk on about how the quality of the Customer Service that they have received has significantly decreased over the years. They like to talk about the cable guy, the cell phone company, the coffee shoppe, and the overpriced clothing boutique: all of them are full of good-for-nothing assholes that deserved to be set on fire and shot, apparently. More than ever, the average joe feels like his dollar should be stretched to its absolute limit, forgetting that there are thousands of employees behind the scenes and behind the counter that feel the brunt of a customer that wants everything for practically nothing. When I bring up this argument, I often get some kind of mumbo-jumbo about how CEOs should make less and the company should be happy with smaller profits and blah blah blah. Well, if you know anything about capitalism, you know that they're not going to settle for it and the lowest members of the team receive the worst treatment. You wanted it, 'Merica, and you got it. This is what I call Freedom.

I've been "fortunate" enough to be the face of several companies in my lifetime and, in turn, I've been sworn at, demeaned, belittled, yelled at, and stomped on more times than I could probably even remember. I've been told that there just isn't money in the company's budget for more help or that the raises aren't going to be what they were last year because the company is losing revenue. I sat at the television and shook my first at the CEO of BP that was taking vacations and bitching about wanting his life back while thousands of Gulf of Mexico business owners were losing their livelihood. That's capitalism, baby.

If we have to live in it, though, we must make the best of it, and treat Customer Service representatives with respect. Although, at times, you must be firm and unforgiving, a little bit of decency will get you a long way. A few really awesome examples that have really touched my life over the last few days:

I wrote before about my Aerogarden. It has been a little over two weeks since the initial set up and the plants are doing well, except for the Basil and the Chives. Aerogarden guarantees germination for all of its seed pods and provides a customer service number if there are any problems. When I called Aerogarden, the nicest man in the whole-wide world answered the phone (you want validation? call them up). I went into the call with no expectations. You know why, because in life we don't deserve anything. Got it? I know it's a hard concept to swallow. Anyway, I presented my problem and without any hesitation, he offered to send new seed pods and even provided a better product that not only was more successful in terms of germination, but it was also a plant that I wanted to grow more than Chives. I mean, who the hell actually eats chives outside of baked potatoes? How many baked potatoes does an average person eat? I mean, really. I'm really excited about my new seed pods and I feel fortunate to have such a pleasant experience.

Earlier this week, I took the car in for an oil change. Subaru.com gives you the opportunity to schedule appointments online and when I scheduled, I asked about detailing. When I received a call the next day, not only did they schedule me at an optimal time, but they also scrubbed my seats, buffed out the car scratches along with changing my oil...and it was all FREE. I could pick up and drop-off the car with ease and there wasn't a hassle for add-ons or more expensive services. I'm eternally grateful to the dealership's service department for their appreciate for my business, if that makes any sense. I expected to pay for all of those services, and felt really fortunate when I didn't have to.

And they say that customer service is dead!

Without sassy demands, ridiculous expectations and a sense of entitlement, customer service can fulfill its end of a two-way capitalistic street.


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Wednesday, April 20, 2011

A Charming Display

It's new beginning. This plate once held a series of red velvet cupcakes, but now it's housing incredibly attractive fruit. I'm going to make a positive change in my eating habits if it's the last thing I do. Well, let's hope it's not the last thing I do. 


I don't know what it is about fruit arrangements, but I find them to be particularly charming. My only wish is that I had a little sprig of purple grapes, or a fresh pomegranate to capture more color. Maybe I missed my calling: professional fruit photography. ha. How many people could possibly employed doing something like that?

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Tuesday, April 19, 2011

May Pull

Someone returned a Maple Walnut candle at the candle shoppe and I snapped it up, post-haste. Although I love Spring, the flowers and the floral scented candles, I can't help but adore maple smells and tastes, as well as the things that they represent.

Maple is Autumn and chilly mornings in sweaters and jeans. Maple is that vacation to Vermont I've been trying to take for the last five years. Maple is that iconic winter image of a bearded man in a flannel shirt tapping a gigantic tree--waiting for the delicious sap to flower with his breath rising in the frosty air and creating a makeshift halo for the surrounding trees (thanks to the New York Times for having exactly the kind of image I was thinking of). Maple is rustic and hearty. It's a crisp Sunday morning where Dustin and I are fortunate enough to have a day off to make coffee and breakfast. We sit on the couch and watch terrible television or read.

You can't get maple all of the time, as the shoppe considers it a seasonal scent. Maple Walnut is more scarce--a retired scent brought back for the hustle and bustle of the past holiday season. For me maple will be a welcome sight and smell in the heat of the summer is just too intense and I have a day of staying inside with the blinds drawn with a Christmas/Winter movie marathon. I'll make Pumpkin Black Bean Chili and pretend, if only for a few hours, that the snow outside is so deep that I couldn't possibly leave the house.


2 tablespoons olive oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 1/2 cups chicken broth
2 cans (15 ounces each) black beans, rinsed and drained
3 cups cubed cooked turkey
1 can (15 ounces) solid-pack pumpkin
1 can (14-1/2 ounces) diced tomatoes with green chiles, undrained
2 teaspoons dried parsley flakes
2 teaspoons chili powder
1-1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
1-1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt

In a large skillet, saute the onion, yellow pepper in oil until tender. Add garlic; cook 1 minute longer. Transfer to a 5-qt. slow cooker; stir in the remaining ingredients. Cover and cook on low for 4-5 hours or until heated through.

We learned in candle shoppe training that scent evokes more memories than any other sense, and I'm inclined to agree. Whether pleasant or not, why my nose is bombarded with scent, a deluge of life experiences flood my mind. Lilacs remind me of my grandmother's house with the giant lilac bush that was almost as high as the house. Suntan lotion reminds me of the senior trip to Wildwood, NJ--where seven people managed to share one bathroom without killing each other. MacIntosh apple reminds me of my own Dutch Apple Pie preparation, which yields the best Dutch Apple Pie ever...just saying.

I think the reason I wanted a job at the candle shoppe in the first place was because scent played such an integral part of my everyday life. I met a woman, while working, that had recently had a brain tumor removed. She was left without a sense of smell, but still shopped for scented candles: clinging to the memory of what she remembered, and those memories are almost as sweet.
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Monday, April 18, 2011

Uniformity

My favorite documentary is undoubtedly, "Trekkies," a film that takes a look at a cross-section of avid Star Trek fans. While there are several interviews with the cast members of The Original Series, The Next Generation and Voyager, the obvious stars of this film are the fans themselves: a slice of America's finest fringe individuals. Except for the ever-wonderful DeForest Kelley: the super-amazing television superstar. That guy was fucking awesome (he's dead, Jim). 

While Trekkies like Gabriel Koerner and his amazingly wonderful father are incredibly delightful and endearing ("Im ready to go to another planet, I'll tell you that."), Trekkies like Barbara Adams are incredibly disturbing and irritating. 

The story of Barbara Adams is not all that new. In fact, it's over fifteen years old. Everytime I see her, though, I'm insensed to write about her story and all of the reasons that she's just a little too ridiculous for her own good. I love fringe kooks more than the average individual and actively seek out documentaries that focus upon them in a very raw and plain way, but Barbara Adams....my my.

So basically, this woman lives in Little Rock, Arkansas as a book binder. She is the "Commander," of the Little Rock chapter of Star Trek's "Federation Alliance," a club that performs lots of community service, etc. Anyway, she is very excited about being the Commander and wears her phaser, tricorder, rank, and communicator all of the time. When I say ALL OF THE TIME, I mean it. So, it's all well and cute when you're just working at Sir Speedy and forcing your co-workers to call you Commander, but then she's selected to be a juror for the Whitewater Trial (remember that? yeah, me neither). So Barbara figures that jury duty is exactly the kind of event to wear your Federation Alliance Commanding Officer Uniform. Obviously, for the rest of the world, this causes a media uproar because this woman is wearing a Star Trek unform to the courthouse. Why? Let me tell you why.

Barbara, in the film, says that it is no big deal when a football or basketball player wears their uniform year-round, so why should it be a such a big deal that she wears a uniform from a pretend club from a fictional television show from thirty years ago to a trial that helps to decide the guilt or innocence of the cohorts of the President of The United States of America? Oh, I dunno Barbara, maybe for all of the reasons that I just mentioned.

First, football players don't wear their helmets, pads, spikes and jerseys to court. Just look at Michael Vick (horrible person, but a horrible person that isn't wearing a football uniform to court). Second, football and basketball players are wearing their uniform because it is a uniform that is a part of their paying occupation. Little Rock's Federation Alliance, I'm sure, makes a positive impact on Little Rock with community service and good deeds, but it is also a club...that doesn't pay you. Third, Star Trek is a television show. That's right, I know it's hard to hear, but it is. I know that Gene Roddenberry and the gang blazed some trails for equal rights and for treating people with dignity, even if they were green with horns, but ultimately, you wearing a unform from a ficitituous work to a trial. You've created lots of undue press with this act that trivializes the justice system, and you've made other Trekkies, that are able to love Star Trek within healthy and appropriate parameters, look like lunatics.

Barbara was ultimately removed from being an alertnate juror because she spoke to the press about her uniform, even though jurors are not supposed to talk to the press. Well, Barbara, I wonder what Captain Kirk and Captain Picard would say about that kind of rule-breaking, hmmm? A court-martial, perhaps?
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A Close Shave


It's been a while since I laughed out loud at a commercial.
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Sunday, April 17, 2011

Piggly Wiggly

After a delightful trip to Columbus this Saturday/Sunday, I am feeling revitalized for a lot of reasons.

1. Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams - Cherry Lambic Sorbet. A sour and deliciously icy treat for someone that doesn't especially dig the super-sweet and creamy traditional ice cream. It's also made with Lindeman's Lambic Belgian Beer. Swanky.

2. Northstar Cafe - Sweet Potato and Turkey Hash along with a ham and cheese scone and totally tasty iced coffee. I was easily full until a light dinner. Not only is this cafe full of genius and friendly staff, but it's business philosophy employs the ideas of sustainability. Let's hear it for locally grown and organic food!

3. These Shoes. I am officially jumping on the TOMS bandwagon. While initially I was a little irritated with the notion of this quintessential hipster piece, my own curiosity allowed me to try them on and witness their comfortable badassedness. Not only can I go without socks, but I can also look super hip while going without socks, apparently. I really want to talk Dustin into these as well, because when boys wear them, it's kind of darling.

4. I got to see my good friend Melissa and she looked really great. She's getting lots of sunshine and building a garden that makes me green with envy. She's also doing a lot of yoga with this totally adorable Yogi named Rodney Yee (via DVD, of course). Gina, another yoga enthusiast, is on the Yee bandwagon as well. I have always wanted to try yoga, but only went to one class in college because I was nervous about rolling around on the floor in front of my good-looking classmates. Finding a DVD at Target, I brought it home and did the 40 minute tutorial with Yee and was blown away with how relaxing and good just the practice felt in all of the muscles in my body. I am very aware that I need to exercise more, but I've never been able to find something that made me feel good. If I continue to feel this good about Yoga, perhaps this is the method for me!


The most ridiculous thing that may have happened this weekend happened after I returned from Columbus, actually. I had to drop Margo (the aforementioned car) at the dealership for an oil change and a bit of a scrub-up for the interior and exterior and my parents were nice enough to pick me up and bring me home. After dinner, we were driving back to my apartment when I noticed something AMAZING on the side of the road in someone's garbage. For a minute, my mind couldn't register the beauty of what my eyes had seen. I shrieked and demanded that my father turn around for this beloved pseudo dumpster-dive. The conversation went something like this.

Jessica: "Oh my GAWD! You have to go back and get that pig!"
Dad: "What?"
Jessica: "Miss Piggy, on the side of the road, we have to go back and get it!"
Dad: "You can't be SERIOUS?!"
Jessica: "Does this face look serious to you?!"

So my Dad turns around and barely comes to a stop in front of the house while I jump out of the seat and grab the gigantic, plaster and filthy Miss Piggy...BANK. Yessssss. My father, in his inability to stop, almost ripped my leg off and sped away before the door was completely closed. I'm not sure if he was envisioning an angry farmer with a shotgun screaming about us touching his pig...or what.

This has got to be the ugliest version of Miss Piggy I've ever seen. She's in a heinous boob dress and making almost a lecherous face and hand gesture. What is Miss Piggy trying to tell me? There are more questions than answers.

Why would someone have this?
Who made this?
Why is her hand there?
Why does she have a wonky eye?

I can't answer any of these questions, but I can tell you that this lady will be spending the summer in my container garden. I'm sure that Buddha will love the really classy company.

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