Prowling on little cat feet, December is upon us.

While I have been writing a post for every day of November to be a part of NanoPoblano, I have also been reading the posts of the other Peppers. Their lives and their writings are amazing, and I am reminded of something Ray Bradbury said:

“We are cups, constantly and quietly being filled. The trick is, knowing how to tip ourselves over and let the beautiful stuff out.”

– from “Zen in the Art of Writing,” by Ray Bradbury

It’s been lovely to watch each of my NanoPoblano compatriots tipping themselves over each day. I wanted to also say thank you to those of you who spent time reading along and commenting during this NanoPoblano month- having comments to read and interact with made it a far more entertaining venture than simply writing into the void.

I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do for the last post of November- I considered a recap of the month, but considering how much I dislike clip shows on tv, that seemed ill advised.

I considered a few brief thoughts on some random links and articles that I’ve been collecting all month, like geese and egg creams and weird winter relationship rituals, but I don’t think I want to do that right now. Maybe I’ll come back to that in December.

I thought for a while that perhaps I’d talk about all the things that I want to do when the pandemic is over, or the things I’m looking forward to coming up. I don’t want to do that now, though, because looking forward when there’s still so much Covid to endure just seems like a special new form of torture. We’re not there yet.

I considered wrapping up with a post I’ve had stewing for a while about St. Elmo’s Fire, growing up, and suffering through limerence… but that post isn’t cooked all the way through yet, and if I serve it too early, it will give my friends food poisoning.

I thought about posting some photographs of food, because good lord I sure do take a lot of photos of food, but this isn’t Instagram and I’m not a food blogger, although I sometimes pretend to play one on TV.

I thought I would have trouble coming up with something to write about every day this month, but I never really wanted for ideas, even if sometimes those ideas were a little cheesy, and even if sometimes I had trouble finding the time and concentration to make them real.

I am delighted by the fact that I can make a blog post out of all the things I’m not making into a blog post. I like the weird symmetry of that.

One last thing, before I turn my attention to an unrelated but very important piece of bloggery… I cannot believe that not a single one of you commented on my “Chairman Meow” joke during the Hong Kong posts!

And now for something completely different:

As we roll into December, I begin the annual challenge of Whamageddon. The rules are very simple:

  1. The objective is to go as long as possible without hearing Wham!’s Christmas classic; “Last Christmas”.
  2. The game starts on December 1st, and ends at midnight on December 24th. (I use my local time zone, but not everyone follows the rules in an identical way.)
  3. You’re out as soon as you recognize the song.
  4. Only the original version applies. Remixes and covers do not send you to the fields of Whamhalla, although they might raise your pulse a bit.
  5. If you like, post on social media with the #whamageddon hashtag when you get hit.
  6. The intention is that this is a survival game, and not a battle royale. In other words, don’t be a dick and don’t play Last Christmas to your friends. No Whammied Rick-Rolls, please.

I play Whamageddon every year, because it’s a really silly bit of fluffery and I enjoy pretending to anguish over my fallen brethren as they ascend to Whamhalla. Two years ago, I was taken out by a Wham-grenade planted by someone I trusted, foolishly. Last year I survived despite some perilous journeys to places where piped in Christmas music is the norm.

This year will be strange. On the one hand, I work from home and live alone, so my media control is pretty straightforward. On the other hand, I sometimes take the metro and go into places where I have no control over what I might hear. Even a walk across the street to get a sandwich might expose me to The Song.

Will you join me on the battlefield? Will you play Whamageddon with me? C’mon, it’ll be fun!

How was your NanoPoblano month? And will you play Whamageddon starting tomorrow?

51/52 (and 30 of 30, y’all! ::dusts off keyboard::)

Don’t feed the flamingos.

Welcome to the halfway point of Nano Poblano! Since most of my posts are either long-form or very photograph heavy, I thought it would be nice to take a beat at the mid-point of November to reflect on how well we’ve all done keeping up the posts.

I’ve been reading loads of things from new friends this month, as they push through their own Tiny Pepper challenges. If you’ve got some time to read new things, take a moment to look at some of these fine folks– you won’t regret it.

I genuinely thought I would have less to talk about because my usual adventures have been completely stifled by the pandemic. It turns out that I have enough tiny adventures to completely keep this train moving.

Speaking of trains, it has now been 100 days since I arrived in Arlington aboard the AutoTrain. One hundred days in my new home, and I still haven’t found a sofa. Or tried all the restaurants I want to try around here. Or met any of my neighbors, really. After one hundred days in Arlington, I’m still exploring and learning my immediate surroundings.

Which brings me to the photo…

I stumbled across this while simply walking around the neighborhood. I was coming back from the store, and I decided to take a slightly different path than normal. I was thinking I might find a slightly more direct route.

My slightly more direct route actually took me between a couple of condo buildings. In the middle of the path, there was a pedestrian roundabout filled with some small plants, a little tree, and… three plastic flamingos. The “please do not feed the flamingos” sign tickled me so much I actually stopped and went back for the photo.

I love signs that exist solely for the joke. This really appeals to my sense of whimsy.

What’s the silliest sign you’ve seen around?

36/52 (and 15 of 30!)

The Best Of.

Watching blog statistics is an infurating hobby.   I’ve been writing here now for just over five years, and no matter what I do, the same two posts are always at the top of my stats.

1)  ICE, ICE, Baby! (A Beginner’s Guide To The Deutsche Bahn) – Written in early 2013, almost halfway through my time in Germany, this is a fairly detailed how-to styled post about how to use the rail system in Germany.  I took a lot of time to write this one, and gathered a ton of photographs from my own travels.   I left the comments open for the first couple of years, and I would routinely get comments from people about to go on their first German rail adventure, seeking advice.    I still get the occasional question through normal e-mail about this one, and it is always, always, always at the top of my stats for the most visits on any given day.

2)  Germany’s Most Dangerous Export: Kinder Surprise Eggs – This post from late 2013 is the second busiest post on my entire blog.  These little chocolate eggs are illegal to import into the United States, with a very steep fine per-egg if you get caught bringing one through customs.  I see them for sale from time to time in places like Sawgrass Mills, and I haven’t the foggiest idea how they got them through customs.  Rumors persist that the ban has been lifted, but I haven’t seen anything official to confirm that and I guess regular google searches about Kinder Eggs bring up my post.

The third place for top post is usually the most recent thing I’ve posted.   There are a few older posts that I really enjoyed putting together, though.  Sometimes I wish some of these would be in the top stats instead.

1)  Grokking Expatriates in Sci-Fi – This is another post from early 2013, and it’s one of the few posts where I got really geeky.  I went through an insanely long list of television, movie, comic, and literary characters out of the sci-fi genre who could be considered expatriates, and I grouped them into categories I made up.  This post was so much fun that it’s the first and only time that I’ve ever been Freshly Pressed.  (Thanks again for the nomination, Rara!)

2) Last Looks – I wrote this in late 2014, as I was preparing to move back to the United States.  It’s a long list of things that I thought I would miss about Germany, and things that I wouldn’t miss.  I also mentioned a lot of stuff that I was looking forward to about being back in the US, and I was right about everything except the cell phone signal.  That still sucks.

3) – Hunting Krampus in Berchtesgaden – Besides being a fascinating look into holiday traditions that are a little bit less tame than modern Santa, this post is a very fun look at the time in late 2013 that I went on a Krampus hunt with a friend from work.

4) Any of my travel posts.   I’ve written up many fantastic trips, with lots of great photos.  For some of my favorite examples, check out Cairo, Budapest, or Reykjavik.  I’m immensely proud of some of the posts I’ve written up about my travels.

What gets the most traffic from your blog?

Editor’s Note:  I’m attempting to blog every day in November with CheerPeppers.  I don’t expect to succeed because life be crazy, but any blogging in excess of my previous post-free month is a win, right?

Tacos! (Or maybe not so much.)

I’ve been trying all weekend to come up with a new tagline for this blog, since I’m no longer on the Donau, and virtually every tag I’ve come up with so far has involved tacos in some way.

Tomorrow night’s dinner is Taco Tuesday- perhaps I should try this again after I’ve actually satisfied the taco-lust.ninjas-dragons-tacos

I’ve been giving a lot of thought to how to proceed with this blog, and I know that I need to change my direction a little bit.  I don’t travel now the way I did in Germany, for any number of reasons,  and the posts about repatriation and reintegration are interesting, but that material will only carry me so far.

I think I have a sense of what I want to do, though.  In the paleolithic era of the Internet, back when puppies were the oldest animals, there was a giant blogging community on a site called LiveJournal.   Livejournal still exists, and I actually have a permanent account there.  In the heyday, around 2003 or so, I was a very verbose LJ user, sometimes even posting two or three times a day if I had an idea.  Over the years, the community dwindled, and other things took the focus.  Many people moved to the dreaded BookFace, and some started writing their own off-site blogs.  I found it harder and harder to keep writing there because I simply got too busy.  In modern times, I go back there every May to write my thoughts about the Television Upfronts.  I watch a lot of television and I have many thoughts about it.  I briefly considered bringing those posts over to this blog, but I never felt like they fit here.

Since I started writing in this blog, though, I’ve gotten into a good habit where writing is concerned.   My tone has always been casual, but structured here.  I have only rarely talked about things on a personal note, and I don’t think that most of the people reading ever got a sense of my real personality through my posts, other than the ingrained wanderlust.

I think that I’m going to try to incorporate the type of blogging I did back on LiveJournal.  I spoke more about my life and the people in it, and I spent more time talking about the things that were actually on my mind.   I’ll still do trip reports from time to time, and I’ll still post pictures occasionally, but the content will be a lot more varied.    I don’t intend to implement a set posting schedule, but I will never go more than a week without a post. There will be times when the whim will strike me, like tonight, and I’ll write something up on the fly to be posted immediately. (I jokingly called this ‘blogging while the neuron is hot’ a few minutes ago, and I realized that this would be a great tagline for a blog about neuroscience.)

I’ve already taken the first step toward resetting the blog by changing the URL from http://stevenglassman.de to http://stevenglassman.com.   For those of you who have linked to me in your own blogs, don’t worry:  the redirection is actually handled by WordPress.com’s back-end, which means that any links to my old posts on the .de domain will still load properly; they’ll just load with the .com version of the URL. I still need to find my new tagline, though.  And I probably won’t keep closing my posts with a question-  they’re good conversation starters, but sometimes I have no idea what to ask, and I think it shows pretty clearly when I’m grasping at straws.

In the spirit of blogging more about the things that actually make me tick, I’ll leave you tonight with three things that are on my mind.

Thing the first:  Senator Ted Cruz is a willfully ignorant butthead.  I don’t usually get too terribly political, but sometimes I’m enraged enough to comment.  Senator Ted posted this to Twitter:

The Internet immediately went aflame, including The Oatmeal’s awesome response, and Gizmodo’s thoughtful analysis.   The reason this enrages me in particular is partly that it’s a false equivalency:  Net neutrality doesn’t equate to a government takeover of anything, it just prevents the telecoms from being evil dickheads.  The other reason this enrages me is that Cruz has taken tons of money from the telecoms, so you can intuit that he is either being entirely uninformed about the issue (unlikely) or he’s shilling for the telecoms, saying what his corporate sponsors tell him to say.  Dude might as well be wearing Comcast and XFinity patches on his jacket.

Go back and read those two things I linked if you want to know more; they explain it much better than I do.   Seriously, though, grr.  Just grr.

Thing the second: This post about Charles Dance being cast as Karellen in the SyFy miniseries of Arthur C. Clarke’s “Childhood’s End” excites me in a way cannot be described without using words like squeeee and ohmygodohmygodohmygod.  This is not because of the actor-  I don’t watch Game of Thrones, so I don’t really know the man’s work.  Rather, this is because Childhood’s End is a fantastic classic sci-fi story about a peaceful alien invasion that takes place over the span of more than one hundred years.  If you like good, thought-provoking science fiction, you should read this.   I expect the SyFy network to completely screw this up, but I’m still a little hopeful that this will be one of the rare adaptations that they actually get right.

Thing the third:  My reintegration back into life here in the US has been dotted with both successes and victories.

  • My brain has been failing me at odd intervals, causing me to lose the English words for things, and occasionally replacing them with strange and unrelated words.
  • I’ve noticed that I still grocery-shop like I’m in Germany, only without the canvas bags.  By this, I mean that I tend to only get as much as I can carry myself in one trip.   The stores themselves are somewhat overwhelming, and I find myself distinctly uncomfortable in them.
  • I reaffirmed my American-ness this weekend by restarting my Costco membership, but then promptly had what I can only describe as a mild panic attack from the chaos of the Saturday afternoon Costco shopping experience.  I still bought a box of Ghirardelli Triple Chocolate Brownie Mix.  Don’t judge me!
  • I continue to be a patently ridiculous and silly person.  Last night, we had a birthday dinner for my dad and step-mother.  Her birthday was Friday, his was today.  Having the family gather to celebrate in the weekend in between them was a no-brainer.  While I was getting ready, I momentarily forgot how button-down shirts work, and I closed the cuff on the tighter of the two buttons.   Astutely noticing that my left cuff was significantly tighter than my right cuff, I asked aloud, “What the hell, did my wrist get fat?”  Amelie gently reminded me how shirts work without too much laughing.

I got an award thingie!

versatilebloggerawardA little while back, I got a note from The Diary of Sugar And Spice that she was nominating me for the Versatile Blogger Award.  I’m not clear as to whether she’s Sugar or Spice.

The rules for dealing with this award, as noted here, involve the following:

  • Thank the person who gave you this award. (Thanks, Sugar and Spice!)
  • Include a link to their blog. (http://thediaryofsugarandspice.wordpress.com/)
  • Next, select 15 blogs/bloggers that you’ve recently discovered or follow regularly.
  • Nominate those 15 bloggers for the Versatile Blogger Award
  • Finally, tell the person who nominated you 7 things about yourself.

For those who I am about to pass the award on to,  please don’t feel obligated to do anything with it.  The award isn’t created by any official group, like a WordPress Advisory Board or anything.  It’s just one set of bloggers showing appreciation for the contributions of other bloggers.

However-  I don’t like chain letters or posts that say “pass this on or else.”   While I am following the rules of the award by listing fifteen bloggers below, my linking to you here doesn’t mean you’re required to do anything about it.

Moving on, then.  I’m passing this on to:

And lastly, the requisite 7 Things About Myself:

  1. I have never seen The Godfather.  Not part 1, part 2, or part 3.  I’ve never read the novel either.  For as much as I love movies, everyone just assumes that I’ve seen this at some point, I never have.
  2. I am immune to being earwormed by other people, but I earworm myself all the time.  
  3. I spent a chunk of the early 1990s in a Rocky Horror Picture Show shadow cast.  I was usually Brad, but I played Frank a few times.
  4. I only got my passport in 2006 because I wanted to see London.  My goals at the time did not include any other destinations.
  5. I carry ear plugs with me every day, and especially to all the concerts I go to because my hearing is already starting to show signs of wear and tear.  When I’m in a crowded restaurant or bar, I often can’t tell what people are saying to me because I have a difficult time parsing their words out of the background noise.
  6. Sometimes when I get going on a project or a blog post or something along those lines, I go into a sort of hyperfocus and lose all sense of time.  It’s not uncommon for me to lose hours writing a series of blog posts.  This is great for productivity, but bad for my health- when I am in this state, I forget to eat and I don’t notice the migraine forming until it’s far, far too late.
  7. I’m a chronic overpacker pretending to be someone who travels very light.  I can usually get myself down to a single bag, but that bag is stuffed to the gills.  On any given trip, I might have too many extra shirts, a flashlight, enough electronic gadgets to initiate a hostile takeover of RJR Nabisco from the road, and quite possibly a boat anchor. (Hey, you never know when you’ll need to stop in a hurry!)

Do you pack light or are you also prone to overpacking?