My Travel Record is Humiliating.

Recently, a friend of mine told me about a running competition she has with her husband to see who can visit the most countries beyond the USA, their country of residence. They both travel a lot for work so they’re both in the thirties (he just surpassed her with a trip to Lichtenstein). Then she laughed and said “but you’ve obviously got us both beat, you travel hobag” and pushed me out her 4th floor living room window. Miraculously, I suffered nary a scratch or scrape…only a fractured ego.

Just wanted to see if you were ever going to put down that pint of New York Super Fudge Chunk and pay attention. 

All of the above story is true except the violence part. I pride myself on my wanderlustic (made it up) tendencies, but when my friend said she’d been to thirty-something countries, that number sounded pretty high. So I thought I’d list all the countries, beyond the great US of A, that I’ve been to in my life. And I decided to do it in the form of a blog post because I have no idea how to not live in public. I’m also listing them in order of visit. I’m also obviously excluding multiple visits to the same country, even if the destinations within that country varied wildly in distance or type of visit, which sort of sucks, but those are the rules. I’ve also excluded my 1998 visit to Puerto Rico, because of the whole “self-governing unincorporated territory of the United States” thing. 

 

  1. Mexico
  2. Switzerland
  3. Italy
  4. Germany
  5. Austria
  6. Canada
  7. The Netherlands
  8. France
  9. Australia
  10. England
  11. Scotland
  12. Wales
  13. Ireland
  14. Greece
  15. Turkey
  16. Russia
  17. Mongolia
  18. China
  19. Vietnam
  20. Laos
  21. Cambodia
  22. Indonesia
  23. India
  24. Brazil
  25. Argentina
  26. Japan

 

Twenty six. TWENTY MOTHERFREAKING SIX?! I cannot believe I’m getting my ass handed to me by a couple of working stiffs. I mean, they’re totally awesome people and deserve all the happiness in the world, but you get my point. I’m going to go cry into a bottle of wine from New Zealand, a country I haven’t been to yet, now. And convince myself that both my friend and her husband are liars. And reconsider hanging out with them. And maybe start planning a whirlwind tour of every corner of Africa. 

Enjoy your ice cream.

 

Springing forward

It’s that time of year in San Francisco where the weather can go any which way… sunny and hot, rainy and muggy, foggy and windy, or a combination of all three scenarios within any four hours. Which is one of the main reasons I live here. The unpredictability of how it will all end keeps things interesting, like relationships, or this

Other things I love about San Francisco (a not-at-all complete list):

  1. You can wear jeans anywhere. If a venue is a no-jeans place, it’s probably one of those douchey, dress to impress B&T clubs anyway. Now, I completely understand that it’s nice to put on something besides jeans when you’re in the mood, totally get that. But listen here and listen good: jeans can be made plenty dressy, people. I own jeans that have set me back over $200, and I know that makes me psychotic, I’m acutely aware that I will most likely never own a home because of my frivolous, compulsive, sickening behavior, but it also means that I WILL WEAR JEANS IF I SO DESIRE, THANK YOU VERY MUCH THE END. So, SF works for me in that respect where other cities do not. Mad/psychotic props. 
  2. Day drinking: not frowned upon. Encouraged. Applauded, even. 
  3. Victorian architecture. I had a friend (originally from the Bay Area, as I am) tell me the other day that she’s “kinda over” Victorians. I don’t get that at all. The longer I live here the more I appreciate the color/uniqueness/detail of it all. 14 foot ceilings, bitches! Gold crown moldings! GOLD! 
  4. It’s-Its - if you live in SF and have never enjoyed a mint It’s-It, then you either moved here within the last three years and have lazy local friends, or are some sort of weird person who claims they don’t like ice cream. I don’t believe you, btw. 
  5. Eucalyptus trees - which are not native to Northern California, a fun little trivia nugget a lot of folks (even Californians) don’t know… they were brought in from Australia back in the 1850s and planted far and wide, thought to be great sources for timber. Turns out they’re shit for timber and don’t fare well in fires or storms. Still, I grew up among eucalyptus trees. They’re beautiful, they smell great, and, imported or not, have been fragrantly abundant in San Francisco parks a lot longer than any of us have.
  6. Food! Glorious food! San Francisco is a culinary mecca. You will eat well here. Even those who preach about how SF is so dirty and full of hippies will still agree with me on this point. 
  7. Proximity to wine country/dense redwood forests/idyllic beaches/snowy mountains/and so on. I’m not saying a lot of other cities aren’t also in close proximity to the whole nature thing, but I think the Bay Area has everybody beat in terms of a 3-hour drive radius. And I’ve been to a lot of cities. If you think I’m wrong, let me know… but I don’t think I’m wrong.
  8. In general, the residents of this city will not look down upon you for using your iPhone/Android/Palm-hahaha just kidding, good one Sarah/smartphone in mixed company. Yes, there are a few restaurants who uphold the whole “we reserve the right to kick you out for using your cell” policy, which I tend to support because they’re talking about those assholes who talk loudly on their phones. That’s not who I’m talking about. I’m talking about nerds checking into location-based apps, updating social network statuses, etc. The gadget-gazers. The people who consider themselves social butterflies but go out of their way not to actually have to make phone calls. My people. 
  9. I’ve heard both women and men complain about how hard it is to meet that special someone in San Francisco. I don’t really understand what the issue is. In my humble but also extremely intelligent opinion, this city is chock full of attractive souls doing fascinating things and being generally nice to one another. Everybody’s cute and happy and wearing jeans. Don’t count on meeting Mr(s) Right in the bathroom line at McTeague’s and I think you’ll be ok. 
  10. Did I mention this

Tomorrow the weather is supposed to be a high of 68, which may or may not be the case come tomorrow. Ok with me, SF. Do your worst.  

25 Random Things About Me

If you're a Facebook user, you've likely been tagged in a note from a friend listing off random things about themselves and asking you to do the same (it's kind of an epidemic, really). But because so many of you aren't my Facebook friends yet, I figured I'd cut-&-paste my contributions here.

**I (lovingly) stole Veronica Belmont's idea of cheating on the rules of this exercise by not tagging anyone. So many people have tagged me that I got overwhelmed, but I still want to play. Below are the rules I'm rebelliously not following:

FACEBOOK RULES: Once you've been tagged, you're supposed to write a note with 25 random things, facts, habits, or goals about you. At the end, choose 25 people to be tagged. You have to tag the person who tagged you. If I tagged you, it's because I want to know more about you.

(To do this, go to “notes” under tabs (+) on your profile page, paste these instructions in the body of the note, type your 25 random things, tag 25 people (in the right hand corner of the app) then click publish.)

1. When I was a kid, I thought I hated lasagna and wouldn't eat it for years. Bizarre.
2. My eyes are green, but they sometimes look hazel or gold. Bright green if I cry.
3. In 3rd grade I wrote a mean thing in another kid's yearbook and got in trouble. I was trying to be clever, but he was really hurt and I still feel bad about it to this day.
4. I'm the youngest member of my family who still has the "Lane" surname.
5. I have an obsession with symmetry... for example, the way eggs are arranged in a carton.
6. I'd rather be funny than pretty.
7. I love going to expensive open houses and imagining where I'd put all my things.
8. I can't decide if I love beer or wine more. I think it's wine. I think.
9. As an only child, I have to remind myself that it's not always my way or the highway.
10. I love rainy, cloudy, windy, stormy days. They have personality.
11. I find it very challenging to get through a novel these days because I'm always online.
12. I need 8 hours of sleep per night in order to feel amazing.
13. I love performing on TV, but public speaking frightens me.
14. I'm not crazy about the color blue.
15. One day if I'm really lucky, I'll have an outdoor hot tub among redwood trees.
16. Sometimes I wonder if my wanderlust will ever let me truly settle down.
17. I'm extremely jumpy. I don't know why.
18. I hate it when people ruin The National Anthem with showoff vocals.
19. I was a cheerleader in junior high.
20. My favorite feature is my long eyelashes.
21. I'm uncomfortable playing team sports. I think it's fear of failure/letting people down.
22. I make my bed every day.
23. I have a hard time saying no.
24. My most prized possessions are photographs of people I love.
25. Pizza toppings should always include artichoke hearts.

I feel the need to point out that while I enjoyed this Facebook exercise immensely, I've been making random lists about myself for YEARS and categorizing them under "Lists I Made" here, on this very blog. Peruse the category archives, and enjoy! Or just feel sorry for me and my oversharing problems. I'm totes cool with either.

Definitely not a policewoman, think of those scratchy polyester uniforms

I remember the last time I uttered the phrase "I want to do x when I grow up" (where x=something amazing). I was in my 20s and out of college, working in a job that fit within my broadcasting degree options. By most accounts, I was already successful. As soon as the words were out of my mouth, I felt ridiculous.

Except that I've never really felt like a grownup. Maybe that's because the older we get, the more we feel we have to achieve in order to not be stagnant. In terms of success, the sky's the limit, so I'll always have a long way to go.

I'm also a very different person than I was at 18, when choosing a major had more to do with a creative, engaging course load and less to do with how I might spend the rest of my life. I was on financial aid in college, so money was this exotic thing I didn't have and didn't really obsess over. I also never considered that the rather limiting television market would made it hard for me to just live anywhere, especially since I was graduating into a top market already (at the time, San Francisco ranked #5, behind New York, LA, Chicago, and Philadelphia. Dallas/Ft. Worth has since pushed us to #6). Did I want to move to one of the top 4 markets once I exhausted my options in San Francisco? I had no idea. I was just happy to be out of Sebastopol. Of course, now that the video landscape is changing so rapidly, I have a whole new set of rules to consider.

I think lots of people go through a similar "what does it all mean" period around the time they hit 30, which is right about when you have to stop claiming that you aren't a grownup yet. It's not that I don't like my career or that I feel unfulfilled, it's more of a "wow, I could have been a veterinarian" type of wistfulness. Sure, I could still do that, but I probably won't. Mentally I've missed my window.

But then I think about my dad, who, as a result of never getting a college degreee, suffered through a string of crappy jobs throughout my childhood. Eventually he couldn't take it anymore, so at age 45 he went back to school. And graduated with honors. And then became an elementary school teacher and really really loved his job. I'm sure he wished that he had taken the plunge 20 years earlier, but at least he was finally happy. In that sense, it's never too late.

Personally, I don't fantasize about teaching fractions to fourth graders, but there are a few careers I wouldn't mind pursuing somewhere down the road, such as:

  1. Geographical Linguist
  2. Travel Photographer
  3. Tea Shop Owner
  4. Acupuncturist
  5. Cat Whisperer

What about you? Kind of a fun exercise.

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Sarah's Random Question Game, Revisited

A couple years ago, I wanted to know more about all of you, so I created this game. It was fun. Let's have more fun. Per the original rules, please copy and paste the following questions into your comment post, but erase my answers and replace them with yours.

1. What's your favorite color?

Sorry, but that's a stupid question. I don't think that knowing my favorite color is green helps you understand me at all. Although I suppose it would come in handy if my birthday was coming up and you were mulling over the idea of buying me an article of clothing in cobalt blue, which I would accept graciously but then use as a dishrag.

2. If money was not a concern and you could pursue a single hobby for the rest of your life, what would it be?
A photographer. With A+ Photoshop skills. I know that's kind of a bland answer, but few things in life give me the level of joy that I feel when I take a photo and it turns out amazing enough to evoke an emotional response in others.

3. What's one physical thing you wish you could change about yourself?
Only one? What kind of brain teaser is this? Ok ok, if I had to choose just one, I'd get my nose fixed. It was broken many, many years ago, not attended to, and the cartilage healed rather asymmetrically. It never bothered me until my mid-20's when my face kind of settled in and got thinner. While I was on TV every day, I would occasionally get comments about my nose looking big or crooked, which helped feed my self-consciousness. But I'd rather spend my paycheck on a trip to Paris, so I think I'm stuck with it.

4. Sweet or savory?
Oh my, savory, though that's only in the last few years. These days I can do without ice cream, but not without soy sauce. If you cut me open, I'd probably be 65% salt water. And that's an unpleasant visual. Let's move on.

5. What's the dumbest show on TV that you try to watch regularly?
"The Hills" on MTV. Now I'm humiliated. I hope you're happy.

6. Do you have a favorite Bob Dylan song?
Gosh, you're playing hardball here. Once every few months, I'll dedicate some audio time to Bob, and a song that I haven't been paying much attention to will kind of stand out to me and I'll think to myself, "wow, this is a really fucking good song." See, I'll actually be cussing in my own head because I feel so strongly about it. At this moment, my favorites are 1) Idiot Wind, and 2) Abandoned Love. I think it's the lovelorn Dylan I enjoy the most.

7. Red or white wine?
Is it warm outside? Then white. Is it after dark? Then red. After a bottle of either I will no longer care.

8. What profession would you absolutely not want to try?
Aren't you ripping this off from Inside the Actors Studio? Anyway, I've thought about this at length already, and I definitely wouldn't want to be a city sewer worker.

9. How do you like your eggs?
Fried, over medium. Once served, they must immediately be placed on top of two slices of sourdough and punctured with a fork so that the slightly-hardened-but-not-fully-hardened-yolk seeps into the bread below. Then they must be eaten with great gusto.

10. What, in your expert opinion, is the best word ever?
Since I discoverd wordie.org, I have a million new ideas, but my new favorite favorite is syzygy. That's a badass word. You can't even play it in Scrabble!

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Colon Watch 2007

Things I've eaten post-Master Cleanse this week, in order of appearance:

  • A small reservoir's worth of diluted orange juice
  • 2 ruby red grapefruits
  • 1 apple
  • 2 fruit smoothies (1 banana, scoop of blueberries, scoop of raspberries, splash of soy milk)
  • 1 nectarine
  • 2 tomatoes
  • 7 spoonfuls of crunchy almond butter
  • 1 large bowl of shrimp wonton soup with rice noodles
  • 1 Amy's cheddar cheese burrito
  • 4 pieces of Neuhaus dark chocolates

I probably dove back into the hard stuff a bit soon, but what the hey. Life is short.

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I Am a Bad Blogger

Daily blogging is one of those activities that makes a lot more sense when you're unemployed. Or at least that's my pathetic excuse for the month of August.

In the interest of full disclosure, here are some other activities at which I tend to fail regularly:

  1. Being on time - I don't think tardiness is acceptable, I really don't. That said, there's a gaping hole in my brain where a chip should be, the chip that accurately calculates what time I need to start preparing in order to leave the house at 7:45 a.m. Currently, leaving the house at 7:45 a.m. means that at 7:43 a.m. I'm frantically brushing my teeth, peeing real quick, trying to locate my other shoe, hobbling into the hallway at which point I pass a mirror and realize my outfit looks totally unfinished without earrings, having a small meltdown, changing my jeans, perking up, looking off into space, remembering that thing about breakfast being the most important meal of the day, reorganizing the mustard shelf in my fridge, and getting out the door by 9:15. Approximately seven minutes after this accomplishment, I will realize that I forgot my phone.
  2. Keeping my hands out of my mouth - I'm a shameful nail biter. I've been a nail biter as long as I can remember, except during my '95-'96 acrylic nail phase, during which period I rerouted all that nervous energy into diligent split-end eradication (which is a full-time job and requires all kinds of dexterity and precision and makes nail biting seem like amateur hour). I'm not biting my nails in order to make them shorter, I'm merely evening them out. But they're just never quite even enough, see, and I'm not going to give in to in that kind of wacked out asymmetrical world without a fight. To the death.
  3. Adequately preparing for special occasions - Have you ever stood in the massively picked-over greeting card aisle at Walgreen's a little past midnight, trying to figure out how to create a Valentine's Day card out of one that says "To a loving grandson, on his 1st birthday"? Welcome to my world.
  4. Stocking up on soap - I should just buy a lot of soap at once, instead of buying one bar at a time. I should just stuff an entire cupboard full of soap, so that it's always on hand and readily available when I run out. I really should do that.
  5. Chilling out - On a good day, I'm what you might call an anxious person, though I've been told "mother effing spazz" is more accurate. I'm not sure how I became so tightly wound. I think it happened somewhere between getting lost inside K-Mart as a five year old, watching "The Exorcist" for the first time in sixth grade, drinking coffee for dinner throughout my entire senior year of college, and spending the better part of the last decade working in live television. I have been known to worry about worrying. It usually strikes around 3 a.m. and is immediately followed by painful cravings for ice cream.
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I won't leave until I've burned 500 calories, which is half as many as were in the burrito I ate for lunch

When it comes to exercise, I'm one of those  people who prefers health clubs to the great outdoors. In my warped little mind, it feels more authentic to exercise this way. I mean come on, any psycho murderer can run around the block and call it cardio, but real pros go to Fusion Fitness. The fabricated ritual appeals to me. I get dressed in all the appropriately clingy-yet-breathable garb. I drive to the appropriate location. I park. I smile at whoever's working the desk. I diligently work through my 1.5 hour routine (45 minutes on the elliptical, half an hour on weights, 15 minutes bike, with periodic trips to the drinking fountain by the massage center, not the one by the bathrooms because that one might be recycling toilet water). I try not to make eye contact with anybody who looks like they might be on steroids. And I always carry around a fresh towel to dab away excess sweat. Not that I sweat or anything. I'm too pristine for that. But if I ever did, even though I never would, I'd be polite about it and CLEAN UP AFTER MYSELF.

But going to the gym is always a crap shoot, because you never know who's going to step in and ruin your pleasant little fabricated ritual. Here are some of the people that have taken credit lately:

  • The guy on steroids who asks if he can “work in” between my two sets of reps because he just absolutely has to be on this particular machine at the same time as me, and of course I have to say yes because I'm afraid of him, and then he leaves the bench all sweaty
  • The girl talking to herself on the treadmill adjacent to mine, which isn't really a problem, obviously medicated people need to excercise too, it's just that now she's actually kind of shouting and if I turn my music up any louder I'll probably go deaf
  • That naked woman hanging out in the locker room who can't bring herself to put some damn clothes on even though she's obviously not showering
  • The dude who grunts in an uncomfortably sexual way during his bench press
  • That chick who stole my Vogue magazine that was literally four inches away from my feet while I was doing sit-ups, and then gave me a dirty look when I found her reading it on the last bike way back in the corner and reclaimed it, I mean that was ridiculous the way she made me feel guilty about reading my own magazine, and now she also knows where I live

I'd go on, but I actually do have to go to the gym pretty soon so I can time my elliptical workout with an episode of “House Hunters”. Those personal TVs they have on all the machines now...GENIUS!

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A Life-or-Death Game of iPod Shuffle

Sometimes when I feel you're not being attentive enough, I write stupid titles like that. To wake your ass up. This is a life-or-death blog! I'm lying, of course. But did it work?

And sometimes when I've got nothing to say, I call out to the Internet for some inspiration. And by call out I mean that I spend several hours reading dlisted and icanhascheezburger and postsecret and call it research. With very little guilt attached, if any. It's research.

Today's inspiration comes from Heather Armstrong, who I have a mild platonic crush on because she's brave enough to write about things I could never write about, like depression, and religion, and pooping. I mean I could write about all of those things, but I'm not sure how that would affect OUR relationship. That is, yours and mine. Sure, it's possible that you want me to talk about poop, but my gut says the opposite. Gut! Poop! Ha ha ha!

Instead, I'm going to copy Heather's idea of writing about the first ten songs that come up when I put my iPod on shuffle. Which could prove embarrassing, because I impulse-buy Fergie songs, or boring, because at least a third of my music collection is based on what other people assured me I would like but that I've never actually bothered to listen to because I'm busy jogging to Fergie songs. Sorry, real-life friends. I guess it's time you knew I rarely take your musical advice. But I have devoted precious gigabytes to your impeccably good tastes, and that should count for something.

First Song: "Hell is Chrome" - Wilco

Oh nice. I call this Wilco's "Peanuts" song, because of the piano right off the top. Peanuts as in Charlie Brown, not as in baseball. Of course the rest of the song is not at all reminiscent of "Peanuts", just those first three seconds. Wilco does that a lot. See, they want you to pay attention just like I want you to pay attention, except that they're musical geniuses and I'm just annoying. A friend of mine once called Wilco "a band for grown-ups", and while that description would normally have me running for the non-contemporary hills, I have to agree. I feel grown up listening to Wilco.

Second Song: "NARC" - Interpol

You either love Interpol or you want to drown them in their own musical monotony. I happen to be in the former category, mainly because Interpol reminds me of when I used to hang out with the emo-electroclash kids at the Arrow Bar five years ago. Which was a fabulous time in my life, btw. I've never seen Interpol live, but my friend Heather (Frank, not Armstrong) has and she said they were totally unimaginative and played their set exactly like the songs sounded on the album and even in the same order. Which kind of appeals to me because that's exactly what I usually don't like about live shows. Too much guesswork. Too many chances to eff up my favorite track with some some unique spin. Props to Interpol. Up with monotony.

Third Song: "Dumb" - Nirvana

Senior year of high school. My friends and I liked the part where he says "and have a hangoverrrrr", even though our poison of choice was Coors Lite and not actually glue. True story: the day after Kurt Cobain killed himself, a handful of us walked around school with little blue ribbons safety-pinned to our shirts. To memorialize him. I don't make this stuff up.

Fourth Song: "O Maria" - Beck

Eh. I like Beck and am intrigued by what kind of company he'd be if he were, oh, sitting across from me at the Omelette Express for Sunday brunch, but I don't love Beck on the same level as many of my hipster friends. Although to their credits, my hipster friends would probably not put "O Maria" at the tops of their lists. I also dock points from a song with a woman's name as a title. It's difficult not to imagine some chick named Maria squealing when she hears it at a frat party because OMG they're playing that Beck song about her.

Fifth Song: "Horses" - Palace Music

Ok, I've never heard this song. But I know who Palace Music is. Another group that people cooler than me nod their heads in agreement about. It's ok I guess. His voice is a little thin. I know that these days singers with wide ranges of ability can make it and be respected, but I think I could have probably pulled off this song as well as he did. And I'm a terrible singer.

Sixth Song: "Chicago (Multiple Personality Disorder Version)" - Sufjan Stevens

I prefer the original version off the Illinois album. But I definitely like songs with hand-clapping sound effects, so this passes. I've never seen a photo of Sufjan, and I hope that I never do, because my imagination has concocted something very, very specific and I'm almost positive that the real Sufjan will disappoint. Like the first time you see your favorite radio personality on a highway billboard and you're horrified and scarred for life. It should be illegal to do things like that to people.

Seventh Song: "Mercy Mercy Me" - Marvin Gaye

This is unfair, iPod shuffle, because while I really, really love Marvin Gaye, I really, really don't love this particular song. And I'll tell you why. Around 1990, I used to babysit this kid whose parents had a satellite dish (I lived in the sticks and nobody even had cable yet, so this was a technological marvel). Nothing except the Disney Channel ever came through, though. One night I was watching that god-awful Mickey Mouse Club and two kids (possibly Christina and Justin) sang "Mercy Mercy Me" as a duet. And it was so bad and awkward and inappropriately mature that I've hated it ever since. Just one more thing to blame on Disney. Although "Herbie Fully Loaded" was plenty.

Eighth Song: "No No No" - Yeah Yeah Yeahs

Now we're talking. One of my favorite albums ever. Love you, Karen O. Until just now I never noticed the irony of the song title next to the band name.

Ninth Song: "Blue" - Smashing Pumpkins

I don't know what my problem is, but I love this band. Especially the early songs. Again, a high school thing. Billy Corgan was my unlikely hero. Of course I'd never even heard of Billy Corgan until after "Siamese Dream" came out, because at that time I was still discovering music exclusively via MTV. My friend Nicole Atkinson once told me that the song "Today" was about taking ecstacy. I wonder if "Blue" is about getting the shit kicked out of you. Hard to say. I'll ask Billy the next time I see him.

Tenth Song: "Invalid Litter Dept." - At the Drive-In

My old hairdresser used to date the singer in this band. But then I think he went to med school and they got a new singer. Or something. I don't remember her story well enough to know if I'm listening to the guy I don't technically know but feel like I know through her, or the guy I don't know at all. He yells a lot about a wishing well in this song, which is awesome either way.

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Top 10 Things I Miss About Traveling (But Hated at the Time)

Brave New Traveler has just published an article of mine in which I describe the attitude shifts one must come to terms with after embracing a vagabond lifestyle:

When you travel for more than a few months at a stretch, it becomes a job. A job you don’t really like all the time. A job you start to complain about.

I should know - while skipping around the world for a year, I did a lot less skipping than I did budgeting, reading transportation timetables, and gesturing wildly to unsympathetic street vendors.

But eventually the journey ends, you return to your normal life, and something magical happens: you find yourself wanting that old job back, warts and all.

Here are ten things I couldn’t stand then, but am pining for now.

Read the full article >>

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Reasons Why I Don't Do It

22. I'm not an entrepreneur.
21. I have no experience.
20. I hate my hair.
19. It's daunting.
18. I'm too tired.
17. I fear change.
16. I don't like schmoozing.
15. I have nothing to wear.
14. I have to work out.
13. I'm too shy.
12. I'm too short.
11. I'm too old.
10. I don't know Perl.
9. I'm too busy.
8. Ok, I'm too lazy.
7. My pores are too big.
6. It's so far to drive.
5. And gas is expensive.
4. It's a waste of time.
3. It's a gamble.
2. It's crazy.
1. I'm afraid of rejection.

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Sarah's 5 Easy-as-Pie Privacy Tips

1. Secure Instant Messaging
If you use AIM, have you ever noticed how some of your buddies have little lock icons to the left of their screenname? That means they've installed a free encryption certificate through AIMEncrypt. Once both parties have it, the conversation will be totally encrypted. If you're not an AIM user, try Trillian Pro (128-bit encryption) or Hush Messenger (a whopping 2,048-bit encryption) for safe chatting.

2. Secure FTP transfer

If your server supports secure FTP transfer (make sure you check because some don't), then consider arming yourself with an FTP client called SecureFTP. I know you wouldn't upload or download anything embarrassing or anything, but still.

3. Text-Only Outlook

Unless you like spam, it's important that you make sure you set Outlook to display messages as text-only. When Outlook downloads an HTML message with embedded images, it often needs to send a request to grab the image data from the originating server. So even if you delete a message right away, you've let the sender know there's a real person on the end of your address. In Outlook 2003- Tools/Options/Email Options Tab/check "read all standard mail in plain-text" In Outlook Express- Tools/Options/Read tab/check "read all messages in plain-text"

4. Secure Email Clients

Pocomail- free trial, $35 to buy - comprehensive virus protection, spam filtering, and organization options
Cryptomail- open source encrypted email software- free, but accepting donations
Hushmail-        encrypted web-based email (also a new plugin for Outlook)  free, $30 for premium edition

5. Password-protect MS Office files

Keep all the snoops around your home or office out of your MS Word, Excel, and PowerPoint files. From within Word, Excel, or PowerPoint, click on the Tools menu and select Options. Click on the Security tab. Under "File encryption options for this document," type in a password. Click OK. When you try to open the document, you get a password.

Easy stuff folks! Hope you're feeling just a little bit safer now. Unless of course you already knew about everything I just mentioned, in which case you are very, very cool and deserve a treat.

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The Top 5 Game: Essential Software

So we were talking around the office about how all of our desk computers are completely shot to hell from years of software tests, installs/uninstalls, weird registry entries, and data fragmented up and down the block. Ok, my computer's in worse shape than most (they actually brought the beast down from SF for me, much to my dismay), but those of you who like to experiment on your own systems know how nice is it to stop the insanity and start over with a clean slate.

This brings me to today's Top 5 Game: If you had to choose, what five programs do you consider must-installs on a fresh and clean OS? Here are mine (XP):

1. AIM (but only when combined with AIMutation for tabbed browsing, etc)

2. iTunes

3. WinRAR

4. Firefox (extensions: IE View, BugMeNot, Firesomething, GoogleBar to start)

5. Spybot Search & Destroy

Ok, what are your faves?

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I Love L.A.?

I always liked the Randy Newman song, but until this week couldn't really tell you if I actually liked the place itself.  See, even though I'm from California, I grew up in the Bay Area and had no reason to ever venture past Santa Cruz. My parents and I went to San Diego once when I was nine or ten, but all I remember of that trip was getting stuck in traffic coming back across the border from Tijuana and buying a donkey piggy bank from a crappy vendor who had just painted it minutes before selling it to me, which caused the paint rub off all over my new off-the-shoulder Baja dress as my dad cursed the lady in front of us who kept letting other cars take cuts. I think I cried, and the farthest south we ever went as a family again was Monterey.

Clearly L.A. is not to blame for Mexican border scams, but my point- and I do have one- is that most of us who've grown up in either California's northern or southern regions agree that the two seem like completely different worlds. California is a huge, vast state with a wide range of climates, terrains, flora, fauna, and most certainly lifestyles, all of which go through some sort of metamorphosis along the 101. Yes, I just said "the 101." If you're from California, you'll understand. I've always gotten the impression that the North feels generally superior to its dry, arid neighbor downstairs and I always wondered if the disdain was warranted.

Now's my chance to find out firsthand, because as you all know, I just moved to LA! Or if you didn't know, now you know. Despite being horrified at the prices of "little beach pads" by the water- money that made San Francisco look affordable, no joke- I secured a great one on my third day of looking. Believe me, after the first two days, I thought I had made a huge mistake. Luck is grand. Kevin and I have been furniture shopping like a couple of decorators, but I suspect he's not having quite as much fun as I am.

More things I have learned after 5 days in LA:

  1. If you're into a healthy, organic lifestyle, you won't have a problem here. Everybody wants to look good and many have actually mastered the concept that you are what you eat.
  2. That other song is true. Nobody walks in LA. They drive to their gym instead.
  3. If you never want to see a freeway, there are 12 billion surface streets that will probably get you there faster.
  4. Everyone is "in the industry." You can imagine how easily a largely superficial industry has bred a thriving superficial society. It's fascinating. Yes, I realize I am also in the industry.
  5. Smog makes for dramatic sunsets. But it's still smog, and so that kinda kills the pretty pink effect.
  6. There's some sort of karate craze happening down here. Or maybe it's always been popular. I wouldn't know, since I've only lived here for five days.
  7. Celebrities are everywhere, and contrary to popular belief, are actually human. I'd tell you who I sat next to at dinner last night, but name dropping is so L.A. (NorCal 4 life!)
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Get Into the Groove

When I was in high school, I was convinced I wanted to make music videos for a living. I watched a lot of MTV (when it was still a channel that showed music videos) and being part of an industry that made eye candy mesh with pop songs seemed like the best job in the whole wide world. Turns out my interests changed a bit over the years, but I still credit music videos for getting me started.

A few of my old faves (all clever, weird, and unique):

1. "Don't Come Around Here No More"- Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers

2. "Tonight, Tonight"- Smashing Pumpkins

3. "Right Now"- Van Halen

4. "Freedom 90"- George Michael

5. "Losing My Religion"- R.E.M.

On a related note, my buddies at Low Water Music put together a terrific video for their song "Strange New Element." Yours truly was involved, as were a few of my talented counterparts. See if you can spot us all!

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For a Rainy Day

I love the rain, though it always keeps me inside- lazing around, watching movies, and drinking tea. Ah, if only it could rain every day.

I've become alarmed at the rate at which my novel reading has slowed. The last book I read was "Fast Food Nation," and while it was well worth my time and energy (utterly eye-opening and repulsive might describe it better), it didn't lend much to my desire for ficticious escapism.

Why do I read less? Is it because I'm too busy? Lazy? Have my interests shifted beyond books? Will the lure of the glossy mag keep me skimming, rather than diving into the written word forever? I don't know, man. But frankly, it stinks. I vow to start a novel tonight. Damn whatever's on Bravo.

Ode to the Paperback: A Few of Sarah's Former Faves

1. "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas" by Hunter S. Thompson My dad's a huge fan. Once I was old enough to realize he has excellent taste, I borrowed his worn, tattered copy of Fear&Loathing for a weekend and laughed my ass off. I've tried to convert many people I know to the HST faith, mostly unsuccessfully. Easy read, but takes a certain humor to appreciate. Their loss!

2. "Me Talk Pretty One Day" by David Sedaris Very self-depricating. Very clever. Very funny. Long live this book.

3. "She's Come Undone" by Wally Lamb This was a violently moving story. I can't tell you how much. Probably more geared for girls than boys, but surprise me.

4. "The Picture of Dorian Gray" by Oscar Wilde Poor, pretty Dorian. Actually, I thought this was a very scary book. I had to stop reading it at night and avoid looking at anything hanging on my wall. Creepy and fun.

5. "The Alchemist" by Paulo Coelho This story was read to me over the course of a few lazy nights on Hayes Street. Such a warm memory. If you cherish the voice of your loved one, have them read you this book. I promise you'll both enjoy it.

This is a good start, though there are so many more books I've loved before. However, my story is about to take an ironic twist. Through the course of this blog entry, I've decided my former pledge to begin a new novel tonight must certainly be shelved to allow ample time to bake oatmeal cookies instead. It just seems like the right thing to do. Time to preheat. And don't look at me like that, I'll read tomorrow.

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all birthdayed out

So yesterday was my 27th birthday. I got a bunch of emails wishing me a happy 30th birthday, sent by those apparently thrown off by the overly realistic fake ID in my previous entry. Boy, nothing gets past you guys, huh? tee hee
.
Anyway, so I'm not 30. But for the first time in my life, I feel closer to 30 than pretty much anything else. Which is a bizarre feeling, considering that I've spent my whole life trying to be older than I really am.

Having been born in October, I was always the kid in school catching up to everybody else when it came to the yearly milestone. You Virgos, Libras, Scorpios, and Sagittariuses know what I mean. I started kindergarten at 4, couldn't drive till junior year in high school (the horror!), wasn't a legal adult by graduation like everyone else, etc. etc. Frequently had to explain my unfortunate situation when asked "did you skip a grade or something?" My baby face never helped matters either. When I was 18 and bagging groceries at Fiesta Market in Sebastopol, customers used to ask me if I was getting paid under the table, since I was so obviously under the minimum age to legally work in California. I know, I know, totally complimentary- but try to tell that to the little girl who wants so badly to be taken seriously.

Well, I'm never gonna be 21, 25, or even 26 again. But that's ok. There are so many reasons to be a happy 27 year old today. Here are ten:

1. I have a great job
2. I have fab friends
3. I can rent cars
4. I can finally date someone my own age and not feel like the underage twins
5. Yes, Kevin and I are the same age
6. My mom says her 27th year was just ok, but her 28th year was amazing. So I have that to look forward to
7. I love my family with all my heart
8. I'm about to move to a new pad with one of my best friends
9. I get carded and it makes me blush instead of making me feel dumb
10. I've been drinking long enough to know that alcohol is poison and we're all better off without it

Happy birthday to me! By the way, don't let anybody tell you when Columbus Day is. It's the 12th. It's always the 12th. Forever and ever. And quit with the whole thing about how Columbus Day isn't really a holiday. Just let me have my holiday birthday!

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She's Come Undone.

I've now had two friends tell me about the importance of the TV show "Paradise Hotel." I'm watching it right now and see no importance. What the hell is this show?

While I'm on a tear... the MTV Video Music Awards show isn't exactly good for much besides bad clothes and badder attitudes. This I know. But I'd like to know who, after watching Thursday night's festivities, thinks pop music is going in a good direction. Really. Who?

Ok, this entry won't be all about what's wrong in the world. Here are some things that make me happy (I bet at least a few make you happy too):

1. Peanut Butter 'n Chocolate ice cream from Baskin Robbins
2. The ocean
3. Rollercoasters
4. Kids that wave at me and smile when I wave back
5. P.T. Anderson movies
6. Figuring out why my HTML is messed up and fixing it
7. Napping in the sun
8. Hearing "I love you" from someone I love
9. Just-flossed teeth
10. US Weekly

Update: I've switched the channel from "Paradise Hotel" to a blaring test pattern and my headache's all gone! :)

PS- If you were ever an Eminem fan, please at least agree with me that beating up puppets is beyond unfunny.

PS part 2- Congrats to the newlyweds, Halley and Josh!

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Back to School

So I'm filling in on Call For Help today and one of our guests is highlighting some nifty gadgets for the kids for the new school year. Ah, how I remember the chaos that was "Back To School." Let's take a walk back in time, shall we?

1.
A couple weeks before our first day back (always used to be the day after Labor Day, no exceptions) the school would post all the students' names in their future classes. This was the moment you found out if all your best friends were in the same class as you (score!) and whether you got the cool teacher or the hag from hell (start acting sick).

2. Back-to-school clothes were big. No, huge. For some unknown reason, kids became fashion slaves sometime in August and rode that horse until October when everything had been worn. It wasn't about growing out of last year's pants...it was about Esprit and Guess! And if you were a frequent receiver of your older cousin's hand-me-downs (me), you might even pretend they were new. Man, peers can be unforgiving! I'd like to think kids aren't as shallow and judgmental as they used to be, but I have a feeling some things never change.

3. Remember those old pee-chee folders? They were printed with graphics of basketball and football players and were barely thicker than construction paper. Pee-chees were also useless if you were using a 3-ring binder cause they had no holes. Yet they were the folder to have. Why? I have no idea. My parents never bought them for me because they weren't practical. But you can't tell a 10 year old about practicality.

4.
Lunch boxes vs. brown paper bags. Can anyone pinpoint exactly what summer we kids got the memo to switch from colorful, unique lunch boxes and advance to plain, identity-free bag lunches? I don't remember the year, but I remember the importance. Lunch boxes were deemed too babyish and absolutely had to go. To avoid Hunger Strike '86, you needed a brown bag.

Top 10 lunch box themes that were hot at my elementary school before they were not:

1. He-Man
2. The Smurfs
3. My Little Pony
4. Transformers
5. GI-Joe
6. Michael Jackson
7. Rainbow Brite
8. Care Bears
9. Strawberry Shortcake
10. Thundercats

5.
Even more important than the sack lunch were the contents of the sack lunch. CapriSun was a must. Hostess cupcakes were reserved for the lunch elite crowd. Skippy peanut butter ruled. Let's just say I was never allowed any of that stuff, and today my body thanks my mother.

I can't say I miss that back-to-school status stress... but I sure wish I still had summer vacation.

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A little of everything.

For some reason working in television makes me watch less television. You'd think we'd all be a bunch of TV junkies, but I actually think most of us don't want to turn work back on when we get home. That said, I do have my guilty viewing pleasures. And they're really guilty.

1. Inside the Actor's Studio on Bravo- I don't care who the actor is. If that show's on, I'll watch. I always want to know what their favorite cuss words are, and if he exists, what they'd like God to say as they're entering the pearly gates. And that James Lipton! What a kidder.

2. Emeril on Food Network- I know it's really dorky to have a band on your cooking set and all that jazz, but let's face it. Emeril can cook. I love to watch good food come together! But I don't clap like the others.

3. Maternity Ward on TLC-- I can't watch reality medical shows. I hate them. They make me seriously ill. Except when it's about babies, and then I'm riveted.

4. Golden Girls reruns on Lifetime- I'm sorry, but that show is absolutely brilliant. Bea Arthur, you're my hero.

In saner news, I just paid off all my credit card debt! While this great feat required me to slash into my modest nest egg (always a drag), the rewards clearly shine brighter. I literally laughed out loud as I cut up my stupid WebMiles Visa card. Goodbye! Never again will I be coaxed into a bogus deal with your manipulative kind! Boy, it feels good to be just a little bit more free.

Let's see... I just bought a dress for a friend's wedding. Women's clothing is such a rip! But it's a really nice dress. I rationalize it by telling myself I'll just wear it to a bunch of other weddings coming up soon (of which there are none). And I wonder how I got into debt....

Ok, Blanche is buying a new car and Rose might buy her old one.. gotta go.

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