Mixed Messages

Do you ever feel like the world is sending mixed messages? Like, “Go out!” but also “Stay in and binge-watch Netflix”?


Ummmmmmmmm…is beer tasting the best pairing for heavy machinery driving? The only thing worse would be “Let’s Test Pharmaceuticals! | Heavy Machinery Driving.” Or maybe “Beer Tasting | Ferrari or Lamborghini Autocross Experience.” I realize the two are separate LivingSocial deals, but I kind of feel like the editor dropped the ball on that subject line.

My email isn’t the only thing sending mixed messages. I got these two messages in my Dove chocolates yesterday:


And these two today:


Really? Really Dove? C’mon!

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100,000 Times Two

My car hit 100,000 miles a week ago Thursday; two and a half weeks ago I hit 100,000 words on the book. Even though I’ve been with the latter much longer, the former felt pretty momentous, too. Thankfully, neither was as anticlimactic as turning 100,000 hours old, which I did on July 24, 1993 at roughly 3:00 PM. What a snoozefest.

I did not capture 100,000 because it was stop and go traffic and I had to go, but here is a pic I took when stopped.

I did not capture 100,000 because it was stop and go traffic and I had to go, but here is a pic I took when stopped.

I feel like The Discovery Channel is missing out on a promotion they could do this month: Croc-toberfest. It’d be the new Shark Week. But with beer pairings. So, lots of Crocodile Lager, Omaha Brewing Company selections, Red Crocodile Beer, and various draughts named “Crocodile Tears.” And they could air the Crocodile Dundee movies at intervals for a break from the Croc Week programs.

Meanwhile, I’ve dubbed it “Rock-toberfest” at Cinéma Atroce. You’ll have to check out bitterempire.com around 4 PM tomorrow to find out why.

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Hey Dudes

La Croix

You probably noticed it’s been quiet over here; I’m very sorry about that. I’ve been writing. And not writing. And not not writing. In part I’ve been working on the book, which feels so close to being done and so impossibly far from it as well. In the past month and a half I have often sat down to write and the words don’t come. And the stupid part is some of the work that is left isn’t even writing or revising. It’s boring stuff like adding page numbers and hyperlinks (for the choices), which doesn’t take much in the way of creative energy. But it just isn’t happening, which is really frustrating.

What also contributed to my absence from this blog was a literal absence: I took a vacation to a dude ranch (a la Hey Dude) with my travel buddy, Sara, at the end of August, so there was a lot of planning beforehand and catching up on things afterward. I’ve had 4 of 6 posts published about our adventures. Start here, then go here, then here, and finally, here. I’ll link more on this site as they’re published. The live-chatting bad movies is still going strong on Tuesday nights. You can “Like” our Facebook page to get updates and the weekly link to the chat session. Here’s a recent one that cracked me up. It’s a really fun weekly gig that I hope you’ll join in sometime. Tonight’s movie is Masters of the Universe, and the link to the live-chat should post around 4 PM on BitterEmpire.com. Look for the Bitter Critic subcategory.

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Have Set, Will Travel

I don’t remember learning to play badminton, but I do remember liking it pretty early on. Aside from swimming, I wasn’t particularly athletically gifted. I did pretty well at first base for softball, but I wasn’t a strong hitter or a fast runner, and despite my height, basketball wasn’t something for which I had a great talent. I got a C on that unit in gym, barely passed gymnastics, hated volleyball for reasons both physical and emotional.

But badminton–badminton I got.

My friend Lindsay lived in a house with a triple lot: the front one was reserved for the house, the back plot was mostly covered with woods, and the middle section contained a garden and large yard on which her parents had set up a badminton court.

I loved to play.


Maybe it was because that meant it was summer and the weather was nice, or maybe it was time with a good friend doing something semi-competitive that I had a shot at beating her at, since she has always been the superior athlete in our shared sport of swimming. Or maybe it was just fun: the volleying, the graceful arc of the birdie, the satisfying ping of a solid hit or fast-sinking shot (which we called lemon drops), the bewilderment of missing a sure return. It still amazes me when a birdie seems to go right through the racquet.

I could have played for hours.

When I went to college, I knew I wasn’t going to swim competitively, so I looked for other athletic opportunities. When I found out they had intramural badminton, I convinced a new friend to join me. When it turned out the doubles teams had to be co-ed, I asked about the possibility of having a women’s doubles team.

“It’s just that I asked my friend to join and she agreed, having never played, on the condition that we be partners,” I told Mo, the woman in charge of athletics.

“I tell you what,” Mo said, leaning over the registration table. “If you can get four teams together, you can form a new league.”

I went around to the women in my residence hall knocking on doors, testing my extravertedness and the friendships I’d only recently formed, thankful for all the time I’d spent getting to know people, in large part due to the fact that I had an older, absentee roommate who’d transferred to UW-La Crosse that year, her third school in as many semesters. I didn’t even meet my roommate until the third day of college, long after everyone else in the hall had become besties (or frenemies) with theirs. I peddled the badminton league as a fun activity they could do with new friends that didn’t require much previous experience, coming just short of begging near the end.

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Good Carma

I’m sorry it’s been quiet over here. Things have been busy. Most recently, I survived the Ides of July, which is especially good since I got a new car! Woop woop. It was a long six months, but it was really worth the wait. It’s a 2007 Subaru Legacy and I’ve had it just over a week. It’s blue! It has so many buttons and bells and whistles! And a moonroof! I need to figure out a name for my sweet ride, but she drives like a dream.

Speaking of dreams, I had a dream that Lil’ Kim was on a show called Brides-to-Be (which was like a post-Bachelorette type of show) and she had to 1) learn how to knit and 2) finish an entire row of the end of a rainbow-colored scarf (she was using black yarn) within 30 seconds in order to win something. She did not succeed, which stressed me out. It also bothered me that a lot of the challenges appeared to buy into gender stereotypes (knitting, cooking, various child-related activities).

I also had a dream that a guy I used to work with and I were playing quidditch against other people we used to work with and (spoiler alert) we won. Speaking of spoilers, my new car has one. You know what it doesn’t have? An antenna. Did you notice cars don’t have those anymore? Weird. Some of them have weird stumpy ones on their back ends, but apparently they’re now putting them into wires in the back window or front windshield. Huh.

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Awkwardly Constructive

Remember how my last post was about construction? It’s on-going (both creatively in my writing and physically in my city), and last Wednesday I got a solid reminder of that fact.

I slid on a new pair of shoes and took my now-usual route to work, avoiding the front-of-my-apartment construction by going out the back way, traversing the temporary water pipes and sidestepping the cones and “sidewalk closed” signs to get to the bus stop. I managed to step around the water gushing from the bus-stop construction site, although I kept checking the band-aid I’d put on to pre-empt any new-shoe blisters.

I was feeling pretty good after I caught the earlier bus and the train was there right when I got to my transfer so I didn’t have to wait. I settled in, getting through a few pages of the book I’m currently reading, Awkward: A Detour, as the train rumbled along the track. And I had good tunes on my iPod–what could be better? I just had to cross the expanse of grass behind the bank on the same block as my building since the sidewalk is closed, due to–you guessed it–construction.

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Under Construction


Summer has come early, much to the benefit of the construction crews. I’ve been fortunate in that I have a friend and coworker who lives two blocks from me, so I’ve mostly been getting rides from her, but on days I don’t, my commute is now re-routed at several points due to various cones, bulldozers, and barricades. I have to go out my back door (because my road is closed and they’ve torn up parts of the sidewalk), cut through the alley and run down the street .3 miles to the bus stop (because the bus has been rerouted because my road is now closed). The last block of this sprint is behind a set of barricades because they’re building apartments on that block. I worry that the bus driver isn’t going to see me and won’t stop.

Can you spot the bus stop?

Can you spot the bus stop?

The bus is being re-routed currently because the cross-street near where I live is also being fixed and they’ve closed the bridge over the highway. It used to stop somewhat close to my train transfer, but lately, for some reason, it’s been re-rerouted and now goes straight instead of turning, so I have a bit of a jaunt when I transfer. And they’re building new offices kiddie-corner from work, so when I get off the train, I have another construction site to circumvent, which has forced the closures of various roads around my office.

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On Creativity

My friend and fellow blogger, Rachel, nominated me for a Creative Blogger Award, which is very kind, since I often don’t feel very creative and instead imagine myself as smooshing things together to approximate a post like a small child gluing scraps onto a piece of cardboard and calling it a diorama. Which, I guess, is creative.  If you haven’t checked out Rachel’s blog, Fellow Passengers, you should because she is tackling big and small things, such as faith, writing, and parenting twin toddlers and a preschooler. Every post makes me feel good. So, thank you, Rachel for this award!

Her nomination got me thinking about creativity and its many forms. If necessity is the mother of invention, then creativity is the fun aunt or doofus uncle or someone who buys you the toys you probably shouldn’t have but totally love, like a full-sized drum kit or a seed bead loom or a set of messy oil pastels, and who tells you about his or her adventures in the world that exists outside your suburban home and then gets you all hopped up on ice cream and…where was I going with this? Oh, yeah.

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May the Fourth & Cinco de Mayo

Those of you who’ve followed the blog for a while know that I love word play, puns, and portmanteau. Monday was Star Wars Day (May the Fourth, get it?), so I thought I’d post some puns, jokes, and funny observations from recently.

I saw this on the bus on Monday. It was awesome.

Princess Leia is very busy. So is her shirt.

Princess Leia is very busy. So is her shirt.

I also saw the Papa John’s delivery guy go through the drive-thru at Dairy Queen recently. I really wish I had gotten a picture of that.

Last week a coworker (who isn’t that much older than I am) said he’d been to more countries by the time he had graduated high school than he’d been to states in the U.S. I told him it was easier when the continents were all close together.*

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A Lobby Against “Hobby”

hob·by1ˈ häbē/noun
  1. 1.an activity done regularly in one’s leisure time for pleasure.
    “her hobbies are reading and gardening”
    synonyms: pastime, leisure activity, leisure pursuit;
    Knitting (for me) is a hobby.

    Knitting (for me) is a hobby.

I went to the dentist a week ago, which is always an adventure, but this time I had a different hygienist than the one before. The one last week was perky and sweet, very encouraging about my teeth (no cavities, thankyouverymuch), and we’d established a pretty good rapport when she asked me what I “do.”

This is a difficult question.*

I used to reply solely with whatever I did as a job, which seems to be the stock answer people are looking for. What’s your occupation? How do you make your money? That last question seems kind of rude, but it’s really in essence the same as “What do you do?” and “What’s your occupation?” It’s hard not to interpret this as “Who are you to the world?”

Recently, I’ve gotten better about saying, “I’m a writer,” although that leads to the complicated follow-up question, “What have you written?” or “Where can I find you?” and then I usually have to fess up that my “day job” is something different. But at least I assert myself as a writer first. That’s how I consider myself. That’s what (eventually) I hope to get paid to do.

For some reason, I slipped into my old habit and answered first with my administrative job, and then felt the need to clarify, “Well, that’s my day job. Really, I’m a writer.”

“Oh, so it’s like a hobby?” she said, so earnest in her dismissal of what I do.

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