Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Eventful Year

Well, this is shaping up to be a rather eventful year--and I'm only a little over halfway through. A quick overview:

Teaching and living in Prague, which came with all sorts of stress and trauma. A job offer that I agonized over but finally decided to decline. Trips to Karlovy Vary, Cesky Krumlov, Cesky Budejovice, Karlstejn, Krivokrat, Snezka, and Konopiste. Three trips to Dresden, Germany--one by train and two crossing a border in a van full of other, ahem, guest workers. Trips to Krakow, Bratislava, Vienna, and Budapest. Got to see my friends B&B from Canada (whom I hadn't seen in years). Four months of Czech classes. Moving to Jersey for six weeks and working a real job--with a real paycheck (with a distressingly real amount of tax taken out).

What's next, you ask... surely this is more than enough for one year, you say.

But this is me we are talking about.

When I finish up in Jersey I need to make the bi-yearly pilgrimage to the midwest to visit relatives. After that...

I'm really thinking about using my return ticket to Prague, then catching a flight down to Greece and exploring there, in Turkey, and in Romania some. Those were three places that I really wanted to see that I never got the opportunity to (being so busy, exhausted, and stressed in Prague). Right now I'm still in the pre-planning stages... the only definite thing I've done so far is buy guidebooks for Greece and Istanbul.

After that? I'm probably going to go collapse at my Mom's for a couple of weeks, then try to find a temp job to tide me over until I can find another teaching job. I've found a couple of places in Ecuador that I want to check out further. I would like to find something that starts in January '08.

At some point I guess I really ought to settle down and start working a steady job and saving for retirement and all that stuff. I probably will someday. Like, when I'm 50.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Vienna Pics... finally

So... here are some pictures from Vienna. I didn't have a guidebook with me when I went, so I basically just walked around for two days and snapped pictures of anything I thought was interesting. At some point I'm going to need to go through all my pictures (and not just the Vienna ones--everything from the past six months) and label them. Oh, and figure out what I want to print (I like to print out my best pictures and put them into photo albums. I have three very nice albums from my travels. I think I am going to have to buy a fourth album soon.)

This is quite possibly a picture of the Rathaus. Yes, I believe it is.

Okay, this is definitely Hundertwasser. Damn, I'm doing good here.

Uhhhh... no idea. I know exactly where I found it in the city and I could easily find it again (on a map or in the city), but I don't remember what it is. Well, I know what it is: Baroque. But honestly, in Vienna? That's a little obvious.

And here we have the obligatory tourist picture of the Mozart Statue. Hmmm.. Mozart was in Vienna? To hear the Czechs talk, he was a born and bred Pragger! (They really try to claim Mozart in Prague).

Uhhhh, bit Baroque palace complex. Involved lots and lots of walking. I didn't actually go into the palace (what's the point? Honestly, once you've seen one big, sprawling Baroque palace, you've seen them all).

Giant ferris wheel! There was a permanent amusement park... reminded me of the time I lived in Germany. Bad Eurotrash music from the 80s playing... yeah, those were the days. Then again, it is pretty difficult to avoid hearing bad Eurotrash music from the 80s even when one travels to Europe in the 2000s.

'Nother palace. This is (believe it or not) a completely different palace than the one a few pictures back. See what I mean about big, sprawling Baroque palaces? And you thought I was exaggerating, didn't you?

Friday, July 27, 2007

Pondering (instead of working)

Am I so uncool that I just don't like to be in the presence of "coolness"? Or is it that I see through overattempts at "coolness" too easily and it all just annoys me? I'm perfecty willing to go with the second option. Doesn't change the fact that I am just not cool, but... I don't know. I need to get back to work.

I made my tea a little too strong (okay, a LOT too strong), and now I'm on a complete caffeine buzz. Not, um, cool.

Jersey SHORE

I totally forgot to mention this in my post about the Jersey SHORE, but in addition to having to pay an insane amount (well, for me, when it comes to the beach, anything above FREE is insane), we were not allowed to EAT on the BEACH.

I know!

Can you imagine? Not being allowed to EAT on a BEACH?????

(Incidently, smoking was fine).

Freezing to Death

It is REALLLLLLLYYYYY cold where I work. I wish I had thought to bring my long johns with me. You know, I brought them to Prague and never really needed them, but I didn't ever think I would need them in Jersey in July. Well, in the office in Jersey in July.

Anyway, I have to share this story... the other day at lunch, the interns were all talking about what they were going to do with their money from this job (we're being paid pretty well. If this were a year-round job, I'd be making several times more than the most I've ever made in my life--and more than I ever really expect to make [adjusting for inflation]). Anyway, the adults (that is, the over 21s) were all talking about using the money for rent, credit card bills, etc, etc. The 18 year old (the one going to Georgetown in the Fall) and the 20 year old (the one at Princeton) were quiet during this entire conversation.

As we were leaving the cafeteria, the 18 year old and 20 year old walked ahead of us adults for a bit, then turned around to wait for us. When we reached them, the 18 year old said to me (and I swear I'm not making this up), "Wow. This job is just for, like, some extra spending money for us. But for you guys it's, like, a real job."

Kids say the darndest things.

I was like, well, you guys are going to some pretty expensive schools. Surely this money is going to pretty much have to go towards tuition. They were like, uhhhhhhh, no. All spending money.


Tuesday, July 24, 2007

I love this...

Monday, July 23, 2007

For my amusement.. you might not think it's so funny...

So, I'm posting the conversation mom and I just had on Skype. We refer to the condition of my room when I moved it. Yeah. I'm definitely gonna have to post more on that (you will see in a few minutes, if you actually make it through the dialogue).

J is the woman who is renting rooms in the house. C and B are my two other roommates (though J lives here too... she was just out of town last week).

Justine Derrick: BTW, J. is back
[8:00:42 PM] Patricia Derrick says: bullsh*t
[8:00:45 PM] Justine Derrick says: OHHHHH
[8:00:45 PM] Patricia Derrick says: sorry
[8:00:49 PM] Patricia Derrick says: and?
[8:00:55 PM] Justine Derrick says: you are gonna laugh your a$$ off
[8:00:57 PM] Justine Derrick says: !!!!!!
[8:00:58 PM] Patricia Derrick says: she noticed?
[8:01:02 PM] Justine Derrick says: I got in from work today
[8:01:21 PM] Justine Derrick says: and J said that B had told her the "saga" (her word) of the kitchen cleaning
[8:01:26 PM] Justine Derrick says: she said
[8:01:29 PM] Justine Derrick says: (snort)
[8:01:48 PM] Justine Derrick says: that it was obviously some mystical combination of chemicals that got the floors clean
[8:01:56 PM] Justine Derrick says: because she had never managed to get it that clean
[8:01:57 PM] Patricia Derrick says: no sh*t
[8:02:00 PM] Patricia Derrick says: OMG
[8:02:09 PM] Justine Derrick says: I was like, well, we did get down on our hands and knees and scrub
[8:02:13 PM] Patricia Derrick says: duh
[8:02:13 PM] Justine Derrick says: I think that was what did it
[8:02:21 PM] Justine Derrick says: I couldn't believe it
[8:02:30 PM] Justine Derrick says: I was like,
[8:02:36 PM] Patricia Derrick says: un-freaking-believable
[8:02:37 PM] Justine Derrick says: wait till mom hears THIS one
[8:02:39 PM] Justine Derrick says: no kidding
[8:02:49 PM] Justine Derrick says: now we have to train her to the dishwasher system
[8:02:54 PM] Patricia Derrick says: ?????????????
[8:03:01 PM] Justine Derrick says: where you put the dirty dishes in the DISHWASHER
[8:03:08 PM] Justine Derrick says: she has a dish drying rack
[8:03:17 PM] Patricia Derrick says: and puts them there?
[8:03:22 PM] Justine Derrick says: (tell me if this makes any sense. B, C, and I still don't get it)
[8:03:33 PM] Justine Derrick says: yeah, she rinses the dishes once, then puts them in the rack
[8:03:41 PM] Patricia Derrick says: ???WTF????
[8:03:42 PM] Justine Derrick says: Then, at some future point, she moves them to the dishwasher
[8:03:44 PM] Justine Derrick says: I know
[8:03:47 PM] Justine Derrick says: I know
[8:03:49 PM] Justine Derrick says: I know
[8:03:52 PM] Justine Derrick says: so
[8:03:54 PM] Patricia Derrick says: (ninja)
[8:03:58 PM] Justine Derrick says: we (B, C and I)
[8:04:10 PM] Justine Derrick says: decided that it made more sense to put the DIRTY dishes in the DISHWASHER
[8:04:20 PM] Justine Derrick says: and to just handwash the "rare" dishes
[8:04:24 PM] Justine Derrick says: like the one frying pan
[8:04:26 PM] Patricia Derrick says: yeah, if it's not full of clean dishes
[8:04:29 PM] Justine Derrick says: and put it in the dishrack
[8:04:32 PM] Patricia Derrick says: no sh*t
[8:04:32 PM] Justine Derrick says: so others could use it
[8:04:39 PM] Justine Derrick says: (my idea, actually)
[8:04:43 PM] Patricia Derrick says: that's my child!
[8:04:53 PM] Patricia Derrick says: genius, she is!
[8:04:54 PM] Justine Derrick says: (I kind of feel like I've been fermenting a revolution)
[8:05:01 PM] Patricia Derrick says: and revolutionary!
[8:05:08 PM] Patricia Derrick says: innovative!

[8:06:45 PM] Justine Derrick says: But I feel like it is J's responsibility to make sure the place is clean
[8:06:55 PM] Patricia Derrick says: no sh*t
[8:07:01 PM] Justine Derrick says: she is renting out the rooms
[8:07:06 PM] Patricia Derrick says: righto
[8:07:19 PM] Justine Derrick says: so I feel it her responsibility to make sure the rooms are clean before ppl move in
[8:07:23 PM] Justine Derrick says: she didn't do that
[8:07:32 PM] Patricia Derrick says: I'm surprised there's no inspection process
[8:07:34 PM] Justine Derrick says: (squirrel droppings, no extra charge)
[8:07:39 PM] Patricia Derrick says: yuck
[8:07:42 PM] Patricia Derrick says: shudder
[8:07:47 PM] Justine Derrick says: I wonder if I should mention something to the school
[8:07:52 PM] Justine Derrick says: I mean, they list the house on their website
[8:07:54 PM] Patricia Derrick says: naw
[8:07:57 PM] Justine Derrick says: so they are connected to it
[8:08:01 PM] Justine Derrick says: well, when I leave
[8:08:02 PM] Patricia Derrick says: you're a short-timer
[8:08:06 PM] Patricia Derrick says: maybe
[8:08:10 PM] Justine Derrick says: a little note
[8:08:21 PM] Patricia Derrick says: but you'd think renters would be a little more particular
[8:08:32 PM] Justine Derrick says: I think they have all been young
[8:08:34 PM] Justine Derrick says: college students
[8:08:38 PM] Patricia Derrick says: when they move in (providing they can actually SEE the place, unlike you)\
[8:08:40 PM] Justine Derrick says: so they haven't had experience renting before
[8:08:45 PM] Justine Derrick says: and they don't know what to expect
[8:08:46 PM] Patricia Derrick says: true
[8:08:46 PM] Justine Derrick says: I do
[8:09:12 PM] Patricia Derrick says: I wonder if they sign leases
[8:09:20 PM] Justine Derrick says: I think they do
[8:09:25 PM] Patricia Derrick says: if so, if the condition of the room is mentioned
[8:09:31 PM] Justine Derrick says: there is a rental agreement that she sent me a copy of
[8:09:40 PM] Justine Derrick says: but it.. I have to go back and look at it
[8:09:49 PM] Justine Derrick says: I don't think it mentioned the condition of the room
[8:09:52 PM] Patricia Derrick says: you know, that they have to leave it in a certain condition (which should be the same condition as when they moved in)
[8:10:04 PM] Justine Derrick says: Honestly, I assumed that since it was more or less advertised through the school
[8:10:06 PM] Justine Derrick says: well...
[8:10:07 PM] Justine Derrick says: you know
[8:10:10 PM] Patricia Derrick says: I suppose you could see it that it could be trashed
[8:10:14 PM] Patricia Derrick says: when you moved in AND out
[8:10:18 PM] Justine Derrick says: well
[8:10:25 PM] Justine Derrick says: I don't have any more squirrel droppings
[8:10:28 PM] Patricia Derrick says: good
[8:10:33 PM] Justine Derrick says: suppose I will have to find a substitute
[8:10:40 PM] Justine Derrick says: ewwwww
[8:10:44 PM] Patricia Derrick says: man was not supposed to live with squirrel turds
[8:10:46 PM] Justine Derrick says: don't even wanna go there
[8:10:50 PM] Justine Derrick says: no
[8:10:53 PM] Justine Derrick says: man was not
[8:10:55 PM] Patricia Derrick says: I could send cat sh*t
[8:10:57 PM] Justine Derrick says: nor was I
[8:11:00 PM] Patricia Derrick says: both mammals
[8:11:00 PM] Justine Derrick says: she has a cat
[8:11:08 PM] Justine Derrick says: cat turds look a little different
[8:11:27 PM] Justine Derrick says: (wonder if she would notice, though, if I left a huge cat turd in the corner of the room when I left?)
[8:11:32 PM] Justine Derrick says: now THAT is passive aggressive
[8:11:38 PM] Patricia Derrick says: I'm not sure I'd recognize squirrel turds if I saw them
[8:11:43 PM] Patricia Derrick says: no sh*t (pun)
[8:11:50 PM] Justine Derrick says: well, it helps when you have the squirrel around
[8:11:57 PM] Justine Derrick says: makes identification a little easier
[8:12:19 PM] Patricia Derrick says: literally
[8:12:24 PM] Justine Derrick says: right
[8:12:34 PM] Patricia Derrick says: anyway
[8:12:39 PM] Justine Derrick says: yeah, anyway

Jersey Cultural Anthropology Report

From now on to be referred to as JCAR (that's J-Car). But I figured since I tried to report on the average Pragger, I should do the same for the average Jersonian... keeping in mind that I'm not exactly living with average Jersonians... but we'll get to all that later.

Right now I'm making some Granny soup, waiting for the potatoes to cook. A watched potato never actually cooks, so I decided that I really ought to post something on the good ol' blog.

Things are pretty good. I just entered my third week of work here... so, after this week is over, I will be half done. Honestly, I wouldn't mind if the job lasted eight weeks instead of six... or even eight months. It is a good job--pretty cushy. (One of the guys I work with was complaining about how he was completely exhausted after work and all he could do was go home and sleep. Me, I'm just happy that I'm only working eight hours a day and I still have quite a bit of energy when I get home. I'm just trying not to get too used to it).

What I'm doing now: writing test questions for a major test of English Language ability. The test questions are pretty difficult to write. I have to do a lot of research to come up with (non-controversial) arguments that I then write points and counter-points for. So far I can write about three in a week, but I have a feeling that this week is going to be a very slow one, as I seem to be unable to come up with anything acceptable.

The folks I work with are fine. I was expecting it to be all TESOL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) folks, but it is only me and one other guy who actually do this for a living. One is a high school English teacher, one is getting a PhD in Women's Studies, one is an undergrad at Princeton, and one is starting Georgetown in the fall as a Pre-Med major (he got the internships because his mom works at the company). I've sort of become the intern expert on whether a question is culturally biased. The other will talk about their questions, then I'll say something like, "well, just so you know, it is a little different in other countries." I try not to be obnoxious about it.

Anyway, that's work. I'm considering, at some point in the future, applying for a job at this company--they offer excellent benefits (dental, anyone? Or heck, in my case, how about HEALTH?)--but that may have to wait until the wanderlust... wanders off.

So, sorry I've not posted recently, but I have been a bit busy. I get along with my roomies, and one of them and I have generally been hanging out on the weekends. Yesterday we went to the beach (Saturday was devoted to reading Harry Potter). No, wait, we went to the SHORE. Yes, Jersey does not actually have a BEACH, it has a SHORE. My friend (we shall call her C.) had to remind me of this several times on the way to the SHORE, growing increasingly annoyed with my complete inability to make that distinction.

Once we got to the SHORE, we parked the vehicle, grabbed bags, and schleped towards beach--shi*t, SHORE. We almost made it, too. Only we were stopped by an official-looking (well, official-ish looking... It is hard for someone to look official with a belly hanging over swim trunks and a back-hair rug) guy who informed us that we needed to buy passes to use the beach.


Yeah, I know. Passes. To use the Beach. (Sh*t, did it again. Right here I would love to make a crack about needing to attach electric shock electrodes to my nipples to remember this whole beach/shore thing, but I figured that would offend, so I'm just not going to do it.) Turns out the passes cost five dollars per person. Five dollars. That's the cost of a... well, of a gallon of gas!

Sorry to leave you guys hanging, but Granny soup is DONE and I am FAMISHED.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Animal Crackers

Bought a small bag of animal crackers to top off lunch. Quick glance at nutritional info showed me something quite interesting:

Serving size: 16 pieces
Servings in package: 2

Pretty straight forward, right? Read on.

____________16 Pieces_____Whole Package
Calories __________130____________ 250
Calories from fat_____ 20_____________ 35

Now, for those of you whose math is about as bad as mine, 130 + 130 does not 250 equal.

Which leads me to wonder some things. Mainly, should I eat half the package or the entire package. If I eat half the package now and half later, I will consume a total of 260 calories. If I eat the whole thing now, it will only be 250.

But what happens if I eat less than half a package, say, one fourth of the package. Will my overall calorie consumption increase exponentially with smaller and smaller servings? Is there a danger that I could wind up consuming 300 calories if I take a week to eat the entire package, as opposed to the 250 calories I would consume if I just ate the whole thing now? Now that I have opened the bag and started munching, am I committed to the whole thing just to avoid those 50 additional calories (to say nothing of my total fat intake). Should there have been a warning label on the bag--something akin to "you can't eat just one"?

Moral of the story: NEVER look at nutritional information.

Monday, July 09, 2007

New Job

So, I've settled into my new place in New Jersey and I had my first day of work today. I won't say too much--there are confidentiality agreements and whatnot--but I think it will be cool. There are a lot of returning interns who really liked working here last year, so...

I haven't had too many issues with re-entry culture shock (not as bad as when I got back from France, when I just felt lost for weeks). The main things:

1. I'm still trying to remember that I CAN'T walk everywhere. I keep asking where things are and then how far away they are in hopes that I can find SOMEPLACE I can walk to. So far, nothing.

2. I keep forgetting that I can dry clothes instantly--that it doesn't take a couple of days on a drying rack (or here, probably about a month, given the humidity).

Then there are the smaller things. When I first got back to Mom's house, I kept reaching in the wrong place for the doorknobs. They were a couple of inches higher where I was living before... and those couple of inches make all the difference in the world.

Also, I kept feeling the toilet paper. It was SOOOO much softer... a nice change after using sandpaper for six months.

What else... there is more, but I'm a little tired right now. I'll write more later. Probably. But then again, I keep promising to "write more later." Hmmm.... must work on that.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Poisonwood Bible and Packing.

By Barbara Kingsolver. Anyone who has traveled for any significant portion of time will appreciate the description of the family setting out for Africa for six months. They have to pack everything they will need in suitcases... which they agonize over until they realize that, although the suitcases will be weighed, they themselves will not. This of course leads to them wearing layer upon layer of clothing--as well as sewing various things into their clothing.

Do I need to say any more?

Sunday, July 01, 2007


Well, I just got back from Vienna, and let me just say that I may never walk again. And for those of you who have traveled with me, well, you know I must have walked A LOT if I say that (and after only two days).

Anyway, it is after midnight and I need to go to sleep (I'm also running on a slight sleep deficit). I'll post some more about Vienna (some pics at least), but it probably won't be until I get back to the States.

Wow. One more day, then I'll be on a plane heading to Poland (and then the States).