Eurovision! (A Guide for Americans)

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Eurovision 2015 will be streamed live Sat 5/23 at 3p (est)!


What Is Eurovision?

Eurovision is campy, over-the top, EuroPop performances. It is very self-aware. And it is also very serious business.

This year will be the 60th edition of the Eurovision Song Contest! Eurovision combines the national pride of the Olympics with the live performance & voting style of American Idol. Some call it the World Cup of song competitions. There will be 27 live performances this year; usually there are 26. This year is extra special because, for whatever reason, Australia has been invited to compete.

Unlike song competitions and award shows here in the states, Eurovision is streamed live because there are no commercials. The show is not drawn out painfully forever to try to increase ad sales. Instead, the show plows through one performance to the next. The pacing makes you feel like you cant take a break until it’s time for voting! Twenty-seven performances in about two-hours!

After a speed run of live performances, there’s a break where the host makes awkward banter and bad jokes. They don’t mean for them to be bad. But, the entire show is in English. Usually in countries where English is not their first language. So you end up having two people trying to make stage-talk in a language that both of them only half understand. The result is as you would imagine (great).

Then comes the voting! The votes consist of 50% audience voting and 50% “panel of expert judges” voting. You cannot vote for your own country. While Europe is voting (we can’t vote, obviously) there are musical acts. Or a history of Eurovision montage. Then they painstakingly display the results from each country as spoken by a country representative via live satellite link. Sometimes the satellite link works correctly. And sometimes it doesn’t. You’re not supposed to vote politically…

Then, they declare a winner! Somehow, Eurovision is a very efficient award show machine. They crank out 27 live performances, voting, results, and crowning a winner in just about four-hours. I’ve seen episodes of American Idol that have barely 5 performances take two-hours! The winner is actually important because it determines where the competition will be hosted the next year. This year’s is in Austria because they won Eurovision last year.


Drinking Game / Bingo

Because simply watching a campy EuroPop song competition isn’t enough, many people play Eurovision Bingo. Or, much simpler, just a drinking game. The competition is this predictable. Yet, it’s also not predictable at all some years.

The list below make up some of the bingo card slots that I compiled this year. Read through to get an idea of what this competition is all about! Feel free to download the bingo cards pdf to print out for your own Eurovision party!

 

eurovision bingo game

 

  • ABBA Mentioned
  • Air Instrument Played
  • Audience Member witih Face Painted
  • Awarding Points for Political Reasons
  • Awkward Joke
  • Blows Kiss to Camera
  • Country Representative Goofs
  • Crawling or Kneeling on Stage
  • Dressed All in White
  • Dub Drop
  • Host Changes Outfits
  • I Love You Europe
  • Mid-Song Costume Change
  • Obvious Neighbor Voting
  • Out of Sync Backing Dancers
  • Shirtless Man
  • Singer Doesn’t Move
  • Technical Glitch
  • Thank You Australia
  • Wind Machine

 


Eurovision Past Winners

Eurovision has some famous artists under it’s belt. Like Celine Dion, Katrina and the Waves, ABBA. But more often than not, the performers competing are big in Europe just not over here (or yet). Here are some highlights of previous Eurovision performers:


Rise Like A Phoenix by Conchita Wurst (Austria)

A drag queen performer sings a song reminiscent of a James Bond theme song. She won last year’s competition.


Party For Everybody by Buranovskiye Babushki (Russia)

This song features a group of grandmothers singing about partying. During their performance they bake a batch of cookies.


Hard Rock Hallelujah by Lordi (Finland)

Eurovision’s only winning rock song to date. These Gwar-esque performers won in 2006.


Moustache by Twin Twin (France)

Last year, France’s goofy entry received the lowest amount of votes with a total of 2.


It’s My Life by Cezar (Romania)

Sometimes Romania sends falsetto-singing vampire warlocks to perform.


Irlande Douze Pointe by Dustin the Turkey (Ireland)

In 2008, Ireland sent a turkey. His name is Dustin. He is a TV personality and has recorded several albums.


Watch Eurovision streamed live Saturday May 23rd 3p(est)!

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Five Graphic Memoirs You Should Read

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When I first started reading Graphic Novels, I started with memoirs. I loved reading an illustrated autobiographical story. I’m a sucker for personal stories anyway. Graphic Memoirs do read different from autobiographies. Little moments are shared in a way that doesn’t work as well in written novels. There doesn’t always need to be a grandiose chapter of insight into the author’s life. Little moments can be illustrated very easily. And still portray the author’s life.

Graphic Memoirs also tend to be about a particular aspect of an author’s life, rather than a chronological telling. In this way, it’s like reading a very personalized non-fiction story. These can be of travels, family, childhood, mental illness, identity or a number of other specialized topics.

My favorite type of graphic novel are memoirs and I’ve read a lot of them. The five books below aren’t necessarily my favorite. More so, these are a good representation of memoirs and tackle very interesting topics.


Epileptic by David B.

Page from Epileptic by David B

Page from Epileptic by David B

This memoir chronicles the author’s brother’s struggle with epilepsy and how is family handled it. The story itself is actually very interesting. As his family tried lots of different religions, home remedies, and other natural paths to cure their son of epilepsy.

But what truly makes this book are David B’s illustrations. They are very dark. His drawing style is of mostly blacks. Thick lines. Very busy. And very grim. The book has a dark overtone to it all throughout, most of which is depicted just in his style.

His visualizations work perfectly for the story he’s telling. This is also an interesting memoir because it is, essentially, his brother’s story. Yet told from his perspective.


Page from Burma Chronicles by Guy Delisle

Burma Chronicles by Guy Delisle

Burma Chronicles was the first graphic novel I ever read. I love traveling. I love reading about traveling. Guy Delisle has written several graphic travelogues of his various experiences traveling as an animator. He is a Canadian citizen, which allows him work visas in countries that us Americans don’t necessarily have access to. This memoir is about his time in Burma. But he has also written about living in North Korea. That one is also very interesting.

Since I have never been to Burma, seeing his illustrations helps to bring the country alive more than written descriptions could. He shares many little moments in his day-to-day life, which really help to show what living in the country is like. Writing this out would become mundane or monotnous. But illustrations are different and even the same drawing can represent different things.

In this one, his family is staying with him in Burma. So it is also a memoir of him being a father and raising an infant, while working in a foreign land. There is a lot to this that written text just wouldn’t do justice. He brings to life his infant son, the country of Burma, and even his work as an animator.

I highly recommend all of his travelogue memoirs!


Page from graphic memoir Marbles by Ellen Forney

Page from graphic memoir Marbles by Ellen Forney

Marbles by Ellen Forney

This is the best autobiography I’ve read on mental illness. Far better than any written novel. Illustrating mental illness makes the feelings visible. Seeing a drawing of someone crawling on the floor in sadness gets the point across better than using metaphors. Having a visual for a manic episode shows the true nature of the disease. These emotions just cannot be conveyed as strongly in text.

I’ve never felt like I could relate to any book on depression as much as this one. Her drawings of sadness clouds, darkness, crawling from the bed to the couch, represent perfectly how I’ve felt in depressive episode. Rather than write in words her feelings while going through mania or depression, we are able to actually see what her feelings look like.

This novel also addressed the Creativity Factor of mental illness. She illustrates the struggle between wanting to manage her mental illness while also fearing she will lose her creativity. Forney goes into this in detail. Even discussing famous artists who were definitely suffering from depression.

Also, in the end she does learn how to manage her episodes through behaviors and meds. Most of the book chronicles her visiting a psychiatrist and how she goes about that. I love her honesty not only in her writing but also her drawings. Lastly, Forney identifies as bisexual, which is always nice to see representation in media.


Page from Tomboy by Liz Prince

Page from Tomboy by Liz Prince

Tomboy by Liz Prince

Liz Prince is one of my favorite graphic novelists. Her drawings are simple yet tell you everything you need to know. Her writing is a perfect balance of wit and substance. I can also relate to her fairly well. So that helps. In the past she has published short graphic novels about a long-term relationship. And then, when that ended, her life being single again. Those are both really great and funny.

Tomboy is Prince’s first long-form graphic memoir. She is definitely ready for it. Instead of focusing on relationships or the lack of relationships, Prince focuses on her own identity. Specifically in the terms of her gender. This is not a LGBTQ novel. It is not a trans novel. Prince falls into this niche where she is both cis and straight, yet is assumed not to be. Her look is rather androgynous. And her personality/interests more masculine. She her struggles with being misidentified in childhood. And being the only girl on the baseball team.

Her illustrations help to show us all of her various phases, hairstyles, and body changes as she grew up. These visuals are key, since we her appearance is the main topic of the book. In the end she finds a place where she can be herself, and be liked for being her. This story’s message couldn’t be conveyed as strongly if it were written in text rather than the graphic memoir style.


My Friend Dahmer by John Backderf

This is a novel I didn’t love when I finished, but was sufficiently creeped out while reading. The premise of this graphic memoir, is that the author went to high school with Jeffrey Dahmer. He had a few brief interactions with him. And even back then knew that there was something off about Dahmer.

The book then goes into detail about Dahmer’s childhood. His early homicidal tendencies. And other high school interactions with him. But the fact that it is revolving around the author’s own personal experiences, really makes this one. Hearing this from a personal perspective is very effective at increasing the creepy factor. Reading about a serial killer is creepy enough. But to think that this person was once considered just a regular high schooler, is even creepier.

Although Backderf’s illustrations aren’t overly dark, these visuals really make Dahmer’s actions feel more realistic. And, yes, creepier. It’s interesting to see him transform from an awkward teenager into, well, a monster. Having visuals for this is really effective.

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Brooklyn Half Marathon 2015

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This was my third Brooklyn Half and sixth half marathon in total. Last year, I began training too early and had lost a lot of my momentum by the month of the race. That was the first year I attempted actually training. I had a goal time and everything. I didn’t meet it. And I didn’t have a good race. I ran almost-PR’s for all my splits then completely gave up at Mile 10. I had nothing left. And walked most of the last three miles. I was miserable. It wasn’t even my worst time. But it was my worst experience.

For this year, I decided to go back to my training plan of Fuck It. This entails no consistent running schedule whatsoever. Some haphazard “long runs.” Zero pressure. It’s worked in the past so I actually had high hopes. Well, I was three-minutes slower this year than last year. But my overall experience was far better.

Last year, I did not run to the best of my ability. I gave in to my mental weaknesses. This year, I know I could not have ran that race any better. Unless I actually trained, of course. Going in with what I had, I never stopped when I didn’t need to. I never let myself get discouraged. And I really dug deep while struggling and continued when I didn’t want to. That felt good.

So my preparation for the 2015 BK Half included 17 total runs between January & May, the longest being 5-miles. I am not encouraging this. Especially if you are new new to running.


Training for the Mental Race

This year wasn’t about physical training. I already know how to deal with cramps, blisters, pacing, hydration, and dry-wicking material. Last year I let negative thoughts get the best of me and I did not want that to happen this year.

This year, I trained my brain to not sabotage me during the run. I actually wish I had done this in previous races because it helped more than anything else I’ve ever tried. It took a strategy. I came up with a plan of attack for when my doubts and worries come up in the late part of the race. I chose three ideas that could occupy my time and took some thinking.

The first idea I prepared was a current artsy project I’ve started working on for fun. It consists of multiple pages. So I broke down each page in my head. I thought about font, colors, layout, spacing, etc. The minute details were time-consuming to think about and a great distraction. The second idea was working through one of my NaNoWriMo stories. I thought about character development, plot points, sense, and the fictional world. This was another successful distraction because I really could get lost in the story world.

When I began to think Why am I doing this? I don’t even like running, I quickly told my brain “Stop!” Then paused for a second to bring back up what I was last thinking about in the project or story. “Okay, but what about the main character’s sister? Where does she fall in place.” By asking myself questions, it kept up a good distraction from negative thoughts. Or just thoughts about the physical pain I was in.


BK Half Recap

It was a cloudy Saturday. There were fears it was going to rain. It did, later on. Before the race even started, I had to stand in a 25-minute security line. Not a baggage check security line. Just a metal detector security line. … Even at this part I practiced my distraction exercises. I get so upset at ostentatious security. I often exert a lot of energy getting mad at people before a race starts. I didn’t want to make myself so upset this time. So while standing in this mandatory line for the most absurd reasons, I thought about my story to keep myself calm.

The rain held off until the race started (Wave 2). Within the first mile we could start to feel rain drops. Then it really started down pouring. We weren’t even in the park yet and it was raining hard. I’ve ran in the rain before but never during a half. I was prepared with a hat and dry-wicking everything. But it was pretty miserable. My hair was sticking to me. My clothes felt gross. My socks were now wet. There was mud and road gunk everywhere. Just kind of gross.

On the plus-side, the clouds remained the whole time. The run down Ocean Parkway is so boring. It’s flat. There aren’t too many spectators. There’s not much scenery. Since you’re on a highway, there is no shade, so this part is the worst when the sun is out. I was very grateful that it remained cloudy for the entire race.

I stretched a few times, for the first time during a half. I planned it out at certain mile markers and I really think it helped. Although my pace is slow, I only stopped to drink water and stretch. I was running the rest of the time. After the race, I felt fairly good and just had a normal Saturday.


To be honest here, the Great Saunter felt like more of a challenge and struggle than any Half Marthon I’ve ran. Two and a half hours is a joke compared to a 12-hour activity that actually takes up your entire day.

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Bell’s Oberon on Tap in NYC

Bells oberon seasonal beer
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Bell’s Oberon On Tap NYC Map

Using the site Beer Menus, I’ve rounded up an on-going list of bars in Manhattan and Brooklyn that offer Bell’s Oberon on tap. I’d like to visit all/most/a lot of them this summer.

Part of this is an #oberonchallenge to visit as many bars selling Oberon as I can. However, it’s also just an easy way to check out new bars. When I’m stuck for a place to go, I can pull out this list and suggest one of these places. That way I’m learning new places and new neighborhoods. If I don’t like the bar, I have my one Oberon and leave. Or if it’s great then I’ve learned a new bar.

Obviously the taps change frequently, so I’m trying to update the map once a week. No promises that this will always be accurate at all times.

Unofficial Bell’s Oberon on Tap in NYC


Why I Love Bell’s Oberon

I’m normally not one to shill products. Obviously these are my opinions and this post isn’t sponsored and blah blah blah.

My relationship with alcohol hasn’t been long. Growing up with an angry alcoholic was a pretty good deterrent for the stuff. I was convinced that if I got drunk, I would hurt someone (physically or verbally). So I avoided it all throughout college. I know, not stereotypical. My college boyfriend didn’t drink either (for no solid reasons) and I never felt pressured to drink. I made a circle of friends with others who didn’t drink and rarely thought about it. Also, taking a full class load and working full time really left little time for anything else.

After college, my 4-year relationship ended and my friend’s left Michigan after graduation. I stayed for another year and made new friends. Then I began socializing in bars and had to learn how to drink. Cheap college-kid beer tasted gross. It also reminded me of my step-father who only drank Milwaukee’s Best. Just the smell of cheap beer reminded me of smelling it on his breath. Gross!

Then at some point during the summer after I graduated, someone offered me a Bell’s Oberon. It was served with an orange slice. It wasn’t the color of pee. And it didn’t remind me of my terrible childhood. Also, it was actually quite tasty. Bell’s Oberon was the first ‘real’ beer I ever had. And the first beer I ever enjoyed. So when I say it’s a beer I love, there is a huge nostalgia factor happening.

After I left Michigan, I quickly learned that Bell’s is a rather small brewery in Kalamazoo and doesn’t have a huge distribution. None on the east coast, actually. Whenever someone took a trip to Michigan, I always asked them to bring me back Bell’s. I pined for it.

Last year, Bell’s announced they were expanding their distribution to New York City! I was ecstatic! I still am excited that I can get Bell’s on tap here! Since Oberon is a seasonal beer, this is only the second summer I’ve been able to just go out to a bar in Brooklyn and order it. I’m not over the novelty yet.

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Spotify Playlist: Literal Summer Songs

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Last year I put together a playlist that consists of literal summer songs. Every song title mentions “summer” “ocean” “beach” “hot” “sun” “surf” “ice cream” “sand” “pool” etc. So songs that simply remind me of summer by association are not included.

Because the playlist is about song titles, it spans various genres of music. Hip-hop, rap, pop, punk, indie, and country. Here’s the break-down, I’ll include the playlist at the end.

Actual Summer Songs Playlist

  • Summertime by DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince / rap (1991)
  • Summertime Blues by Eddie Cochran / rockabilly (1958)
  • The Boys of Summer by Ataris / pop-punk (1984) (Cover)
  • Summer’s Comin’ by Clint Black / country (1995)
  • Surf Wax America by Weezer / pop-rock (1994)
  • California Gurls by Katy Perry & Snoop Dogg / pop (2010)
  • Soak Up the Sun by Sheryl Crow / pop (2002)
  • Rockaway Beach by Ramones / punk (1977)
  • Sunshine by Matisyahu / rap-rock (2012)
  • Sunshine by Mos Def / rap (2004)
  • Steal my Sunshine by Len / pop-rock (1999)
  • My Own Summer (Shove It) by Deftones / rock (1997)
  • Summer’s End by Foo Fighters / rock (2007)
  • Summertime Song by Clay Walker / country (2010)
  • Sippin’ on Sunshine by Avil Lavigne / pop (2013)
  • Surfin’ USA by The Beach Boys / surf rock (1963)
  • Summer Lovin’ by The Vandals / punk (1978) (Cover)
  • Drop It Like It’s Hot by Snoop Dogg & Pharrell Williams / rap (2004)
  • Summer Nights by Rascall Flatts / country (2009)
  • Summer Love by Justin Timberlake / pop (2006)
  • Summer Girls by L.F.O. / pop (1999)
  • Summertime by NKOTB / pop (2008)
  • Blister in the Sun by Violent Femmes / rock (1983)
  • Ice Cream by Raekwon & Ghostface Killah / rap (1995)
  • Summer by Sum 41 / pop-punk (2007)
  • You’re So Last Summer by Taking Back Sunday / emo (2002)
  • Always Summer by Yellowcard / pop (2012)
  • Too Darn Hot by Ella Fitzgerald / jazz (1956) (cover)
  • Feel Good Hit of the Summer by Queens of the Stone Age / rock (2000)
  • Sunshine and Summertime by Faith Hill/ country (2005)
  • Long Hot Summer by Keith Urban / country (2011)
  • Summertime by Me First and the Gimme Gimmes / punk (1933) (cover)
  • It’s Summertime by Flaming Lips / indie (2002)
  • Summer Breeze by Type O Negative / rock (1993)
  • California Love by 2Pac / rap (1996)
  • Ice Cream by Battles / pop (2011)
  • Beat This Summer by Brad Paisley / country (2013)
  • Warmth of the Sand by Dashboard Confessional / emo (2004)
  • Summertime by Kenny Chesney / country (2005)
  • Seasons in the Sun by Me First and the Gimme Gimmes / punk (1974) (cover)
  • Summertime by Beyonce & Diddy / hip-hop (2003)
  • Summer Skin by Death Cab for Cutie / indie-pop (2005)
  • Miami by Will Smith / hip-hop (1997)
  • Let’s Go Surfing by The Drums / indie-pop (2010)
  • Ocean Breathes Salty by Modest Mouse / indie (2004)
  • Oceans by Coasts / indie (2013)
  • Walk on the Ocean by Toad The Wet Sprocket / rock (1991)

 

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What Are Your Hopes and Fears?

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The professor I worked for in college would often ask me, “what are your hopes and fears?” It was something one of his college professors would often ask him.

You are to answer in the form of: I hope ______ but fear _____.

The idea is to identify a goal and why you’re afraid of it. Openly stating this hurdle helps you to better address it. You become aware of your fears and can plan ahead to overcome them. Putting your fears out there give you direction so you can make a plan of how to avoid your fear from happening.


Some Examples

  • I hope to get a new job but fear that I am asking for too much money.
  • I hope to adopt a cat but fear the responsibility.
  • I hope this person feels the same way but fear I scared them off.
  • I hope this project will end on schedule but fear communication complications.
  • I hope to full-time freelance but fear I won’t make enough money.

I Hope to do well But Fear that I won’t

Tomorrow I am running the Brooklyn Half for the third time. I’m not necessarily nervous but I do have some concerns. Thinking of these off the top of my head I can list: blisters, not stretching enough, eating too much/not enough, wearing the wrong clothes, not getting enough sleep, pacing myself.

Yet, if I were to list my hopes and fears about the race, it’d be this:
I hope to run the best to my physical ability but fear not being emotionally together enough to maintain focus.

I’m not actually afraid of blisters or not stretching. I already know how to deal with them and have a plan. When I really break it down, I’m afraid of being able to mentally focus on staying positive during the run. I know from experience that thinking negatively while running kills all my momentum. I can’t process emotions while running. If I get too upset during a run, I just give up and start walking. I can only focus my energies on physical efforts or emotional ones; but not both and definitely not at the same time. Since I’ve been feeling off and on down lately, I’m worried my brain may get the better of me tomorrow.

Now that I’ve identified my goal and fear, I can come up with a plan. I don’t need to spend time laying out my clothes and going to bed early. I mean, I will do those things. But more importantly, I will focus on relaxing and clearing my thoughts. I may try some meditative exercises. Writing down things that are stressing me out then telling myself to address them after the race. Coming up with several positive mantras that I can repeat while running. I don’t want to have to come up with them on the fly. Two that I’ve used in the past are: One mile at a time and Run your own race.


Being able to identify your fears from the beginning can help you to better plan for them. If you have a plan, then you don’t need to feel discouraged.

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Achieving Positive Net Worth

positive net worth
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I Finally Have Positive Net Worth!

It’s been a long-time coming! In the beginning of 2013, I stopped defining myself by my debt and began tracking my net worth instead. I began contributing to my 401-K again. Implemented a plan for paying off my credit card balance. I logged the growth in my Personal Finance Spreadsheet. Soon after, I realized that positive net worth wasn’t that far out of reach. By September, I paid off the balance on my credit card. This left my student loan as my only debt. On the loan, I’ve been making more-than-minimum monthly payments. For the 401-K, I’m putting in the minimum matched-amount.

And now the time has come where the two have finally evened out! My 401-K is now safely more than the amount of debt I have!

Stop Defining Yourself By Your Debt

Using the terms “good debt” vs “bad debt” are rather meaningless. But I am very grateful for my student loans. And have no ill feelings toward them. Student loans often get a bad rep when it comes to finance talk. These are an investment. I definitely can’t wait to pay them off. But no regrets.

So, my 401-K is larger than the amount I owe on my student loans. Yes, I still have debt. But thinking of it that way is completely out of context. Looking at net worth means looking at your entire financial picture. This broad view can help you take your brain from the negative of debt woes, to thinking more about taking advantage of what you can build.

Instead of the goal being “get out of debt.” My goal became, “have a positive networth.” The problem with “get out of debt” as a goal, is there isn’t anywhere to go from there once completed. You are focusing on losing something, not growing something. Once you’ve lost something, it’s over. But paying off your debts is only the beginning.

Focusing on growing something means there is always a next step; keep growing, grow faster, grow in a different way. Now that I have achieved a positive networth, I can just keep doing what I’m doing. I want to continue growing my finances. Not take on more debts. And continue to increase my investments and savings.

Stating the obvious, having a goal for “positive net worth” is literally focused on the positive. When your focus is on losing/crushing/destroying debt, these are pretty negative words. Sort of the semantic equivalent of Go Team! versus Beat the other Team!


Bonus Announcement: Work Promotion

I want to take this happy announcement time to officially announce that I also earned a promotion and a raise at my current job! This is my third year with the company. This is the longest I’ve stayed with a company. The others just weren’t good fits. So this was the first time I had to engage the raise/title change/etc conversation. It wasn’t as scary as I thought. And surprisingly, I was already being considered for it so the process was rather quick. The promotion is valid since my responsibilities have significantly increased from when I was hired. My title has been expanded to Web Analyst & SEO Specialist. Neato.

The raise was rather significant. My rent is now only 42% of my monthly income. All of my utilities & commuting costs come to 9%.

Now that I have hit a financial milestone of positive networth and am earning more money, will my lifestyle change? YES.

My long-term good habits, personal finance knowledge, and frugal sensibilities are not going to be lost overnight. I won’t all of a sudden decide buying a new car is a great idea. Or start eating out every single day for every single meal. However, I might start buying two bagels a week instead of one. Or not panic if I forget to pack a lunch. Or not berate myself for buying a drink after happy hour. That sounds pretty nice to me.

Since I am fairly sensible with my finances, I am planning on putting more into savings each month. And increasing my student loan payment. I don’t think buying an extra bagel will hinder those plans.

These two positive events occurring at the same time really shows how my student loan debt has been a great investment. I’m certain that without my college experience, I wouldn’t be in the position I am now. Statistically, those without college degrees earn less on average. There is no need for me to hate my student loan debt. I accept that I needed to take that risk to move myself further. It has paid off, pun intended, and I will continue to look at it as a positive building block for my financial growth.

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Falling Asleep on Public Transportation

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When you don’t have to drive yourself home, you tend to stay out later and drink more. That’s the way it is here at least. I don’t really like taking cabs all that often. The social interaction is always awkward for me. Plus, it’s pricey. So I usually suck it up and take the train. Or back when I lived in NJ the bus. Here are some fun stories of the lucky, funny, and scary times I’ve fallen asleep on public transportation.


Don’t Rely on Luck

It was my first week in my new apartment so I went out with friends to celebrate. We took advantage of some really cheap cocktails at a bar in the village. I was still getting the hang of the train routes to my new place. But for the most part I knew my options. I got on an F train which would take me directly to my closest subway stop with no transfers. When I left the bar, I knew I didn’t feel well. Drinking some water on the way to the train wasn’t helping either. I managed to get a seat on the train but was still feeling really lousy. Really drunk and really nauseous. At some point, I knew I was going to get sick. So I got off the train at the next stop and got sick on the platform. Classy! I felt a little bit better. Well enough to get back on the next train.

The next train comes, I get on and take a seat. Now I’m just feeling tired rather than sick. I sit back in the seat and close my eyes, knowing there’s still a ways to my stop. I had lived in Manhattan previously so I wasn’t used to the difference in time it took to get to Brooklyn from various neighborhoods. Next thing I remember, I hear a metal clanging really loud next to me. I open my eyes and the conductor is standing in front of me yelling “Last stop! Get off the train!” I look around and I am definitely all alone on the train. I wearily stumble out and realize that I am at my stop! The last stop on the G train is my stop – Church Avenue. Apparently, the train I stumbled onto was a G train. And I hadn’t even realized.

I was very fortunate because otherwise, if I stayed on the F, I would have ended up in Coney Island for sure. Technically, the conductors are supposed to check the train for passengers at the last stop before pulling it out of the station. But they don’t always do this. I have had friends who ended up on an actually empty, powered down train, on the tracks, because it was never checked!


Look Like A Crazy Person

On a Sunday last August, I went out with some friends for day drinks. Nothing too crazy. Certainly not like the first story. We walked around the West Village just casually hanging out and stopping at places. At one point, we met up with a friend who lived near-by. He was weeding out his closet and trying to get rid of clothes. So he brought a bag of clothes he was going to donate, to see if we wanted anything. One of the things in the bag was a nice wool coat that he no longer wanted. I liked the look of it so I grabbed it.

This was early August so the weather was very muggy in the city. When it gets so hot, the subway cars blast air conditioning. Sometimes it’s welcoming but other times it is literally freezing. So I had the bright idea to wear the winter coat on the train on my way home.

Several hours later, we all part ways, and I’m carrying my nice wool coat. I get on an F train (damn F train again). It’s an old train so I get a seat in the corner at the end of the car. I wrap the coat around me, get really cozy, and promptly fall asleep.

It was so comfortable that I woken up a while later by the train being above ground. This really only happens after my stop. So, I definitely missed my stop. But the hilarious part was no one was sitting next to me. In fact, the people who were in the same train car with me, were very far away from me. Like, when you see a homeless person asleep and you don’t even want to sit in the same row of seats as them.

Sure, I wasn’t smelly. But it was over 90 degrees outside and I was asleep on a train in the early evening wearing a winter coat. Not typical normal-person summertime behavior. I would have questioned this person too!

However, I did learn that if you want some space on the train, just behave irrationally (and you don’t even have to cause a scene).


Falling Asleep on a Jersey City Jitney Bus and Somehow Did Not End as a News Story

Okay, I fully admit this one is the worst. Let me put this into context of the bus I was on. I was living in Jersey City Heights at the time. There isn’t a convenient PATH station to the city and NJ Transit buses are kind of expensive. So this private company has these little white short jitney buses that cost about $1 and make various stop s ending at Port Authority in Manhattan. They are barely legal. There is no time table. There are no actual official bus stops. No bus stop signs for them. When you’re on the bus and you want to get off at the next stop, you have to yell “Next Stop”.

A friend came to visit me from out of town and was staying in the city. So I came in to hang out with her. We had some day beers, then some food, and walked around some. It was a very long day. I wasn’t drunk but was exhausted from the busy day and tired from the earlier alcohol. I was very used to these buses and knew just how long I had to my stop. I got on the crowded bus at Port Authority and laid my head next to the window. Someone was sitting next to me. It was very loud.

Then I opened my eyes to see how close I was to my stop and no one was sitting next to me. I looked up and no one was on the bus. But the bus was still moving. So I thought maybe it wasn’t too far.

I walked up to the front to the driver. He saw me in the mirror and his eyes grew large like, “oh shit!”. Apparently he didn’t know that I was still on the bus.

He asks what stop I’m looking for. When I tell him, he responds, “Oh, very far.”

At this point I’m half-awake, a little buzzed, very tired, and just not thinking straight at all. I’m not sure where we are. And am trying to figure out how I can call for a cab. I ask the driver if he will just let me out but he continues driving. There was a language barrier here so that didn’t help. But we clearly were in the middle of no where around Jersey City so just dropping me off probably wasn’t a good idea.

I’m still standing trying to process what to do. When we now pull into a bus yard. A bus yard, definitely in the middle of no where, only warehouses surrounding it, with all these little jitney buses. I wonder to myself if I can call a cab to come to “the jitney bus yard”. The driver isn’t really saying anything because language barrier. But once he stops the bus in the yard, he opens the door and points out. Still really confused, I get off the bus. What else can I do at this point? I think I ask something and maybe he says something like “one moment.”

Okay now I’m just standing in the middle of this bus yard with no one else around except this bus driver. Who is now driving the bus around to park it. I do have my phone but have no idea who to call. He disappears from my view. For whatever reason, I never really worry. I just keep running through my options in my head.

Then a car pulls up to me in the yard, it’s the bus driver. He says the name of my stop and that he will drop me off there. Not knowing what better options I have, I get in the car. With the bus driver.

!!!

Yes, I am fully aware that this could have ended very terribly.

But it didn’t. We rode in silence and I told him some cross streets that were near my apartment but not directly in front of it. He dropped me off and I thanked him profusely for the help.

Then I walked up to my apartment and flipped the fuck out that I was somehow still alive and holyshit that was bad news and wow so glad he was a normal person.

Lesson learned. For as many times as I’ve fallen asleep on the train, I am now super extra careful about all buses!

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Household Items To Help You Be An Adult

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Cleaning is an assumed skill. But some people are never really taught the best way to clean. College may be our first foray into picking up after ourselves. And the little money we have as college students is definitely not going to be spent on high-quality cleaning supplies. Most cleaning items I bought were either from the drugstore or some disposable product that the supermarket coupon machine spit out at me. I thought dishwashing was supposed to make your hands smelly. I thought all floor cleaning had to be done with disposable maxi-pads.

Aside from cleaning, there are some general around-the-house items that I thought were only available in low-quality. I can’t say it’s fun to “treat” myself to a nice shower curtain. But it does help me feel like more of an adult. And less like I’m living in an oversized dorm room. Here are some household items that have improved my quality of life when it comes to much-hated chores.


Dishwashing Gloves

Growing up, I always did all the chores. There was a (gross) running joke my stepfather would make in the house, “why should I buy a dishwasher, I have one right here hahahaha” referring to me of course. Washing the dishes was always my most hated chore. I didn’t like it as a teen. And I still don’t like it now. Living alone means no one else will wash the dishes for me. If I don’t do them, they don’t get done. So, I needed to figure out ways to make washing the dishes suck less. That’s when I started using rubber dishwashing gloves. Yes, the traditional yellow ones that are like a housewife in the 50’s. They work great.

Wearing the gloves means:

  1. I can use super hot water which is better for cleaning/hygiene
  2. I can pick-up gross sink stuff without actually touching it
  3. My hands are dry and not smelly when I’m done

 

A good quality pair lasts quite a while so it’s not a big cost issue either.


Better Kitchen Sponges

Another reason to hate washing dishes was the gross sponge that barely lasted a week. Once I actually started buying them on my own, I realized just how quickly I’d go through them. They would fall apart. Or get really smelly. Or get food stuck to them. Of course I was just buying the cheap kind at the drugstore. Fortunately, while browsing Amazon one night, I found some of the best kitchen sponges around: JetzScrubz. It seems silly to be excited over a sponge, but these are great. I bought a pack of three a year ago and have only thrown out one of them.

They will start to get smelly and sometimes too much food gets stuck to it. But they’re durable enough to handle being boiled in water with vinegar or baking soda. I’ve done this several times and they haven’t fallen apart. The reason why they are so effective is because the scouring side of the sponge is also flexible. Where as the cheaper sponges start firm then quickly disintegrate into bits and pieces. The flexibility of the JetzScrubz lets you easily wash the insides of glasses and other difficult-type glass-ware. Obviously I have to do dishes by hand because nyc.

The sponge + soap-in-the-handle contraption gets mentioned a lot but that is still a cheap sponge. Don’t bother with that. Get these awesome sponges and use quality dishsoap too (you’ll use a lot less).


Fabric Shower Curtain Liners

Growing up, we always had the cheap plastic/vinyl shower curtain liners. These were smelly when you took them out of the bag. Then quickly became caked with mildew and even smellier. I was once recommended to wash the liner in the washing machine – that was a bad idea. Instead I’d just throw away several a year. It didn’t seem to matter because they were so cheap. But they were also kind of gross.

Now I only use fabric shower curtain liners. These do have a coating for water-resistance but are not smelly-plastic. They also hang nicer in the shower and are easier to handle in general. No billowing and no suctioning like an octopus. This is important because I have a bathtub converted into a shower. (Again, because nyc). So I have to use two shower curtain liners to wrap around both ends of the tub. The fabric liners fit around the curves perfectly and don’t try to eat me while I’m showering.

They still can get mildew on them but actually wash quite well in the machine. Their upfront cost is a little bit more than the cheap ones but these last a lot longer. Plus they look nicer. I’m at a point in my life where I can spend an extra $5 to get something that looks nice.


Mop & Bucket

I was recently talking to some friends about disposable mops, like, Swiffers. Many of these products were introduced when I was in college. Perfect for my first foray into really cleaning. The commercials made mopping the floor seem like such a struggle. You’ll see the person picking up a bucket with water sloshing all over the floor. And leaving puddles everywhere with a mop. Then in comes a mom with her maxi-pad on a stick breezily cleaning the floor while singing to the birds.

Well, those disposable cleaning products cost a fortune. And they’re also not quite as easy as you’d think. On the other hand, a mop and a bucket are one-time costs and affordable at that. I prefer the sponge mops to the janitor ones. I bought a simple cleaning bucket with a handle. I fill it half-way, this takes maybe one minute, and have yet to spill it. It’s still small enough to fit in the closet. The entire process of mopping takes less than half-an-hour.

Mopping is still fairly new to me because I didn’t have hardwood floors before moving here. With the cats plus my own hair, there is a large amount of fur, hair, and dander that is just impossible to sweep up. Mopping works well. Doesn’t take too long. And the floors feel really great after.


Metal Litterbox Scoop

If you have cats, you probably have a plastic litterbox scooper. While on this cleaning item shopping binge, I noticed good reviews for a metal scooper. I had never thought about it before. I bought it on a whim and have been pleased with it. I won’t go back to plastic. It feels sturdier when scooping. I’m not sure what that says about my cat’s waste but there it is. It doesn’t bend or anything when trying to dig through the box. It’s a lot easier to clean and I’m less worried about bacteria getting into the plastic then everywhere else.

Like the sponges, I do boil the metal scoop. Sometimes I don’t want to wash it by hand (even with the gloves!) and I know boiling it will sanitize it for the most part. This doesn’t take long and is usually something I do on a random Saturday. The less plastic in my life the better (except for saran wrap of course) so I really like using the metal replacement.


Bars of Soap

I’m not sure exactly when everyone transitioned to liquid soap in their home. It’s expensive (yes even the refillable kind). The bottom gets all sticky on your sink. The spout gets clogged and soap will launch out getting all over you except not on your hands. Or you water it down and then you have a handful of gross water that is not doing any cleaning. I hated it. But I used it for a long time because I thought you had to.

My transition to soap bars started in the shower. A long time ago I stopped using shower gel + loofahs. I don’t even remember why other than it’s really expensive. I also stopped using liquid shampoo around that time and now only use a bar. This is a huge cost savings. But it also feels more… formal. And means less bottles lining the bathtub. And less plastic being used. It still took me a while to get around to changing the hand soap. I was afraid guests would balk at it. But no one has. If they hate it, no one tells me.

The trick is to use nice bars of soap. I only buy fragrance-free of anything. But you can still find nice non-smelly bars of soap for cheap. I use a softer feeling one for the sink. Then a more cleaning one for showering. The other trick is to have a quality soap dish. This is a one-time cost and fairly cheap. Just be sure to buy the kind that lets the water drain away from the soap. Otherwise it will turn into a goopy mess.


I’m leaving out diy cleaning ingredients like baking soda and vinegar because I don’t really consider that a part of high-quality adult living. But I do swear by them as cleaners don’t use much else.

What household items, cleaning supplies, or general habits do you have that make you feel more adult-like?

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Exploring Manhattan: Little Red Lighthouse

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Built in 1921, decommissioned in 1932, originally known as Jeffrey’s Hook Lighthouse. It stands 28 feet above high water and had a candlepower of 10. Immortalized in the children’s book “The Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Gray Bridge” by Hildegarde H Swift, published in 1942. It is the last surviving lighthouse on Manhattan Island.

The Little Red Lighthouse sits right below the George Washington Bridge. Other than the zooming traffic overhead, you don’t really feel like you’re in New York. It’s set on the Hudson River, there are some large boulders to sit on, and a picnic area in a small field. It is along the Westside Greenway, which is a beautiful walk or bike ride. Pack a small lunch or bring a book and just relax while visiting. There isn’t too much to do once you’re there. But it is a pleasant excursion and a nice time.

You can go up inside it! Once a month in the summer/fall, they open the lighthouse up to the public. You can go inside and walk up to the top. I haven’t done this but it sounds neat. Your next chance to go up into the lighthouse is June 6th. You can view more Lighthouse events on the NYC Parks site.


Several years ago, I biked from my UWS apartment to the lighthouse. It was an easy ride on the paved greenway and wasn’t too far. I relaxed at the lighthouse then just biked back. It was a nice afternoon jaunt. My second visit to the lighthouse was just last weekend. It is a break-stop on the great saunter walk. You can take a stretch break, eat a snack, then get ready to go up the hills in Inwood.

I’m always looking for places in the city that don’t quite feel like the city. Here you have the wooded environment of the greenway, plus the river, and isolation from the main streets of Washington Heights. Unfortunately, there is the massive structure of the GWB over your head. But, all in all, it’s a pretty easy escape.

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