Getting Toned

So lately I’ve been going to the gym a lot — crazy, I know.

But that’s not what this post is about at all.

For the past several days, our office’s copy machine has been out of toner. It might not sound like a big deal, but as someone who makes about six trips to the copier a day, trust me, it is a huge deal.

So anyway, the new toner finally came in the mail today, and I was just thrilled. I ecstatically skipped to the back room, toner in hand, and began fumbling around trying to get it into the copier. Realizing I had never changed a copy machine toner, I decided I should endeavor to follow the directions printed on the toner compartment door.

These directions were in picture form, but nonetheless they were easy to follow:

1. Shake toner

2. Insert toner into copier

3. Proceed with copying

So, my heart fluttering with anticipation, I vigorously shook the toner cartridge.

Big. Mistake.

Toner flew everywhere — I looked like Wiley Coyote just after he falls into the old road runner TNT trap. I mean, I had toner on my hands, my neck, my face, and all over my crisp, white sweater. Not to mention all over the copy machine and break room. I guess most people don’t get as excited about new toner as I do, because the seal on the toner definitely couldn’t withstand my level of enthusiasm.

Obviously this recalls the Great Ranch Dressing Disaster of 1993, when I accidentally shook a bottle of ranch too vigorously, covered half my plate in dressing, and cried inconsolably.

However, in the years following the Great Ranch Dressing Disaster, I have come to realize that I do embarrassing and clumsy things too often to cry about them, and spent the entire day today laughing at myself.

What a great day! What a great toner cartridge. My life is awesome.

A Whale of a Good Time!

Those who know me well know that at least 60 percent of my dreams involve marine life, usually whales, and that a common nickname for me by my family is “whale.” So it shouldn’t surprise anyone that a lifelong dream of mine has been to go whale watching, and on Saturday, I did!

First of all, what an amazing day, made possible by Monterey Bay Whale Watch, which I can’t praise enough. They have marine biologists on each trip and share tons of information about all the wildlife you see. Plus, the crew was really helpful and took great care of us!

The day started with a delicious breakfast of waffles and strawberries — don’t forget this, it’ll come up later. After a leisurely morning, Jeff and I headed to Monterey and boarded our small whale watching boat, the “Sea Wolf II,” a humble vessel that looked like it had seen better days.

From the very outset, the trip was great. There were several otters in the bay, and though I didn’t get any good pictures, they were approximately this cute:

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The Monterey harbor is just lovely, with lots of boats that look like this:

In addition to otters, we also saw sea lions and seals:

The sea lions had taken over this wall of the harbor and were having a nice old time sunning themselves and splashing in the water.

Once we got into open water, the numbers of cute animals went down, but we still saw some albatross and pelicans.

It took us about forty-five minutes to get out to the whale migration highway, and though the day was clear, there were huge swells. I actually didn’t mind too much, and the pay off was great! We ended up seeing several different groups of whales over the course of the three-hour trip.

All the whales we saw were gray whales, which are no longer endangered and are currently migrating north. Did you know that gray whales only feed half the year? It’s true! Pretty incredible, but they go thousands of miles north to Alaska on empty stomachs!

After about an hour, the swells finally got to me, and I got gloriously seasick. Remember how I said breakfast would come up again? Well, it did twice with a vengeance. I actually didn’t mind too much, because it tasted good the second time around — more or less like a Jamba Juice actually — and as Jeff pointed out, the strawberries turned my upchuck a lovely shade of magenta. Plus I’d like to think that the sea creatures got a chance to have a taste of my delicious waffles and strawberries, a rare divergence from seaweed and krill.

Despite the seasickness, I LOVED my whale watching trip, and I think I’ll go again some time. But of course, the next time I’ll take some motion-sickness medications ahead of time to avoid the impressive puke fest that occurred this time. See how much fun were having?

At any rate, I highly recommend everyone try this! Whale watching was so fun, and March is the month to do it. If you go in summer, you can also see blue whales and humpback whales, so get out there!

Wine of the Month

Ever since Kieran joined the wine of the month club at our local hoity-toity wine store, I’ve been enjoying reading the outlandish descriptions of wines. I don’t really understand how one wine can simultaneously taste “fruity” “chocolatey” “oaky” and yet also have a “hint of meat.”

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The Essence of Caitlin

Being the cool cat that I am, I decided to follow the latest Facebook fad of looking up your name on Urban Dictionary. What I found was hilarious, mildly offensive and definitely worth sharing.

The definitions started out making total sense:

And then proceeded to enter the land of crazy:

Ya think some of these authors had a personal vendetta against a Caitlin in their life? Check your name on Urban Dictionary if you dare — I just learned so much about myself!

Old folks need not read on

I recently changed the language on my Facebook page to English-Pirate. It’s fun, but I’m not always certain when I click buttons what they mean. Sometimes I’m afraid I’ll defriend someone or accidentally change my gender to male. It took me several days to realize that “abandon ship” meant “log out.” It also changed “in a relationship” to “hooked w’ ye loverrr,” which I have mixed feelings about. For one thing, I’m not sure I like the sound of being hooked by anyone; it sounds quite painful. For another, it kind of makes me sounds like some kind of gallymaid or deck wench, neither of which I’m entirely sure I know the meaning. Oh well, it’ll really get my Pirate up to par for next year’s International Talk Like a Pirate Day.

Spoken Engrish

On our way to the large tour bus that would eventually take us to the boat dock in Guilin, we rode in a minibus driven by an eccentric, hilarious yet somewhat misguided driver. From what we can tell, he learned his English from an American idiom phrase book. Every sentence was constructed of several idioms or movie references, including the following:

1. I’m the real McCoy

2. Left in the dust

3. I’ll be back (ala Awnold)

4. Okie dokie

5. Too bad, so sad

6. Between the rock and the hard places

7. Pedal to the metal (yes, from our driver mid-intersection while cutting other cars off)

8. I’m not a kamikaze, but I’m not a Sunday driver

9. I drive by the book

10. That’s one small step for man, one great leap for mankinds

11. Every cloud has a silver lining (in reference to the recent cloudy weather)

12. Make hay while the sun shines (in reference to the literal sunshine outside)

13. No ifs, no ands, no buts

14. Air Force One (his nickname for the large tour bus)

15. Hakuna matada (he actually had no clue what it meant, which he admitted)

16. We’re the king of the road!

17. They’ll eat my dust (I’ll leave it up to your imagination what was happening on the road at this point)

18. The cutting edge

19. It’s A okay

20. Hasta la vista, baby

For your consideration, this all happened in the span of 10 to 15 minutes, and after each idiom he would crane his neck around with a big smile, to make sure we heard how good his English was. It would have been a little sad if it weren’t so funny.

Xi’an: The Tour

Having had little rest on our arrival day, I wasn’t very disappointed when we didn’t get to see the terracotta warriors that day.  By the next day, however, I was in much higher spirits.

For my entire stay in China, Caitlin had influenced me into being a local — that is, going places locals go, eating things locals eat.  The few touristy things we did in Beijing were all short trips we took on walks or subway rides.

By the time we got to the lobby to leave for our tour, I was excited that we finally got to play tourist.  We packed a small van full of white people, many of whom were middle aged and spoke little English, and we headed off like naïve sheep to a foreign land.

Since the older people got in first, Caitlin and I were forced to sit in the back of the bus, making snarky comments about it on the way.  It was obvious we were the kids on the trip, but all of the fun younger people sat around us and laughed at the unusually funny things.

The tour started off with the usual semi-awkward period of nobody knowing each other and me being excited, but once our guide Jia jia started talking in her idiosyncratic way, we all started bonding over that. Enough that I took a picture:

Most of the older people kept to themselves and in their own languages, but I did sneak a picture of a funny face one made at the factory:

In the several hours we all spent together, we came to take on many ongoing jokes. Jia jia’s flower was one, since it was a rather common and fairly important part of us all staying together. Once, when she needed to get tickets, she left the flower to the largest member of the group in order for us to all stay together:

Johnny.

Johnny was probably the most interesting person we have met on this trip. When I first saw him in the lobby of our hostel, I was kind of hoping he wasn’t going on our tour because he looked extremely strong and easily provoked. Turns out this is true, but in a good way.

He’s your typical testosterone-filled male, featuring a classic Australian accent and prominent muscles. He was a bit taken aback by Jia jia’s request that he hold the flower, but I think the juxtaposition between the masculinity and innocence really made for a good shot.

In the course of our conversations, we learned that he and his more reasonable friend Jaime were traveling all across Asia, and Xi’an was near the end of their journey. While Jaime works on Wall Street, Johnny is an electrician in a coal mine in Western Australia.

Their travels throughout the vast nothingness of Central Asia proved to be informative and the subject of several conversations. We had heard previously that they aren’t too fond of guidebooks in China, particularly ones like our Lonely Planet that cover the entire country in one book. They had a copy, but a border official confiscated it. Apparently the book is banned.

As the story goes, the guard looks at the book, opens it to the map, and indicates that Taiwan. “Taiwan is a different color than China. This is wrong. Taiwan is China. This book is banned.”

We’re in the process of making a cover for our book.

After everyone was pretty much done with eating, Johnny made it known that he was still hungry. Throughout the course of the meal, he decided it was too difficult to pick up the noodles with chopsticks — which, agreeably, it was —, so he started using his hands. This extrapolated into other areas of the meal as well, but it was a little hard to notice because he cleaned every plate on the table.

We had a giant bowl of soup that was barely touched, so several people were jokingly mentioning it to him. At that point, Jaime warned us that if we dared Johnny to do it, he would. No joke:

There was also a giant plate of rice, which Johnny understandably didn’t want to eat. Instead, he made a fist-sized ball and shoved the whole thing in his mouth:

The experience of being with all those people was hilarious and the most memorable part of the trip so far. I was worried that we would feel overly touristy and cheesy being bussed around, but the people overshadowed all of that by a long shot.

Jeff is a computer hog

So, I got an email from parents this morning basically wondering if I’m alive and what I’m doing. Obviously Jeff has been doing most of the updating, so while I have the computer, I just wanted to let everyone know I’m fine, and that Jeff is a computer hog. He has food poisoning combined with lactose intolerance, which means he’s feeling miserable enough that I easily got the computer while he went to take a nap. One man’s downfall is another man’s opportunity, I say! Ha ha!