Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Jump through those hoops

My physiology class started last week. As of this morning, I was still not enrolled because there is a chemistry prerequisite. No problem there. I took general chem as a freshman, and took organic chem two years ago. The problem lies in the fact that no one at my current school knows that. The physiology professor recommended that I contact the department head, show him my transcript, and he'd "remove the block" so I could then register. OK, I though. Easy enough. Except, yeah...not so much.

I have emailed the department head (Dr. Steiner) three times, I have stopped by his office on several different days, I have asked when his office hours are...and I have yet to actually speak to the man. I was getting a bit frustrated. And I NEEDED to add this class soon, as the remaining spaces were filling up. I awoke early today bound and determined to get this matter handled. Except, yeah...not so much. Here's a breakdown of how my day went, with a small detour:

9:40am: Arrived on campus and headed straight to Dr. Steiner's office. Of course, he's wasn't there. Shocking, really. Class wasn't scheduled to start until 10am, so I decided to make good use of my time.

9:41am: Marched over to the administration office to buy a parking permit. I was told I needed to go next door to the cashier's office because that's where they're sold. Fine.

9:43am: Alarmingly large cashier lady asked for my student ID number. When I told her that didn't know it, she huffed and told me that she could not look me up any other way. "Liar," I thought, but whatever. She then directed me back to the administration office, where I could use the public computers to figure out what my ID number is. Ohhhh kaaaaay....

9:45am: After a fair amount of frustration because I didn't know how to use their computer system, I finally determined my ID number. I almost stomped back over to the cashier's office.

9:50am: I presented my newly acquired ID number to alarmingly large cashier lady. She entered it and then looked at me like I was a total idiot. "Ma'am, you're not actually registered for any classes. I cannot sell you a permit if you are not taking any classes here". I tried to explain the chemistry prerequisite situation to her, but she was totally uninterested and actually shooed me away. Nice.

(As an aside, while I was standing in line for the cashier, I noticed the receptionist was taking a very personal call, very loudly, and was totally unconcerned with who might be listening. There were at least 5 people in line including myself. We all now know way more about Lamar than we'd ever care to)

10am: Physiology class, that I'm not enrolled in, started.

12pm: I resumed my search for Dr. Steiner. I started at his office. No dice. At the urging of my professor, I hoofed it up to the Business and Transportation office to explain my situation and see if they might be able to track him down. Helpful receptionist lady gave me a yellow "challenge" form to fill out and take BACK to the administration office. Apparently, this is what I needed to fill out to be able to register.

12:15pm: Another helpful lady at the administration office looked at my yellow challenge form, declared that she'd never seen "that one" before, and asked me again what I needed to accomplish. By this time, I was close to losing it. After explaining yet again what I needed, she looked at me and said, "Is that all? And you have your transcripts with you? Well, just go see a counselor! They'll waive that chemistry class for you!". I nearly died. "Is that all?". SERIOUSLY?!?!?! I had been trying to get this whole debacle resolved for nearly a week now!! And all I needed to do from the get-go was see a counselor?! FML.

After meeting with said counselor later in the day, I am now enrolled in the physiology class. It didn't need to be as hard as it was. Sometimes I think that people who work at junior colleges make you run around like a moron for their own enjoyment. If that's the case, I sure as hell made someone's day today...

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Bits and bobs

The Parking Debacle: I decided today would be a wonderful day to pay that $41 parking ticket I got from the City of Berkeley back in June. Yeah, I waited...MUCH too long. But today was the day. I knew it was going to be more than the original $41, but I had no idea just how much more.

I logged on to their website and clicked the link to enter my citation number. Imagine my utter SHOCK when the total came up as $123!! WHOA! And then, to add insult to injury, there's a $2 "convenience" fee tacked on for those who choose to pay online. Well, that just wasn't going to work for me. I immediately closed the payment window before going any further. I needed an explanation. But as I tried to click to other parts of the site, it froze. Then it just simply refused to load at all. After a few frustrating minutes, I decided to call. Yeah, that wasn't really working either. I kept getting the annoying three beeps with "We're sorry. All circuits are busy. Please try again later".

Finally, after trying another number, I was able to get through to a wonderfully helpful lady named Tamara. She explained that due to state budget issues, the City of Berkeley has had to impose some parking fee "increases" (I could totally tell that she was making the quote signs with her hands when she said increases. LOL!). What this means for idiots like me that forget to pay in a timely manner is that the fee has gone from $30 to close to $80. I nearly dropped the phone. I whined and complained and carried on until Tamara put me on hold. When she came back, she explained that she was willing to waive the late fee so that all I had to pay was the original $41 fine. I quickly gave her my credit card number before she changed her mind. TOTAL SCORE!!!

Chain Restaurants: Alright, I admit it. In some cases, I love a good chain restaurant. You always know exactly what you're getting, no matter what city you dine in. The quality is totally consistent, no matter if you're stopping at a Chili's in Honolulu, or if you're hittin' up the local Panera in Wauwatosa, WI. Its strangely comforting to know that your skillet queso will taste exactly the same in an airport in Nashville, TN as it does in Walnut Creek, CA.

Recently (like today recently), we finally got a Panera in one of the local shopping plazas. I can't tell you how happy this makes me. I know their sandwiches and soups are generic at best, but its nice knowing exactly what you're going to get. I totally enjoyed my broccoli cheese soup with half a turkey sandwich today, which is exactly how its been at every Panera I've ever been to (although I must admit, I'm paying for it a bit now...heartburn).

In the same vein, DJC has informed me that there's a new Specialty's opening up right near his office. OMG, they have the best cookies in all of the land. Especially their black and white cookies. I could take down several of them if pressed. I'd hate myself later, but I could do it. Specialty's also has soups and sandwiches that are only slightly less generic than Panera, but equally as tasty. And dependable. You know that when you walk through their doors, you will always get a decent meal.

Ok, that's all. I'm too sore to type any more, thanks to last night's Core class from hell. I am looking forward to reuniting with old friends tomorrow at BT's BBQ, though. Mmmmm...BBQ.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Thank you, state of California...Now with UPDATES!

...for changing my plans for nursing school entirely. Due to the massively fucked state budget, funding for community college classes has been slashed big time and the ONE class that I need to be able to apply to a certain college is full. I cannot get in this semester. Previously, the college had enough funding for two sections of this particular class, but this year there's only one. And since the applications for the nursing program are due in October, EVERYONE needs to take this class to be able to apply. What that means for me is that I'm gonna have to re-vamp my plans and not apply to this school (at least not this year).

Instead, I will now be taking pathophysiology and a basic nutrition class which will allow me to apply to a school I had previously ruled out. I counted this school out because I feared that getting in would be very difficult. I opted for the easier junior colleges that chose their nursing students via a lottery system. But the problem with the lottery system is that it doesn't take into consideration how well you've done in your prerequisite classes. You could have *just* skated by with the minimum GPA, have your name pulled in the random draw and get in, while others who might be more qualified (and would be more successful in the program) are left out. During the long car ride home today after the news that I would not get in to my class, I decided I'd rather be admitted to a program based on my academic merits as opposed to sheer luck.

Make no mistake, I will still be applying to several other junior colleges that utilize the lottery system in the hopes that I will get in *somewhere*. Because, in the end, I don't care where I get in...just as long as there's a nursing program out there that's willing to take me. The difference in salary between an AA in nursing or a Bachelor's is minimal, so that's not really a concern. But the quality of the program might differ between a lottery school and one that is choosy about whom they admit. I just don't know...

The point here is that the state of California has thrown me a nasty curve ball and I've got to figure out where I'm gonna go from here. At this point in time, I'm just not sure. Stay tuned for updates...

THIS JUST IN: In a shocking turn of events, this morning I got an email from the professor of the over-enrolled class letting me know that she was able to squeeze me in. YAY! Plan A is intact! Now, as far as the other school goes, I still have two prerequisites to finish up, but since that school accepts applications twice a year, I can take those classes in the spring and submit my application in July. That is, of course, assuming that my name doesn't get pulled out of the magic hat for one of the lottery schools. We shall see. Let the homework begin...

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Adventures at Lush

Yesterday, I stopped by my local Lush to stock up on some inordinately expensive soap that is not, in any way, shape or form, recession friendly. No matter, though. DJC and I are totally hooked and have been for years. I was greeted by this interesting storefront window as I walked in. I wondered what was up...

Lush has always prided itself on being very environmentally friendly, with some of its products being completely vegan and 100% natural. Lately though, they've decided to eschew palm oil altogether in an effort to preserve the natural habitats of orangutans. While I applaud their commitment to doing what they can, let me just say that I would use Lush products if they had the blood, sweat and tears of the Baby Jesus in them. They're that good.

I wasn't supposed to take a picture of the window, but I figured that after I coated both of my hands with green little kid finger paint to contribute to the "artwork" and support the whole "wash your hands of palm" movement, I didn't think anyone would mind. Especially because I was outside of the store. I even got a free sample of their Sexy Peel soap (sans palm oil, of course, even though the one in the link still has it) for planting my palms on the window. It was a strange experience, but I'm up for anything that ends with free Lush soap. =)

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Recipe time

My blog friends always post the most delicious sounding recipes on their blogs. They use fresh ingredients that they've harvested from their gardens or bought at local farmer's markets to make all kinds of creative dishes that literally make my mouth water. Sometimes, I get pretty jealous.

I can't cook for shit, and ya'll have seen the "garden" in the back yard. But, in my new quest to consume as much Zaya rum as I possibly can, I did create a dessert last night that merits a short blog post. Here's the recipe:

Combine the following ingredients:
1 bowl of vanilla ice cream.
1 shot of Zaya Gran Reserva rum poured over top
Eat immediately and swoon with joy...

The bowl of ice cream can be any size of your choosing, but keep in mind that you may need to adjust the amount of rum you add.

Not gonna lie, it was delicious. Simple, not difficult, no complicated steps, but HUGE flavor. That's all.

This now concludes my attempt at online recipes. ;)

Monday, August 10, 2009

The payoff

Two weekends ago, DJC and I went out for a frivolous night of drinking. We started out at Forbidden Island, a kitschy cute Tiki lounge, where the drinks are totally foo-foo and, if you're not careful, will knock you on your tush. Here's a pic:

Drinks on the menu come with strength ratings, or more correctly, a number of bottles with Xs on them, indicating just how much alcohol one can expect. They range in strength from zero (non-alcoholic drinks) to five bottles (the appropriately named "Zombie"). The drink on the left is called a "Boo Loo". Silly name...with four bottles and Xs. The blue one is a "Neptune's Garden" which kicked my ass with 3 Xs. Two or three drinks from Forbidden Island's vast repertoire might earn you a cab ride home, or at least a fun, stumbling walk. So, of course, we love this place.

Afterward, we headed over to Havana because I desperately wanted plantains, and Forbidden Island's limited menu of fried foods left a little to be desired. When DJC and I took two seats at the bar, we were greeted by bartender Johnathan. Just trying to make conversation, I asked what his favorite dark rum was. He immediately turned around a grabbed a bottle of Zaya Gran Reserva. He poured us a little straight up and asked us to smell it. I inhaled deeply and smelled warm sugar, vanilla, and caramel. It was positively luscious. Then he made DJC his "daiquiri", which consisted of a shot and a half of Zaya, fresh squeezed lime juice and a splash of simple syrup, all shaken with a crushed mint leaf garnish. Quite literally, it is the best mixed drink I have ever had in my life. Just delicious and lethal, especially on a hot day. I was so blown away that I came home and wrote a glowing, 5-star Yelp review.

Last weekend, we rounded up the usual suspects and headed back to Havana. The cocktail was so tasty that they HAD to try it. Bartender Johnathan recognized us from the previous week, and had read my Yelp review. We ordered two rounds of drinks and several appetizers. Johnathan sent over a decadent chocolate mousse dessert, on the house, and "forgot" to charge us for several drinks. He said it was the least he could do after the great Yelp review. He explained that they've been getting slammed on Yelp lately and really appreciated my nice words and that I had brought people back to try his drinks. We all had a great night and I've found a new favorite rum. Everyone wins!!

Most people only Yelp when they've had a negative dining experience. I get that...I've done it, for sure. But how frequently do we write about our good experiences? You never know when your review will be read and really appreciated by the owners or managers of the restaurants you visit. And if you're a regular, as DJC and I aspire to become at Havana, your positive review might even have unexpected bonuses attached to it! So, if you've recently dined somewhere outstanding or experienced excellent service, write about it. You never know who could be seeing your words and how they could pay off in the future...

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Adventures in karaoke

I've been meaning to write about this FOREVER, but blogging keeps getting pushed to the back burner lately. Without getting in to it too much, there's been a lot going on, so blogging is pretty far down on the list. But this story's epic, ya'll. And its guaranteed to make you laugh.

A few weeks ago, I hopped in my car and headed over to my sister's friend's birthday party at The Mint in San Francisco. My role for the night was to provide backup for my sister in the event that she ran into someone she really didn't want to see. Because that's what sisters do. Anyways, ever heard of this joint? I surely hadn't. All I knew was that it was a karaoke bar, and that alone scared me. But when I heard that it was a predominantly gay karaoke bar, I became interested. This might actually be kinda fun, I thought to myself. I had zero plans to sing any songs, but hey, I could do a night of karaoke and free drinks...sure.

When we walked in, someone was doing a HORRID rendition of "With a Little Help From My Friends". It hurt my soul. Somewhere, John Lennon was rolling over in his grave. Everyone in our party looked at one another skittishly. Oh man, I thought. This was gonna be a LOOOONG night. But after several drinks, several songs by people who were pretty good, and several who where TOTALLY having a blast regardless of singing sucktitude, I stared to sing along in my seat. Before I knew it, I looked over to see TW (sis's significant other) BELTING out the lyrics to "Never Gonna Give You Up" by Rick Astley. Yeah, that's right, the Rick Roll. Funny thing was that I also knew all the lyrics. Alcohol was flowing, people were singing fun songs, and I had to admit to myself that this wasn't so bad.

Then, like 5 people in a row sang totally sappy, Debbie Downer, buzzkill songs. You could totally feel the place's energy go right out the door along with more than half the people. The vibe became so serious! Puccini's "Nessun Dorma" at a karaoke bar?! Really?! I don't care if you can totally rock that very difficult song (which the guy did)....karaoke is supposed to be silly and fun. Like Spice Girls, Bon Jovi fun. Like Sir Mix-a-Lot fun. Sir Mix-a-lot. Hmmmmm. That gave me an idea. In my drunken mind, I devised a sure-fire way to get people involved, hyped up and singing along again. I grabbed a pen and a request form, snagged $5 from TW, wrote down my name as well as my sister's and submitted it to the sleazy "DJ".

Ten minutes later, my sister and I found ourselves up on stage BUSTING out "Baby Got Back". Keep in mind, we're two very white girls in a gay karaoke bar. The details of the actual performance are a little fuzzy to me because of the nerves and the alcohol, but apparently neither of us looked at the screen once for the lyrics. There were mad dance moves on stage, dancing off stage, and people cheering us on. Because we were seriously working the dance moves while trying to sing, we were pretty out of breath. Looking back, I personally feel like I could have done a better job of bringing Sir Mix-a Lot's vision to life. But one fact was clear: the white girls single handedly got the place hopping again! Massive high-fives ensued as we left the stage. Somewhere, at the back of The Mint, I think I saw the "Nessun Dorma" guy giving us the stink eye.

I called it a night shortly after that. I figured there was no way I could top my performance, so I decided to end on a high note. There's no video, thank goodness, so the memory of bringing the bar back to life lives on only in a few pics that people managed to get. Regardless of how apprehensive I was walking in to the whole event, I walked out of the bar feeling like a freaking star. Karaoke's good like that. Perhaps next time, if there is a next time, I'll do it a little more sober, though...

Video of some of the most amazing moments I experienced that evening coming soon... promise, its worth it.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Gardening 101: Fertilizer

Yes, its that awesome KFC bucket from last post, now with a half eaten watermelon, small rind and wet paper towel thrown in for what I can only assume is fertilizer. How this whole setup will work is beyond anything I can understand. Perhaps my neighbors know something about soil science and osmosis that I do not.

Whatever the case, one gardening fact remains: I cannot make this shit up, folks.