Wednesday, December 30, 2009


(Blogsplosion Post #16, and I think it's official that there's no way I'm getting to 27)

The trip from Madison to Knoxville is supposed to take about 11 hours. For whatever reason, it took us a hearty 14 this time. (There was some rain, and there was some traffic in Louisville, but that should not have added three hours--it's a real mystery as far as I'm concerned.) Basically, the background information you need for the following story is that we were bored.

In this age of the internet, one gets used to having almost all information one wants at one's fingertips. That is why KGB is pretty genius. Have a question you really want answered, but are out somewhere, not in front of your Google Machine? Text that question to KGB! (Well, I guess the limitation to this genius is that an ever-increasing number of people have phones that are practically computers anyway, but for those of us that still mostly use our phones to talk, it's very convenient.)

While we were bored, Neal and I got to wondering--how does KGB deal with questions that don't have easy answers? What would they say if you asked something super-obscure that's not on Wikipedia? What if you asked them something interpretative? What if you asked which came first, the chicken or the egg? What if you asked them something un-knowable? Then Neal came up with a question that I found so hilarious that I had to send it in.

"Was Jesus handsome?"

We wondered how they would answer this question. Would they have some cop-out, an "I don't know" dressed up with non-handsomeness information about Jesus? Or would they, as we hoped, just say, "Yes. Yes he was." (Or, more daringly, a plain "No"?) Instead, they exceeded our expectations.

"In a letter to Tiberius Caesar, Jesus is described as having golden hair and an angelic, sweet, and serene face. Sounds like someone the ladies could like!"

So we asked them a ridiculous question and they answered it. For telling me that Jesus was handsome (even if they made up that letter--I haven't verified that it's true--at least they went to the trouble to make something up), KGB has earned my undying respect.
Click here to read more . . .

My Last Football Post OF THE DECADE

(Blogsplosion Post #15)

Sorry, I just wanted to get on the "last [whatever] OF THE DECADE" bandwagon.


That bowl game was pretty bad, huh? I told my brother-in-law before it started, "Our special teams aren't very good." So, uh, thanks for proving me right, special teams. I guess. That game had it all--a blocked field goal attempt, a kickoff return for touchdown, a blocked punt, a botched long snap--and it all went in Georgia's favor, so it ended up not mattering that the Aggies' offense (and even the defense) outclassed Georgia's. This is exactly why people should care more about kicking and punting. When you're not a very good team, it's at least comforting if your special teams are very good, and if your special teams aren't good, well, that's just a disgusting way to lose.

That's all I have to say about that. Let's talk about Mike Leach locking a kid in a closet and then getting fired.

Just in case you haven't been following this story (and why haven't you? Mike Leach stories are always crazy), here's what went down: on Monday evening, the story broke that Texas Tech was going to suspend Leach from Tech's bowl game because one of his player's parents had complained that Leach had mistreated the player. The parents were likely emboldened to complain because one of them is Craig James, a pretty senior college football talking head for ESPN. (James had been scheduled to call the Alamo Bowl, in which Tech is going to play Michigan State, but--unfortunately for anyone who enjoys comically awkward situations--he's n longer going to.) Leach decided to file an injunction to try to make Tech not-suspend him. But today, just before Leach's lawyer and Tech's lawyer were going to fight the thing out in court, the Tech lawyer handed the Leach lawyer a "P.S.: Leach, you're totally fired" letter. And since they're claiming to have fired him with cause (which is to say, so they don't have to pay him the rest of his contract), Leach is still going to take them to court (unless they settle, of course) to get that money.

It was entirely clear as soon as the Adam James story broke that Texas Tech was going to use that as an excuse to fire Mike Leach. The Tech brass just hate him. It doesn't matter that he is far and away the best coach they've ever, ever had; they hate him for being a weirdo (and probably for being arrogant and not gladhanding the boosters enough, but I bet it's mostly for being a weirdo). Remember how they wanted to fire him just for not accepting a contract that was clearly unfavorable to him? They were just waiting for an excuse.

That being said . . . why did he lock a kid in the closet?

The James family accused Leach of making Adam James stand (not sit, not lie down) in a dark equipment shed for two hours after James sustained a concussion. Then, two days later, the coach made James stand in a closet for a couple more hours, with a trainer posted outside the door to keep him in there. Leach's response to these allegations was, in a nutshell, "So?" That is to say, he didn't disagree that any of that had happened, although he did add that James is "a slacker" and that Craig James is some kind of overbearing Little League dad. But, um, that doesn't explain anything. Neither of those are explanations for locking a guy in a closet. Even though it's Mike Leach, and he's crazy, I'm still confused.

Now I'm worried about Mike Leach. Do I want to see him get another job? Of course I do! The man is pure entertainment! Sure, he caused me quite a bit of pain as an Aggie fan, but as a fan of the sport in general, I always want him in the mix. You know who that previous sentence equally applies to? Billy Gillispie! So here's my idea: they team up as a pair of wild, rebel outsider coaches and go to some downtrodden school (because that's who would take them), then build up their respective programs and take the world by storm! As long as the place they go to has a pretty relaxed athletic director who wouldn't get into ego contests with Leach and who'd get Billy a grad assistant to drive him around (because, let's face it, in the drinking + driving equation, driving would be easier to talk Billy out of), it would be totally great. I would buy that school's sweatshirt tomorrow. So come on, somebody in the WAC, or somebody in a major conference who always gets pushed around! Take a chance! It will probably be worth it.
Click here to read more . . .

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Notable Street Names in the Knoxville Area

(Blogsplosion Post #14)

Nubbin Ridge

Chert Pit Road

Click here to read more . . .

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Today's To-Do Lists

(Blogsplosion Post #13)

Things I've done that needed to get done:
1. wrapped presents
2. returned text books to bookstore
3. washed dishes

Things I've done that were nice to get done:
1. bought a memory card for the camera
2. cleaned out the trunk
3. cleaned snow off the car (there will be at least a little more by tomorrow morning, though)

Thing I did that I shouldn't have had to do, because the dudes on the second floor supposedly get paid by our landlady to do it:
1. shoveled the steps and the sidewalk (but only enough to get suitcases through in the morning)

Things that still need to get done:
1. wash the rest of the dishes
2. pack
3. charge phone

Things that should get done:
1. straighten up the living room (so it will be nicer to come home to)
2. charge camera battery
3. make sure I bought the right memory card for the camera
4. check weather forecasts along route tomorrow (although I'm afraid it might just worry me)

Thing I'm really looking forward to doing:
1. opening the presents we aren't taking with us! Merry Christmas Eve Eve Eve to us!

P.S. Thanks, Mom and Dad, for the box of presents. They got here today! We're very excited.
Click here to read more . . .

Things I Found When Cleaning out the Trunk of the Car

(Blogsplosion Post #12)

These are only (but all of) the things I didn't throw out or leave in the trunk.

1. a plastic mug

2. the lid for the plastic mug

3. one shoe

4. one bookend

5. a blue plastic clothes hanger
Click here to read more . . .

Saturday, December 19, 2009

I Need Some Input, Please (Mostly from Ladies, but Dude Input is OK Too)

(Blogsplosion Post #11)

I have been working, off and on, on a project. It is my belief that almost all girls and women of a certain age bracket (roughly, my age bracket and below) with internet access have, at one time or another, taken a Disney Princess quiz. Here's a typical example, with questions like "My favorite outfit is" and the options "A flowing ball gown," "An arabian belly dancer's costume," "A swimming costume," or "A kimono." I think you can tell what I'm getting at here: that's lame. Asking "What would you most like have for a pet?" is all well and good in some situations, but if you pick the option of tiger--because what would be more awesome than having a tiger as a pet?--that doesn't make you Jasmine. That in no way gets at the essence of Jasmine. (There's also usually a hair color question. Hair color does matter, princess-quiz writers.)

So I am attempting to write The Definitive Disney Princess Quiz, one that isolates the essentials of what it means to be one princess or another. It's pretty tricky, which is why it's taking me so long. For one thing, it can't just be a boring multiple-choice quiz. Those are inadequate for my purposes. This is another thing you guys might be able to help me with, actually: I remember learning about a thing in 7th grade science. The example thing that we used was about birds. It was like, "If the bird has any red feathers, go to step 3. If it does not, go to step 4," and then at step 3, it would break down red feathered birds more until finally, after going through many steps, it would tell you exactly which bird it was. And I cannot remember the name of this thing. It would be so much easier to explain my idea for the princess quiz if I could.

Anyway, another reason it's taking me a while to write the quiz is that I've been re-watching all the princess movies to make sure I've got all my facts straight, and to observe them more closely to get more material. And do you know how hard it is to get ahold of a copy of Beauty and the Beast? Pretty hard. Admittedly, I've only checked at Blockbuster twice, but I also waited in line for it for weeks and weeks at my library and it still hasn't come through. I've had to inactivate my request so that it doesn't come in while I'm away for Christmas.

However, none of that is what I wanted to ask you about. My question is about the lineup of princesses. To decide which gals needed to be included, I consulted Wikipedia. It was actually pretty clear-cut who Disney counts as an offical princess (Snow White, Cinderella, Aurora, Ariel, Belle, Jasmine, Pocahontas, and Mu Lan) and who they don't (Alice, Maid Marian, Giselle from Enchanted [because Amy Adams wouldn't let them license her face in perpetuity and who can blame her?]). But I first looked a couple months ago, before Disney released The Princess and the Frog.

Do I need to include the princess from The Princess and the Frog?

On the one hand, Disney clearly made The Princess and the Frog for the express purpose of adding Tiana to the Princess lineup. Right? On the other hand, people older than 12 or so aren't going to consider her part of the "real" princess group, because she's brand new. But back on the first hand, all of the princesses were brand new at some point. But then back on the negative hand . . . that movie looks pretty bad. I don't want to see it, but I have the feeling I have to in order to uphold the integrity of my princess quiz. Is my suspicion correct? Is that what I need to do in to make my quiz truly definitive?

All your thoughts on this question, or thoughts on anything else I should consider to make the quiz the best it can be, are much more than welcome.
Click here to read more . . .

Friday, December 18, 2009

Pride and Prejudice

(Blogsplosion Post #10)

As a possessor of two X chromosomes, I of course love the miniseries/Colin Firth Pride and Prejudice. I'm making Neal watch it right now. But, as ever, and let's face it, Jane looks kind of like a dude.

A pretty dude, but a dude nonetheless.
Click here to read more . . .

Goat Cheese is on the Line! Act Now!

(Blogsplosion Post #9)

Do you know my friend Craig? He invented a goat cheese recipe, and he would like for you to vote for his goat cheese recipe in a goat cheese recipe contest. Here, let me quote him verbatim; that'll be better:

I don't quite remember how I got on the mailing list of Ile de France cheese company. But I got an e-mail in November announcing their $1000 holiday appetizer contest. To make things even better, they offered to supply the cheese to the first 50 bloggers to respond. So I responded, and my goat cheese came a few days later (I actually asked for the goat brie, but I let that slide). My cheese odyssey started on a bad note when the UPS man, instead of taking my temperature-sensitive package to the apartment office on the Friday he delivered it, took it back to the UPS office until Monday. By the time I got my cheese, it was not very cold. But I ate it all and did not suffer, thankfully. [Editor's note: he didn't have to share because his wife has a tiny blond Republican under construction, and when you're undertaking that project, you're not supposed to eat "soft cheeses." You learn something new every day, right?]

When it came time to prepare my recipe entry, I figured that it was wrong to just copy something I found on the internet. I decided I should create my own recipe. So I scoured the internet for goat cheese dishes, and wrote down some ingredients that seemed to go well with it. I then compared this list to what was in my kitchen already. I'm cheap. I knew that I wanted to prepare something that wasn't too pretentious and didn't have too many ingredients. At the same time, my recipe had to be somewhat sophisticated. Thus, I decided to make arugula part of it. It seems to be all the rage these days, and it's not too expensive, despite what Obama might have you believe.

In the end, I came up with BLT wraps. I stacked bacon, tomato, and goat cheese, wrapped everything in arugula leaves, and secured each wrap with a toothpick. I then took about 30 photos of my creation, trying to get a good contest entry photo. I knew the fate of my recipe would hinge on presentation. I think I did OK. You can see the result, and my recipe, here. It tasted pretty good to me.

While you're over there looking at my recipe, I could use your vote down at the bottom of the page. 5 stars is the best vote, and the one I would prefer. There are 25 other competitors. A couple of them have an excessive number of followers, so I won't beat them, but I think I have a shot at 3rd prize. That would be neat, and it just might launch me on the path to stardom. Or I'll win some free cheese. Either way, I'm happy. Thanks for your support.

Anyway, you should vote for Craig. I didn't even know what arugula was before I saw the picture of his recipe, so I'm bowled over just by that. You only have until the 21st to vote, so like I said, act now!
Click here to read more . . .

Monday, December 14, 2009

Favorite Christmas Songs

(Blogsplosion Post #8)

I shall now break down my favorite Christmas songs by category.

Favorite overall: "Carol of the Bells". "Carol of the Bells" is funny because it doesn't sound like anything else you'd usually consider "Christmas-y." It's not merry, it's more wild and strange. But it's also awesome. I used to be very picky about the versions I would listen to, but I'm starting to branch out a little. I just got this awesome bluegrass one--I unfortunately can't find it on YouTube, but it's on iTunes (off the album Christmas Grass) and there's a sample on this page if you're curious and don't have iTunes. It's just really cool.

I only saw Home Alone once (and did not care for it), but this is a pretty perfect version of the song.

Most quintessential: "The Christmas Song" (the Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire one) by Nat King Cole. It's not my "favorite" per se, but I feel like if I were stranded on a desert island and could only have one Christmas song, it would be the right choice.

Favorite to sing: "Angels We Have Heard on High". Gloooo-o-o-o-o-oooo-o-o-o-o-oooo-o-o-o-o-oooo-ria!

Favorite from a Christmas cartoon: "O Christmas Tree" by the Vince Guaraldi Trio, from A Charlie Brown Christmas. I bought the whole Charlie Brown Christmas soundtrack and frankly, all the jazz starts to sound the same after a while, but this one is always fun.

Favorite that has nothing to do directly with Christmas: "You're a Mean One Mr. Grinch". It's funny how a song that's just a long list of insults can put me in such a cheerful holiday mood.

Favorite that makes me sad (but, you know, holiday-sad): "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" by Judy Garland. I know that it was originally sung by a young Judy in Meet Me in St. Louis, but her voice in it always makes me think of older, sad, drunk Judy. And on top of that, it's just a sad song about not being able to be with somebody on Christmas. I love it anyway.

Favorite that is not "good": "Donde Esta Santa Claus" (or, as I thought it was called until I looked it up just now, "Mamacita".) This one makes me laugh on its own merits and because it reminds me of some college hijinks.

Favorite oldies Christmas carol: "White Christmas" by the Drifters. I don't like it as much as my dad does, though.

Favorite newer popular artist Christmas carol: "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen/We Three Kings" by the Barenaked Ladies and Sarah MacLachlan. Gotta love that stand-up bass.

Favorite church-type Christmas carol: This is the hardest category by far, since this is where all the classics live. After much deliberation, I'm going to go with "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing," because it's so triumphant, it has an exclamation mark right there in the title.

Most quintessential, church carol division: "Silent Night". It's actually harder to imagine Christmas without "Silent Night" than without "The Christmas Song," even the Nat King Cole version.

What about you guys? Favorites? Categories I missed? Suggestions for songs I should acquire? Seriously, I'm always in the market for more good Christmas carols.
Click here to read more . . .

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Football Part 3: My Picks

(Blogsplosion Post #7)

It's been longer than I thought since I last posted about how I was doing on all my various football picks. To sum up: pretty ok!

To expand: I gave up on the Facebook picks a few weeks into the season. The application is just terrible, picking straight up is boring, and none of my very few friends in the group cared either. It was No Good.

On ESPN, where I pick NFL games, I'm doing OK, I guess. I'm in the 90th percentile on ESPN overall, but that's only good enough to be tied for 2,153rd place in the Bill Simmons group. I really need to recruit some people I know to have a manageable group next year. (If I were in the 15-person "featured entries" group within the Bill Simmons group, for example, I'd be in 5th place, which would feel a lot more special. Too bad I don't personally know Bill Simmons.)

The best news comes from my Yahoo! college picks group, where I played against people from my dad's work. It ended last week, and I won! (It actually wasn't even close--I had a five point margin heading into the last week, when there were only nine games to pick. That's when I knew I had it sewn up.) I asked my dad (who came in second) whether the dudes from his work were embarrassed that they'd been beaten by a girl, and he said he'd be sure to rub it in. So that's good.

Anyway, Craig is right that I should play fantasy football next year. I think I'm going to get a whole league together, in fact, so everybody reading this: let me know if you want in. (I know it's a while from now, but it's never too early to start laying the groundwork.)
Click here to read more . . .

Football Part 2: Tournament of Tears Revisited

(Blogsplosion Post #6)

I said I'd keep tabs on the Worst Teams in Football, so let's check in on them, shall we?

Unfortunately, we're all out of winless teams. Sorry, 2008 Detroit team, you're going to remain uniquely awful for a while longer.

Teams that have exited the tournament

The new threshold for the Tournament of Tears is five wins--that seems to be a pretty good dividing marker between the very sad and the merely mediocre. (Caveat: Chicago is at 5 wins, and they've gotten remarkably bad remarkably quickly. I considered adding them to the tournament on the strength of their multiple 30-point losses.) That means that Tennessee and Carolina have clawed their ways out. I can't get over how improbably the Titans' comeback has been--Vince Young has not just gotten better, but has turned the team around? Really?! So weird. And I'm happy for Carolina because one of those wins was over the Arizona team that out of nowhere destroyed them in the playoffs last year. So, good for you guys.

Four-win fellas

The four-win teams are both unpredictable. However, the Bills are just a little unpredictable--can't beat the Browns but you can beat Miami? Weird--whereas the Raiders . . . . Well, they're terrible. How can a team be terrible and still beat the Eagles, the Bengals, and the Steelers? (Yes, I know that these days, everybody beats the Steelers, but the Raiders were the first very bad team to do so.) That just doesn't make any sense.

Three wins is probably not a charm

I haven't seen the Chiefs play all year, but word on the street (which is to say, my dad told me) is they're shockingly bad. Nevertheless, they show flashes of . . . something. Not brilliance. Competence, maybe? I mean, they took the Cowboys and the Steelers to overtime (and even beat the Steelers--seriously, those guys are wreaking havoc in the Tournament of Tears, to the extent that they may soon join it). The same can be said of the Redskins--they mostly stink, but have flashes of . . . something. They had a big flash just last week when they really should have beaten the Saints. To paraphrase Bill Simmons, I don't think the NFL fixes games, but if by some chance they do, that was one they fixed. The Redskins needed all kind of crazy breaks in the Saints' favor (and bad, bad calls) to lose that game. (Although, even if they'd won, everybody would still get fired after this season. It's going to be a bloodbath.)

Repeat winners!

I have a friend whose dad is a Browns fan. He's angry at the team for beating the Steelers (or is he angry at the Steelers for losing to his team?) because it's going to hurt their draft pick. As Neal pointed out, it's always a bad sign when that's the fans' main concern. Their one other win is notable for having produced the most hilarious stat of the season: quarterback Derek Anderson lead his team to victory with a staggering two (2) completions out of 17 pass attempts. Hopefully there will be a good quarterback left at the third or fourth pick in the next draft.

I like to think that Detroit's fans are just psyched to be better than last year--two wins is so much more than zero, it really is. But I don't know any Detroit fans, so it's hard to say. I wouldn't blame them for being disappointed about losing to the Rams, though. I know I was disappointed. Speaking of . . .

One-win wonders

Like I said, it bums me out that the Rams managed to beat the Lions. It's hard to say whether I was more disappointed by that or when the Packers lost to the Buccaneers. On the one hand, I am personally invested in the Packers and I watched that game, in which they looked atrocious. It wasn't fun. On the other hand, I really believed the Rams could go winless and would have if they hadn't beaten Detroit. So if Detroit had won, it would have been a double victory--one for the wins column, and one for feeling better by having company in the 0-16 teams category.

The race for the first draft pick is a tight one, but I think the Rams will prevail as the Worst Team of 2009. The Bucs' quarterback, Josh Freeman, is a wild card--he has the ability to play really well or really lousy--and he may end up winning them another game. The Rams don't have a wild card, and without another Detroit-caliber team on their schedule, they're in excellent shape to get that #1 pick. (Ndamukong Suh?)
Click here to read more . . .

Football Part 1: The Independence Bowl

(Blogsplosion Post #5)

Since I last posted on the topic, three important things happened for the Fightin' Texas Aggie Football Team. First, they beat Baylor/achieved bowl eligibility. Whoop.


Second, they played respectably against t.u. I will also give a whoop to that. (Whoop.) They didn't win, but they did look good on national TV, which is the second-most important thing to do. I think it made up for the Arkansas game. Going into the game, I thought there were three possible outcomes--in order of probability: 1) get just destroyed, a la the Oklahoma game; 2) lose but look good doing it, whilst making Colt McCoy look bad and torpedoing his Heisman chances, a la the 2005 game where Stevie McGee and the Ags took away Vince's Heisman; 3) win! I turned out to be wrong, because if McCoy doesn't get his career-reward Heisman, it will be because of the Nebraska game (although I think the close game against the Aggies has looked worse for him in retrospect since the Nebraska embarrassment). Anyway, this was probably my second-favorite t.u. game since I've been an Aggie. It's behind 2007's 38-30 victory, of course, but ahead of the 2006 12-7 Aggie win, because I really disliked that game. That one featured the worst late hit I've ever seen (an Aggie tackling Colt McCoy as Colt was taking his chinstrap off); this one featured everybody realizing, "Hey, that Jerrod Johnson is pretty good, huh?"

That guy is pretty good.

Third, the Aggies got invited to the Independence Bowl to play against Georgia. I'm excited about this. Georgia is not just a name school, but one from the best conference in college football. That means it won't look super bad if we lose (depending, of course, on how badly that hypothetical loss is) and it will look pretty darn good if we win. Because the even better thing about Georgia is that they can be beaten. If Kentucky did it, we can do it. Plus, when Kentucky did it, they hadn't just fired their defensive coordinator. Georgia is coming off a disappointing season while the Ags are finishing up a season of improvement. I doubt Georgia will be as motivated to win as Texas A&M will be. (If this columnist is representative of Georgia fans, they aren't excited.) If the Aggies can turn the game into a shootout, I like our chances. Whoop.
Click here to read more . . .

Tuesday, December 8, 2009


(Blogsplosion Post #4)

According to your friend and mine, the National Weather Service, "A BLIZZARD WARNING IS IN EFFECT UNTIL 12:00AM CST THURSDAY, DECEMBER 10." They inform us of "* Snow Accumulations: 10 To 14 Inches Is Expected By Wednesday Afternoon Most Places... With Locally Higher Amounts." Furthermore, "This Will Be The First Major Winter Storm For Wisconsin... And Will Likely Have A Significant Impact On Society."

And indeed, I got a call from The Head Librarian*, who told me that mayor is shutting the town down, man! This includes the libraries. Some of the clerks at my work today (I was there for awhile but came home early because I had a headache that felt like hyenas were eating my brain) were discussing the unlikelihood of the libraries closing--there was some disagreement as to whether it's happened once or twice in the past several years. If that's not enough to convince you that this 'un is a big 'un . . . the university cancelled classes. That winter year before last, when we got 100 inches of snow, often parceled out by the foot or so? They called off class once, in the afternoon. The University of Wisconsin-Madison apparently only calls off school once every decade or two. This storm is going to be crazy.

*When I refer to my boss, since we don't really use words like "boss" at my work, I tend to say "the head librarian." Neal says this conjures the image of someone behind a big desk in a darkened room, stroking a cat in a sinister way.**

**She's not actually like that, though.
Click here to read more . . .

Monday, December 7, 2009

How I Won $350

(Blogsplosion Post #3)

If you're familiar with The Pioneer Woman, raise your hand. Now, all of you with hands unraised, here's your link and here's your explanation: there's this gal, see. She lives on a ranch and she likes to take pictures and cook. Then she writes funny little stories about living on a ranch, taking pictures, and cooking and puts them on her blog. And she is phenomenally popular.

Here's how you can tell, item 1: here's a post about how much she likes her basset hound. It has almost 500 comments on it. But that's not much compared to, say, the last volume of her telling of her and her husband's how-we-met story, with its 1,564 comments. (I must say, the how-we-met story ["Black Heels to Tractor Wheels" is totally riveting. If you have several hours--preferably spread over several days--I'd recommend it.])

Here's how you can tell, item 2: there are sometimes ads on her homepage from national companies tailored to her website. I always get really impressed by that.

Here's how you can tell, item 3: she just wrote a cookbook (and is still in the midst of a book tour), and it recently hit #1 on the New York Times Bestseller List . . . in the hardcover advice category, but still. (It's still there at #4.)

Here's how you can tell, item 4: the contests. Oh, the contests. She takes money that she makes off the blog to buy prizes to give away to her readers. And I mean, the woman gives away a Kitchen-Aid stand mixer about once a week. She also gives away trips, fancy camera equipment, and . . . Amazon gift cards.

The problem with the contests is that, usually, it's just a random drawing out of the thousands of people who comment to enter. That's practically impossible. Sometimes, she has "smartypants quizzes." However, those are also practically impossible. They're usually very random collections of questions, and they usually include at least "who is this?" question with a picture, which makes them un-Googleable. Recently, though, she's been on a book tour, so she's done quizzes about the cities she's visited.

She announced that she was going to do a quiz about Denver. I thought, "Hey, I know about Denver! Maybe I'll have a shot!" Even though I do know stuff about Denver, I still had to look up several of the answers, but I discovered that most were available on Wikipedia. I started typing in answers as soon as I saw the quiz go live, but I still didn't make it in until comment #17. The commenters who made it in at #1 and #3 got the answers right and the prizes.

Well, a few days later, it was my day off, so I happened to be at home in the middle of the day, looking at my computer. I saw that the Pioneer Woman announced a Salt Lake City quiz for about twenty minutes later. So I spent the next ten or so minutes reading the Salt Lake City Wikipedia page, and I kept it (and, on a hunch, the page about the 2002 winter Olympics) open for easy reference. I did the thing where I refreshed and refreshed and refreshed her blog until the quiz showed up and then got to typin'.

And I won! I didn't make it in until #3, but luckily for me, the first two entrants assumed for question 2 that Salt Lake City, like the rest of Utah, leans Republican. I, on the other hand, had just learned from Wikipedia that it goes left. (Wikipedia also claims that SLC is very gay-friendly, but I remain skeptical about that one. Remember Sad Keith from Season 4 of Project Runway? He was gay and from Salt Lake City and he seemed really sad about it.) And the prize was a $350 Amazon gift card! And since you can buy anything from Amazon, that's basically just money.

So that was both the story of where all the Christmas presents I buy this year are coming from and a how-to guide on how to win Pioneer Woman smartypants quizzes. Unfortunately, it does require some being in the right place at the right time, but other than that . . . it's pretty doable. Not bad for free money, anyway.
Click here to read more . . .

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Things I've Found in Library Books Recently

(Blogsplosion Post #2)

1. a coupon for a free canoe rental

2. a flattened box elder bug

3. sketches of the Iron Giant

4. a blue crayon

5. a postcard from India

Three of those got returned to their rightful owners.
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FISTFIGHT: Bertie Wooster vs. Chandler Bing

(Blogsplosion Post #1, in response to this comment)

If Bertie Wooster and Chandler Bing got into a fistfight, who would win? Wooster, at 6' 2 1/2", would have the height advantage, though not a tremendous one, over the 6' Bing. (Chandler's weight has been known to fluctuate noticeably, so the advantage there is hard to call.) Both men are considered by those around them to be, frankly, sissies, making this a pretty interesting matchup. Since neither one has a clear physical or temperamental advantage, it would come down to strategy. Before the fistfight began, Bertie would clearly consult with Jeeves, who would then come up with an ingenious plan. However, Jeeves' plan would likely result in Bertie's defeat in the fistfight, which would somehow help one of Bertie's friends get the girl or perhaps thwart Aunt Agatha.

Winner: Chandler Bing
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A Blog Post about Blog Posts

I had a goal.

2008 was a pretty lame blogging year here at Sconnie 'Ventures (as I sometimes like to think of it). As you can see over on the sidebar, I only managed to publish 80 entries the whole year. I wanted to beat that in 2009, and it was so easy that I accomplished it in April. The loftier goal was to beat 2007, when I blogged 186 times. I was going strong for awhile, but then got to feeling uncreative and, well, un-bloggy. The goal seems distant now.

But I'm not giving up!

No, it's time for one final blog push! I've got 26 days of 2009 left (including today) and 27 entries (not including this one) to beat 2007. Can I do it? I don't know. But as my blogging year began with a blog streak, I will try to make it end with a blog-splosion!

(Incidentally, if you guys have any ideas, suggestions, or requests for things for me to write about, I will receive them gladly. [I'm already planning on an Aggie football post, but I figure that by now I might as well wait til their bowl bid is announced; I'm also almost done watching the 7th season of Friends, so I should be able to write that one soon.])

And since we're on the subject of blog-writing, I'd just like it put it out there that I haven't given up on Monarch Moments. I'm hoping it will come roaring back in 2010--maybe if I shoot for two updates a week instead of three, it'll help?

Finally, I have used the word "blog" in various forms eleven times in this entry. Just in case you were wondering. (I thought it would be more.)
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