Thursday, August 28, 2008

Long Weekends and Funny Signs

First, this was the sign on an ATM in Jersey. Check out the fine print on the bottom. Looks like they're sorry for more than just not taking deposits! Courtesy of my mom, her cameraphone and some LOLcat building fun:

Thank you, New Jersey. Even when I'm over a thousand miles away, you never cease to amuse me.

My boyfriend and I are taking a day trip out to Fort Worth this weekend for some good 'ol fried pickles and honky tonk country music. I can't believe I just said that!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

A Gift from HARO!

I just got my HARO (Help A Reporter Out) shirt and it's awesome:

It came in probably the first hand-addressed envelope I've gotten so far at work!

To all my PR-type and journalist friends (that's right, I swing both ways...friend-wise) make sure you check out HARO. Journalists can submit pitches and PR pros can find out who needs what. We've already pitched a few articles about the museum, and HARO has been a great resource!

(Reminder: make sure you vote for the Hot Blogger Calendar!)

(Reminder #2: follow me on Twitter: @agardina)

Traffic's like a cattle drive

Granted, I've never actually witnessed a cattle drive. But, I have seen a cow, which puts me ahead of a lot of my fellow Jerseyans. And the most recent cow I saw was at Visions on Friday night (that's right - there was a cow at a women's expo. Don't question it, this is Texas.)

Before I get too into the weirdness that is cows at a trade show, let me lasso this one back on topic. I'm a Jersey driver. I scare my Connecticut and Upstate New York friends with my constant honking, Italian one finger saluting, cursing self. I've driven to Boston in rush hour, something I will never EVER do again. I've had several near-death experiences as a passenger in New York City - in a cab, in a van and (perhaps worst of all) with my mother (just kidding, Mom!)

Therefore, I consider myself an expert on bad driving. Bennys (tourists to the Jersey Shore from Bayonne, Elizabeth, Newark and New York) are classic examples: running stop signs, turning right from the left lane, I've seen it all.

Then I moved to Dallas.

People here are out for blood. They drive crazy, they own guns and they tailgate you at 80 MPH in giant Ford pickups on monster truck wheels. Route 75, the highway that runs north/south, is so insane during rush hour (which goes from 6 AM until 4 AM as far as I've seen) that I find myself wishing for the relative sanity of the Parkway South on Fridays in the summer.

Let's review some traffic laws that Dallas drivers have decided are optional. Red lights don't really mean stop if you were anywhere in the vicinity when they were yellow. Signaling from turns, heck, even being in the correct LANE for turns is considered a sign of weakness. Nodding in the general direction of stop signs is just as good as actually stopping.

Luckily, these drivers seem to be confused by my little Vespa and me. They keep their distance (or pull up next to me and catcall), and for that I'm grateful. Nevertheless, I'm still not afraid to honk or yell - even if I am on a scooter.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Hot Blogger Calendar

I'm not sure how this happened, but I managed to get myself nominated for the Hot Blogger Calendar. And, since I work in marketing, I'm no stranger to shameless self promotion. Thus, in order for you all (y'all?) to make an educated decision, here's a picture of me in all of my glory (granted this was taken during a vacation in Hawaii when I was tan, relaxed and full of pina coladas, but it's a close approximation)

Now you can all go off and make informed decisions! (And if you're still feeling confident about your decision, vote here!)

I'm really in a pickle

(Note to new readers: I love bad puns)

I've noticed this odd trend in Texas. Everywhere I go, there seem to be pickles for sale. Not in jars, not on sandwiches, just a big vat of pickles for the sellin'. Movie theatres, 7-11s, they all have pickles placed in the same prominence as other big sellers like popcorn and lottery tickets.

Always eager to point out that I really don't know what's going on in Texas, I decided to ask my co-workers about this pickle fascination. The response? "What fascination? Don't you love pickles too?"

Now I'm not one to make fun of another culture's culinary decisions (and if you don't think Texas is a completely different culture from Jersey, visit both and compare). However, this pickle thing is a little too much for me. Apparently Texans have decided that popcorn + a pickle is an ideal movie snack. When lounging at home on a Saturday night, a pickle + Cheetos is a great snack, and a pickle by itself is a... treat?

I find myself, again, in this North/South pickle (I had to do it). So I ask you, dear readers, should I take the plunge and embrace my inner pickle-loving Texan, or should I stay true to my Jersey roots and save it for the sub?

Friday, August 22, 2008

Best Headline Ever Award

Just a quick post to award the "Best Headline Ever" award to CNN:

McCain Roach Wins in Landslide

I just also have to point out that this race apparently took place in Jersey, so a big shoutout to my home state - you sure know how to pick 'em!

Monday, August 18, 2008

Adventures in Unsocialized Medicine

When I was studying abroad in London, I had some fun experiences with socialized medicine (that later led to 4 weeks in a foot brace, but that's another story). I'm not a hypochondriac, I'm not plagued by terrible medical maladies (thank goodness), but I am pretty clumsy and pretty.. well, clumsy pretty well covers it.

I also haven't had a physical in 5 years (switching insurance companies 3 times in 3 years while away at college didn't help). I'm one of the lucky few (again, I'd like to send a big "thank you" to those of you who killed our economy) who have full-time employment and affordable health care. Unfortunately, this "affordable" health care comes from that lovely company known as Humana. I've encountered Humana before, when I worked as a researcher for the Project on Government Oversight. We researched Humana and found over $125 million in lawsuit losses. What a model company.

I'm furious right now because they're denying a claim from my recent tetanus shot with whooping cough booster. I haven't had a tetanus shot in over 10 years. Unfortunately, according to Humana, after I turned 18 I lost all rights to immunization. That's right - after you're legally an adult, you can no longer get all those wonderful diseases prevented by vaccination. What a time saver!

My coworkers have also had wonderful experiences with Humana, ranging from sudden revelations that in-network doctors are now out-of-network to a policy that makes deductibles for surgeries astronomical.

Well, Humana, you messed with the wrong Jersey Girl. Thanks to your policy (page 17, section 2, paragraph 4), I, along with my coworkers, will be pressuring my employer to change providers. They may not be much better, but I'll take the risk because they're probably better than you.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

An Ode to Colin's Driving

I have decided that my boyfriend's driving merits many haikus. I will call them:

An Ode to Colin's Driving
By Alyssa

Deep holes in pavement
They call to me tenderly
Get a flat, so what?

The stoplight is red
But I really must go left
Just go anyway!

Five miles 'til exit
And the right lane is so slow
Better be prepared!

Changing lanes, turning
No need to signal at all
Just keep them guessing

Anger, in silence
Muttering under my breath
Don't honk, shows weakness

For those of you that haven't driven with Colin, the preceding haikus detail his love for potholes, turning right on red, being overprepared for exits, lack of signaling, and failure to honk when people drive poorly.

By the way, in Texas - people really are aiming for you on the highway.

It's a Touchy Subject

I went to school in upstate New York. Our hippie to non-hippie ratio was somewhere in the ballpark of 20:1. We had green home goods stores, compost sites, and initiatives to replace all our bulbs with energy-friendly alternatives. I, as a SUV driver, was not considered to be green. Here in Texas? I'm the office environmentalist. I recycle, I drive a Vespa (which wasn't really an option in the arctic north), and I turn my computer off every night.

It's actually pretty easy being green, comparatively.

Something that I got comfortable with up in the North (and, yes, I get called a Yankee all the time) was homosexuality. It really never seemed like a big deal to me. We made jokes, I talked candidly about my love (however unrequited) for Shakira, and it was, all in all, definitely NOT a "don't ask, don't tell" culture. We were open about it.

Fast forward to July. Me, the enterprising young Yankee makes a joke about loving Jodie Foster. Honestly, I just said I love her as an actress. Scandal ensues. I, a straight woman, LOVE (?!?!?!) a homosexual actress?! Gasp!

...if my friends from college had a conversation with my friends down here, much political incorrectness would ensue.

This is followed by conversations about "gay" areas, newsletters in my inbox detailing bars that most homosexuals "stick to" and a bunch of other comments that make a liberal kid like me from the north feel pretty darn awkward. I knew that perspectives would be a bit different down here, but, just like my political views, I find that censoring myself has prevented a lot of questioning looks.

I wish I had a snappy conclusion to this blog post, but I'm pretty much just confused and feeling a little out of place. Maybe we should make a movie as a modern-day version of "An American in Paris" - "A Jersey Girl in Texas". I've got plenty of material!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Missing the Back to School

I get to be mopey for this entry. It's my prerogative as a blogger. I've been talking to a couple of people who are gearing up to go back to school in a few weeks, and it's just now hitting me that I'm not one of them. No more wine nights, library marathons, smoothies at Campus Center, party hopping in the Circles. I miss it. A lot.

I know this is the same kind of crisis a lot of recent grads go through, but that doesn't really make it any easier. My best friends are spread out from Maine to LA, Ithaca to Texas (me!) We're working in restaurants, museums, newspapers, and something along the lines of education (right?) And after all the trials, tribulations, attempts at success, and crazy roller coaster ride that these past few months have been, I just really want to sit back with a bottle of Barnyard Red and play some Cranium.

On the bright side, it's Restaurant Week (what self-respecting Jersey girl isn't distracted by food?) and we're checking out a restaurant called Fuse tomorrow night. Plus, it's someone's birthday, so some celebrating is in order. /mope

Monday, August 11, 2008

Being a Northern Liberal in the Good 'Ol South

Being a liberal in Texas is kind of like having a weird hobby. You enjoy it, you know others enjoy it, but there's really no good way of finding out who else likes collecting stamps or categorizing bugs (ew.) In my case, I kind of listen to the people in my office talking, and when one of them says one of a few key words (Obama and Democrat, for example) without sneering, spitting, or otherwise freaking out, I usually approach them. The next step is to quietly ask, "so you like Obama too?" and go from there.

Funny enough, those I know who align themselves with the conservative side of the political coin aren't saying much about their love for John McCain. The consensus seems to be that they not only are afraid of Obama (because he's clearly Muslim and his wife is unpatriotic), but they're afraid of McCain as well.

(Sometimes I feel like a spy, planting anti-McCain thoughts in the minds of my "Republican" buddies)

I've encountered a lot of mockery from my family about being a "dirty liberal". Then I went away to college and started to lean even more to the left. Now I'm down in Texas and the whole politics thing (even in a city like Dallas) is kind of hush-hush. Yet, as we get closer to November, and politics start being on everyone's mind (I hope), what's a Jersey girl to do?

Maybe the same thing I do to my Grandpa - retaliate to his McCain propaganda with fact check and some snippy photos from Pundit Kitchen and hope, come November, everyone will see the light. (That's my light. Not the McCain light. The Obama light. Right.)

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Turning into a Yuppie

No. Seriously. I am. Except for the plush downtown loft, which I can't afford (thank you, economy). Apartment aside, let's check the Yuppie checklist:

Wine lover
Vespa owner
Banana Republic shopper (okay, outlets and clearance, but it counts)
Foodie and cook
Central Market superfan

I think that about sums it up. I also just joined the Young Association Professionals group, an online community for young non-profit professionals. I've found a lot of groups in the past few weeks (longer, if you count my passive participation in the We Are Media project. I think these groups will serve me incredibly well - I already feel as connected as when I was a member of AAF (the American Advertising Federation).

Which brings me to my point (yes, I have a point): social networks are as valuable as you make them. Having a Linked-In profile is great, but if it's not updated, no one's going to find you in search results. Twitter all you want, but if you don't have any followers, no one's listening to what you're saying.

I'm working on a launch of a bunch of different social media for the museum, and I'm afraid of falling into what's basically the social media trap. If you don't update, you're obsolete. If you're irrelevant, game over. It's an intimidating prospect, but for an organization that currently has one blog post written about it, the risk factor is actually pretty low. I'm going to be leaning on these communities pretty hard for the next few months, looking for advice - but isn't that what they're there for?

Monday, August 4, 2008

Valet for A Vespa

This weekend I spent some time with a bunch of other Northeast-to-Dallas transplants, and we were discussing (over several glasses of wine) some of the major differences between the Northeast and Texas. My favorite comment was about how we feel compelled to dress up on Sundays if we're going out in public, even if we're not going to church (it's true).

That got me thinking about one of the differences I've noticed most: valet parking. Now I'm a Jersey girl, and we Jersey girls are lazy in our own right, but Dallas takes the cake (and eats it too). Dallas has valet parking for restaurants, concerts, movies, the mall, cafes, sandwich shops... you get the idea. (Coincidentally, the only time they don't have valet is when there's no parking to be found for miles. Go figure.)

Most of the time, valet's your only option - the only parking in the area is reserved for valet spots, so you have to fork over $5-$10 for the privilege of having someone else park your car.

Maybe it's because Dallas girls wear such high heels all the time... (I wore jeans out to dinner on Friday *gasp* and got some looks from my fellow females. I was in a pizzeria. Get over it.)

I digress (as always). I have, however, found a solution to the valet parking problem: my Vespa. Valet guys don't expect to be allowed to just zip off on my Vespa, so my approach now is to just hover around the valet stand until they notice me and point me to some prime sidewalk space. Close parking, no payment necessary, and a Vespa monitoring service all-in-one! I could get used to this...

Next up in our Dallas-is-kind-of-lazy series, grocery shopping. (Seriously.)

Friday, August 1, 2008

Making a habit of it

I just got a comment on my last post and realized that I've kind of abandoned this blog. Thanks to MizFit (*waves*). I'm going to try to update more regularly, but I always bounce between boring the (few) people who read this and actually updating more than once every few weeks.

The job search continues for many (not for me, but for many of my friends). I'm trying to help out the best I can, but there's only so many LinkedIn and Talentzoo searches one can do. I do want to recommend Talentzoo to all my recent grad/ad industry readers - it's a great resource for jobs in ad/marketing/PR. The economy, however, isn't playing along:

According to CNN, unemployment is up to a 4 year high, so let's add that to Alyssa's list o' things to ignore in order to remain optimistic.


I'm not an expert on any of this, but I think that after all this job-hunting, adjusting, post-grad crisis stuff is over, I may be. Is there any sort of certification for job counselors? How about life counselors? That's me. (Not saying I don't like it! I love being there for my friends! I just want a certification!)

Maybe I'm certifiably... something (ha!)

Anyway, this post is getting rant-tastic, so I'm going to sign off now. This week has (yet again) been completely exhausting, and I'm staying late at work tonight to help with a video shoot. I need a glass of wine.