Check me out on TripAdvisor

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When I’ve just visited some place pretty awesome but I don’t have time to get down more than a few sentences about it (or it’s just not the kind of thing that lends itself to a whole blog post) I like to put my thoughts on TripAdvisor instead.

On there now you can see some of my thoughts on the sites (pun intended) and sounds of Amelia Island, which I was lucky enough to visit this week for my boyfriend’s cousin’s lovely destination wedding.

I’ve been on TripAdvisor since 2012 but have just recently started to leave more reviews now that I’m traveling more.

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Goodbye New England Fall, Hello New England Winter

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I always really miss fall when it’s over. Fall is my favorite season, which is strange when you consider the fact that the most important day of the year — my birthday — is in the summer and my favorite holiday is Christmas (weird for an atheist, I know). Fall in the Northeast, as I’ve mentioned before, is especially grand.

So what is it about fall that’s so special? Some images and anecdotes that demonstrate:

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A Hoosier in the Nutmeg State

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A new logo, to better reflect my bi-state tendencies.

I finally did it. I renamed the blog. Sure, I said I was going to do this back in February, but then I got sidetracked by finding a new job. Also, I was lying when I said I had a lot of ideas for this switch. It took me an embarrassingly long time – and bouncing a lot of ideas off friends – to come up with something as simple as “A Hoosier in the Nutmeg State.”

Although Connecticut is officially the “Constitution State,” colloquially it’s known as the “Nutmeg State” and its inhabitants are, reluctantly, sometimes known as Nutmeggers. Reluctantly because although the term seemingly has very obvious, benign origins – colonial settlers in the area used to trade nutmeg seeds – the legend is that these settlers were actually selling wood carved to look like nutmeg in order to swindle the rubes who were just passing through.

The word Hoosier is said to have similarly defamatory roots. While there are many theories about the term’s origin, by most evidence it is a slang word that originated in the south and that denoted a person who was “rustic, a bumpkin, a countryman, a roughneck, a hick or an awkward, uncouth or unskilled fellow,” according to the research department at Indiana University’s Herman B Wells Library.

To further tie our demonyms together, I’ll leave you with this little gem from the Indiana Historical Bureau:

“For well over a century and a half the people of Indiana have been called Hoosiers. It is one of the oldest of state nicknames and has had a wider acceptance than most. True, there are the Buckeyes of Ohio, the Suckers of Illinois and the Tarheels of North Carolina — but none of these has had the popular usage accorded Hoosier.

The only comparable term in the American experience is Yankee. And that started out as a synonym for New Englander. In the Civil War era Southerners applied it indiscriminately to all Northerners. In the world wars, many a boy from Dixie doubtless felt a sense of shock when he discovered that in the eyes of our British (Limey) allies, all Americans were Yanks!”

Well how about that, O adopted home? We have more in common than I thought.

Short Essay: “888”

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Right now, a car is sitting on the next block down. A few minutes ago it was honking its horn – “beep, beep, beeeeeeeep” – every 15 seconds or so. Maybe someone is trying to get the attention of his date without having to actually walk up to the door. Now someone is whistling loudly. Maybe it’s the horn honker, frustrated that his previous attempts to be heard (at least, by his date) have not been successful.

Later at night, someone upstairs will hum, or sing (or yell) as they pad around, getting ready for bed. The space between my ceiling and their floor is so thinly insulated I can hear most of what goes on in the apartment above me, especially if I’m sitting in my bedroom.

As the clock ticks toward midnight a siren or two will squeal outside, or an inconsiderate person with very loud music will squeal his tires up and down the street.

Every morning starts the same, with footsteps on the floor above me and a muffled man’s voice that sounds like it’s saying, “888,” over and over a couple times very slowly and deliberately. This will continue sporadically throughout the day, sometimes four or five times. It’s a little eerie – every day, without fail, over and over again: “888 … 888.”

The day time is pretty quiet (except for the mystery man in B5). Most people are at work or school. Occasionally the maintenance men come to one of the neighboring apartments. I can usually tell them from the sharp “pop pop pop” of their knock on someone else’s door, and their accented English “Hello? Anyone home?”

The outside chorus picks up again when the kids get out of school. The air is alive not with voices of children who’ve just happily finished another day in class, but with the honks and yells of angry drivers who are upset that the bus is blocking their way through the narrow street. Both sides get backed up with traffic, so much sometimes that the bus can’t even move. The honking gets worse.

Then, the voice again, unexpected but now familiar: “888.”

St. Patrick’s Day in Hartford

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There are two holidays out here on the East Coast that are a much bigger deal than they usually are anywhere else in the country, including my section of the Midwest.

The first is Columbus Day, which is celebrated where I come from with a day off from work for public employees but not much else in the way of fanfare. Even most schools are open since fall break takes precedence. When I moved out here I was actually a little shocked at the pomp that accompanies Columbus Day, since many Native American people’s relationship with the holiday is understandably very negative. But Columbus was Italian, and a large number of Italian-Americans, also understandably, take a lot of pride in that.

The second is St. Patrick’s Day. Now, obviously St. Patrick’s Day is pretty widely and loudly celebrated in this country. Heck, there are more Irish-Americans than there are people living on the Emerald Isle. The Midwest is no exception. Irish-Americans are the most populous ethnic group in Chicago, and the Chicago River is died green every year in celebration of that fact. Another great body of water-dying tradition happens in my native Indianapolis: The White River Canal, which breaks off from the White River on Indy’s near-east side and runs all the way through the northern suburbs, gets its annual dose of green the Friday before the parade.

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Yep, I’m renaming my blog

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The inevitable has finally happened: I’ve decided to rename my blog.

My current blog name came about in college after I read Robert Putnam’s Bowling Alone. According to Putnam, the individualization of leisure time was eroding Americans’ social capital. This was largely due to cable television’s (and other specialized forms of electronic media) overwhelming presence as the preferred leisure activity.

After finishing the book I became mildly concerned about television’s effect on my own social life, so I made a conscious choice to reduce the amount of time I spent glued to the tube. I even got rid of my TV and turned down my cable company’s pleas for a subscription renewal (though, to be honest, as a broke recent-grad and even broker grad student, I couldn’t have afforded cable even if I’d wanted it).

But lately, doing a whole weekend without TV has been a lofty goal. There are only so many active-yet-inexpensive pastimes an unemployed person can engage in … and now I have the time to do them whenever I want. Plus, I still don’t own a TV or have cable (see: being poor), so I feel like I’ve done a decent job of kicking my 24/7 TV habit, even if I do occasionally binge for 10 straight hours (House of Cards, I’m looking at you).

Plus, now that my life is firmly planted on the East Coast I want to shift my focus a bit. Not in terms of content – I still plan to spend a lot of time traveling, cooking and reading, and then writing about all of those things – but in terms of my focus. I want to explore my new home in a way that blends my perspective as a Midwesterner with my reality as a New Englander.

So, dear readers, I’m going to put the ball in your court for a minute and let you take a stab at renaming my blog. Don’t worry; I have backups in mind in case you fail. But I’d like to hear what you think, and also hear some suggestions on what you’d like to read in the future.

Things I Learned During Today’s Snow Day

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Snowy

  1. Parking bans in Hartford, like most parking-related rules in Hartford, are arbitrarily enforced … especially if there’s a UConn home game.
  2. Owners of SUVs are the least shy about flouting recommendations for residents to stay in their homes and off the streets.
  3. Owners of small cars are not much better. If you attempt to drive a late ’00s model Honda Civic down an un-plowed side street, you will get stuck. The same goes if you try to back it down the un-plowed driveway of your apartment complex.
  4. If you do get stuck in the snow, the best possible response is to turn on your emergency lights and sit in the car for at least 20 minutes, occasionally spinning the wheels frantically until someone wanders by and offers to push you out.
  5. If the snow dunes are high enough, and are packed hard enough, a car bumper can be used as a moderately effective snow plow (just make sure you have backup in case you get stuck).
  6. The rental company that manages the apartment complex across the street from me is much more proactive than the rental company that manages my building. I watched their driveway get shoveled and salted twice today. My parking lot is still 10 inches deep – on top of the sheet of ice that had already built up from lack of attention.
  7. The slogan is accurate: Even in situations of horizontal snow and freezing rain, your neighborhood postal service worker will park (obviously immune to the ban) and hand-deliver the mail, per usual, up and down the block.