Area Woman Who Has Been Avoiding the Gym For Months Feels Obligated To Go Only Because it is Next to the Store With the Good Cheese Selection

Detroit, MI – As the holiday season approaches, many people will find themselves returning to old habits of overeating and giving in to culinary indulgences. Area woman Lauren Church is no exception.

Church, Detroit’s only registered cake tester, is gearing up to get ready to start to plan on going to the gym once again. Her gym, only a short ten-minute drive from her house, has a variety of equipment and ample room for her to burn off some calories. It surely will be an excellent opportunity for her health as soon as she actually returns.

When asked about her motivations, Church looked at her feet and said she was, “[going] to the new Kroger over there, which is like RIGHT THERE”. The Kroger, a 60,000 square foot superstore, has a robust selection of goods. “They have an island of cheese. An ISLAND. I mean, if I have to head over there anyway… you know…” she added. “They have a snippins'[sic] bucket. Like small little tester pieces. I like the snippins [sic].”

When we reached out to Church’s gym for comment, they simply said, “Who?”

Church is expected back at her gym sometime this fall.

I heard it through the grapevine.

Vine, the six second video streaming service, is ending. Twitter is killing it.

I WAS going to post a round-up of my favorite Vines next week BUT I GUESS THAT IS MOOT NOW. (On second though, I’ll pepper this post with the vines and this post will look weird and broken in a couple months. JUST LIKE MY FEELINGS ABOUT ENDING VINE.)

Sorry. I haven’t had a chance yet to really process my feelings. I’m at the first stage of grief: eating.

I guess Vine was important to me for a few reasons. For one: it was just really impressive to me that people could get in a solid joke or sketch in six seconds.

 

 

There were a lot of puns.

 

I like puns. But there was some high concept stuff too, that probably had a TON of effort put into it even though it was silly. I’ll post one such video, but describe it below for future generations.

 

A man in glasses says, “Think fast!” and throws a wiffleball. “Think fast…” another man ponders, as intense violin music ramps up. His thoughts are flooded with facts about mitochondria, square roots, and the fact that Leonardo Dicaprio has never won an oscar. The wiffleball hits him in the face. A ton of production for something that lasted six seconds. Special effects, a soundtrack, slow-mo… Props to Daniel Gonzalez, who is one of the big names on Vine. Well. Was.

Vine also had this great internet comedy feedback loop quality. Someone would post a six second video of something silly and ridiculous. Maybe a kid running into the back of a car or a girl dancing by herself before falling off her bed. One thing that always got attention was the various awkward animal-like robots from Boston Dynamics, because they were just so ridiculous looking.

 

People took the original video and remixed it. Added a joke to the joke. Made fun of the original joke. Took that joke and morphed it together with a totally different reference. On and on. Humor on the internet is a lot of this looping in on itself stuff. It’s immediately an inside joke you only “get” if you knew the original. This humor is what I grew up with, so I felt very at home with Vine.

There was, of course, non-humor related videos too. Sometimes people would shoot something cool or artsy. And cute animal videos. Can’t forget those. (Non-Vine link in hopes future generations can watch this corgi hopping down stairs.)

 

I loved it. I would come home after a hard day of work and just veg and watch Vine videos. I didn’t have to care or be invested. It was a “brain shutting down” activity that usually made me laugh.

I only ever posted one Vine. It was a video of me saying, “…Am I doing this right?” while filming a literal Vine. I deleted it out of sheer embarrassment. It sort of lives on in this Instagram picture.

HEY GUYS HOPE YOU ENJOY THIS VINE LMAO #NAILEDIT

A post shared by Lauren Church (@lauren.church.pics) on

 

I’m glad we had Vine, if only for a moment. I’ve got a lot of young comedians to follow on their other social media accounts now. I was listening to an NPR Marketplace interview about Vine ending. Ben Johnson from Marketplace Tech said, “Every artist needs contraints, right?” When Vine first started I was like, “That’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard of. How can someone do ANYTHING in six seconds?”

Viners proved me wrong over and over. Here’s one video that disproves my theory, quite handily, in six seconds.(Here’s the YouTube of the slightly longer video for after Vine takes these down.)

 

We go from killing a spider to outer space in six seconds.

I’m really happy I was wrong. RIP Vine.

“Welcome to Cityline!”

Before we really had the internet and podcasts as a limitless fount of information, the residents of my hometown had Cityline. I loved Cityline. It was a phone system done by the local newspaper where you used a directory to call and listen to information. It was updated regularly and had some great regional info and some fun syndicated content.

The earliest mention of it I could find was from this USA Today newsgroup post archived on MIT’s website from 1992:

SPOKANE BUYS CITYLINE SYSTEM:
   The Brite Voice Systems Inc. says it has sold a Cityline system 
to the Spokane (Wash.) Chronicle & Spokesman-Review. The system 
provides a variety of telephone information services to the 
Spokane market. Spokane Chronicle & Spokesman-Review serves 
Western Washington and Northern Idaho. It is owned by Cowles 
Publishing Co.

That’s pretty dry, but from my research was kind of a unique move on the part of the Spokesman-Review. And the Spokesman-Review used the heck out of it. Searching around in their archives you can find many articles that reference it. “Call Cityline to hear a song!” “What do you think? Call Cityline and leave us a message!” It’s all over the place.

Thanks to Google News and the Spokesman-Review, I can show you a clipping of what the Cityline Guide looked like. I think this eventually doubled in size.

A phone tree for a city information line. A variety of topics are listed with phone numbers.

As a kid, I know I called up and listened to the comedy recordings, which were usually a person doing a bit with a funny voice or a lame joke. Mr. Science’s World of the Really Amazing I remember checking out every week. The trivia games were good, too – you would answer by pressing a number on your phone. It was interactive in a basic way. There was choose your own adventure style stories later on, listed under the heading, “Adventure Stories”. I had forgotten that, but reading this reddit thread jogged my memory. There were also mini-soap operas, if my memory serves me. It updated the entertainment pieces weekly, so I can remember looking forward to dialing in and listening to the latest installment of my Cityline numbers.

Sometimes you’d end up stuck in one section of the phone tree and you’d have to hang up and try again. Sometimes you’d find a neglected number that hadn’t been updated in some time. There was also entering a random number, too, and seeing where it led you. I’m sure I tried to listen to all the extensions at one point.

And the voice of the main announcer… I can still remember it. I tried valiantly to find any recording of Cityline but they just don’t exist. The latest mention I can find of Cityline is from a Spokesman-Review article in 1998. Googling the number shows it was acquired by a local cinema, which is kind of a smart move when people are used to dialing it up for movie times.

I just told my husband I was blogging about this. “It was the thing I would call up on the phone when I was bored with no friends around.” He made a face. “It’s really dumb and dorky.” He agreed. But you know what? It kept me company. It was a formative part of my pre-teen years. I was informed and probably slightly obsessed with it.

RIP, Cityline. Thanks for the memories.

DIY Pumpkin Pi

Hello all! I thought I’d switch things up and post a little how-to for everyone for a project I did this weekend. Behold! Pumpkin pi!

A craft pumpkin has fall silk flowers on top and the pi symbol carved into the front.

Oh my god, I am the dumbest. But how can I resist a pun like this?!

This was fun and easy to make. Let’s talk supplies.

A picture of a workbench with various tools and a stencil of a pi symbol.

Tools:

  • One craft pumpkin (we opted for the kind with the back pre-cut out)
  • A printed picture of the pi symbol (here’s one from Wikimedia! I resized it in Word)
  • Pins, like sewing pins
  • A pen
  • A sharp tool like an x-acto knife
  • One LED tea light (those craft pumpkins are WAY flammable)

Extra Credit:

  • Seasonal fake flowers/foliage
  • Ribbon
  • A wire cutter
  • Hot glue, zip ties, etc.
  • Maybe a drill!

 

Here’s the step by step for creating your own pumpkin pi!

A craft pumpkin with an open back sits on a workbench. Crafting materials surround it.

1. Print our your pi symbol after looking at your pumpkin and getting an idea of how tall you want that guy. My pumpkin was a medium size so my pi symbol is about 4.5″ tall. Snip around the pi symbol, cutting in some relief cuts (see picture below) since the pumpkin is slightly curved. Just makes the next step easier.

2. Position the pi symbol on the front of your pumpkin. Use a pin and press it into the craft pumpkin. You don’t need to worry about pressing the pin all the way inside. We just want it to produce a hole on the surface of the pumpkin. So maybe a third of the pin needs to be pressed in?

3. Start pushing in pins all around the pi symbol. You want to get a good outline going.

4. Once you’re sure you have the symbol totally outlined… pull them out. I know. It sounds crazy. Then remove the paper from the pumpkin. Here’s a photo of my pi symbol once I took the pins out.A pi symbol printed on paper with tiny dots outlining it.

See the holes? The holes create a “connect the dots” on your pumpkin.

5. Connect those dots! I used a ballpoint pen and just drew on the pumpkin. Nothing fancy there.

6. You should see a clear outline of a pi symbol on the surface of your pumpkin. Get your x-acto knife and carefully (CAREFULLY) start scoring the pumpkin along the outline you’ve traced. Work slowly. We worked best by scoring an inch or so before cutting in deeper to the pumpkin. The wall of the pumpkin was about 1/4″ thick, so be mindful of that, and don’t press too hard. You don’t want to bust off that middle part or break it.

7. Work around the symbol until you’ve free it! The edges may need some cleaning up so shave them down with your x-acto knife.

8. Put that LED tea light inside and enjoy!

EXTRA CREDIT:

I decided to arrange some fake flowers on the top with a nice green bow. This is more free form. GO FOR IT! but I’ll share some tips.

-Hot glue is your friend.

-So is a drill and a gentle hand! We bundled together the stems of the flowers and zip tied them together. We drilled a hole into the pumpkin’s stem very, very slowly (using a pilot hole) and once it was cleared we pushed the flowers through.

-The bow was zip tied to the flowers.

-Honestly, you could probably get away with just glueing a bow or flowers to it and not that fancy drill stuff. But if you want to try that, make sure you’re far enough down that you don’t just bust off the top of the stem.

-But heck – if you do, glue a flower on top! CRAFTING!

A craft pumpkin with a glowing pi symbol.

YOU DID IT. YOU MADE A FESTIVE, SEASONAL PUN THAT WILL DELIGHT AND IMPRESS! (Maybe!) CONGRATS!

A follow-up to “What happened to LaserMonks?”

Bless the internet. I am constantly amazed at the things I see this wonderful network of computers do.

I got a notification that a new comment had been posted on my LaserMonks post, which you can read in full here, and lo and behold – an update of sorts! A commenter going by “faithfjord” shared a news story from a couple years ago from reporter Keith Strange with “The Mount Airy News”. Mt. Airy is a little town in North Carolina with a population of about 10,000. How “faithfjord” found this article… well, now you know why this post opened with me marveling at the power of the internet. Anyway.

The article, which you can see here, details the entrepreneurial endeavors of Vann McCoy, which the article notes he felt the call to serve, moved to Wisconsin, joined a Cistercian monastery, and went by Father Bernard. Guys. This is Father Bernard McCoy, the former CEO of LaserMonks. It’s him. He doesn’t name the company in the article but discusses his previous role both in a business and in the church. It’s him.

He explains what happened. He’s reflective and contemplative. It’s not terribly detailed. He says essentially that running the business and the monastery was a tremendous amount of work shared by too few people. They decided to close up the monastery. It was a crossroads for him and he left on a sabbatical soon after.

Wow. I had my answer. The answer to a great mystery that occupied my idle thoughts from time to time for years. People would comment on my original post and I’d be thinking about them again. (It always got a fair amount of traffic, always people led here by the same question I had. Googling “What happened to LaserMonks?”) Sometimes, the question was prompted by changing my printer ink. Or tasting the jelly I used to order from them with the cartridges. (A really delicious jam called Trappist which does a seedless raspberry that is fantastic, by the by.)

I was telling a friend about this yesterday and they asked if I was satisfied. It’s hard to tie my feelings to satisfaction. I just… I get it. I get being done. I get being in the thick of it and saying, “Enough, it’s over, I can’t do this anymore.” Is there more to the story? Maybe. But… that’s okay. I don’t need more than this.

Reading this article… I saw the pieces of the story of LaserMonks I hadn’t fully considered before. The toll something like that takes on a person. Work, even good work like the kind monks were doing in Sparta, is hard. There’s a human cost when you throw yourself into something so aggressively and fully. It’s not sustainable. You lose yourself along the way. Even if it is for good reasons.

I also feel really relieved. It’s so helpful to see someone who has walked down different paths and had his share of success… but who’s also been so willing to change course. Father – er – Mr. McCoy started out studying physics and astrophysics, shifted to other courses of study, and then became a man of the cloth. Then LaserMonks. And when he moved back to Mt. Airy after his sabbatical, he started up a business making moonshine. MOONSHINE! Is that not great?! They make whiskey and other goods, too. (You can’t take the entrepreneur out of the man, can you?)

I feel like my adult life has taken such a weird course. I didn’t go to college out of high school. I’ve had a bunch of odd jobs, a couple careers, few side ventures, lived in many places… And hey. Now I can proudly mark “some college education” when I fill out surveys. It’s just validating to see someone else with that same sort of path. Seeing someone take the time to figure out their life… and try again with a new thing. Someone who seems successful and happy.

I didn’t expect the LaserMonks story to wrap up in a way that had such a profound effect on me. But considering the subject matter, should I be surprised?

The “Mt. Airy News” article wraps up with a quote from Mr. McCoy saying he hopes he can inspire others to live well. You have, sir. At least this lady. Thanks for your openness and honesty. If I ever find myself in Mt. Airy, I’d like to buy you a drink.

A Winner Every Game

The floor in front of a ticket game in an arcade with a large pile of tickets coming out of a machine.

I’m good at arcade games. I enjoy the thrill of the hunt and the cheap tchotchkes you can cash tickets in for. Or those games where you pick up a stuffed animals using a crane. It’s just fun figuring out the timing and there’s that WOOSH of success when you’ve conquered it. The photo above is a pile of tickets from a particularly good day where we went home with a bunch of toys to donate to Toys For Tots and an Amazon Echo from a Cut the Rope game. Not bad.

I’ve always had a knack for these things and I can’t quite tell you why… other than it’s an activity that brings me total joy. I give myself a budget and from there it’s a totally anxiety free experience. It’s something I’m moderately skilled at and I have fun with it. Sure I feel a little silly with this as a “skill” of mine. It’s nothing I’d ever list on a resume.

Fake screenshot of a resume for me with my gaming skills.

If I win, awesome, I get toys and candy and a sense of accomplishment. If I lose, well, I had fun playing and I still probably get a Dumdum lollipop out of the deal. I do well with it because I feel totally confident.

“Well, duh,” you say to yourself, “that’s literally anyone doing a fun thing they like.” But even with my hobbies I still have this pang of unease. When I paint, I worry it will be ugly or that I’ll mess it up. When I read books it snowballs into feeling bad about not reading more and then I’m not reading at all, I’m just thinking about reading while holding a book. Even now as I write this, I feel the pang. Is this worth talking about? Will anyone read it? Does it matter if no one does? How does this contribute to my ~writing career~?

I just wish I could have that feeling of total confidence and control like I do when I’m playing in an arcade. If this were some self-help blog, I’d list five ways to start synergizing my real time career expectations with my hobbies… or something. Throw the word ‘millennial’ in there about a half dozen times. But I don’t have five ways or even one. Hell, I don’t even know what millennial means anymore.

But I do know that I’ve identified the goal. I need to find my way to that place where I’m running around, and nothing feels like work because I’m laughing and having a good time. I need to feel like I can be a winner in every game I play. All I can do is try to be more comfortable and enjoy playing the game, whatever it might be. If I figure out a foolproof way to do that, I’ll let you know.

Taking the week off.

Hey everyone. I’ve been traveling a lot this last week and I’m currently trapped on a plane that is about 90 degrees. A toddler is whining and the man next to us is having what might be the loudest conversation I’ve ever heard. I’m jet-lagged and sleep is hours away.

No stories this week. See you next time.