the funny stuff, this and that

Weird Hobbies and North Dakota Conspiracies

It has been nearly six years since I first wrote up a cheeky little blog post about not believing North Dakota is a “real” state.  Six years later, and it continues to be my most-read post, and I also continue to get some really rude and yet really humorous comments from people who don’t know how satire works. (You can scroll to the bottom of that post to see them, along with every time I’ve linked to the definition of satire in response. Nobody ever seems to want to follow up after that. Strange.) Just this week it’s been more than 4 times as popular as anything else I’ve posted, and I’ve been purposely sending people the links about my novel.

photo taken by me in Fargo, North Dakota, 2007

I love a good conspiracy theory, which is why I wrote my own. I also got a kick out of posting all of the photos from my own visits to North Dakota along with the very tongue-in-cheek things I wrote. But I’ve realized over the years that I haven’t given enough space here to my other off-beat interests and weird hobbies, so maybe it’s been a little out of context. I’m going to try and fix that a little.

Things I enjoy include, in no particular order:

  • Weird roadside attractions.
  • Cryptozoology (and cryptozoologists!).
  • Conspiracy theories, particularly if they involve aliens, which, at some point, all of them eventually do.
  • Historical murder mysteries.
  • Folklore, especially about things related to everything above.
Michigan Upper Peninsula, 2016

I know that many of these things are related, and overlap, but culture is such a weird and wonderful thing, and humans come up with such clever ideas for things that I find myself fascinated. I will go out of my way to see a giant pickle barrel turned into a house, or to make a stop at the UFO Crash Museum while on a cross-country roadtrip. I will watch shows about the hunt for the Loch Ness Monster, and tales of haunted houses, because they’ve all got one thing in common– really interesting humans.

Foamhenge (near Natural Bridge, Virginia), 2007

Humans are, if nothing else, creative. We come up with fascinating stories about the world around us, and our tendency to share stories (and embellish them when we re-share) leads to all kinds of fun tales that linger in corners and forests and small towns. It’s why I love the podcast Lore, and why I have a real interest in where Foamhenge will be relocated, and why I will pay money to see a Mystery Spot. We create little mythologies around us all the time, in the name of art or nostalgia or just the fun of the story.

Roswell, New Mexico, 2014

So what about you? What’s your favorite folklore/conspiracy/roadside attraction?

Slight sarcasm, the funny stuff

Toiletgeddon 2012, or I Got My Parents a New Bathroom for Christmas. (The exploding toilet saga.)

Throwback Thursday! Exactly a year ago TODAY, I got my parents the MOST EXPENSIVE CHRISTMAS GIFT they will EVER get from me: a fully remodeled house! How did I do it? By exploding the upstairs toilet, of course! Read more… ^_^

Joanna Volavka

So here we are. It is December 5 and I finally have a story for you. I’ve already told it partly on twitter, but feel that it should be EXPLAINED. Here it is, as I wrote it, commentary added as needed.

…..
Monday.

3:28pm: Twitter I just got attacked by a TOILET.
3:40pm: Seriously, there is an INCH of water on the floor. I had to grab the rug and RUN.
3:42pm: And THEN I had to barricade the door with towels to save the hall carpet and THEN I had to run for rubber boots and wade back in.
3:42pm: Because SOMEONE had to shut off the water.
3:42pm: I deserve a metal. Seriously.

And here is where we take our first commentary break. Seriously, after I flushed it, the toilet started filling (it’s old, so this wasn’t entirely surprising) and then… then it DIDN’T STOP. It just kept…

View original post 785 more words

Joanna problems, the funny stuff

Sweaters are causing me SERIOUS PROBLEMS.

Someone needs to invent a better way to store sweaters than “stacking” them.

First of all, how are you supposed to fold a sweater anyway? They’re bulky and they slide around and it’s hard to know what to do with anything that isn’t a regular scoop neck and you can FORGET about folding a cowl-neck into any decent shape.

Then what do you DO with them, once they’re “folded” into some semblance of a rectangle? I’ve tried stacking them on a shelf. This DOES NOT WORK. Sure, they’ll sit there well enough for a while, but when you go to take one of them out of the stack EVERY OTHER SWEATER falls onto the floor. Even the sweaters in other stacks fall onto the floor. It’s like they all suddenly get all melodramatic: “You mean  you aren’t choosing ME today? The HORROR!” and then they faint.

You cannot hang sweaters in the closet, either, because the shoulders get those pokey corners sticking out of them and this is NOT 1986 and none of us is Madonna (except Madonna herself, who I am 99.999% certain does NOT read my blog), so POINTY SHOULDER SPIKES are NOT OKAY.

There needs to be a way of storing sweaters that doesn’t take up TOO much room, and where you can gently remove ONE of them to wear it without upsetting all of the others. Possibly they each need their own condo. It makes perfect sense! Condos come in nice groupings with individual spaces for things, and they are usually arranged in a relatively compact way. SWEATER CONDOS should DEFINITELY be a thing.

Do you hear me, internet? Get on that.

the funny stuff

Saturday Caturday: unicorn-cats… unicats?

Caspian the traumatized unicorn cat

Recently I picked up a product that I’d only seen online but found in a random little shop I was exploring… Inflatable unicorn horn FOR CATS. Because who doesn’t want a pet unicorn?

Leena the disgruntled unicorn

The horn had to be duct-taped twice, once for each cat to wear, because each one figured out how to hook a claw into it and pull it off of the head. They got a HUGE PILE of cat-cookies for this, dear reader, in case you are concerned for them.

With my pet unicorn-cat

This does lead me to wonder… is a unicorn-cat a unicat? A caticorn? I’m not sure, but either way it’s a really awesome little thing. For me, that is.

Slight sarcasm, the funny stuff

North Dakota Conspiracy, Revisited

In a strange and yet kind of AWESOME turn of events, my blog now appears only SECOND to Wikipedia when you search “North Dakota conspiracy” in Google. Seriously, go try it.

I noticed because my blog host tells me what search terms people use to find the blog, and there have been consistent (if in low frequency) hits on this post I wrote almost two years ago in which I posit my personal conspiracy theory, namely that I don’t believe in North Dakota.

For years now (at least a decade) I have been telling anyone and everyone that North Dakota is just a government conspiracy to house giant secret military bases, probably to protect us from Canada. And people keep insisting that they know people from North Dakota, to which I reply “THEY’RE JUST IN ON IT! DON’T TRUST THEM!”

Personal conspiracy theories are important. Much like Shakespeare, sometimes you need them at parties.

What? Don’t tell me you’ve NEVER been to a party where someone has a Shakespeare-related problem or where someone can’t quite remember the correct quotation? Am I the only person who can’t leave a “To be or not to be” just hanging there, unfinished?

Anyway, you never know when you’re going to need a good conspiracy theory in the course of a conversation, and North Dakota fits the bill.

Incidentally, I have found that I am not the only one. Just keep digging through that Google search, and you’ll find things like this

………………….

DISCLAIMER: Believe me, this post and the original North Dakota post (and a good number of other things on this blog) were written in satire…. and yet people keep coming here. I love the internet.

the funny stuff, zoo stuff

Some funny things from the zoo

This weekend J and I went to the zoo with some friends from out of town. Since you’ve been inundated with enough animal and nature photos lately, here are some just fun (or funny) ones. Maybe I’m the only one entertained by them, but hey, that’s all that matters!

Zoo J in a keeper cut-out

OH NO, there’s a GIANT HAND coming out of that kid’s FACE! Maybe J should’ve looked at the front of this photo-op thing first…

Zoo, orangutan lounging

Chillin’ in the sun…

Zoo, monkey on a hippo

Dear Monkey: That thing you’re sitting on that you’re treating like a rock is not a rock. That thing is a HIPPO and they can be very BITEY.
(Mixed exhibit with monkeys and pygmy hippos made for some entertainment.)

Zoo group photo

The whole group of us!

photography, the funny stuff, wildlife watching

Hiking in Blue Sky: aka The Lake is a Lie

Blue Sky welcome sign

Maybe instead I should say the lake was not what we expected. At any rate, the other day, J and I broke out my (until then) unused Hikes of Southern California book and picked one that was relatively close to home. It was in the eastern part of the county, at a place called Blue Sky Nature Reserve, and a level 1 to 2 (so “kid friendly”) and described an amble along one of the river beds that used to be all over this part of the state, until they were dammed for water sources. (This should have been our clue; after all, we JUST learned about that stuff a couple of weeks ago at Casa Grande, where the entire landscape changed after the water was diverted.)

But I digress.

Blue Sky wooded trail

The first part of the hike was as promised, and we descended into a little valley with a small creek, tons of birds and other wildlife, and a few early wildflowers.

Blue Sky tree branches from fire

The area fell victim to fire back in 2003 and many of the old trees are still standing, their blackened, bare branches curled against the clear sky and reaching out from the new growth on other trees. It’s a little strange, but beautiful nonetheless.

Blue Sky honeybees
Beeees

Then, as the book had described, the path forked and we could choose to go left to Lake Ramona, or right to Lake Poway. We chose left to Ramona and kept walking down the (now wider) track. After a while we passed (very quickly) under a tree that was vibrating with the hum of thousands of honey bees, flying throughout its canopy. Finally the path came out of the trees and opened into its main portion.

And we saw the climb.

Blue Sky hiking to the dam, Lake Ramona

In an effort to be optimists, we thought that SURELY this hike wasn’t up to that dam WAY UP THERE (see it? almost in the exact center?) and the path seemed to curve around to the left and away, so we started.

Slowly the slope increased, and we gained elevation, and the path doubled back above itself…. and over halfway there we realized we were DEFINITELY hiking to the dam.

Blue Sky, the hike back

Dear California Hike Guidebooks: When you SAY “hike to a lake” but you really mean “climb a mountain to a dam,” that’s a LITTLE misleading.

Blue Sky at Lake Ramona

After a last push up the final incline, we finally made it to the man-made Lake Ramona. It’s lovely and blue, but still… just strange. At least the view was spectacular, and we were actually above (the also man-made) Lake Poway, so we could see it across the valley.

Blue Sky western fence lizard

We also saw some really interesting wildlife, including a type of hawk we didn’t recognize, some songbirds, a woodpecker, several types of lizard (including the western fence lizard in this photo), plus evidence of snakes (they leave trails in the dust– see below) and possible tarantula burrows (which are actually kind of fascinating).

Blue Sky snake trail

Overall the hike was definitely worth it, just not AT ALL what we were anticipating. Both of us kept remarking how glad we were that we wore trail shoes and packed sunscreen, despite the “gentle, shaded” description. The rest of my photos (along with some of wildflowers) are in this album, if you’re interested. ^_^

the funny stuff

Advertising: YOU’RE DOING IT WRONG.

Well, doing it badly, in any case.

I was going to write about our MUCH belated holiday party from this weekend today, but NO.

If you know me well, you know I don’t think much of most ads, especially when I can tell I am the target audience and feel that THEY are pandering to me. This is not one of those cases.

While watching a recorded TV show tonight (I don’t watch live TV other than sports if I can help it, mostly because of the aforementioned ad-induced-irritation), I happened to catch the last ten seconds of an ad at the end of a commercial break.

Of a woman leaning back into a pool.

AFTER TAKING STOOL SOFTENER.

Let this sink in for just a moment.

Are you with me yet?

…..

WHO LET THIS WOMAN IN THE POOL???

I had to go back and watch it again (twice) to make sure.

PRO TIP: If you’re going to ADVERTISE something like STOOL SOFTENER, maybe using a POOL isn’t the best IMAGE.

Just a thought.

Want to see for yourself? I couldn’t find the ad on a video streaming site to embed it here, but you can see it at the company’s website. Click the tab marked “Video” and watch. You’re welcome.

the funny stuff, Travel

Driving to Arizona: No map? No problem! Unless you get detoured onto a historic highway…

In the age of the GPS, I haven’t bothered in quite a while to buy a roadmap. I haven’t needed one in a long time, and even when I’ve lost GPS signal I have been either close enough to home not to need it, or in a relatively small place where it is difficult to get too lost. The outer banks of North Carolina are an example: you’ve got very limited options until you’re driving straight into the ocean, so just keep moving along, all right?

Arizona roadtrip, J driving

When heading to the Phoenix area for the renaissance festival the other weekend, J and I looked up directions and headed out onto the open road sans map. You might think this is a little crazy, except that from San Diego to Phoenix is almost a straight shot on I-8. In fact, we were actually going to Casa Grande, which IS pretty much a straight shot off of the 8. We’d researched and looked at a map at home and knew the best tactic was to fill the gas tank near the Arizona border and then just keep going across the desert as quickly as possible. Plus we had our trusty GPS!

Arizona desert roadtrip

Interstate 8 goes across southern California in an almost due-east (plus some local meandering) fashion. Growing up on the east coast, I never realized that the border between the US and Mexico is at a rather significant slant. Neither did J. Keep this in mind, but if you want to see for yourself, go map it.

So down the interstate we went, listening to the radio and enjoying the scenery.

Arizona roadtrip, back on the insterstate

And then we needed a pit stop.

There was an exit with “Services” signs (including a gas station, which means bathrooms!), so we exited and went along the off-ramp and found ourselves at another stretch of road.

Arizona roadtrip, historic route 80

It was an older highway, patched with tar, and no indication of which direction the gas station might be. We turned to the right and drove a couple of miles.

Nothing.

Arizona roadtrip, historic route 80 Jacumba

So we turned around and went the other direction. Still not much, except some old houses and such, but I noticed the sign: Historic Route 80. I’m a sucker for historic, scenic routes, and we could still SEE the interstate at that point, so we decided that since a good roadtrip always involves detours and adventures, we’d give the old road a try.

Arizona roadtrip, old house

As we rambled down Historic 80, we started seeing small farms and old stone buildings and a dark metal fence that kept getting closer and closer. Wondering aloud about the fence, it suddenly struck both of us: we were looking into Mexico!

Arizona roadtrip, MX border fence

After about ten miles, we reached another entrance to the interstate, plus a rest stop where we could pull over for a bit. I bought a map then, and sure enough, we had driven as close along the border as you can.

Arizona desert sunset, orange

After that, we crossed the mountains and reached the Arizona line, then quickly passed into the wide flats of the Arizona desert. When land is that flat and dry, certain… smells… permeate the air. We knew every time we drove within ten miles of a ranch, for sure.

Arizona roadtrip, desert cactus sunset

For a while, it was exciting to see the tall cacti that we’ve mostly seen in movies pop up on the side of the road. And the sunset was really spectacular behind the purple mountains. (And now I have seen Purple Mountain Majesties, though not so much of the fruited plain. Mostly it was sand. Maybe further north and east and not Arizona?)

Arizona roadtrip, pink sunset over desert

But yes, the desert is beautiful. And large. As we discovered yet again on the drive back home, wherein our GPS took us to (literally) the middle of nowhere, and no map could have prevented it. But that’s another story for another day.

Joanna problems, the funny stuff

Pop Quiz at the DMV

Today I went to get new license plates for my car. The old plates expired while the car was in storage, so when I got it back two weeks ago, I started the process of getting them. First I had to get it repaired; it needed a new belt and a new sensor, and that was a little expensive, but really not as bad as it could’ve been. Thanks to a friend’s recommendation, I went to an honest car repair place: they only charged me for work they actually did, so, for instance, one thing they did only took 20 minutes, therefore they only charged me 1/3 of their hourly rate for it. I appreciate things like that.

Next was the smog check and certification. Oh, California, and your eco-friendliness. I’d had the car smog checked once before in order to get military base stickers, but it had been too long ago to count toward the new license plates now, so I had to go back yesterday. I found a walk-in place about five minutes from home and was done in half an hour.

So then today at the DMV….

I’d made an appointment, for which I was very grateful as it meant I got to be in the very short line instead of the really long, walk-in line. When I got there, I hadn’t filled out all of my paperwork yet, but that was okay because they would inspect my car while I filled out the pages. I got all of that done, and got registered for new plates…. and then thought to ask a pertinent question:

“By chance, do I need to have a California driver’s license, too?”

The laws have recently (since I last moved) changed, so that military dependents must either be residents of their sponsor’s (so, J’s) home state, OR they have to update it every time they move. Apparently I now fall under the new law.

SURPRISE! I needed a new driver’s license.

The woman helping me was super nice, though; she handed me a new ticket, having put me into an open appointment slot, and I didn’t even wait three minutes to be called. Because I had a military ID, I didn’t need to go home for a birth certificate (which I haven’t quite located yet in the unpacking), and they moved me quickly through the process. They took my fingerprint and my signature and my money and my photo.

And THEN I found out I had to take a written test.

POP. QUIZ.

They asked if I wanted to study, but I decided to wing it. Thirty-six questions, of which I was allowed to miss up to six. Yikes.

The test was mostly logical stuff, but some of it was California-specific, and some of it required me to consider the physics of my car. But my favorite questions were the passive-aggressive ones:

Of the following, which is true about tail-gating (driving very close to the car ahead of you):
a) it makes other drivers frustrated and angry
b) it is safer because it keeps other drivers from “cutting you off”
c) it minimizes collisions 

Seriously. There were a couple of questions like that, mostly about driving too slow and creating hazards, and where to drive in relation to other cars (Beside them so the other drivers can see you?), and about merging.

Anyway, I passed. In fact, I only missed two– apparently it is illegal in the state of California to smoke in the car if there are any minors in the car with you. I don’t smoke so I wouldn’t know. And I missed a physics-related one. I think my favorite thing was that they just assumed I’d pass and took my photo and money first. Or maybe that’s how they force you to go through with it. No practice tests.

I also registered to vote.

So, I guess now I’m officially a California resident. Go me.