Random Thoughts Unexpected Thoughts

7 Definite Conversation Stoppers

Advice about how to start conversations is everywhere. Google reports 49.5 million results on the term “conversation starters” and there’s an entire subset of the greeting card and stationary industries dedicated to “convo cards,” those cute little playing decks with leading questions and provocative themes that adults use when trying to avoid the three verbotens of friendly conversations. Since we’re not allowed to talk about things we care about like politics, religion or when the DC football team will get a clue and change its name, we talk about inanities suggested by strangers.

These strangers optimistically compile lists of “225 Quality Conversation Starters,” apparently based on the assumption that if you need these suggestions, you have no friends and plenty of spare time. Surely these fine questions will lead to long and interesting conversations and perhaps even greater understanding and world peace.

Much overlooked by etiquette experts and conversation specialists is the need to end a conversation before it even begins. The following scenarios will ensure that everyone within hearing finds something else to do and someone else to do it with:

  1. I’m writing a really interesting white paper at work and just finished the outline which I would like to share with you now.
  2. You know, I think people are way too hard on meteorologists. Weather stations have only existed here since the 1850s so I believe the science will harden into a precision prediction machine sometime later this century.
  3. Please don’t share this with anyone, but I got a hot stock tip today via email and I know you will want to buy in with me.
  4. Just between you, me, and the ceiling, there’s something wrong with the cheese and I’m horrified.
  5. I need a new manicurist but I’m afraid to break up with my current manicurist first because of a very complicated situation.
  6. There’s vomit on my shoe from either one of my children or my mother’s cat and I just do not have the time for this.
  7. Quality of life and time of day are totally interrelated for me.

Even easier than remembering these seven topics are the three themes of the list. You cannot fail to repel thoughtful, empathetic people by talking about outlines and theories, illegal insider trading, or making blanket statements that reveal your total inability to cope with life.

Since the key to starting a good conversation is to show genuine interest in people and demonstrate active listening, then your tactic to escape human contact must involve the strategic deployment of words that invoke horror or narcolepsy. Good luck.

Editor's Note Random Thoughts

How to Stay Warm Without Your Husband


I was not made for winter. Though I love being from Chicago, I don’t miss the blizzards, subzero temperatures and icy windstorms at all. Northern Virginia is a nice balance for me and my Californian husband. He gets the change of seasons, and I get a winter that is half as long as those of my youth and practically balmy since it only takes two minutes to layer up for a trip outside instead of twenty. I’ve really enjoyed the temperate weather here.

Until now.

20131025-154953.jpgIt’s been a very brisk autumn, and the freeze warnings seem to be arriving extremely early. Apparently Mother Nature has confused October with December and Northern Virginia with Illinois.

Ok, maybe not. It actually snowed already back by my parents, though it was just a dusting of flurries and not quite enough to send the kids home from school early. The Capital Weather Gang has a very beautiful explanation of why we’re facing this widespread cold snap, but intellectual knowledge does not warm my feet.

And tonight, neither does Roberto. He’s far away at a conference which means that fighting the cold is an entirely cuddle-free adventure this weekend. I pretty much count on frequent snuggles to shake me out of my shivers. Let’s hope these strategies help:

  • Turning on a heating pad to warm up the bed
  • Wearing his socks
  • Programming our brand new coffeemaker to make that first cup before I even get out of bed.
  • Wearing his robe
  • Setting the thermostat to 75

Any other ideas??

Kitchen Wisdom Random Thoughts

Sunday Stovetop


I’m planning a nice Sunday dinner of roasted chicken, asparagus and onions with garlic. I’ll make enough for leftovers. But first there’s the weekly “cook ahead” — a couple of basic items like rice and beans that it helps to have cooked and on hand for easy meals later in the week.

What do you cook ahead?

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Street Scenes

These wonderful photos remind me of my summer at Columbia College, where I took a photography class and spent hours wandering these streets.

Random Thoughts

Top 10 Romantic Movies for Geeks

Freshly Pressed pointed me towards this fabulous list of Romantic Movies for Geeks. I’ve seen them all except the Michael Cera ones. No, wait. I did see Juno. The other two have been floating in the tank of yearning but are nowhere near the top. What’s at the top? A little thing called Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.

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A World Where I Can Scratch My Butt

There is no such thing as over-sharing. And I’m not gonna lie either; it’s not just an itch but a fierce tickling sensation mixed with slight burning.

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Wild Virginia

As I write this, every branch of the pine tree outside our apartment shimmies, rests, then dances again. The long grass trembles, cluttered with leaves and small branches, while small birds hop along the wind, hungry and tired after the departure of Hurricane Irene. The sky has finally shifted from a stormy gray white to a brilliant blue. Though we were fortunate to be 100 miles inland, this storm pounded us just four days after the 5.8 quake that rattled our state and half the East Coast.

I’m beginning to understand why it took three tries to found a lasting colony here. In A Briefe and True Report of the New Found Land of Virginia, Thomas Harriot sang the praises of the fertile land where the Roanoke Colony was attempted, but there’s no erasing the challenges of this beautiful, demanding environment. With modern NASA technology and internet communication, news about the earthquake, its epicenter and its strength were available within two minutes. Warnings of the hurricane started nearly a week in advance and preparedness undoubtedly saved lives. How could a few hundred colonists ill prepared for even daily life survive any disasters four hundred years ago?

We know it was a struggle — our history books and movies tell the tales of starvation and war. The Jamestown Rediscovery Archeological Project studies at the original fort and continues to learn about how the settlers lived, persevered and eventually prospered.

I’m quite glad they did. Where else would I meet a camel cricket and a stinkfinger in the same month that an earthquake and a hurricane struck?



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A great headline… and cute picture

Me with a shot of La Opinion the day after Donovan's victory kick

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