Thursday, May 26, 2011

Pet Peeve of the Week: One-Uppers

Over the past few weeks I've been attending more social events than usual, despite the fact that I prefer to be alone or with a small group of friends. I do this every once in a while because if I didn't, there's a good chance I'd lose all social skills. I also do it because even though I usually dread meeting new people and/or having to be "on" for a few hours, once I'm actually in the situation I've been dreading, I do enjoy myself, and afterward I'm always glad (and proud) that I stepped outside of my hermit-like comfort zone.

But there is a downside to these little outings, and it's dealing with "one-uppers." You know exactly who I'm talking about. The people who -- no matter what you or anyone else involved in a conversation might be saying -- feel the need to top it somehow. Kristen Wiig plays a classic one-upper ("Penelope") on Saturday Night Live. One-uppers HAVE to say something more impressive, or outlandish, or even unrelated to the topic at hand... just so long as they get the spotlight back on themselves. If you pay attention, you can actually see them squirming in their seats and approaching a near-panicked state when they're dying to regain control of a conversation by way of a comment that's sure to blow everyone listening away with its sheer awesomeness. They cannot take it when someone less worthy has the floor. This behavior would completely push me over the edge if it wasn't so pathetic, and therefore kind of funny.

I admittedly still get worked up by attention-seekers, though. About 10% of the time I'm not mature enough to just let people like that get away with acting like they're God's gift. I think the reason why is because I've met some truly impressive people in my lifetime, and they're the ones who would absolutely NEVER toot their own horn. Let's take my friend KG, for example. I went to grad school with her, and our class was full of extremely accomplished twenty- and thirtysomethings. Some of those students felt like they had to make sure that everyone knew just how special they were, whereas others hardly ever shared information about themselves. KG was in the latter group, and as the years went by (I've known her now for over a decade) and I slowly but surely learned more about all the places she'd traveled and lived and everything she'd done before coming to school, I simply could not comprehend how she'd be able to just smile and nod when in a conversation with crazy one-uppers who'd brag about some place they'd visited in a tone that suggested the rest of us were country bumpkins. Once I knew KG's background, I almost wanted to jump in and knock the one-uppers down a few pegs on her behalf!

I guess some people just don't feel the need for validation from others -- they're confident and secure in their accomplishments and that's it. Whereas the one-uppers aren't really as impressed with themselves as they may seem to be when they're blabbing on and on. They need others to be like, "Wow, that's so cool!" and fawn all over them in order to be at peace. So they surround themselves with people who do just that. Whereas the most successful people I've met
(and I don't mean that in merely a financial sense) seek out other confident, interesting people who they can learn from. They also tend to listen more than they speak, no matter the situation. And they're not above realizing that everyone has knowledge or interesting tales to dispense -- from C-level executives to barbers to bartenders to cab drivers.

The reality is that the day will probably never arrive when one-uppers no longer faze me. But hopefully it will get easier not to sink to their level and say something snarky to put them in their place. I'll just have to perfect the art of smiling and nodding -- or maybe I'll go the totally opposite route and start lavishing praise and adoration on any one-uppers I encounter. That could be kind of fun, right?

- e

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Out with the (Really) Old

Those of you who are connected to me on Twitter might have caught a message this past weekend about how I'd discovered cans of soup and vegetables with 2005 expiration dates in my cupboard. Yes, I am embarrassed about this.

The full story is that my husband and I decided to do an overhaul of our diets and went on a crazy-big shopping spree at Whole Foods on Sunday. (Remember that I normally get our groceries delivered from Peapod, so we're rarely confronted with aisles and aisles of food options. It was overwhelming, to say the least.)

When we returned home I emptied out all levels of our sole kitchen cupboard... which was when I was met with a few surprises. On top of the several cans of stuff that had either expired in 2005, 2007, 2009, or earlier this year, a tin of jam had leaked god knows when, and as a result there was a thick layer of black and sticky goop surrounding it. It took quite a while to clean that mess up, and involved a knife, a lot of paper towel, and several combinations of goop-be-gone sprays.

I went through my fridge as well, but I'm happy to report that aside from a tub of cottage cheese that was past due, most everything in there was still edible.

After I'd toss all the bad stuff and set aside a few cans of things we don't eat anymore (to give to a food shelter), my challenge became trying to figure out the best way to arrange all of our new purchases in the cupboard. You see, my husband is one of those people who does not think something exists unless he can see it. He's the guy who opens a new carton of OJ if the not-nearly-empty/already-open one is, say, hiding behind the water pitcher. He fully admits to this, but it makes it tough when there's literally no way to display everything we bought at the front of our shelves. Some things had to go in the back, and therefore he's going to have to remember that 1) we bought them in the first place, and 2) he has to spend a few seconds figuring out where they are. He's been traveling ever since our shopping excursion and is back tonight, so we'll see how he does with it all this weekend.

Here's how the cupboard look now. The shelves are pretty deep, and lots of goodies are hiding in the back. Let's hope it's not 2017 before we see them again.

- e

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

User Error

When I worked for The Man, I used to head up a bunch of different types of customer research projects and usability tests for web-based products and sites. We'd do one-on-one interviews, we'd have a research firm videotape customers while they used our banking applications, we'd run focus groups where we watched and listened to people discuss our company and its products from behind a one-way mirror, and then we'd also hold usability tests in this same fashion. For a usability test, a computer at the research facility would be loaded with a beta (think "draft") version of one of our web sites -- something we hadn't yet launched and that usually included a new type of feature or functionality -- and the moderator would ask the interviewees to perform certain tasks. Time and time again, a hyperlink or tab that WE all thought was completely obvious on the site (usually something like "Log out" or "Pay bills") would be missed by almost every research participant. The site's designers and coders would get defensive and blame it on "user error." Which is a polite way of saying, "That person's an idiot."

"User error" is a real term, which was originally meant to diagnose or explain technical difficulties that weren't actually the fault of the computer system in question. Let's say you called in to your bank because you're POSITIVE you're using the right password for their online banking site, but it keeps blocking your access. You have a customer service rep on the line and you're going through every step with them... and then you realize you've had the caps-lock key on. That's an example of user error. Another classic one is when there's a message that reads "Touch any key to continue," and people call in to tech-support lines because they can't find the "any" key.

"User error" came to take on a snide and sarcastic meaning over the years, however, and is something that those in the tech field say when they want to lightheartedly insult each other. Like suppose I accidentally hit "send" on a half-written email to my boss and had copied five of my co-workers... I might hear someone a few cubicles from me holler "User error!" over the wall. (If you get a kick out of this sort of thing, you should check out the stories behind PEBKAC, PICNIC, and the Army/Navy slang ID-TEN-T.)

The reason why I'm writing about all of this is because yesterday I fell victim to perhaps one of the most embarrassing types of user errors. I could not -- could not -- figure out how to turn my husband's computer on.

So here's the situation: On Sunday night, I downloaded Skype (a computer-based call and video application) onto my husband's Mac because my laptop's operating system is too old to run the version that supports video calling. I needed to do this because on Monday at 1 PM I'd been invited to have a video chat with the fine folks at the MTV Movies blog about the one-year anniversary of Lost's season finale. So I got everything working just fine on Sunday night and thought I was ready for Monday's interview.

My husband had shut down his computer Sunday night and then on Monday morning he went to work and I had a 10 AM film screening. I returned home a little before noon, walked my dog, and then went downstairs to my husband's "studio" (he somehow got one of the three bedrooms in our condo for himself) to make sure Skype was still running OK. This is my husband's setup:

As you can see, he's got a LOT of crazy music-related equipment and digitizers and god-knows-what all over the place -- which is why I hardly ever step foot in this room. I don't want to mess anything up or break something. It's all interconnected, including speakers that run out of something that's not the computer itself. Sunday night I had tested Skype to ensure the audio input and output worked. But on Monday, with about 50 minutes to go before my interview, I realized I wasn't exactly sure how to even turn my husband's Mac on. Every time I'd been on it before, it was already booted up.

There was no Power button or switch that I could see on the front of the monitor or on the keyboard. And the computer IS the monitor -- there's no other piece of hardware for it. I reached around and ran my hands all over the back of the monitor (which, as it's situated, is impossible to physically turn around, so I was kind of working blindly) but felt nothing. I figured that maybe a power switch on one of the music-related gizmos was what I needed to use, but didn't want to touch anything unless I was sure. So I left my husband voicemails on his cell and at his office, sent him a text and an email, and hoped he'd get back to me quickly.

But he didn't.

The minutes ticked down and I started getting nervous. I Googled "How to turn on a Mac G4" ... which is actually NOT what his computer even is (it's an iMac). So that's probably why none of the sites that came up provided any guidance. D'oh!

When it hit 12:30, I gave in and sent an urgent message to both the work and personal email addresses of our friend CH, aka The Mac God. Within 10 minutes he'd written back and explained that the power button was in fact on the back of the monitor, but easy to miss if you couldn't actually see it. He included these pictures.

I went down to the studio again and finally found the "button," which I put in quotes because this thing was hardly indented on the back of the monitor at all. I mean, it's ridiculous. Yes, I'm an idiot for not knowing how to turn the computer on in the first place, but it really is a bad design. THIS WAS NOT A CASE OF USER ERROR! Don't even try to tell me that it was.

Then I had another problem: It's now 12:45 and the computer is booted up... but the Skype application is nowhere to be found. (I do know how to search for files, applications, etc... trust me, it had vanished). So I had to re-download the entire app, redo all of the settings, email and leave voicemails for my MIA husband to tell him NOT to call me because the sound of the phone ringing would interrupt my video session, and then had approximately 1 minute to spare before MTV contacted me through Skype.

So that was my afternoon yesterday. The good news is that the video interview went well and was really fun. I think they're going to post it next Monday (May 23 is the anniversary of the Lost finale) and I will include it on Long Live Locke at that point.

The lesson I learned through all of this was to not wait until the last minute to ensure anything having to do with technology is set up correctly. I shudder to think how lame I would have looked at 1 PM if MTV had called me because they couldn't find me on Skype and I had to say, "Um... I can't figure out how to turn the computer on."

Three cheers to CH for coming to my rescue!

- e

Friday, May 13, 2011

Book Review: Her Fearful Symmetry, by Audrey Niffenegger

As you all know, The Time Traveler's Wife is one of my top-five favorite books, and back in the summer of 2007 -- about a month before I stopped working for The Man -- I had the great pleasure of meeting the novel's brilliant and quirky author, Audrey Niffenegger. She gave a speech at the Chicago History Museum, and my motivation to get published was reignited after hearing about the ups and downs of her writing journey.

I had been utterly shocked to learn that she'd gotten thirty-six rejection letters from agents. I mean, hers was one of the best books I've ever read, and so I sat in the audience thinking, "Good God, how could anyone not be immediately sucked in to her story? How could her publishing rollercoaster ride possibly bode well for the rest of us aspiring authors who don't have nearly as killer of an idea?" But instead of losing all hope for my own book, I just reset my expectations and made peace with the fact that the process was probably going to take significantly longer than I'd hoped.

And it did.

Fast forward to the end of August 2009 -- more than two years after I saw Audrey speak about The Time Traveler's Wife and had left Corporate America to attempt to start a writing career (and yes, I know, I know, I still need to finish my Book-Writing Timeline...). My agent called with news that he'd sold my book to Wiley. A month later, I was in the depths of working with a lawyer to review my contract, and had to back out of plans with my friend CM to attend a signing event for Audrey's second novel, Her Fearful Symmetry. I was desperately sad to miss it, especially because I felt like it would've been cosmically cool -- like a bookend experience of sorts -- to be able to hear Audrey speak again just as I was officially starting down the path of becoming a published author. But it just couldn't work out that evening.

CM, however, still went. And she bought a copy of Audrey's second book for me. When she went to get it signed, she shared that I'd just gotten a book deal and was bummed not to be able to attend the event because I'd enjoyed her presentation in 2007 so much. Apparently Audrey acted genuinely excited about my news -- not like she remembered me or anything, but just truly happy to hear that one of her fans was going to be writing a book of her own. And so this is what she inscribed on my copy of Her Fearful Symmetry:

In case you can't make it out, it says: "For Erika, with best wishes on the occasion of her book deal." How cool is that?!?! If you've ever heard her speak then you know that the wording of her message to me is her trademarked mix of offbeat and slightly more formal than you might expect. And as she considers herself first and foremost a visual artist, it was no surprise that her handwriting is gorgeous. (I'd gotten The Time Traveler's Wife signed in 2007, but she didn't write a note with it so it didn't elicit quite the same thrill.)

So I had the book in my possession when it first came out... but, alas, no time to read it. But now, finally -- after almost two more years passed -- I am proud to say I finished it.

When I saw Audrey speak in 2007, she was in the midst of writing Her Fearful Symmetry, was living in London, and had taken a gig giving tours at the famous Highgate Cemetery, as that where her new story was based. Although she admitted to being nervous about the overwhelming expectations for her follow-up novel, she was of course too polite to mention the amount of her advance. But I'd read it was $5 million. Talk about pressure! (To give you some perspective, my advance was waaaay less than 1% of that figure, as are the vast majority of advances. The $100,000 advance Audrey received for The Time Traveler's Wife was also ginormous. Imagine how she felt when she received fifty times that figure for her follow-up. Lordy.)

OK, so now onto the book. This is a tough one to review without giving key points away. Aside from the cemetery setting and the fact that Audrey had mentioned the book was going to be about twins, I knew nothing going into Her Fearful Symmetry. And I strongly believe this is the way anyone else should approach the novel as well. Therefore I will only describe the plot very generally, and then mention a few of my overall reactions before leaving you to decide whether or not you think it'll be worth your time.

I enjoyed approximately 7/8 of the book. Once again, Audrey created a world and characters that I immediately wanted to spend time with and learn more about. The way the twins were described made them seem like almost otherworldly creatures -- and they're not just normal twins, they're mirror twins. That means one of the girls -- in this case, the meeker and prone to illness Valentina -- has all of her organs on the opposite side of where they should be. The dominant and more protective twin, Julia, doesn't have this problem, though she does seem to be plagued with mental issues. The main one being that she literally can't stand to be apart from Valentina. Ever. That uber-creepiness is a better conveyed in this alternate cover to the left that I found online when preparing this post. I can just see Saoirse Ronan playing the twins if the book ever gets adapted for the big screen. She can look just like she did in Hanna.

The twins are pretty much useless -- they've dropped out of college and are living with their parents in Lake Forest, Illinois, doing jack squat. But then they are bequeathed their aunt Elspeth's apartment in London, located next to Highgate Cemetery. The only condition of ownership is that their parents aren't allowed to step foot in the place. See, Elspeth and the twins' mom, Edie, were also twins, and had a falling out decades ago that remains a mystery to the family. The twins only saw Elspeth once when they were babies, and have no memories of her.

But since Valentina and Julia have literally nothing else to do, they decide to give the UK a whirl for a year, move into their dead aunt's place, and see how it goes. We get to meet two of the other people in the apartment complex as well: Martin, a crossword-puzzle creator who cannot go outside because of his crippling OCD; and Robert, who was Elspeth's much-younger romantic partner, and who just so happens to have all of her personal diaries that most likely contain the secret she and Edie have been hiding. From the beginning there is a strong indication that something is afoul with the whole situation.

The 1/8 of the book that I didn't like was all at the end, which was predictable but at the same time extremely lazy and disappointing, if that makes any sense. While I found all of the characters intriguing and I was quickly drawn into the story, I was in no way moved by Her Fearful Symmetry like I was with The Time Traveler's Wife. I wanted Clare and Henry to find happiness so badly -- I was rooting for them so hard -- and therefore I was a freaking MESS with TTTW came to a close. There were no such emotions tied to the twins' saga. Though I thought all of the characters in HFS were interesting and I was compelled to keep turning the pages, no one in the story was particularly likable. And that's about all I can say without ruining anything. Do I think the book's worth reading? Yes. Just be prepared to get angry about the ending.

The comments will be a Spoilers Allowed Zone, so if you have read Her Fearful Symmetry and would like to add your own thoughts, you know what to do. I skimmed through some of the reviews on Amazon and was not surprised to see that Audrey's fans were very much split into thirds -- the Loved Its, the Hated Its, and -- like me -- the Despised the Ending But Otherwise Mostly Liked Its.

- e

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Lemony Fresh

I try to avoid writing about anything too girly on this site, since I know I have readers of both the male and female persuasions. But even though there probably aren't too many dudes out there who care about scented lotions because they're not in the business of smelling like a Strawberry Shortcake doll, I assure you that there IS an overall lesson in today's post that applies to everyone. So here we go.

There is a lemon lotion sold by C.O. Bigelow, a brand also carried at Bath & Body Works, that is seriously the best-smelling lotion of all time. It's sold in a pretty big jar for around $20 for 8 ounces. I love this stuff. All I need is a whiff of it and I am instantly in a better mood.

A few months ago I was at my Grandma's place, and she was raving about a lotion my mom had gotten her, but was sad because her tube of it was almost out. I opened up the cap and was astonished that it smelled EXACTLY like the C.O. Bigelow cream. My mom didn't remember where she'd found it. I took note of the brand, J.R. Watkins, and the design of the tube.

Imagine my surprise when a week later I was at my second home, Walgreens, and a bottle on the lowest shelf of the Lotions & Potions aisle (not its official name) caught my eye. It was the same brand as my Grandma's lotion.

They didn't have it in the tube form she preferred, but it was about $9 for 11 ounces. That's right -- less than half the price of the Bigelow cream... for more product. I'd already ordered my Grandma the Bigelow jar for her birthday, so I decided to try the Watkins brand for myself.

All in all, the Bigelow cream is still better. Is it Twice The Price better, though? Probably not. The scent of the two lotions is exactly the same, but Bigelow's does rub in more quickly and smoothly. It made me wonder if one of them ripped off the other, so I did a bit of research. Yet it looks like both of these companies got their start around the same time between 1868-1870 (yes, they're old brands, so you know they're doing something right!). And Watkins was doing the whole "au naturel" thing waaaaay before it become trendy. Interesting.

All of this got me thinking about a big lesson I initially learned during my summer internships in the marketing department at GMC Truck in the mid-'90s, and then was reminded of again when I registered for my wedding. The lesson is that for many products, there exists an absolutely identical substitute under a different brand name for a much lower cost. I remember being shocked -- seriously, shocked -- to learn that GMC and Chevy trucks were made on the exact same assembly line and all that was different was the logo, the front grill, and a few other teeny details. (This is not just a General Motors phenomenon, by the way.) Then when I was picking out items for our wedding registry I noticed that a large percentage of what was available at Crate and Barrel was also at Williams Sonoma... but for a much higher price. What a scam!

This is, of course, the whole idea behind generic and store brands -- Walgreens or CVS oil-blotting sheets are the same thing as the Clean & Clear ones that cost a few bucks more. Just like the Walgreens body lotion is the same as the Vaseline lotion... and on and on. In the case of my lemony lotions there was a perceptible difference between the two products, but at least now I know that a cheaper alternative exists for me to get my Lemon Scent Bliss on. Feel free to call me Lemon Meringue from here on out. Now I just need to get a pet frog and name him Frappé.

- e

Monday, May 09, 2011


Yesterday I was walking down the street with headphones on, jamming to some tunes, enjoying the nice, sunny afternoon. My peace was interrupted by a car jam-packed with burly-looking dudes (not kids, but adults) who were screaming and pointing out the window at me, "Watch out -- behind you!"

I thought they yelled something about a dog on the loose, too, but regardless, I stopped in my tracks and looked behind me with what I can only assume was a freaked-out expression on my face. I also might have jumped in the air a little bit.

There was nothing there, and the group of guys burst into laughter and applause, high-fived each other, and sped away.

My first instinct was to be mad about this, but then I was like, "Whatever." The fact is that it was kind of funny -- albeit mean-spirited -- and it's not like I'm some old lady with a walker who could've had a heart attack. But the whole episode did get me thinking about how there are very few pranks I can recall ever being involved in.

Back in high school there was a once-a-year powder-puff football game where the junior and senior girls played each other, and in the nights leading up to it there would be the TP-ing of yards and whatnot. I was along for the ride in at least one of those adventures. And I do believe there were a few crank calls I was party to that were funny at the time, though probably pretty lame to whomever was on the receiving end (I think we would always just hang up rather than say anything). But there were never truly nasty goings-on like egging, dropping/exploding dog-poo in a bag on someone's porch, or any of the other more popular and mainstream mischievous childhood acts I can think of. Not even any ding-dong-ditching. I was pretty innocent on the whole.

Usually I was more interested in harmless experiment-type exercises, which I don't really think could be considered true pranks. Like when my brother and I would drive around in the pedal car and try to see who could get more people to wave to us. Or when me and my friends would run up to random people at gas stations or in parking lots and greet them with nonsense phrases like "Hello Yellow!" to see what their reactions were and whatnot. I am realizing how dumb this is all sounding, so I will stop. But if you were ever a mean prankster, don't tell me about it because I will think less of you. Really, I will.

And to those full-grown men in the car who scared me yesterday: Yes, I laughed it off. But just remember, karma's a bitch!

- e

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Bossypants: Hate the Cover, Love the Book

I've always felt like something was wrong with me because I'd never been a huge Tina Fey fan like so many other smart women seem to be. (And yes, by saying "other" I am implying that I consider myself to be a smart woman, too. Please don't tell me if you think otherwise.) In particular, most female writers I know hold Fey up on a pedestal and consider her not only a role model, but a hero.

It's not that I ever disliked Tina -- I thought she was good on Saturday Night Live's Weekend Update, was surprised to REALLY like Baby Mama (?!?!), and I enjoy 30 Rock. Even though Liz Lemon annoys the crap out of me, I realize Tina's the one who created the overall show and writes lines for all of the characters (though I do think part of my feelings stem from associating Tina too much with Liz). But for whatever reason, there's just been something about Fey I didn't connect to. Even now, after I've read Bossypants and have seen her making the publicity rounds on the late-night shows, she still kind of rubs me the wrong way.

All of this is why I was totally shocked to have LOVED her book. I mean, I LOVED IT. I read it straight-through in one sitting (or "one lying" I should say... I read it in bed) -- I think maybe it took five hours. And there wasn't a dull moment during that time, either. To be extra-cliche, I DID laugh... and I DID cry. And therefore I can't recommend Bossypants highly enough (though I do think women will enjoy it significantly more than men -- there's just a lot of female-centric stuff in it, what can I say?).

I just wish she had gone with a different cover because I cannot stand looking at that freakish image. Seriously. WHY?!?!

Anyway, the book is a series of fairly disconnected chapters (I think some were actually published separately as stand-alone essays at different points in the past) that cover almost all of Tina's life. What I liked is that I felt I really learned a lot about her and "the biz," yet she never resorted to trash-talking anyone, though I'm absolutely positive she could have. She also kept several personal things private, which is quite rare nowadays with "the juicier and more scandalous, the better" mindset that has pervaded memoirs and the media in general.

In another break from memoir tradition, she didn't puff herself up to be something more than she's not. If anything, there was an overabundance of self-deprecating humor, which of course had the effect of making me (and I can only assume the vast majority of other readers) feel like she really IS quite the awesome chick. Awesome because she is totally and completely normal. She had a good childhood, loves her parents, didn't do anything too crazy while growing up, and was able to make a living by following her passion. She comes off as level-headed and able to keep things in perspective. Her personality and humor is darker than I was expecting, but I found it refreshing that she copped to so many feelings of insecurity, anger, and worry. I knew I was reading her words -- not a ghostwriter's. And while I still may not be a card-carrying member of the Tina Fey Fan Club, I certainly see her in a different light now, and have more respect for her than I do for 99% of her peers.

If you read Bossypants, let me know what you thought!

- e

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Oh, Happy Day!

I blame Friday's early-morning festivities for my lack of posts these past few days. If I've learned anything recently, it's that even the slightest adjustment to my sleep/wake schedule can really mess me up. Truth be told, I've been waaaay off my normal routine every evening since Thursday -- it's not all because of the royal wedding. My husband was traveling Thursday - Saturday nights, and then again last night, and when he's gone I usually end up reading or watching TV deep into the wee hours. I don't know why I do this -- maybe it's some sort of innate "rebellion reflex" where subconsciously I'm thinking, "Woo hoo, I can sleep in tomorrow because his alarm's not going to go off! I'm gonna be naughty and stay up until I can't keep my eyes open!" Who knows.

But anyway, what happened was that on Thursday night, since I hadn't been exposed to any of the royal wedding hype up until that point, I decided to watch a bunch of specials on BBC America until 1 AM. Then I set my alarm for 4 AM. When it sounded, I was very much out of it and kind of forgot what was going on and didn't know why my phone was chirping. Luckily for me, there's a TV in my bedroom (yeah, I know that's bad feng shui or whatever), so really all I had to do was click my remote control's "On" button.

I chose 4 AM because ten minutes later was when the first sighting of Will and Harry was supposed to take place as they left for Westminster Abbey. And believe you me, the moment the TV began glowing, I snapped into full consciousness. I was immediately captivated by the whole thing, and once the princes came into view with their snappy outfits (I don't know what I was expecting, but something about Will's bright red jacket was so cool to me -- it just made it all so real), I was SOLD.

The next two and a half hours absolutely flew by. I had been checking Twitter early on, but became annoyed rather quickly by anyone who was making snotty comments (mostly about some of the wedding guests, but still), and so I decided that I would just savor the experience by myself and refrain from seeing what anyone else thought about the event. The only tip I took from Twitter was to switch from BBC America to CNN because word was that Piers Morgan was fairly entertaining. I had never seen him or heard him speak before, but I did in fact get a kick out of his commentary. And, of course, he was with my man Anderson Cooper, so it was a win-win.

During the carriage procession I got nervous because it looked like several of the horses in the parade were quite antsy. They were bucking and seemed agitated and whatnot. So I wasn't sure if my eyes were playing tricks on me or if I was finally succumbing to lack-of-sleep delirium when I could've sworn I saw one running like hell up the side of the procession, sans rider. But none of the CNN peeps said anything about it, so I chalked it up to a hallucination.

But it really happened! I'm not crazy, hooray! You can see a great shot of the runaway horse at the very beginning of this video, and then there's the opposite angle (showing how close it was to the royal carriage) here. That horse was like, "Get me outta this mess, yo!"

After all of that there was a 50-minute break before the happy couple would emerge on the Buckingham Palace balcony, which was the part I had really wanted to see. So I decided to take a nap and set my alarm for about 5 minutes before the big moment. That was a bad idea, because I was so tired that I hit snooze when the alarm went off... and then the next thing I know, I'm opening my eyes to Kate and Will and their entourage waving from the balcony, and the commentators complaining about what a lame kiss it was. And I was like, "WHAT?!?! ARE YOU KIDDING ME -- I MISSED IT?!?!!?"

So then I rewound the Tivo (I had never turned the TV off, just had it muted while I dozed) and watched the first kiss... then forwarded through to the point where I'm pretty sure I actually caught the second kiss -- the one in all the papers -- live or almost-live. And the funny thing is, even though that was the part I thought I had wanted to see so badly, now that it's all said and done, I have to say that my favorite parts of the whole experience were:

1) First seeing the princes in the car -- I definitely got that fluttery "thrill" feeling in my chest when everything kicked off with their ride to the Abbey,
2) When Will and Harry got out of the car, walked into the Abbey together... and then later when they walked into the private room behind the gate once they were in the Abbey. I realized that what I had really been wanting to see was both of them -- side by side, happy, and "OK" -- on Will's big day,
3) Every time Will would give one of his conspiratorial side-smiles to Kate,
4) The breathtaking overhead shots of Westminster Abbey. Even though I've been inside and was in awe of the building when I was physically there, nothing beats those shots that looked down on the intersection of the two aisles -- gorgeous,
5) Harry in the kiddie carriage -- classic,
6) The whole carriage procession in general -- so Cinderella-ish, and,
7) Will driving himself and Kate in the Aston Martin with all the balloons tied to its bumper -- I missed this part live, but watched videos of it after. I just thought it was so cool and really reflected the spirit of the couple.

All in all I thought the royal wedding was one of the most fascinating, joyous spectacles I've ever seen, and I am so, so glad I watched it. Then, of course, came Sunday evening's big news, which kept me up very late once again (also totally worth it). A banner weekend indeed. As my friend Miss M put it best, "The world is on an upswing."

- e