Wednesday, October 29, 2008

What couldn't go wrong?

My high school English teacher once told me that nothing is ever as bad as we expect it to be, because there is no force on earth as powerful as the human imagination. That was a load of shit. However, I wanted to give my imagination a break from worrying about everything in my life that is on the brink of catastrophe (read: everything), so I thought I'd start wondering what couldn't go wrong.

No matter how horrifying things get, at least I can be relieved that:
  • I will not be humiliated on national television by losing a breakdance competition to George Takei.

  • The CEO of my company is not going to get drunk, "borrow" my car, and wrap it around a tree.

  • I will not be entrusted with a sacred relic that has been passed down through generations, putting me in terrible danger as it is hunted by the powerful, relentless forces that would do anything to possess it.

  • Henry Paulson is not going to ask me to oversee the distribution of a massive economic relief package (read: pile of cash) designed to shore up America's ailing strip club industry, forcing me to choose between my family's respect and the welfare of hundreds of thousands of exotic dancers across the country.

  • I will not be sucked into an alternate dimension run by talking cats where I have to amuse them by running in a hamster wheel for hours at a time.

  • My old company from Boston is not going to keep me awake and annoy my neighbors by sending their head of HR to my house at 3:00 AM, by alternately screaming and crying about how they can't live without me and how they'll give me double what I'm earning now just for sitting at a desk and surfing the internet all day in a futile effort to try and win me back.

  • I will not have two Hollywood producers/literary agents/talent scouts/philanthropic trillionaires simultaneously discover my writing online and get into a bidding war with each other in an attempt to win my affection that leaves me paralyzed with indecision.

  • An outer space virus will not infect me with an insatiable hunger for cardboard and old gym shoes, contaminating the entire state and requiring the mobilization of the national guard to control.

  • I will not bring about the end of civilization all by myself, even if I DO go and vote next week.

So I guess I've got all that going for me, even if I can't look forward to developing some sort of mutant superpower.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Don't Drink That, You Fool!

I follow a strict set of rules in bathrooms both public and private. For example, I don't use the public urinal for short people and young boys that is set closer to the floor, because I have a moral objection to getting pee on my ankles. Similarly, I don't talk to other people while I'm using the toilet, washing my hands, or entering or exiting the bathroom because I'm attending to a biological necessity, not mingling at a social event.

I recognize that some of my ideas may seem a little extreme, but for the love of god, NO ONE should EVER bring a beverage into the bathroom. That's not just some crazy tinfoil hattery I'm spouting, but an honest-to-god safety issue. When you bring your morning coffee into the bathroom with you at work, you're inviting your coworkers to go to the bathroom in your mouth.

I'm serious. Dr. Charles Gerba studied the effects of flushing toilets and found that not only is a germ-and-virus aerosol spray ejected from the toilet every time you flush, but that water droplets from the toilet can remain suspended in the air for up to two hours after the flush. That means that your steaming cup of coffee is sitting there collecting aerosolized water droplets from the leavings of everyone who has gone through that bathroom before you. How well do you know your coworkers? Do you really want to get to know them that much more intimately?

You'd have to some kind of lunatic to drink morning coffee that you've carried into the office toilet, and yet some of my coworkers regularly carry drinks of all kinds into the bathroom with wild abandon. It just makes my skin crawl.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

I Resolve to Be Awesome

Okay. 2008 has less than three months left in it, and I don't have a prayer of completing any of my New Year's resolutions in time. So, it's time to achieve excellence by lowering the bar, scrapping the old resolutions and establishing this new set of goals to achieve before 2009:

Don't wear white pants after labor day. Tricky, but not impossible. I expect this to be helped by the fact that I don't own any white pants.

Don't sell national secrets to foreign powers. Luckily, I don't actually have any security clearance, even if those guys from Burkina Faso have been trying to get pretty chummy with me lately.

Don't get addicted to crack. Winners don't use drugs. Losers don't have to use drugs, either, so I've got my bases covered either way.

Don't drink alcohol before sundown. Woah, back up. We're trying to list goals that we actually have a chance of accomplishing here. At the rate things are going, I'll have broken this one by the end of the week.

Don't get humiliated on national television. It's a gamble, but one I'm willing to make. I'm not going to be at the American Idol tryouts, but you never know when you'll be the star attraction on an episode of Cops. Let's keep our fingers crossed on this one.

Don't make any Nobel-prize-winning breakthroughs in science, health, peacemaking, etc. Because I shouldn't be hogging all the credit for myself. It's time for someone else to be in the spotlight.

Don't get stabbed in a bar fight with Charles S. Dutton. Because only a fool gets into a bar fight with Charles S. Dutton.

If this goes well, I might actually make up some more goals and retroactively apply them to 2007. Self-improvement isn't so hard after all.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

An Open Letter to My Grocery Store

Hey there,

I hate you. I hate how you never stock the items I'm looking for and reorganize your shelves every three months. And I can tell that you feel the same way, based on how you have huge numbers of registers near the entrance and only one employee manning them. Let's just recognize that we need each other to survive, and focus on getting our business done as quickly as possible.

That's why we need a grocery store GPS. Handheld units, available to shoppers, that will lead people to the items they need. People could upload their whole grocery list and have the system give them the fastest route through the store. You could even have people e-mail the list ahead of time so their route was already planned for them by the time they got there (yes, you can currently order groceries online at some stores to have people actually shop for you, but that costs more and I'm cheap).

Back to this route planning thing. They do it for cars. UPS programmed their guidance systems to completely eliminate left turns from their truck routes in order to save gas, so I'm sure you can make something that tells me to pick up the eggs right near me before I have to walk across the entire store and look up at the top shelf before I can figure out where you're hiding the bacon.

It's brilliant, right? Well, I'm sure that someone else thought of it first, or is working on it at Microsoft, or whatever. Still, I want it implemented immediately, so that we don't spend any more time together than we have to. But here's how you, terrible example of mismanagement and customer abuse that you are, will manage to fuck it up:

You'll order 15 units. 10 of them will break immediately and never be replaced. 2 will get stolen by punks and disgruntled stockboys. The remaining three units will all have their own signature defects (like sticking keys, unreadable displays, etc.).

Despite advances in RFID technology, you won't keep up to date with your inventory, leading customers to the wrong areas of the store, or shelves that are bare because no one brought the last shipment out from the back room.

The wireless signal will interfere with cell phones, blackberrys, and pagers, displaying text messages on the grocery readouts and making all incoming or outgoing phone calls impossible (wait, that last bit doesn't sound so bad). It will also have an effect on pacemakers.

The increased amount of radio waves bouncing around the store (or whatever) will give us all cancer, like how cell phones are supposed to do only a million times more dangerous.

In conclusion, shopping for groceries has been awful, is currently awful, and will forever continue to be awful. If I weren't so lazy, I'd grow my own damn food and avoid them altogether.

Monday, September 22, 2008

So, September.

September has absolutely been a crap month for me, and I can't even remember half of it. The highlights:

I received my worst performance review of my life, hands down, for any job I have ever held. As a bonus, my efforts went to making others (including my manager) look phenomenal in their own reviews. I have graciously been allowed to keep my job so I can get another sub-par review next year while boosting the performance of my peers.

I tripped over a snake in my yard while taking out the trash. It may or may not be poisonous (I didn't get a good look, but it was totally a copperhead), and I don't know if it is still lurking around or if it hustled off after the indignity of getting brained by a hefty bag full of soiled diapers. Now all outdoor activities (coming home from work, taking out the trash, walking the dog, etc.) have taken on the aspect of a treasure hunt where the treasure may or may not exist but will probably try to put you in excruciating pain if you come close to finding it.

My dog suffered through the worst vacation ever. He was introduced to the concept of swimming by falling into a pool and then developed a nasty but robust colony of intestinal parasites. Not as terrible for me as it has been for him, but he's not the one cleaning up watery stool and dumping bleach over huge swathes of the yard. He probably doesn't mind all of the new smells he's creating as much as I do, either.

My daughter has been dealing with two different kinds of diaper rash. There was a raised, pinkish, hive-y series of welts at first which cleared up before she developed a nasty set of raw-looking friction burns. We are going through a lot of rash cream right at a time when she thinks diaper-change time is squirm-free-and-roam time. Based on where it ends up, we don't need diaper rash cream as much as we need some kind of all in one diaper rash/hair gel/upholstery cleaner/laundry detergent cream.

I have been tantalized by nostalgia that remains unobtainable. The rental house for our family vacation was equipped with an N64 and a Sega Dreamcast that had a bunch of kickass, old-school games. It was not equipped with the AV cables that were needed to actually PLAY those games. Petty? Sure, but after all that other crap, I really needed some escapist diversions to occupy my time that I was completely denied.

As always, my plans to make more/extra/any money through writing just keep getting shut down. The less time spent dwelling on that, the better.

Really, it's been a blur of swearing under my breath at work, jumping at shadows in the yard at home, and trying not to have a total meltdown on vacation to the point where the month is no longer made of discrete memories, and has become a solid blur of unpleasantness. I had forgotten all about the eight-hour power outage I was complaining about earlier, but that might have been in August. I'm so tired of it all that it's impossible for me to review these above points to find a bright side for them. Instead, I made this brief list of things from our vacation I can be thankful for:

-I didn't lose any fingers

-I didn't flip or roll the SUV we rented

-Our vacation didn't get cancelled by the hurricane

-Our vacation was not ruined by arson

-Despite being led widdershins around the Wright brothers monument by the momentum of the crowd and the conniving of the National Park Service, we weren't sucked into the fae realm and trapped there for all eternity

-In that vein, our daughter's eyes are still blue, which means that she probably hasn't been replaced by a changeling

-None of us were torn apart and devoured by bears

So I guess we've got that going for us. And really, with a vacation like that, I should be completely refreshed and recharged for work.

Except I'm totally not.


Thursday, September 4, 2008

Operation: Abandon This Craphole

So, this house doesn't have water, and it doesn't have electricity for up to eight hours* after as little as a half-hour thunderstorm, but it does have snakes. Big fucking snakes that loiter on the grass in the dark. It's seriously not cool. They'll fuck your shit up if you give them half a chance.

I had thought that I had seen the worst of the various fauna overrunning the place, but I was wicked wrong. Now we need to sell this house and get ourselves back to civilization.

Of course, to do that, we'll have to start in on a lot of home-improvement projects. That should be fun.

*If you're thinking that it's going to be fun to "camp out" with a baby in a house with no electricity (and no water) for 8 hours starting around her bedtime, you're thinking wrong

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

At Least It's Not Barney

There's a song that will entrance our daughter like a chicken immobilized in the hypnotically unwavering gaze of Al Gore. (What? You didn't see him hypnotize a chicken on Letterman? Get out.)

It's not completely bizarre. My wife and I knew that she would recognize music she heard in the womb, it's just unusual that she chose this particular song:

crappy version from youtube because I'm too lazy to find a good one

She heard it once. During the season finale of Dr. Who (don't judge), and yet the opening baseline will completely freeze her mid-tantrum. She has been in the middle of some of her loudest, angriest screaming binges, completely ignoring the rocking, patting, shushing, and cuddling, but voodoo child will stop her in her tracks. And half the time it puts her to sleep.

If only I had known earlier that subwoofers would be an essential nursery component...

Monday, August 11, 2008

The Internet Is So Confusing

You can't swing a keyboard without accidentally typing the URL of someone's personal blog, and half of them claim to be advice from experts. The blog is the new business card, and everyone is setting up shop in the hopes that it will show potential customers how knowledgeable they are, sometimes with disastrous results.
No proof of skill is required to start handing out advice freely, but it reminds me of the phrase about stock market tips:

"Those who say, don't know, and those who know, don't say."

Anyway, it's time for me to hop on board this expertise train to pull in some of that sweet, sweet consulting money. The trick is to find a niche that's not already been done to death. So, from this day forward, I am an expert on (and will be answering questions about) the following subjects:

Pencil Sharpening: "Almost as important as having the proper sharpener is using the proper grip with your pencil. Softer lead pencils require a firmer hold, while the following illustration shows the best way to..."

Toenail manufacturing: "Common developments are the Irish hook, the Great Plains runway, and the west side split. These will all have a negative effect on your resale value, which is why it's important to..."

Eggplant wrestling: "Try borrowing some strategies from Sun Tzu. Study your opponent carefully in the days leading up to the match. Does he prefer to use his upper-body strength, or does he specialize in holds that leverage his superior leg work? You can adapt your method by..."

Armadillo repair: "It's normal for daily use to inflict signs of wear and tear on your armadillo, but you can fix some of the more common damage with this basic remedy of..."

Moustache fitting: "As you can see in this chart, your ideal style of moustache can vary greatly depending on your facial structure. It's easier to fit the moustache to your face than it is to use prosthetics to accomodate your moustache, but if you absolutely need to, you can..."

Coathanger maintenance: "While usage will soon run them down, your coathangers can be kept in their prime if you are sure to..."

Spitwad design: "Texture is as important as--if not more so--than size, but the true professional focuses on a consistent..."

Alternative energy sources (e.g., orgone, water-fuel technology, perpetual motion, zero-point/free energy): "What distinguishes this from some of the scams out there is my personal guarantee that..."

Sumerian courtship rituals: "The suitor would then stuff the body of the goat with a mixture of wheat and cloves, while using the head to..."

Beet farming: "Your one-stop source for all beet-farming-related content! If your North Atlantic Spotted Beets keep wandering off, they could be responding to their natural migratory instinct that kicks in each spring. If you make sure that your beet pens are surrounded by fences at least eight feet high (they can--and will--jump over anything lower), you shouldn't have any more problems."

While I would also like to claim expertise in the field of applied stupidity, I have to put in a few more semesters before I earn my master's degree. However, from there I am assured that I'll be fast-tracked for the Advanced Stupidity Application PhD program. I'll provide more information on that as it develops.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Why Daddy Blogs Are Awful

I am fed up with these parenting blogs not offering any material details about their children. Sure, there are photos galore, but can their four-month-old bench press a cinderblock? Does their baby's fastball clock in at 75mph? What about their aptitude for knife throwing?

It's a sad state of affairs when people think that just a few pictures are all you need to really get to know a baby. If they're going to share their children with the world, they need to do it right.

These infants need to be measured and profiled by a baby metricologist--that is, a highly trained expert with a fictitious degree in the pretend science of the metricology of babies, as opposed to a baby who is a practicing metricologist--so that all of the relevant facts are presented. Fortunately, I have obtained the services of the preeminent baby metricologist in North America, and am able to present information that actually MEANS something.


Initial observations:
Examination of the subject revealed that structural integrity, tensile strength, and resonant frequency are all within normal parameters.

Does subject possess x-ray vision?
No. The subject becomes agitated when her parents disappear from view.

Does the subject exhibit signs of telepathy?
Yes. The subject can sense when she is no longer the center of attention, and takes immediate corrective action.

Has the subject demonstrated mastery over animals?
While the subject is able to direct the household canine to perform routine cleaning of her hands and feet, she has not been successful at directing animals (domesticated or otherwise) to assume feeding and changing duties currently performed by the parents.

Is the subject a shapeshifter?
Possibly. The subject's current abilities apply mostly to the face, which is able to express both giddy delight and intense discomfort, but the subject has not manifested any radical physical changes elsewhere (e.g., sixth finger, third nipple, tail).

What is the subject's top speed?
The subject's top speed was recorded as significantly less than 25mph.

Does the subject appear to be either an indigo child or a crystal child?
No, the subject appears to be pinkish.

Other noteworthy observations:
The subject is able to eject fluids in open defiance of all known laws of physics.
It should further be noted that the subject's overall cuteness coefficient was measured at 5.8 Geddes Standard Units (GSUs), which is trending towards the higher end of recorded measurements for specimens who have not undergone genetic manipulation, but not so extreme as to damage the very fabric of the universe.


As you can see from this informative and highly scientific assessment, our daughter has a promising future as a mind reader, or possibly a part-time beastmaster or weekend shapeshifter. It's a shame about the x-ray vision, but I'd imagine that it leads to headaches around Christmas.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Ill-Considered Remarks

I firmly believe that there are faces out there that could benefit from a good punching. That being said, I may have been a little hasty in earlier remarks made here about Alton Brown. I misjudged him based on insufficient information, and I regret that now.

Specifically, after reading an interview about Iron Chef America and its (completely unnecessary) spinoff The Next Iron Chef, I realize that most of our opinions are pretty similar, including the one about a certain judge who is in desperate need of a haircut.

Mr. Brown, if you have let the peevish grumblings of an anonymous internet hack disturb you in any way as you lay down to sleep at night on the pile of crisp, large-denomination bills that were so hard-won through your televised efforts for the food network, you should know now that I am sorry, and that I offer a full retraction.

P.S. Suck it, Andrew Knowlton.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Puppy vs. Kitty

Our dog isn't the insatiable gourmand that Pilar used to be, but he's a happy-go-lucky bundle of energy with a boundless enthusiasm for life. He gives kisses, he offers his paw, and he is always looking for pets. He's a big puppy.

Our neighbor has a friendly kitty (an oxymoron that is rare, but not completely fictional). Kitty meows hello, Kitty nuzzles affectionately, Kitty asks for belly rubs. Kitty and Puppy should have been friends.

It really looked like it was going to happen. At first, Puppy was excited about a new friend. Puppy and Kitty touched noses. Tails were wagged, butts were sniffed. Then Puppy asked to play.

Puppy play is rowdy. It is chest bumping, grappling, chasing, and full-contact. Puppy jumped around, Puppy thumped the ground with his paws, Puppy raced off and came charging back, doing huge loops around the yard. Kitty didn't know what to make of it at first.

Then, on his last lap around the yard, Puppy was introduced to the concept of Kitty play. Racing heedless and carefree, tongue hanging out and mouth grinning wide, Puppy was ambushed by a gray rocket that launched from the bushes by the back stairs. It was great fun for Kitty, and no one was hurt, but Puppy wasn't very fond of it. Since then, he races for the safety of our house every time Kitty comes over to say hello.

Monday, June 30, 2008


I routinely make poor decisions.

Like the time I was uncorking a stubborn bottle of wine, thought to "improve" my grip, and ended up punching myself in the face. Or when I listened to my classmates in eighth grade and ruined the basketball scoreboard. Or the time I thought it would be okay to go on that "marketing job" interview where they told me to show up wearing shoes I could "do a lot of walking in." Or the LARP weekend. And so on.

That's why it makes me happy when I can spot a potential disaster in the works, and make a conscious choice to avoid it.

Yes, our liquor cabinet is understocked, and we are dangerously short on mixers. But as appealing as it seems at first glance, I don't need to actually mix White Russians using baby formula before I realize that it's a Bad Idea.

Can you hear that, world? It's the sound of a little something I like to call progress.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Foreigners Are Trying to Kill My Daughter

Lousy, stinking crib recall. Although they admitted that they are at fault and issued a voluntary recall, the company that manufactured cribs that were shoddy enough to break apart and strangle babies certainly isn't making it easy to fix the situation. And as the owner of one of these deathtraps from across the pacific, I'm pretty disgruntled about it.

My daughter needs a safe place to sleep tonight, and their recall process is anything but speedy. First I have to register with them to show that my daughter's crib is in fact one of theirs and affected by the recall. Then I wait for them to send me a recall kit. Then I follow the instructions in the kit, taking apart the crib and sending pieces back to the company to prove that I actually owned the crib and that now no one else will be able to use it. Then in a week or more, I get a voucher for the original purchase price of the crib. The voucher is only good at Toys 'r' Us or Babies 'r' Us. It is only applicable towards the purchase of a replacement crib. If I select a crib that costs more than I paid for the childkilling crib, I have to pay the difference. If I buy a crib that is cheaper, I will not be refunded any of the money that I originally wasted paid.

Given that this process is supposed to take at least a week, where am I supposed to put my daughter? Not to mention the fact that I live in the middle of nowhere, and the original purchase of the crib was a Gigantic, Time-Consuming Production. It's an hour drive to the nearest Babies 'r' Killed Us, and they don't keep any cribs in stock beyond the floor models. So that's more time before we can get a replacement crib, and since I don't have any way to get it home, requesting delivery incurs extra costs of money and time.

I blame this recall on the company that made the shoddy cribs in "Vietnam or China," but also on globalization's hypercompetitive drive to offer cheaper and cheaper merchandise, which means outsourcing to sweatshops and sub-par imports from third world countries. We wouldn't have this problem with an American-made crib because it would have been twice as big, three times heavier, and six times as sturdy, possibly made out of solid steel.

Is my righteous blaze of jingoistic fury unwarranted? Can I just leave my daughter in the crib until its replacement arrives, gambling with her very life? No, because every night she spins to the side and starts kicking the defective slats. Either she has a death wish (not likely), or her critical eye had already assessed the structural flaws inherent in her resting place, and was desperately trying to alert us to the danger before it was too late. Per her unspoken demand, we shall not let her lie in that accident-waiting-to-happen for another second!

The whole thing makes me angry. So angry, in fact, that the only remedy is a juicy burger, cooked rare with 100% beef from United Food Group, and topped with fresh sliced tomatoes. In fact, I think I'll go drive out and get one in my Ford explorer, right after I add some air to its Firestone tires.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Iron Chef America

It's okay. Certainly, it's head and shoulders above the absolutely painful Iron Chef USA, but it's still a mixed bag of entertainment. On the one hand, the guy that they have as the chairman is absolutely hilarious. He manages to be completely over-the-top with his gestures, his dialogue, and his mannerisms, but at the same time he makes you feel like you and he are sharing a private joke. And the little sound effects that they add to his karate moves that introduce the Iron Chefs? Win.

On the other hand, Alton Brown. Sometimes he's on the mark, but as a general rule, I would pay good money to punch Alton Brown in the face. Specifically, he needed a good firm smack (possibly with a rolled-up newspaper, or maybe a brass knuckle) during battle coffee. I get it--you're hyper because it's coffee--but I didn't want it in the first place. And is it just me, or does Kevin Brauch appear to be seething with barely-concealed resentment when Brown condescends to let him give the same explanation of the judging rules every episode?

For the judges, I can understand that the show's producers would want people who think differently because arguments mean drama, and drama means good television. The problem is that some of the judges are insufferable when they get to express their opinion. Andrew Knowlton comes across as prissy and elitist when he disagrees with his peers, quibbling over academic minutiae, picking apart the statements of the other panelists, and always needing to mutter the last word into his food like a spoiled eight-year-old. In contrast, Jeffrey Steingarten does an excellent job of voicing his opinion, frequently failing to agree with the other judges but still managing to sound like he is trying to offer constructive criticism, not just showing off. One is a tough but fair evaluator who is disappointed when chefs fail to meet his high standards, and the other is a petty control freak who throws a fit whenever the world around him refuses to meet his expectations. You never know what you're going to get.

I'll keep watching it (unless they keep adding new Iron Chefs; YOU ARE NOT WANTED, MICHAEL SYMON). In the meantime, I have compiled this list of items that I would like to see used as the central ingredient of future episodes battles:

Tic Tacs
Goldfish (the cracker, but the pet might work as well)
hot dogs

Oh wait, this might actually be my grocery list.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

The Bee Gauntlet

The previous owner of our house was a botanist, and she did a fantastic job planting gardens that always have something in bloom. We did an equally fantastic job of completely neglecting everything outside so that the house looks abandoned, or possibly under attack by some kind of malevolent plant monster.

Our front walk is flanked by lavender plants (bushes? shrubs? Some of the branches have gotten thick enough that I'm thinking about calling them "trees") that have pushed out over the concrete and started getting in the way. I trimmed them back last year, but they have returned in full force. While the plants on either side of the walk don't quite touch each other, there's no way to keep from having them rub up against anyone trying to enter or leave the house.

This isn't a problem. The lazy bees who have nothing better to do besides loiter around my lavender bushes all day like shriners at an open bar are the problem.

That's right, bees. You heard me, Science. All those missing bees that you're looking for? Maybe you should check my front yard, because I can count at least six of them, and sometimes as many as twenty, available at all hours*.

It's a gauntlet made of bees, and I have to run it any time I want to go to work, get groceries, check the mail, or leave a flaming bag of poo on my neighbor's doorstep. It's at the point where I've got to psych myself up before I can leave the house to do anything.

As always, I recognize the importance of staying positive, and have been trying to tell myself that this is a good thing. After all, if I dont want to run this gauntlet of bees, then it must keep out unwanted guests and/or intruders, too. It was a comforting thought, until the doorbell rang yesterday.

What good is having a bee gauntlet if it won't keep out Jehova's witnesses?

*Okay, hold your horses, apiarists both amateur and professional, before you go posting all kinds of scientific mumbo jumbo about how what I've got in my yard are only bumblebees, not honeybees. I'll tell you right now: I don't want to hear it.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

An Open Letter to McDonalds

Dear McDonalds:

When are you going to get a liquor license? Seriously.

I have heard tell of magical restaurants in Germany that look like regular McDonaldses but offer McBier. And if there's one thing that Germans are known for—besides their childlike sense of wonder and love for all things whimsical—it's their ability to set trends that the rest of the world cannot help but follow without any reservations whatsoever.

So, how long does the U.S. have to wait? Sure, after a tough day I can bury my snout in a brace of cheeseburgers, or drown my sorrows in a trough of french fries, but something is missing. How long must I wait until you can give me what I'm really longing for, the quarter pounder with scotch?


Monday, June 2, 2008

10 Things to Learn on Your First Day at Work

  • Despite Mel Gibson’s popularization of the term “sugartits,” it is not considered acceptable language for the workplace.

  • Referring to copying, typing, filing, and answering phones as “bitch work” will not make you any friends.

  • Pinching coworkers on the ass is not appropriate, even if they are asking for it.

  • The phrase, “Do it now, because I said so, shitstain,” is neither motivational nor encouraging.

  • You will not need to bring an alarm clock with you to work. If you decide to nap on the job, your coworkers or supervisors will be more than happy to wake you. The tricky part is getting them to wake you at a specific time.

  • Names are not written on the lunches in the refrigerator so that you know who to thank after you eat them.

  • Pinching managers on the ass is not appropriate, especially when they are asking for it.

  • Asking if you have to be sober to do your job is bad, but not being sober when you show up to do your job is worse.

  • Before starting games of tic-tac-toe, or engaging in doodles and/or written speculation regarding the bedroom habits of your coworkers, be absolutely sure that the paper you are using isn’t a document that has been prepared for widespread distribution.

  • As security personnel escort you off of the premises to the waiting police car, pinching them on the ass is not appropriate. They will never ask for it.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

There's a reason for that.

When I gained a measure of autonomy, I decided that I would test a lot of the practices that my parents tried to instill in me to determine if they were valuable habits to develop, or an unnecessary waste of time. Like pyjamas. Is it really necessary to have a completely separate outfit to sleep in? I decided that it was not, which proved to be a real time-saver in college once I didn't have to worry about bringing my Star Wars PJs to a keg party if I thought I'd end up passing out on the couch.

Now that I have a house, I'm looking into some of the more common home upkeep chores to see if they're important enough to do frequently, or if I can get away with letting them slide for a while. Like mowing the lawn. We're not in an appearance-obsessed suburb, and the dog seems to like stalking through shoulder-high grass from time to time, pretending he's a wolf on the prowl for a squirrel or an unattended baby. Who is it going to hurt?

Me. I found out that it's going to hurt me, and the lawn needs to be mowed on a weekly, if not daily basis. While using the weed whacker (okay, it's technically a "string trimmer," and not actually a branded weed whacker) to clear out a dense clump of vegetation, a rustling in the underbrush (underweeds) made me stop. I watched, horrified, as a spider big enough to take on a rat (and probably win) in a no-holds-barred, bare knuckle brawl staggered out from his hiding place and moved on to more welcoming surroundings.

In addition to mowing the lawn, I am now considering paving the lawn.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Yes, I watch cartoons.

If you're like me (and if you are, I urge you to have a medical professional take a look at that rash, IT'S NOT GOING TO CLEAR UP ON ITS OWN, PEOPLE) you've been wondering what John DiMaggio has been up to now that voicing that lovable alcoholic robot from Futurama is no longer a steady gig.

Naturally, he's up to something totally awesome. In fact, he's voicing another cartoon character in a show called Chowder, alongside Master Shake, two of the characters from Drawn Together, Frau Farbissina, and Howling Mad Murdock--yes, you may know him as Reginald Barclay, and that would make you a geek.

So far, I am enjoying this show. Partly because of the voice talent, and because it's by a former storyboard artist from The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy, but mostly because of the way they worked in a joke about Flavor Flav and had DiMaggio relate a completely filthy anecdote using only the word "Radda."

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

A matter of perspective

Happiness really is all in your mind. For example, I was stuck behind a logging truck on my way to work last week. I was already late, and now I was stuck going less than the speed limit down a winding, two-lane country road that took half an hour to drive under the best of circumstances. It’s times like that when one is well served by cultivating a near psychotic detachment from reality, so that previously serious problems become trivial, or even helpful.

I realized that the logging truck was actually doing me a favor. After all, I could get in a fatal accident at any speed above 20 MPH, but thanks to his inability to make it up steep hills, there would be no danger of that. And, it gave me time to practice my Queen Elizabeth wave (you know the one, it goes elbow, elbow, wrist, wrist, etc.) in case I ever find myself in a parade.

It worked so well that I tried to change my perspective on other issues in my life:

-Our well pump was supposed to break. If we had a reliable source of clean water, I wouldn’t have been forced to meet my next door neighbors, who are really great people (as evidenced by the fact that they ran over 300 feet of hose from their house to ours). It also helped to teach me about the importance of water conservation. It’s NOT a renewable resource, people!

-All these bills help me to “keep it real.” Money would just go to my head. And this way, I can really be sure that I’ve got my priorities in order. Who needs both clean clothes AND a hot meal, right? Because that’s just getting greedy.

-Yeah, our heat pump doesn’t cool our house at all, and may even be broken. But I could stand to sweat off some unwanted pounds; I stopped being able to see my ribs, and it made me feel totally chubby. Also, this solves our problem of not having any hot meals.

-These ants aren’t infesting our house. They’re graciously sacrificing themselves to keep the hordes of spiders around here well fed. As long as there are plenty of ants blundering around and walking into the spider webs hidden in the walls and behind the furniture, the spiders won’t go back to roaming the halls where I can see them.

-And we need a lot of hulking spiders looming in the dark corners of the house. If anything, they have to be BIGGER, because at their current, half-the-size-of-my-fist stature, they can barely hold their own against all the wasps that set up shop outside.

-And those wasps. Thank god the wasps are here because—

You know what? I can’t do this anymore. If I keep this up, I’d have to give myself a wedgie and shove my head in the toilet, because I’d be completely insufferable.

Monday, May 19, 2008

This Will Not Become a Blog of Fear

I’m undecided as to whether “growing up” is something that happens in one pivotal moment (“Congratulations, today, you have become a man/woman (as applicable)”), or something that happens so gradually that you don’t even notice.

Okay, that’s a lie. Only a complete moron or someone in need of a cheap rhetorical device would think that growing up is anything other than the sum of the hundreds of small moments in our lifetimes that shape who we are and what we value.

Unless you define “growing up” as “being recognized as legally able to drink.” That’s pretty important, but also centered around one specific point in time.

However it happened, I have grown up, and my fears have grown up with me. For example:

Attics. Yes, they still make spooky noises, but I’m not as worried about vampires. Was that thump just the house settling, or a family of squirrels moving in? What if it’s something bigger, like raccoons? Or buffalo?

Faucets. The irregular flow isn’t caused by demonic possession. It’s our well. Is it going to run dry for the fourth time? Are we going to need another new pump? Will we be forced to filter and drink our own pee?

Cars. Evil cars won’t run me down while I cross the street. But is the car I’m driving about to fail? Why hasn’t it shifted to the next gear? Is that smell coming from my car, or the one in front of me? Was that noise always there? Can I fix it by turning up the radio?

Closed doors. My boss isn’t conducting satanic rituals behind her closed office door. And I’m reasonably certain she’s not shedding her human disguise so that her gills can air out properly. But what is she discussing in there? Raising insurance co-pays? Freezing salary increases? Firing me because of that time I wore white pants after labor day?

Coughs. It may have taken me over ten years, but I’m not afraid of Captain Tripps anymore. But does that cough mean a trip to the emergency room? Or billing disputes? Why do all the really scary symptoms develop outside of the doctor’s normal office hours?

Ground cover. The undead hands of the vengeful dead aren’t going to erupt from the ground to rip at my flesh, but what is lurking in those leaves? We picked up six ticks in our backyard last season, how many are waiting for us this summer? Isn’t there an effective lawn treatment that will drive them off? Will napalm work?

Sure, I might have scoffed at this list when I was younger, but that’s because I had some growing up to do.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

The Great Interview Experiment

So, Citizen of the Month is doing a thing called the Great Interview Experiment. It's about bloggers interviewing bloggers to make the world a better place. Or shameless self-promotion. Or both.

I signed up, and interviewed Bzzzzgrrrl, of the blog City Mouse Country. It went something like this:

What’s your story?
I lived in D.C. for a year after college, moved to New Hampshire (which is where I sometimes grew up) for several years, and left in my late twenties because I was bored. I moved back to D.C. because I think it's a fantastic city and because I still have friends there, but after eight years, I was looking for a job and found myself increasingly drawn back north. I don't mind "bored" as much as I mind "shoved," and maybe that is the difference between my twenties and my thirties.

How did you find the Great Interview Experiment?
Through She Just Walks Around With It. She apparently did this experiment a long time ago, but just got around to posting the results.

How did you choose your screen name? How does it fit in with the theme of your blog? Are you using that spelling of "girl" ironically?
Not ironically, but maybe nostalgically. That screenname dates way, way back, to maybe 1997, when I was director of a day camp called Hornets' Nest, which allowed me to simultaneously be a camp director (which I loved) and feel like a badass (which I craved). That wasn't so long after I'd been sort of tangentially into the whole riotgrrl thing in college. I just sort of kept using it. So, you know, hornets, feminism, summer camp, badassery. All of that probably fits in with the theme of the blog, but only because it fits in with the theme of my life.

Why did you decide to start a blog?
The idea for the blog came up when I moved. My D.C. friends got very wide-eyed, asking me about all the things I'd surely miss and how cold it would surely be. I found myself e-mailing mobs of people about what it was actually like once I got here, and a blog seemed easier.

What would you say is the single greatest challenge about moving to the country?
Not knowing anything. It makes for funny stories, which is good for the blog, but the sheer amount of stuff I don't know is overwhelming. I need a roof rake? Really?
Oh, and also the move itself was a tremendous challenge. Because I hired the worst moving company ever, and the owner, who is oldish, and his daughter, who is pregnant, showed up to move me. I am not sure I am ready to blog about that experience, even yet.

How did you get such a hefty blogroll in just six months of posting?
The big honkin' blogroll is largely blogs I was reading before I was blogging (bloggin'?). And now, of course, Google tells me what to read.

How do you feel about Google, and their sinister Google Everything(tm) project?
Now you're gonna get us both killed.
I am, unfortunately, exactly the kind of person Google dreams of (That is not anthropomorphism. I actually believe that Google has a brain, and it frightens me.). I dislike everything this giantness stands for, and yet, it's so eeeeeeeeeeeasy. And yeah, parts of it suck, but, well, I'd rather do something else than think too hard. Do you hear me, overlords? I WELCOME YOUR TELLING ME WHAT TO THINK. Plus, the maps are excellent, I find.

Do you hate technorati nearly as much as I hate technorati?
I do.
As do all right-thinking folk.

Between your posts and your links to sites like the "blog" of "unnecessary" quotation marks, you appear to be a fan of punctuation and correctly written words. Do you have a literary background?
"Literary" may be pushing it. I am a writer and editor, and I'm a former copy editor. I like my language and communication fairly precise.

Are emoticons in fact ruining America?
I think it is both lazy and useful to have something to indicate, in writing, that you're kidding. I have little use for emoticons with devil horns and sunglasses, but I use smileys probably too much. Actually, now that I think about it, it strikes me that smileys are OK, but probably winks are ridiculously lazy. How little game do you have if you need a symbol to say "I'm flirting with you"?

What do you miss most about moving to the city (besides the May Day dancing)?
Specific people. I was there eight years, I made friends, and I miss them, often. But really, that's about it. Also, this is where I totally reveal my blog for the sham that it is, but country folks know that there are lots and lots of degrees of country-ness, and I am in one of the easier types to move to: the college town. So there are still lectures and sports and arts, just in a town of many fewer people (about 23,000). So that eases the transition some.

Would you describe your neighbors as hicks, hillbillies, hayseeds, or bumpkins?
Mostly, I would describe them as "professors." I might also describe them as "uninterested in meeting me."

Did it turn out that those were mice making noise in your house, or were the Agatha Christie books actually preparing you to deal with a real, honest-to-god serial killer who happened to be lurking around your house?
Oh, the mice are real, which does not mean the serial killer isn't. The problem with Agatha Christie is that all she really prepares you for is solving the murder after it happens. If you're a victim, you're doomed, and nothing can prevent that. All I can hope for is that the serial killer waits until after The Wedding.

[As bzzzzgrrrl is still alive, and The Wedding concluded successfully, we can assume that the killer is either nonexistent, or very considerate.]

Pimp your blog in 25 words or less.
Mostly, I tell stories at my own expense. Also, I'm hilarious. And in general, things are spelled right.

No, I mean really pimp your blog. Pretend you have a gold tooth, and a diamond-headed cane, if it helps. Right now that description could apply just as easily to She Just Walks Around With It as it could to yours. Make me want to pay money to sleep with your blog.
OK, first of all, I would pay money to sleep with Kristy's blog, if it wouldn't create complications with my existing relationships, so if I've given the impression that my little fish-in-different-water story is anything like that, I'm good with it.

But I'll try again, anyway:
• Hot lettuce
• David Gregory
• Cheap drinks
• Pregnant movers
• Hippie Birkenstock Silver Jewelry Guy
• Squirrel-wrangling
• Candidate spouses
• Contra dancing
• Explosive dust evaluation
• and very many bulleted lists.


Thursday, April 24, 2008

Yes, it could be called P-Control.

MTV's Parental Control is everything that is wrong--not only with television, but with America as a whole--and I love it. Not just because I'm looking for tips on how to deal with what happens when I let my daughter start dating (twenty-five years from now), but mostly because the combination of reality show staging, empty posturing, and simulated teenage heartbreak is nothing short of magical. I shouldn't love a television show this much, and yet here I am writing about it.

The premise is that there is a set of parents who disapprove of their child's significant other. They explain to the camera why their daughter (or son!) is dating a shiftless layabout in confessional style, intercut with said layabout hamming it up in staged reenactments. Then the parents start interviewing replacements.

The interview sequence is all the earnest desire to please of American Idol tryouts combined with the sketchy meat-market shenanigans of Flavor of/Rock of/Shot at Love. The potential for hilarity here is maximized by the potential "dates" who seem to forget that they are not talking to the person that they are going to be dating, they are talking to that person's parents.

There's a fun mix of people who don't know what they're talking about (like the contestant who said that one of her hobbies was Argentinian Tango, and demonstrated a few steps by bending her knees in a half crouch, keeping her feet planted firmly on the floor, and thrashing her arms and shoulders like a go-go dancer with a freshly broken back) and people who shouldn't be allowed out in public (like the guy who said that if he was a carnival ride, he'd be "the one trick pony!" A pronouncement that was accompanied by pelvic thrusts while his right hand pantomimed hair-pulling and his left hand smacked his imaginary partner on the ass). Usually, one parent selects a new date based on personality, while the other goes for looks.

Here would be a good time to ask ourselves some questions about relationships and the people who want them filmed even while they rip them apart. Pretend that you are in a committed relationship, and your significant other's parents told both of you that they think you're an unworthy loser, and they are actively trying to end this relationship by sending their child out on two blind dates.

1) Wouldn't it be a huge red flag if the person that you thought was committed to you is suddenly willing to date other people because their parents said so?

2) Would you be able to sit next to those parents watching footage of the dates? Would you be able to make wisecracks and talk trash for the cameras trained on the three of you while you watch?

Some of the exchanges here HAVE to be scripted, but at the same time there's genuine fear in the eyes of some of these people; if they're only acting like they're trying to use sarcasm and jokes to cover up the fear that they might be single at the end of the day, they're doing a damn good job of it.

And then there's the final choosing, the whole show's raison d'etre. It's filmed for maximum tension, complete with dramatic music, and the two challengers stand with the contentious current sweetheart to find out who will remain. That's when things get real. Some of these contestants are mouthy. Sure, the people who have just had their long-standing relationship ripped apart on reality television have the right to blow off some steam. I'm talking about the newcomers, the are people who just came from a free date paid for by MTV, who were actively trying to steal someone from an existing relationship, and they suddenly get it into their heads that they've been slighted. The bitter comments of these losers have ranged from "go fuck yourself," "it's just as well you didn't pick me, because I'd never have picked you," and my personal favorite, "that's okay, I would rather have dated your mom."

Parental Control. It's good T.V. (that you'll feel like a bad person for enjoying)

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

I'm not lazy, I swear!

Hi to everyone visiting from The Law & Order: Criminal Intent Forum.

Unfortunately, I'm not updating this blog as often as I'd like, but Bitterly Books is going to be updated on the 1st and 15th of the month in the coming year. Enjoy, and thanks for stopping by!