Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Why the Internet Sucks

Because old videos never die. And do you know why Facebook sucks? Because one (or ten) of your friends will always point you to those videos. Someone put a bunch of the stuff produced by my high school TV department on Vimeo. I am glad to say that I am not in any of the clips, so I don’t mind throwing this up here so that my mother can have a chuckle at Godzik, around 2:15. Also, I am pretty sure I saw Eric in the drum line, but I am not going back to verify. And, the part that makes me rather proud – interspersed with the sports clips are clips of our Horticulture Club. No, I wasn’t on it.

Standing on Top of the World (1991) from Glenbrook South Television on Vimeo.

Monday, August 30, 2010

If I Had a Twitter Account

These are the things I would have said this weekend:
  1. I don't watch Glee and I didn't even watch the Emmys, but OMG did Jane Lynch look great.
  2. I think the Bears are broken. 
  3. Alex is the Olin Kreutz of kiddie flag football.  And he can return kicks, too.
  4. Sonic has a Happy Hour between 2 and 4pm.  Drinks and slushies are half price.  Cherry limeade, baby!
  5. Just deleted all my cookies and damn, my computer looks different.
  6. I forgot to put The Brothers Karamazov in my bag and was forced to buy a new book to read.
  7. I also have two book club reads to go through and I haven't even cracked my new school book yet.
  8. The Farmers Market makes you do crazy things.  Like buy eggplant.
  9. Free word game for the Kindle.  Awesome.  Except that it doesn't work on my version.  Do they really think I am going to fork over $189 for that?  Death first!  (And by Death, I mean iPad.)
  10. How many characters was that?
And this is why I don't have a Twitter account.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Defining Graffiti. And Art.

Weekend Assignment #333: Writing on the Wall

Have you ever written on a bathroom wall, or left graffiti anywhere at all? Confess! I promise we'll go easy on you! How do you feel about the ethics of graffiti, and the level of discourse sometimes found in illicit art and messages in public places?

Extra Credit: If you were to leave a message to the world on a public wall, what would it be?

I find it rather difficult to believe that I have never left any graffiti anywhere, but I just can’t think of any.  It would be just like me to block out any deliquent behavior, though. 

There is a famous pizza place in Chicago called Gino’s, where the graffiti on the walls and tables is legendary – practically encouraged – so I must have written something there, but I can’t come up with it.

In high school, I used to scribble song lyrics all over my notebooks. David Bowie here, Queen there, U2 and whatever else was going through my head when I should have been conjugating verbs in Spanish. But it isn’t graffiti if it is my own notebook, I don't think.  Do you have to deface someone else's property for it to be considered graffiti?

So I had to look up the exact definition.  From dictionary.com:

markings, as initials, slogans, or drawings, written, spray-painted, or sketched on a sidewalk, wall of a building or public restroom, or the like

O.K.  by that definition, I have clearly created graffiti in the form of chalk drawings on the sidewalk.  Hopscotch boards, mostly.  Foursquare boards on my neighbor's patio.  And perhaps, "Anne Rules the Universe".  That was all gone by the next rainstorm.

There is a schoolmarm in my head, that might only be my mother, telling me graffiti is bad because someone is just going to have to clean it up after it is done.  I don't know what the cost/benefit
analysis is for allowing the (temporary) artistic expression of the few and the theoretical enjoyment of some others to create the work of the clean up.  Some graffiti artists are really talented.  Which leads to a greater argument on what defines art.
In any event, I will be working my last volunteer shift in the old library on Thursday – we are moving to the new building beginning Sunday – so I should really scribble something on the bathroom wall before they tear the place down. Any ideas?

Saturday, August 28, 2010

How Many Books Do You Read at a Time?

Julia Keller, the literary critic at the Chicago Tribune, wrote a piece about reading more than one book at a time.  She says that she has about a half dozen "active" books at a time.  There is some debate, of course, over whether "serious readers" have this habit.  I like what she has to say:

Serial reading — the act of plowing through a single book without pausing to read anything else — seems quaint these days, and maybe impossible. We exist amid an extraordinary cultural cornucopia. We live in a world of joyful multitasking. There is more great literature being produced in the world today than at any other moment in history.

Generally, I am reading two books at any given time.  One is on my desk at home and the other is in my bag.  Because I haven't found a clean way to post more than one on my blog, I put whichever I expect to finish next in my "What I'm Reading Now".  Obviously, I am having a problem with Dostoevsky. 

However, I also have several other unfinished books lying around my house.  Bill Clinton's autobiography has been sitting in my bookcase for about ever.  You might remember that I read up to the day he met Hillary and had to put it down.  I will get back to it.  I also have Oswald's Tale, by Norman Mailer, sitting up here.  I will probably finish that, too.  Eventually.  Oh, and Memories of John Lennon.  It is a book of vignettes that I read while I was on school - it didn't require any commitment.  So I didn't give it much.

The ones downstairs are less likely.  There is a history book - documenting the death of Queen Victoria.  It was ok, just not a page turner.  And the book from the professor of that non-violence class at Berkeley that I found on Academic Earth.  Stalled out on that while I was still watching 24.

The thing is, there are so, so many books to read.  Some that I should read and some that I want to read and some that is just brain candy.  No kidding, I find it easier to find books to buy than to choose, among all of the books in my house, what I should read next.

Maybe I should get the heck off the Internet and go do that.

Friday, August 27, 2010

A Nice Shout Out

The Chicago Tribune ran an article about day trips that the cityfolk can take out to the suburbs on Metra.  North Glenview made the list, thank you very much.  We were called out for trips with kids, citing the childrens museum and the kiddie art studio.  Please note: I have never been to Make a Messterpiece before, but there is another paint-a-ceramic-thing studio a block or so up from there called Color Me Mine.  It isn't cheap, but Alex and I have made a couple of Christmas gifts there that turned out well.  Also, if you wanted to make a really long day of it, there is a movie theatre.  And a bookstore and a Von Maur.  And on any given Saturday you are likely to find me at the Noodles & Company. 

End of advertisement.

Unfortunately for me, North Glenview was the only stop noted on my train line.

Crate Training

I may have mentioned that my dog, Shadow, has a storm phobia.  Like many dogs, it has gotten worse as he has aged.  Since his illness (we are waiting for some labs to see if he needs more treatment for Cushing's Disease and I expect that he does), he has developed a rather major fear of being alone.  Locks himself in the bathroom, tears up the walls, that kind of thing.  There hasn't been much damage (it is to the paint, rather than the actual walls), but there was blood on the floor the last time he locked himself in my bathroom.

My friend Karen (Volunteer Director at the Refuge) is a vet tech and she told me to crate him.  "Can you crate train a 12-year old dog?!" was my response.  "Absolutely."  Well.  I had visions of him locked in a crate and thrashing around and destroying the TV or something.

I went to Fosters and Smith and ordered the biggest hard plastic crate they had.  It arrived on Tuesday and I built it in the family room, leaving off the door.  My thought was to see if he uses it as a den without locking him up.  Well.

That took less than 48 hours.  Of course, we don't know whether he will use it during the day and it hasn't been crisis tested and we haven't locked him in.  But that is a start.

The Literary Brouhaha

I've been perusing The Chicago Reader lately and a book review by Noah Berlatsky jumped out at me as interesting.  He was reviewing Bring on the Books for Everybody: How Literary Culture Became Popular Culture, by Jim Collins. It is a decent article and in the unlikely event that I stumble across that title at a book sale in the near future, I am sure to pick it up.  But this was the part that messed me up:

"One of the book's most entertaining set pieces is his description of a class discussion he led on the brouhaha that broke out in 2001 when Oprah Winfrey chose Jonathan Franzen's The Corrections for her book club and Franzen responded by explaining, basically, that he was too cool for the room. Collins asked his grad students to watch an Oprah's Book Club segment, read Franzen's novel and some of his essays, and decide what they thought. "

I just had a great big moment of, "They didn't have toys like that when I was a kid!"

I would have loved an assignment like that when I was in school.  This is a great debate.  While I haven't read the book (there is a copy in my house somewhere, I just haven't gotten to it), I sure followed the drama.  On one hand, I think Oprah has done a great thing here - she is getting people to read books.  (You might remember a poll from a few years ago that showed one in four Americans had not read a book in the past year.  And the average American read four books in that period.)  On the other hand, I find her picks to be extremely hit-or-miss, thematically very similar (although admittedly, I haven't read a lot of them),  and I cannot sit through her actual discussions.  I get why Franzen doesn't want to be known as an "Oprah Author".  However, he behaved like an ungrateful ass.

Incidentally, when I was googling for a link to that study, I found another one in the NY Post:

A study of 1,200 e-reader owners by Marketing and Research Resources found that 40 percent said they now read more than they did with print books.

Of course, that is theoretically a segment of the population that is pre-disposed to read alot.  But the study said "e-reader owners", not "people that have purchased e-readers".  So it might be a reason to gift it!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

The Year She Left, by Kerry Kelly

Book 36

I found The Year She Left, by Kerry Kelly, in that awesome used book store next to The World's Biggest Book Store in Toronto.  Local author, souvenir book.  And it was pretty good.

Each chapter is a month that follows two people.  Stu was left by his girlfriend in a bad way.  Kate left Mr. Awesome, who was very nice about it.  So you read their stories and start to figure they are going to end up together, but you keep reading anyway.  And pleasantly enough, it doesn't go quite the way you think.  The game-changing twist was genuinely shocking to me.  But in the end, the back of the book actually gives it away by saying, "Is it a happy ending?  Define happy."

Kelly has a few moments of interesting language.  One that I remember hovering over was:

"that he had given his heart to a woman, and while it was something that she made clear she didn't want, she hadn't been able to return it.  It was still there, with her, beating quietly, unwanted, apologizing and trying not to cause offence."

Oh, hell.

The characters have an annoying way of referring to people with whom they are impressed as "rock 'n roll".  Is that a Canadian thing?

I rather enjoyed this book and would read Kelly again.  If I should ever come across another of her books, I mean.  And now, it is just me and Dostoevsky.  No kidding.  I shall not pick up one more thing until I have conquered that bastard.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

I Miss College

Craig Wilson was waxing nostalgic about college in a usatoday.com article.  He starts with the old "college is wasted on the young".  Which is, of course, true. I remember our revered English teacher, Mr. Mullaly, telling us in highschool,  "They say that high school is the best years of your lives.  That's B.S.  It is college.  College is the best thing going.  Trust me."  And I did.  And he was right.  My only regret is that I spent my last semester thinking about the next thing - going home, getting a job, whatever with the boyfriend - instead of enjoying every last minute of it.  Anyway, the punchline was this:

I propose every 60-year-old in America gets sent back to college. Maybe not for four years. I'd take one. We'd appreciate the second chance, perhaps even learn something this time around.

I am often telling people that whenever you go to college, it is a good thing.  If you go at 18, you get it done and get the letters behind your name.  If you go at 40, you appreciate it more.  And study more, learn more and probably get better grades. 

Wilson started thinking about it during farewell parties for the college-bound freshmen.  I think about it every year when the campus gear hits Bed Bath & Beyond.  Who cares about the kids when there are so many new space-saving ways to store your shoes? 

Except that when I was in college, I had maybe three pairs.

The point is, kids, every part of the college experience is a privilege and if Wilson's Bill passed, I would absolutely go back.  But I might skip the dorms next time.

Monday, August 23, 2010

A Funeral, a Really Long Meeting and Checking in

This morning, I left work to attend the funeral of a retired colleague.  Lori was 90 years old, and by the time I met her she was only working two days a week as a receptionist.  However, once she retired for real, (and sadly, began to forget things) I got to know her daughter. 

I had sent an e-mail around the office and to some retirees last week.  I made sure that the company sent flowers.  But this morning, I realized that I didn't know anyone else at the church.  There were plenty of people, but they were mostly those that knew the family.  I realized that Lori had outlived her contemporaries.  It reminded me that another retired friend, Carol, once told me about the sad realization that one is attending more funerals than weddings.  And then finding oneself looking at the obituaries for real.

I have more retired friends than is normal for a person my age.  It must be an occupational hazard.

In the end, I was glad that I was alone, because I was more sad than I thought I would be.  I stopped for lunch on my way back to the office and was most grateful to be able to read a book and not talk to anyone.


Then I spent the entire afternoon talking about retirement plans.  With actuaries and accountants. 

So I came home a little fried and I called my brother to find out how Alex's first day of Kindergarten went.  Technically, I asked: "So how did the boy do?"

He started telling me all about the flag football game on Sunday.  Alex punted and returned a kick and made good blocks...  Kid seems to get it.  Because we raised him on football games.

"I bet Alex knows what a long snapper is," I said.  My brother agreed that he probably did. 

(At this point, she realizes that her monologue is just boring and that if she hurries, she can take a shower, get some ice cream, watch some Daria and still go to bed early.  Because tomorrow is going to be a better day, anyway.)

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Is it Fall Yet?

Weekend Assignment #332: Back To School

In just a couple weeks, students will be heading back to school. Share with us what that means in your life. Are you currently shopping for school supplies for the students in your life? Are you planning on going back to school? Maybe everyone around you is rushing to get ready for the new school year, but you can sit back and relax. Tell us what that's like.

Extra Credit: Tell us what you liked the most and disliked the most about the first day of school!

I don't have kids and I finished what I expect was my final degree program last January.  I am sitting for a certification exam in December, though.  So perhaps I should get moving.  I have already bought my books and a new notebook.

I love new notebooks.

Back to School also means new clothes - which I have been buying.  And Pumpkin Spice and Apple Cider.  And football.  Football!  And being able to get a table at Noodle's at lunchtime.

At work, it means things are gearing up.  Every year, Tuesday after Labor Day, a whole bunch of us fly to our next convention location for a pre-conference planning meeting.  It is funny that for some people, the Labor Day vacation is the end of summer and for me it is the trip after the holiday weekend that does it.

My nephew is starting kindergarten on Monday.  He doesn't seem to see the milestone.  He's "been to school before".  He doesn't understand that every year is a fresh start and every class is different.  He thinks a clique is the noise that tells him his seat belt is buckled.  I am not one of those people that wants a do-over.  I feel like I did my time, thank you very much.  But still.  There is just the smallest little piece of my soul that envies him.

Excuse me while I go kill it.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Niagara: A History of the Falls, by Pierre Berton

Book 35

So I was wandering the Big Box book store in Toronto, looking for my little souvenir book, when I found Niagara: A History of the Falls, by Pierre Berton.  It seems Berton is one of the better, or at least more popular, Canadian historians.

The book has a pretty good balance of the "discovery" and development of the Falls.  The inevitable exploitation and battles of the preservationists.  The tourists and those that prey on them.  The adventurers and the even crazier people.  To my shame, I have no great interest in the science of harnessing the power of electricity.  But even in those parts, Berton makes the characters interesting.

It was, however, a really slow read.  Bad time for it, too.  I've been spending too much time in the bookstores and then was forced to bring an entire bag home from the Arlington Heights Library Book Sale.  Excuse me while I find something lighter now.

I Told You to Be Nice

The Trib just ran an article called "Revenge of the Hotel Clerk: 5 Things They'll Do to Difficult Guests".  You'd better believe I was interested.  A couple were obvious - making you wait or giving you a less-desirable room.  Goofy charges showing up on your bill wasn't terribly surprising.  Obscene phone calls after you check out?  Someone's got time on their hands, and the maturity of a 12-year old.  Then it got a bit sociopathic:

"If the guest were particularly annoying, the clerk could place a huge hold on the card, rendering it unusable for any other purchases," says David Chen, a hotel executive in Hawaii.

So, because a desk clerk doesn't like me, they are going to screw up my credit card so that I can't use it for the rest of my trip.  Seriously?  If some jerk, even at Marriott, did that to me, I would be taking my Silver Elite Whatever someplace else.

Having said that, people are barely more pleasant to the hotel staff than they are to the staff at the airlines.  I remember in Hawaii last February, I was standing in line at the front desk when I heard a woman complaining about her room.  I couldn't believe it - the view wasn't good enough for her and she demanded a change.  Even after the clerk said that she would move them to a new room, the woman kept complaining.  I had to put on my iPod and think happy thoughts.  I was actually embarassed by the time I got to the front of the line.  "Um.  I am perfectly happy with my room.  Can you break this into singles, please?  I'd like to leave something for housekeeping."

I have twice requested a room change.  The first time was in a Best Western in Oklahoma where I stopped for the night in the middle of a horrid rainstorm on a roadtrip to Texas.  They were pretty full and I obviously didn't have a reservation.  I got to the room and it hadn't been cleaned after the previous guests had checked out.  The second was a ground floor room that had bugs everywhere.  Big bugs.  In both cases, the front desk was perfectly pleasant and took care of me right away.

I can only remember once being overtly snotty to a hotel employee.  It was the shipping department of Caesar's Palace and they had lost my meeting materials box.  I regret being short with the staff, and I apologized for it to the Manager that was finally called.  Incidentally, he didn't accept that the hotel was responsible for the loss and wouldn't even comp us for the copies we made in trying to recreate the contents.

The point here is that we seem to have fallen into a pattern of mentally dehumanizing service employees.  Retail, restaurant and hospitality staff have exhausting gigs and while I don't approve of passive-aggressive behavior, I certainly don't think they need to be doing any favors for customers that don't appreciate them.  So personally, I will be slapping a smile on my face and saying "Please" and "Thank you" to everyone I see behind a counter.  And saving my glares for the jerks that bogart the overhead bins.

Friday, August 20, 2010

I Read the News Today. Oh, boy.

Two stories that freaked me out on usatoday.com:

First, Fidelity Investments is reporting that the number of workers taking hardship withdrawals from their 401k) plans is at a 10-year high.  So, not surprising, right?  Here's what got me:

"What's also eye-opening is that 45% of participants who took a hardship withdrawal a year ago took another one this year"

I haven't taken any statistics, but I've been seeing this this trend in my own 401(k) plan.  This validation doesn't feel very..validating.

Second, it seems that bed bugs are showing up in the workplace.  I am cautious about bed bugs when I travel.  I use the luggage racks and don't put my bags down on the floor or on the bed.  I make a cursory check of the mattress.  I am happy to say that I have not, to my knowledge, encountered them yet.  But at work?!  I didn't need to hear about that.

So, of course, I had to share.  Happy Friday.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Counting Down

The first thing I noticed when I walked into the Library tonight was an empty bookcase.   And then another and another.  It appears that they have emptied all of the displays of featured books.  Like the Oprahs and the Wallflowers and my personal favorite, the one that had the books other cities had chosen for their book clubs.

I've said that I don't normally check out books from the Library for fun.  Research and travel, yes.  But not anything recreational.  But since we are now in the "extended checkout" window, I am thinking of getting something.  As of this week, any books that we check out have a two-month loan period.

And, you know, it is one less book that someone has to move. 

There are some pictures up on the website showing the progress.  My favorite is of the "eyebrow windows".  When the project ran into budget problems, these windows were part of the "do we really need this?" discussion.  My answer was no, but whatever:

I am in favor of natural light as long as it is not taking up usable space.  As in space where bookshelves could go.

I love bookshelves.

The building I am sitting in will be torn down ASAP to build the new parking garage - a thought that really ought to make me sad.  It does not make me sad.  Right now, I think I would rather like to drive the bulldozer.

Or at least watch on the webcam.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Processed and Melted

Another Weekend Assignment Rewind  (Because I am tired and cranky and don't have anything nice to say.)

Weekend Assignment #311: What is your favorite kind of cheese and why? Do you have it often, or just occasionally?

Extra Credit: Is there a kind of cheese you hate?

I actually thought that I was a serious fan of cheese.  Then I discovered Whole Foods.  I tried different types of cheese and hated plenty.  Then, because I wasn't done with the game, I started trying every variety of Cheddar - Irish, Australian, you get the idea.  It turns out that I like Vermont Cheddar and Hoffman's Super Sharp Cheddar the best.  And I think you can get both at Costco.

I find this utterly ridiculous because I love cheese.  Love it.  I have rejected Five Guys because it does not have cheese sauce for their fresh cut french fries.  Seriously? I don't care how good your burgers are, Five Guys - I am going to Meatheads.  And having a grilled cheese sandwich.

Wait.  I just did that for lunch.

This is where my mother says, "I keep telling you.  You just do not have gourmet tastes."  In my defense, I have outgrown Velveeta.  I think.   I haven't had it in a really long time, anyway.  The cheese I have most often is parmesan.  On my pasta.  At Noodles & Company.

I actively dislike stinky cheeses.  I enjoy blue cheese on a cobb salad, but that is about it. 

Have I answered the question?  What is my favorite cheese?  The kind that comes from Wisconsin.  Pasteurized.

Monday, August 16, 2010

20% Done and Starting to Babble

Last week, my friend Jodi posted on Facebook, "Tuesday: Better than Monday at least."  And someone responded with, "And 20% closer to Saturday."

I didn't even have a bad day, but Summer Hours have this side effect:  When you don't have Friday off, the week drags on forever.

I took Spooky to the vet for a semi-annual check iin.  His labs are all in the normal range, though his potassium is low.  But it seems that without dropping $1500 on a full nephrological panel, anything is normal until the kidneys are really shutting down.  So where we began with trying to get him to eat some canned food (he pretends to eat beef flavored Gravy Lovers Fancy Feast), we have added on trying a potassium supplement.  It is in paste form, involves maple sugar and many cats eat it straight up. 


When I drop his treats into a pile of said paste, he may or may not eat it.  However, I am not relying Spooky's treat whims for a twice-a-day supplement.  So each night, I take the plastic syringe and try to shoot it into his mouth.

Ha.  Ha.

My entire bedroom smells like pancakes, and Spooky is not speaking to me.  Of course, he wouldn't be speaking to me anyway, as pre-season started on Saturday.

The Bears played Saturday night.  It is notable because on Friday, Alex told me that his daddy was grounded from T.V. shows for three days.  Because he was mean.  Dude - if I told my father that he was grounded from bloody anything, my butt would have been kicked.  But they humored him.  OK, then so here's me:

"Alex, that's pretty harsh.  You know, the Bears game is tomorrow night.  Is Daddy really grounded from the Bears game?"

He said.  "Maybe..grounded for two days.  Then done tomorrow night."

Quite the merciful child. 

From lugging the kids around or whatever, my back was killing me.  I went for a massage yesterday.  You may know that a deep tissue massage is not relaxing.  It can be painful when someone is grinding out every knotted muscle in your back.  And when it is over, you feel rather bruised for a couple of days, because your skin takes some abuse in order to help the muscle tissue.  And you keep going back because at least the knots are gone.

People.  My back is actually bruised.

I cannot manage to get any reading done (which happens when you are reading one Russian epic and one Canadian history), but I am three episodes into the Highlander series.  Not really impressed yet, but I have already had a couple of awesome 1990's "wait! I know that guy!" moments.  Too bad Bull was the bad guy.

Finally, after the candy bar fix, I can recommend a rather healthy treat.

Del Monte Fruit Chillers now come in a tube.  Like a Mr. Freeze pop, but with actual fruit.  Unfortunately, like the old Mr. Freeze pop, you could eat five of them at a time.  I managed to stop at two.  And keep them away from the children.  I wonder how long these would last in the freezer at work.  Not that I am going to try it.

This really is going to be a long week.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

The Answer is Cake

Weekend Assignment #331: Cake V. Pie (A Scalzi Flashback)

Which is better -- cake or pie? Explain your reasoning. Will you choose the moist sponginess and frosting-topped goodness of cake? Or will you side with those flaky crust-adoring, fruit-filling fanatics of the pie nation? You must choose one -- and only one! No trying to suggest that Boston Creme Pie is really kind of like a cake, or how cheesecake is actually not unlike a pie. Take a stand! Be true to your pastry orientation!

Extra Credit: Having chosen cake or pie, now admit your favorite variety of the dessert you did not choose. So if you chose cake, tell us your favorite pie. Prefer pie? Tell us your favorite cake. - J.S.

This was slightly more difficult than I thought.  I consider myself a cake person.  Actually, I consider myself a frosting person.  But I am really a recovering frosting person.  The last..half dozen times I have had cake, I have said out loud, "Someone please remind me next time:  I am not twelve years old and I don't really want that much frosting."

I have made a game of testing out every cupcake place in the District of Columbia.  It seems that some have better cake and some have better frosting.

I think part of the reason that I prefer cake is that you generally know what you are going to get.  There are a thousand ways to make a pie.  In fact, the current debate in my family is whether the apples in an apple pie should be mushy or "maintain structural integrity".

The answer is "maintain structural integrity".

I enjoy the fruit of the pie more than the pastry.  In fact, when dessert is ordered at any given restaurant, I often order whatever passes for the apple pie/crisp/cobbler.  And I generally have the same critique:

"Too much pastry, not enough fruit."

And then there is the risk that it is all too syrupy.  I have that problem with the strawberry pie at Baker's Square - which happens to be my father's favorite.  So whatever I order at a restaurant, I am really thinking that I would just prefer a normal slice of cake.  Yellow.  With chocolate frosting.

However, if I can't have that, the apple pie will do.  Heated.  With ice cream on the side.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Twix Java

I don't normally buy the impulse candy in check out line, but I saw this Twix Java, which reminded me of the Coffee Crisp in Toronto, so I gave it a try.

This picture is from a couple of years ago.  My package doesn't say Limited Edition, which makes me happy because it is really good and I hope it isn't "Limited".  The cookies are chocolate and the caramel has the coffee flavor. 

It has been a really long time since I had a regular-sized Twix bar, but these seemed a bit small.  And now that I am looking at the package, the net weight is 1.79 ounces, as compared to the 2.0 ounces in the package pictured. 

The nutritional information on my package says 250 calories and 13 grams of fat, which sounds to me like an average candy bar.  I wonder if they shrunk the serving to line up nutritional value or to be offering up less product for the money.  Discuss amongst yourselves.

So the texture is the same as I remember from a normal Twix and the new flavoring is very tasty.  It is not as good as the Coffee Crisp, but a pretty decent substitute.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Washington Misc 2

Seriously, people.  Don't come to this town in August.  It is 98 degrees.  I tried to go out after work and made it as far as the Air and Space Museum - across the street.  Thankfully, it is open late in the summer.  I haven't been there in a very long time.  I like it a lot, but not enough to fight the crowds on the average day. 

I have this weird habit that I imagine is the last breath of my maternal instinct coming out:  I find myself looking around wherever I happen to be and asking whether Alex would like it.  At that moment, I happened to tilt my head in the direction of the 747 and thought, "Whoa.  Yeah.  He would."

He's still too young.  I think we have agreed that I will bring him here when he is 10.

There were too many kids running around and I started to smell dirty diapers and had to leave.  So I sat down on the steps facing the mall and saw another artistic structure that I hadn't noticed before:

A big pole with some spindly things at the tops.  And some birds perched on it.  I am not even going to look up the meaning of this.

Then I gave up and went to find something for dinner.  Which reminds me.  At lunchtime, Stef took me over to Chinatown to the other cupcake bakery that everyone talks about, Red Velvet.  These cupcakes are $3.25, where I seem to recall the others are an even $3.00.  But they come in a nice box:

And the box has a cardboard thing inside so the cupcake doesn't tip.  I broke from my usual vanilla on vanilla test cupcake and chose the vanilla with chocolate frosting. 

Isn't it darling?  The cake was really good, with an almondy thing going on.  The frosting was very pretty, but tasted a bit off.  I can't really describe how.  Whatever.  Are we done with the cupcakes?  A few people are talking about the place in Georgetown that was on the Food Network.  My associates don't want to patronize the place because, "I watched that show and I don't like them."  Also, there isn't a great way to get to Georgetown from here.

So.  I am heading home tomorrow and won't be back for...four more weeks?  Let's hope I can remember my Metro card.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Washington Misc

I am back in Washington DC.  Things I forgot this time around:
  1. My personal cell phone. (As opposed to my employer's cell phone.)
  2. My iPod
  3. My Metro card.  I think it had $12 on it.
  4. The turn off to Long Term Parking at O'Hare.  So I am paying the regular Daily Rate.  This isn't actually a terrible thing, since it was pouring rain when I got to the airport and I would have been most cranky wandering the airport soaking wet.
Because Stef is now working out of the empty office I used to squat, I commandeered a conference room in Accounting.  Would you believe that someone ordered a whole bunch of cupcakes from someplace new and I was locked in with them all afternoon?  What is it with this place and the cupcakes?

The place was called Cake Love.  As always, I tried the vanilla.  It was ok.  The cake was pretty dense and the frosting was light.  It just wasn't all that exciting.  However, I looked on the website and the layered cakes look darling.

In other non-news, it is 95 degrees outside, I can't face the Metro at Rush Hour and I only brought one set of play clothes, so I am staying in tonight.  I plan to eat ice cream and watch more Daria on DVD. 

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Falling Out of Fashion, by Karen Yampolsky

Book 34

As a result of Googling Jane Pratt, I found that her former assistant, Karen Yampolsky, wrote a roman a clef about the rise and fall of Sassy and Jane magazines.  But she did it from Jane's point of view.

It is total chick lit. I found myself cringing an awful lot at the behavior of the people running Nestrom - the stand-in name for Conde Nast Publications.  Apparently, it is all just like high school.  And Anna Wintour really is that bad.  There are enough juicy pieces in the book to make one wonder where the line was between fiction and reality.  Such as - did Jane Pratt really have a one week groupie fling with Michael Stipe in college?  So that was fun.  However.

I don't see much reason for anyone that isn't familiar with the magazines to read this book.  Unless you really, really like chick lit.

HP Tech Support

I was just talking with some friends yesterday about the concept of a “first world problem”. Stuff that you know that you shouldn’t complain about because your little inconveniences can’t possibly compare to the real problems of the world. But still.

For several months, I have been whining that I need a network printer in my house. Every time I have to print anything like..boarding passes, or driving directions, I have to do it from my mother’s room. So she picked one up for my birthday. I started the setup this afternoon.

I followed the instructions and loaded the software. Wi-fi worked and it was all connected. I got all the way to testing the printer when the machine started making a horrible noise that wouldn’t stop and it gave me an error code with a note to “Refer to Printer Documentation”. I went back to my little manual. Couldn’t find anything. I went online and searched for the error code. Nothing. I was forced to call customer service. I thought I was calling to get someone to tell me what the code means. Um..no.

Long story short (too late). Over an hour later they decided to send me a new printer.

I am not pleased with the experience because:

1. The stuff should work in the first place.

2. I should be able to look up every single error code know to man on the website.

3. By the third time I correct someone calling me “Sarah”, they should learn my name.

But mostly? I very much got the impression that HP was looking for a way to blame me for the problem. I lost track of the number of times I said, “No. The product is new. I just took it out of the box.” I had to give them my credit card number for collateral and the estimated delivery date on the new printer is August 18.


Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Go See This

My friend John is in this show. I would put up a picture of the playbill, but this is a family blog. Sort of.  I suppose I must go see it, even though it’s an..untraditional piece. And you all know how I feel about schlepping into the city.

John is a bit of a punk, and the last time I clicked in there, he hadn’t submitted a bio. So I have written one for him:

John Wilson is thrilled to return to the stage after a long hiatus fueled by red meat, booze, women and film noir. He came to Chicago sometime in the last millennium after graduating from Shorter College with a degree in Theatre Arts. He claims they did their first decent show after he graduated.  It was The Lion in Winter.  He's still bitter.

 John maintains a day job in a cube farm and writes a blog that is sometimes clever. Less so now that Lost is finished, but whatever. He still plays with Legos and knows more about Doctor Who than you do.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

"Special Places"

Weekend Assignment #329: Lost and Found

Have you ever lost something important (or else just really unusual), only to find it again months or even years later? Were you glad to get it back, or was it no longer worth having by then? Tell us your tale of memorable things lost and found. Alternatively, if you never, ever lost anything important, tell us how you manage this nearly superhuman accomplishment. ;)

Extra Credit: If you could choose one missing item to mysteriously reappear in your home tonight, what would it be and why?

I remember it starting with Kris and Pam on the staff of our high school literary magazine:

“I will put this in a very special place so that I don’t forget it.”

They lost the only copy of a half-decent poem that I wrote. The “special place” method obviously didn’t work, and I adopted it anyway. The next evolution was to ask someone else to watch you putting something in the very special spot so that one of you remembers. Like, “Mom – look at where I am putting the title to my car.” It is twenty years later and I am still putting things in a “special place” so that I don’t forget. And I still shout to the person nearest to me – usually Joy, but sometimes my mother – what I am doing just so there is a witness to my madness.

People, I lose more things to “special places” than in any clutter in my home, office or car.

The title to my car is a decent example, although it didn’t take months to find. I forget why I decided that I needed it, but I had to tear apart my drawers of important papers. I knew I hadn’t thrown it out. I knew I wouldn’t leave it lying around. It had to be in there. I must’ve found a “special spot” for it.

I sure had. It was in a folder labeled (in my mother’s handwriting) “’93 Blazer”. ’93 Blazer being my last car. I had put the title to my current car in a folder that I was not going to throw away, but had no other use for. And apparently, I was just too lazy to make a new folder. Or even a new label. OK, great. I know where it is now. So of course, I put it back in the folder and put the folder back in the drawer for the next time I want to see it.

A few months ago, I lost my key to my office. It is in a pouch with a reusable gift card to the deli in our building. There is actually cash on the thing, too. I lost it during a particularly bad stretch of business travel. I was pretty sure that I left it in one bag or another, but I cannot find it anywhere and I really wish it would turn up now. Just so I can prove that I didn’t really lose it.

Club Dead, by Charlaine Harris

Book 33

I spent the last day of my vacation reading Club Dead, by Charlaine Harris - the third Sookie Stackhouse book.  The one where we are introduced to the werewolves.


In the eternal struggle between vampires and werewolves, I am clearly on the side of the vampires. 

The book opens with Bill being distracted and lame and going on a "business trip" and then disappearing.  What Eric was not going to tell her - but Pam made him spill - was that Bill was getting ready to drop her for Lorena.  I am rather liking Pam these days.  Eric has a vested interest in finding Bill, so he talks Sookie into going to Mississippi with a werewolf that he knows to find out where Bill might be.

The werewolf turns out to be a hottie and a rather nice guy that happens to have some baggage of his own.  We learn a bit about the wereworld and its relationship to the vampire world and that of the shape shifters.  Blahblahblah.  Lorena turns out to be working for the King of Mississippi, who is holding and turturing Bill into giving up a database of information that he has been compiling.

The most amusing thing about this book is a minor character named "Bubba".  Dim bulb of a vampire that has been set up as Sookie's bodyguard a couple of times in the series.  He takes orders literally and does not do any lateral thinking at all.  What I somehow missed before is that Bubba is actually Elvis Presley.  For serious.  In this world, a vmapire was in the ER when Elvis came in and turned him.  Except that Elvis' brain was already fried, so now he is a rather pathetic creature, who barely understands that he was once the King.

Anyway.  I was disappointed to see Eric get even more googly-eyed over Sookie, but I guess I'd better get over it.  It keeps him on the canvas, anyway.  I appreciated that Sookie kicked a bit of ass, and that at the end she sent the little boys out of her house and back to the playground.

As far as the link to the series - obviously Bill disappeared at the end of Season 2, but the rest of the set up doesn't quite add together.  So I am interested to see how HBO pulls the story arc in line.  Or doesn't.