April 22, 2016

April 22, 2016

Someone Tell Jimmy McMillan About This

For me, the best part of vacationing is hunkering down in the hotel room, flipping through the endless cable package. Straight talk: The only reason I’m not a cord cutter is that I never had a cord in the first place. I pay for a great many things, but television programming is not one of them, amen.

Lately, it seems that every vacation of mine coincides with the discovery of yet another House Hunters spinoff. Last time, it was Tiny House Hunters:

This time (because these words are coming to your eyeholes straight from my hotel room), it’s House Hunters Off the Grid. Frankly, the first word I’d use to describe it is bewildering. Rather than the HH parameters I’m used to, I’m hearing things like “the leeches could be a problem,” “we’d like to stay under $80 a month for rent,” and “there’s no running water.” None of those phrases should be associated with housing, people. Ever. EVER.

I appreciate that not everyone lives as I do, from a corner of a couch to which food and supplies are delivered regularly from various websites ending in –crate. Things like high-speed internet, parking, and even air conditioning are negotiable. You know what’s not negotiable? LEECHES. It’s 2016, people. If we can put a man on the moon, we can find places to live that don’t entail leeches.

Perhaps the worst part is that the people on this episode of HHOTG (even the acronym is discomforting) have children. Children that will be subjected to aforementioned leeches. However your parents botched the gig when you were growing up, I daresay your nonconsensual leech exposure was minimal. (I added the “nonconsensual” bit after my helper hippo informed me that some people willingly swim in bodies of water that also contain leeches. I’m pretty sure he’s making that shit up because COME ON, but okay.)

Ugh, I think they just showed literal poop buckets. These people (Australians, of course they would be Australians) are willingly embracing a poop bucket situation.

I’ll stick to Million Dollar Listing.

March 29, 2016

March 29, 2016

Everything's Bigger

Guys. It’s been too long, I know. New job is kicking my butt. (In a good, consensual way.) I took a little time off recently to visit TheBoy’s hometown of Houston, Texas. While Orlando remains the furthest south I’ve even been, Houston is a close second. Weather-wise, it felt kind of what I expect the surface of the sun to feel like. Hot? YES.

The main reason we went was the rodeo, because the best way to lure me to anything remotely outdoorsy is deep fried food on a stick.

I went with the brownie balls. They were delicious.

It was literally my first rodeo, so I had no idea what to expect. The answer turns out to be crazy animal hijinks, fewer rope tricks than you’d think, and the insanity that is the calf scramble. Oh, and Little Big Town, a country act I could (pretend) to get behind (for a few hours).

But the greater Houston area is so much more than the Astrodome NRG Stadium rodeo. It’s the Museum of Natural Science:

The Museum of Fine Arts:

Bayou Bend:

The Kemah Boardwalk:

And mother-freaking NASA:

“I wish I could quit you.”

Me and Scott Kelly say “Hey girl.”

The biggest revelation, though, was neither the palm trees nor the TV stations that start with K nor the rampant appearance of unironic cowboy hats. It was Luby’s.

Forget Huckabee’s: I heart Luby’s.

It’s a cafeteria chain and I would legitimately live there if that were remotely possible.

This meal was so cheap, it was like THEY paid ME.

Don’t mess with it, people. Don’t mess with it.

February 28, 2016

February 12, 2016

February 12, 2016

Playlist for the Affirmative

In the moments before the most recent Republican debate (and the unfortunate series of events that was the introductions), one of the candidates* had earbuds in. While I suppose he could have been playing inspirational historical oratory or the voices of his kids or whatnot, I like to think he was pumping himself up with some magnificent tunes.

Which naturally got me to thinking: What would my pre-debate playlist be? A quick back-of-the-envelope calculation resulted in this:

            1. Lose Yourself, Eminem
            2. My Shot, Lin-Manuel Miranda
            3. Bulletproof, La Roux
            4. Rolling in the Deep, Adele
            5. Kryptonite, 3 Doors Down
            6. No Rain, Blind Melon
            7. Hit ‘Em Up Style, Blu Cantrell
            8. Clocks, Coldplay
            9. Stereo Hearts, Gym Class Heroes
          10. Hey Jude, The Beatles

What about you? You needn’t be a Presidential candidate to play—everybody has to perform at some point. What would motivate you to get on the stage/in the seat/what-have-you and absolutely CRUSH IT?

* I'm not going to say which, since Duly Noted is an apolitical safe space.

January 11, 2016

January 11, 2016

Check Engine, Check Yourself

Cars, in my opinion, are a necessary evil. I don’t like to drive them. I don’t like to ride in them. They get me from here to there at best. So car people, you’ve been warned: Look away.

As little as I like cars, I have one because I’m an upwardly mobile city dweller with a warehouse club membership and weak arms. I can’t lug the club size of anything on public transit, people. I need to tote the pallets of Diet Coke home, along with my boxes of Ikea furniture. The sum total of this driving equals about 500 miles a year. Not a typo. Five hundred. A year.

Nevertheless, I get oil changes and safety inspections and emissions tests as required by law and common sense. I don’t hate the player (the car). I hate the game (having a car). Sure, I may have let the safety inspection slide a month. Or two. In my defense, Wisconsin doesn’t even HAVE safety inspections, so how vital to the general welfare could they really be?

Anyway, I took the day off work on Friday to get all the car-related reckoning out of the way. I needed an oil change, a safety inspection, and—this is the kicker—a stop lamp switch replacement as necessitated by a Hyundai recall. I honestly almost threw away the letter from Hyundai about this, because a) it looked like an ad and b) if it were really serious, Lester Holt would have told me about it. But TheBoy insisted, so I scheduled an appointment with the dealership. Ugh.

I was dreading the entire experience in the same way I assume most people dread the dentist. It’s a semiannual invasion of privacy, wherein you’re hoisted up and examined, hoping they find as few problems as possible. Because you KNOW they’re going to find something. At my last oil change, the guy gave me EIGHT PAGES of recommended services. At which point I fell back on the excuse routine I’ve been using since approximately 1998: “I’ll have to ask my husband about that,” “My husband needs to approve any big spending,” pitiful eyelash bats, etc. FEMINISM LIVES.

Because when else does an expert take advantage of the situation to suggest other services?

“Sure, we scheduled you for an appendectomy, but this left kidney isn’t looking so good, man.”

“I know you asked for a mole removal, but should we do a tattoo while we’re back here?”

No. Thanks. Particularly after the guy checking me in at the dealership commented on my low mileage. He literally said, “Wow, low mileage. You know, we recommend you replace the timing belt, regardless of mileage. Bad timing belt, you lose the engine. It’s $645.”

Ain’t nobody got time for that, son. Ain’t nobody got time for that.

December 31, 2015

December 31, 2015

My Best Podcasts of 2015: A Threeve

It’s been a long time since I last wrote about podcasts. The number of good ones has increased (though a few have stopped publishing—RIP Firewall & Iceberg) while the amount of time in a day remains constant. Thanks for nothing, physics.

As we plan to flip our calendars from Year of the Sheep to Year of the Monkey, I’d like to take a minute to note that Gimlet Media completely changed my podcast routine in 2015.

My point of entry was Reply All, specifically an episode about online dating for Asian women featuring This American Life contributor Stephanie Foo. I believe the show was plugged on TAL, and the internet and Asians are two of my Favorite Things, so I checked it out. It was, in a word, fantastic. As every episode has been. While answering a seemingly simple tech question (“Who wrote this hold music?” “Why is it so hard to cancel auto delivery?” “What happens when you email a generic address like john@gmail.com?”), Reply All’s two co-hosts find all sorts of layers to the internet onion.

Reply All was promising—quality, longform audio narrative—so I decided to add Mystery Show to the mix. It’s hosted by This American Life contributor and pixie-in-a-good-way Starlee Kine. Starlee solves a mystery in each episode, and my favorite thus far has been “How tall is Jake Gyllenhaal?” The answer is far more complicated than you’d expect.

My final Gimlet show (thus far) is Startup, in which each season follows the start of a company. Season one focused on Gimlet itself. Season two focused on a website called Dating Ring. Season three’s subject is TBD, but this Shark Tank fan will definitely be there with Bluetooth earbuds on.

I’m still listening to my old standbys, of course: WTF, Wait Wait, Good Job, Brain, and the like. But few shows have made me think and laugh more this year than Gimlet’s. Thank you, Ira Glass, for being the Lorne Michaels of public radio.

December 22, 2015

December 22, 2015

My Best Books of 2015: A Threeve

2015 was the year I stopped slacking off and started multitasking in earnest. There’s just too much good TV, film, literature, and podcast media out there. I used to have down time while (for example) walking from the train to the office, but this year I realized that life is too short not to listen to podcasts while (for example) walking from the train to the office. Result: my Gimlet media consumption is up 1000% percent, though I still don’t understand the draw of Serial.

But that is for another day. The day I write about my best podcasts of 2015. Stay tuned.

I feel like I read less than I should have this year. (Probably because I was spending so much time listening to podcasts.) I didn’t start tracking myself on Goodreads until the middle of the year, but my cuff records indicate I read between 140 and 150 books this year. Frankly, that is not enough. THE WORLD IS NOT ENOUGH.

I’d like to do something a little different with my Best Books this year. Rather than focusing on flash-in-the-pan Best Books—for which my love burned hot but short—let me talk about some books that will stick with me. Spoiler alert: None of them are Go Set a Watchman or Grey. Because…yikes.

2nd Runner Up: The Beautiful Bureaucrat by Helen Phillips.

Part allegory, part commentary, part dystopia. Short enough to read in a longish single sitting. Reviews compare it to Murakami and Atwood. I’d throw in Orwell, too. Granted: this is right in my female-bureaucrat-who-loves-dystopian-fiction sweetspot, but still.

1st Runner Up: Miss Colombia*

Winner: The Last Hundred Years trilogy by Jane Smiley

Look. It’s my list, and I’ll name a trilogy as top book if I want to. It’s called the Tolkien defense. Look it up.** The Last Hundred Years trilogy is comprised of consists of Some Luck, Early Warning, and Golden Age. Each chapter in these books covers a year in the life of the Langdon family. Book 1, Some Luck, starts in 1920. Book 3, Golden Age, ends in 2019. We follow one Iowa farm family through the generations, and the great events of history—wars, economic boom and bust, Jonestown, 9/11—are filtered through their experiences. Not every character gets fully-formed, but I’d say there are 15 or so “main” characters covering 4 generations by the end of the trilogy. And the thing is, 100 chapters (100 years) is plenty of time to get to know these people. Since the whole trilogy is rooted in history (except the prospective 2016-2019 chapters, of course), you know what’s around the corner and get to anticipate how the various characters will be affected by it. Dramatic irony FTW.

As with any recommendation, your mileage will vary. These are simply some of my takeaways from a very good year of very good books. (But do remember that one of my recommendations from last year was turned into a movie that basically the entire universe loved.)

* This reference won’t make sense for much longer, so please allow it.
** Don’t look it up. I haven’t looked it up, so it’s probably some weird sex act on Urban Dictionary.