October 3, 2016

October 3, 2016

The State of the TV Schedule: Fall 2016

With podcasts and books taking up ever-greater shares of my time, I've cut back on TV this fall. Way back. WAY back.

Shows I'm still watching:
How To Get Away with Murder
The Last Man on Earth
The Mindy Project
Modern Family
New Girl
Project Runway
Shark Tank

Shows I'm giving a fair(ish) shake:
Designated Survivor


September 18, 2016

September 11, 2016

September 11, 2016

Wisconsin State Fair 2016

This year marked the 160th Wisconsin State Fair. While I have only attended a fraction of that number, my excitement for deep fried everything was whetted even before I saw this sign:

As veteran readers know, my State Fair activities fall into two broad categories: activities and food. When it comes to activities, I make sure to hit the Exposition Center first thing, so my views of Wonder Mops and Miracle Choppers are unobstructed. My favorite how-am-I-living-without-this item this year were the salt lamps.

They cure everything, have been seen on every channel, and last for life. I particular dig the Food Channel endorsement, since I assume that means they are lickable straight out of the box.

Let’s also not forget the chance to support purveyors of little-known local goods.

Foam cheese top hat? Don’t mind if I DO.

Anyway, 45 minutes or so later, I emerge from the aisles of VitaMixers and head for the Schlitz-Audubon Center’s Sky Hunters: Birds of Prey program. The same birds tend to appear year after year, and it’s near to see them grow. Or not grow, as in the case of Dory the tiny owl.

This bald eagle, Valkyrie, was all brown just a few years ago. Now, she’s simultaneously majestic and able to slice your neck open. Kind of the perfect symbol of our country, really.

The animals are also a must-see, if only because it’s State Fair tradition. If the farmers can drive their livestock hours to the city, the least I can do is walk over and look at their butts.

Or watch as they race each other:

By the end of which, I’m obviously a bit puckish and ready to begin with the NOSHES. This year, I started with the traditional combination plate from Saz’s:

When I ordered two—one for me and one for TheBoy—the vendor assumed I misspoke. Um. NOPE. This baby's all mine.

Next, duck fajita:

Strawberry milk:

Deep fried Snickers on a stick:

Cruller on a stick (regular AND chocolate flavored):

Deep fried cream cheese on a stick:

Deep fried cookie dough on a stick:

So tasty, guys. So tasty.

By this point, I was feeling rather charitable towards humanity in general, so I took a swing past the prize winning fruits/vegetables/baked goods:

Sat through a couple of magicians and jugglers on the family stage:

And ended with a ride on the SkyGlider:

Until next year, Wisconsin State Fair. Keep the fry oil warm.

August 4, 2016

August 4, 2016

Good Luck at the State Fair

The 165th annual Wisconsin State Fair opens today. I'm planning to visit twice over the 11-day run, because one day of eating my weight in fried foods just isn't enough for this modern gal.

My game plan, however, is not just caloric. I've got a list of sights and sounds, too—Schlitz Audubon Nature Center bird talks, sea lion shows, rides on the Skyglider, etc. And a shopping list, consisting of those items from companies too small to sell online.

In short, it's the culmination of months of preparation. It may seem like too much, but you can't over-prepare for the State Fair. In the paraphrased words of Dwight K. Schrute: "A real Fair-goer makes her own luck. Billy Zane, Titanic."

June 28, 2016

June 28, 2016


When it comes to celebrating my wedding anniversary, I set the bar high with that trip to Iceland last year. Probably too high. It’s hard to top Iceland. (Amiright, England? Ooh, SOCCER BURN.) Nevertheless, you only live once and all that, so we decided this year to try indoor skydiving.

Yep. Skydiving. Indoor skydiving. In layman’s terms, you hover over a jet engine that’s pointed up. I researched it a bit before a trip to Vegas some years ago but couldn’t fit it into my itinerary—David Copperfield and all-you-can-eat buffets came first, obviously. But when a branch of international indoor skydiving chain iFly opened near us, I had my helper hippo make the booking.

Phase 1: Travel and Registration

iFly recommends that you arrive an hour before your reservation time to allow for prep time. The DC location of iFly also happens to be located an hour from civilization. Simple math tells you that this involved leaving home Quite Early on flying day. It’s all good, though; I’m sure any paratrooper would agree that the best skydiving is done when you’re a leetle groggy.

Once you arrive at iFly, you sign-in at a kiosk, resist (or don’t) the staffer’s attempts to up-sell you, and sign a number of waivers. After all this has been completed, you get an approved-to-fly wristband and realize you’re feeling a little queasy. Hoo boy.

Wings? What wings?

Phase 2: The Flight Deck

You’re sent up to “the flight deck” at this point. That’s where the main attraction is: the wind tunnel. It’s enclosed in acrylic so that everyone in the vicinity can watch the action. Since we were about 45 minutes before our reservation time at this point, a staffer told us to sit, watch, and enjoy the group currently flying. (If you haven’t noticed, iFly does a good job of slowly and repeatedly exposing you to what’s about to happen.) It appeared to be a family grouping—three to four adults and several kids—and they displayed various levels of excitement and ability. Main takeaway: Anyone can do this. Hoo boy.

Phase 3: Instruction

After 15 or so minutes of observation, we were called into the training room by our instructor. (If you think I wasn’t treating this like my very own real-life Top Gun, you’d be wrong.) We watched a short video that showed us what was going to happen, and then our instructor reviewed the hand signals he’d be using to communicate with us in the tunnel.

For the rest of my life, I'll never know whether I'm getting the peace sign or the legs straight sign.

So after approximately 10 minutes of training, we were apparently fully-qualified to enter the tunnel. Hoo boy.

Phase 4: Gear

iFly provides a flight suit, helmet, goggles, and earplugs. You’re about as sealed and protected as possible, short of inserting yourself into a body bag. Once I was all suited up, my glasses immediately started to fog. Delightful.

We nervously milled about while waiting for the group before ours to finish their flights. Hoo boy.

Phase 5: It’s Tunnel Time

10 o’clock rolled around and it was GO TIME. We had eight in our group, and I ended up in eighth position. As a result, I got to watch six randos and TheBoy go through their turns before me. The only really notable bit was when person number one’s helmet FLEW OFF towards the end of her flight. (She was fine, if a bit shaken.)

But enough about other people. How did MY flight go?


I enjoyed it, while unconsciously channeling my inner crouching tiger.

Would I go again? Sure. I think it’s a unique enough experience to be worth the cost. Far cheaper than dying after your parachute fails to deploy.

May 9, 2016

May 9, 2016

No Lunch Left Behind

Recent Hamilton/Tubman/Jackson news aside, the images on American currency can be somewhat of a mystery. Play pub trivia for a while and you’re sure to be asked who’s on the front of the $1000 bill, what’s on the back of the twenty, or the word that appears in addition to the phrase “In God We Trust” on the obverse of coins.*

For something most of us handle every day, money is hard. I get it. Plus Americans are Americans. I get it. But I read something like this story and my fists of fury pop right out:

Last things first: The saddest sentence I have ever read is “The child missed lunch that day.” I don’t know this kid—heck, I don’t even like kids—but I am a firm apologist for NO LUNCH LEFT BEHIND.

Even if you’ve never owned one, you know that the $2 bill exists, right? Also, we’re talking about something that costs no more than $2—how about someone floats that kid a lunch while things are being sorted out? Teacher? Lunch monitor? Cop? Bueller? Anyone?

Let’s imagine the reaction the banker had, which must have included a brief moment of suspicion that this was some kind of prank.

“Nobody was charged.” Yeah, no kidding. Sigh.

Lunch ladies of America, we can do better.

And by “ladies,” I mean “people of any gender.”

And by “we” I mean “you.”

* I really only get to use the word “obverse” in this circumstance, so you bet your bottom dollar (ha) that I’m going to use it.

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.