April 27, 2007

April 27, 2007

What bothers you?

While 99% of the internet is (let's face it) poker and porn, the other 1% constantly surprises and amazes me. I will someday write about the wonder that is Wikipedia, but today I'd like to mention a little site called MyPetPeeves.

MyPetPeeves allows you to publicly gripe about the things that bother you. All the ones you'd expect are there, like people who talk at movie theaters or bad drivers. What I like, however, are the freakish, nonsensical pet peeves. For example, I have some questions for the person who's annoyed by gum. Is it all brands? Just a certain flavor? Do you mind it if it's still in the package, or does it have to be in the process of getting chewed?

Possibly the best part of the website is that it makes me feel better about the little things that irk me. And when I'm having an absolutely crappy day, I can read up on the misery other people are experiencing at the hands of jaywalkers, Rachael Ray, and (apparently) gum, and feel not so bad.

April 26, 2007

April 26, 2007

Girl Detective

Sandwiched between the many big-concept, highly-anticipated films being released this summer is a little something known as Nancy Drew. Emma Roberts, niece of Julia, stars as the girl detective, with Tate Donovan as Carson Drew. This is weird for me on several levels. First, for most of my life, I've thought of Nancy Drew as being exactly my age. (Obviously, this is logistically impossible, but when has that stopped me before?) At the very least, she's supposed to be 18-ish. And I may be wrong on this, but I'm pretty sure Emma Roberts is younger than that. If not, then holy crap am I old.

Second, let's talk hair color. Emma Roberts is a brunette. I'm not anti-brunette by any means. However in the same way that Anne of Green Gables just has to be a redhead, I think Nancy Drew really needs to be a blonde. It's referenced in, like, every single book. It's kinda like making Harry Potter a Canadian.

Finally, I'm not sure I'm on board with The O.C.'s Jimmy Cooper as Nancy's dad. We all know that I loved The O.C. in a very scary way and Tate Donovan was great in that role. However, is he old enough to be Carson Drew? Is this just me getting old again?

Though I'm most a fan of the yellow-backed original series, I could roll with the new Nancy Drew, Girl Detective books. You know, the ones in which Nancy drives a hybrid and narrates in first person, Bess is a mechanical genius, George is a computer whiz, and Nancy's adversary is some chick named Deidre Shannon. While I find great amusement in scenes from the original novels that involve handkerchiefs and criminals who wear hats, I can see where a modern young reader might not. You have to update for a new generation. Fine. But these licenses taken for the film…I don't know. It's a bit much.

And for anyone interested, this book gives the history of Nancy Drew. It's wilder than you'd think.

April 25, 2007

April 25, 2007

My Kind of Town (Part 3 of 3)

After the John Hancock Observatory, I spent the rest of the afternoon wandering up and down Michigan Avenue, or, as those in the know call it, the Magnificent Mile. You know you're not in Milwaukee anymore when you see names like Hugo Boss, Cartier, and Rolex. I didn't go into any of those stores, because, well, come on. However, I did venture into a few of the less-intimidating places, like:

American Girl Place. I actually still have a Felicity doll. The thing I like about AG Place is spotting the uncomfortable Dads. Because, let's face it, there's a lot of pink and a lot of squealing. I myself looked around a bit, but that ship has pretty much sailed.

Hershey's Chicago. It was like Willy Wonka, but not creepy. I could've done with a river of chocolate, though.

The Apple Store. Okay, have you people seen the new iPod Shuffle? Is it, like, too small? Seriously, I'd be afraid I'd accidentally throw it out or something.

The LEGO Store. Because where else can you see Darth Vader made completely of legos? (If you actually have that in your bedroom or something, well, you have my condolences.) I used to have a thing of legos when I was little, but I fear that ship too has sailed.

After all that, I just headed back to the train station to wait for my bus. Which was late, but not very. And the driver made up the time on the road. Probably not the best way to do that, but there it is.

And that was my Saturday in the Windy City.

UPDATE: Pictures from the trip here.

April 24, 2007

April 24, 2007

My Kind of Town (Part 2 of 3)

When I finally got to Chicago, the bus dropped me at Union Station, which is actually two buildings connected underground. My first stop, of course, was the Jamba Juice, an obsession that I have already discussed. Alas, the server was not nearly as excited as I'd hoped, though I was tempted to say I didn't want a boost just to see how she'd take it. After that, I ended up walking around the station several times before figuring out where I needed to go and how to get out. It's all twisty and confusing in there.

Once I found my way out of the maze of Union Station, I headed for the Art Institute of Chicago. The line to get in, I kid you not, was at least 100 people long. I'm guessing this was because the museum had only opened an hour earlier and the weather was really nice. As I was reading the admission fees sign, I saw the words that strike fear into every museum-goer: "Children under 12 admitted free." Yes, because hordes of children is exactly what I'm looking for at the art museum. I toughed it out, though, because there was a special exhibit I really wanted to see. I'd traveled over 90 miles—I wasn't going to let a stroller and some sippy cups stand in my way.

I was really impressed by the collection. I actually think I enjoyed the regular collection more than the special exhibit. I wanted to take a ton of pictures in the Impressionist gallery, but after a few shots, I finished a roll of film (which rewound insanely noisily), and the new roll of film WOULD NOT LOAD. My camera just made these really loud clicking noises. I got a lot of weird looks; people probably thought I had a bomb or something. So, in short, I only got one good picture actually inside the museum. Crud.

I went to the John Hancock Observatory next. And by next, I mean "after a long bus ride through Chicago's insane traffic." Anyway, the observatory was really cool. I mean, really cool. I wanted to call people from the top, but alas, no reception. Since it was such a clear day, I could see pretty far. (Theoretically, it's 80 miles.) As the audio tour said, "If you look to the North, you can see America's Dairyland…Wisconsin!" Um, okay. Part of the observation deck was open-air, so people could experience the sounds and smells of the city. Seriously, the audio tour cited "smells." Really? What is this, Cleveland? At any rate, I took lots of pictures with a disposable camera I bought at a CVS, and those pictures are posted on Facebook here.
Tomorrow: I ogle things I can't afford!

April 23, 2007

April 23, 2007

My Kind of Town (Part 1 of 3)

I went to Chicago on Saturday. This is a shock, I know, since I'd only spent all of last week gushing about it to anyone who would listen. Yeah, I play my cards pretty close to the vest. Anyway, some interesting stuff happened that I'd like to tell you about.

For those of you who think I'm freakishly organized, well, you're right. Most of the time. However, even I screw up once in a while. On Saturday, as I was getting ready to leave, I got a call from Milwaukee Recreation. It turned out that the trip to Green Bay, which I could have sworn was on the 28th, was actually on the 21st. Obviously, I already had this whole Chicago thing planned out, so there went 40 bucks. I had actually written the Green Bay trip on the wrong date on two, count 'em, two calendars. So there you go.

Since I'm not a huge fan of Illinois tolls (and, seriously, how do they get away with charging that much to drive on those crappy roads?) or exorbitant downtown Chicago parking fees, I took the Megabus down. Now, for those of you unfamiliar with Megabus, allow me to shill for a moment.

Megabus is a super-low cost bus service that goes to cities as far-flung as Pittsburgh, Cleveland, and St. Louis. It also goes to cities you'd actually want to visit. The first few seats on every bus sell for $1. The seats then sell for $3, $5, $8, and $10. They keep the prices down by doing everything online. Long story short, I got round trip bus fare to Chicago for $8.50. Take your I-Pass and shove it.

The ride itself was fine. The woman next to me was reading a French magazine. I could understand most of the headlines, but I was too intimidated to break into any actual French. I thought about it, though. Story of my life.
Tomorrow: I actually arrive…and do stuff!
UPDATE: Pictures from the trip here.

April 19, 2007

April 19, 2007

Me and You and Our Friend Blue

If the terms "thinking chair," "handy-dandy notebook," or "Side Table Drawer" mean anything to you, then there's a pretty good chance you are a fan of Blue's Clues.

To be honest, I haven't watched an episode of Blue's Clues in years. They've actually stopped making them. Or, at least, they've stopped making the original-style episodes. They have ones now where Blue speaks, which is just ridiculous and creepy.

Anyway, despite the fact that I have about two decades on the target Blue's Clues audience, I enjoy the program immensely. For one, it encourages a fascination with the postal system, something I've had since I cut a paper plate in half, stapled it to another paper plate, wrote "Heather's Mail" on it, and hung the whole contraption on my door. So every time Steve or Joe broke out into the mail song ("We just got a let-ter. We just got a let-ter. We just got a let-ter. Wonder. Who it's. From?"), I totally sang along.

I never actually watched the show with a preschooler, but I'd wager that the kid would solve the clues before I did, because I sucked at that. Seriously, the clues would be, like, ice cubes, a lemon, and sugar, and I'd be like, "Um…winter in Florida? On a sugar cane plantation?" I can imagine the 4-year-old turning to me and going, "Lemonade, you idiot."

It wasn't all good times, though. Questions that remain unanswered:

  • Why were Mr. Salt and Mrs. Pepper's children cinnamon and paprika? Shouldn't they have been some sort of salt/pepper mix? More importantly, why were they French?
  • Does Magenta's needing glasses freak everyone out, or is it just me?
  • Is skiddooing for real? If so, how do I get in on that action?
  • What were the clues made of, and how did they stick to everything?
  • Was Periwinkle not the best talking neighbor-cat ever?

April 18, 2007

April 18, 2007

The King's Game

Despite people's recommendations that I try it, I have never played chess. Ever. I have no idea how it even works and suspect that, on being set in front of a chess board, I would simply pretend I'm playing checkers and try to jump my opponent's pieces.

I am intimidated by chess. There are all these different pieces, to start. And they all move a different way. And you have to think several moves in advance. All of this seems very taxing. One of the West Wing episodes I watched last night involved Martin Sheen's character playing, like, three games simultaneously. I cannot even fathom that.

So while I am (or at least think I am) relatively strategic and analytical, I don't see myself ever mastering chess. I'm just a checkers kind of girl.

"The Game of Chess is not merely an idle amusement; several very valuable qualities of the mind, useful in the course of human life, are to be acquired and strengthened by it, so as to become habits ready on all occasions; for life is a kind of Chess, in which we have often points to gain, and competitors or adversaries to contend with, and in which there is a vast variety of good and ill events, that are, in some degree, the effect of prudence, or the want of it." –Benjamin Franklin, The Morals of Chess

April 17, 2007

April 17, 2007

Not in My Backyard

The Milwaukee area has a pretty good selection of restaurants. While we're not a bastion of haute cuisine, I like to think we at least hold our own against comparative second-tier Midwestern cities. (For those of you counting, that would include Cleveland, Des Moines, and Indianapolis.)

Still, we occasionally fall short in this area. Some chains fear to tread in Wisconsin. Others have one location in the state, and it's in Madison. (That's the capital, and it's over an hour from where I live, and shame on you for knowing neither of those facts.) Of the latter is a little establishment known as Jamba Juice.

Ever since I saw this sketch on Saturday Night Live months ago, I have wanted to visit a Jamba Juice. I want to know whether it's even remotely like that portrayal. Do the servers jump up and down? Do their faces fall if you don't take a boost? After all, "they're free."

So while I have a great many things to look forward to during my trip to Chicago on Saturday, patronizing the Jamba Juice in Union Station is definitely near the top. Though the thought I have put into this has scared several people, at least I know that I can walk into that restaurant and order with confidence. My friends, I shall not be intimidated by over-enthusiastic minimum wage earners or their paper hats.

(By the way, "Jamba Juice" is really fun to say. I find myself randomly trying to work it into conversations. Very hard to do.)

April 16, 2007

April 16, 2007

The Best Show You're Not Watching

A positive consequence (some would say the only one) of consuming entirely too much television is that I have a pretty good idea of what's out there. You've got your over-hyped—shows that have the American consciousness in a death grip and refuse to let go (American Idol). You've got your properly-hyped—shows that actually deserve their place in the cultural zeitgeist (Heroes).

And then you've got the shows that are under-hyped. You may know them as "cult favorites." Perhaps, "critically acclaimed." Or the entertainment industry's equivalent of the endangered species list: "bubble shows."

I would like to appeal to you today on behalf of a show that, while not technically on the bubble, is most certainly in the under-hyped category. This program, my friends, is 30 Rock.

I make this appeal not just because Liz Lemon is the liberal version of me. (Seriously, the similarities are frightening. We're both socially awkward. And cover that awkwardness with television references. To shows we both watch. Add in the left-handedness, the love of shrimp, and the Uno and it's like I have a twin.) No, I ask you to consider 30 Rock because it may very well be the funniest thing on television right now.

Alec Baldwin absolutely steals every scene he's in. In case you've somehow missed the gazillion times he's hosted SNL and thus can't envision him doing comedy, believe me: he can. Because he's so scary, he really nails the deadpan. Tracy Morgan plays a version of himself; i.e. one crazy dude. And don't get me started on the supporting characters: Kenneth the Page, Jenna, Frank, Twofer, et al.

So if you're free on Thursdays at 9/8c, flip to NBC. Or maybe click here and watch an episode or two. Because while I can speak with authority on very few subjects, I'm fairly confident that television is one of them.

April 13, 2007

April 13, 2007

Death and Taxes

This year was the first that I was required to file taxes. Mine was a very simple return, since I'm single with no dependents or investments. Still, being me, I was a little nervous about the whole thing. I wasn't even sure if I picked the right forms.

I have mixed feelings about my filing. It makes me happy in that I got quite a bit of money back (which should cover my Washington D.C. trip in October). It makes me sad in that my status as a single filer with no dependents underscores that IRS considers my death a total non-issue. I wanted to attach a Post-It to my return saying, "Hey, my filing status may make me look like a loser, but I'll have you know there's all kinds of other stuff going on in my life. So there!" Pathological need for approval, indeed.

April 12, 2007

April 12, 2007

Uncommon Pence

People do weird things to relax. Some jab needles in their faces. Others walk around outside, hitting little white balls with metal sticks. I used to like to roll pennies. Or any kind of coin, really; we just always seemed to have a lot of pennies lying around.

Apparently some Michigan guy (Howell Township—where is that on the hand, I wonder?) recently lost a court case and paid his $335 fine in pennies. Whenever I hear about someone doing something like that, my first thought is: do they really get any satisfaction from it? Wasn't it more trouble for him to count out the 33,500 pennies than it would have been to just go up to the other guy and say, "Hey, screw you"?

But I guess he was at least putting his change to good purpose. I get a little nervous whenever some entity resurrects the idea of getting rid of the penny altogether. I'm not saying it wouldn't make economic sense or whatever, but it's the principle of the thing. You start rounding to the nearest 5 and, before you know it, you're rounding to the nearest 10.

Heck, I say we bring back the halfpenny. The British had one. In fact, their currency system is just way cooler, isn't it? It's simultaneously haughtily superior and maddeningly confusing, yet I love it.

April 11, 2007

April 11, 2007

And His Sidekick, Doppler

I have a strange fascination with the weather. I'm always asking people what the weather's like where they are and telling them what it's like here. I mean, this is Wisconsin, so you just never know. We go from snowstorms to heat waves. In the same day.

For example, even though it's April, we're currently on the lookout for snow of undetermined quantity. I say undetermined because I can't get a straight answer out of any of the local sources. At 11:25 a.m. yesterday, the local newspaper's website posted this: "It looks like 2 to 4 inches for Milwaukee and south." Then, at 3:04 p.m., this comes up: "The forecast now calls for 8-10 inches for much of the area, including Milwaukee." I can see an upward revision of, like, a couple of inches. I'll grant you that. But 6 inches? With all the computer technology they have, are the weather service people still just using a weather vane and an almanac? They are, aren't they?

So I got up this morning expecting the worst. I looked outside and saw…nothing. Like, no precipitation of any kind. I actually gasped and said "You bastards!" They had freaked me out for nothing, and not for the first time.

I should have checked with the Weatherboy. That's not his actual name; it's Rob Haswell and he works for the Fox affiliate. I call him the Weatherboy because, hand to heart, he looks to be about 10 years old and I cannot even begin to describe how disconcerting it is to see a preteen giving you the weather. This is the best picture I could find, and it really doesn't do him justice, but just imagine a man-child with a relatively high voice in a suit pointing at a weather map.

And even if he steered me wrong, I don't think I could get mad at him. Because he's the Weatherboy. And I'd like to think that if he had a sidekick, it would be a dog named Doppler.

April 10, 2007

April 10, 2007

A Place for Everything

While I was waiting for Sam's Club to open last Friday, I amused myself by watching a kid who may very well be more anal than I am. I was not sure that kid existed, but this one comes pretty close. He was gathering all the carts and flatbeds and securing them in the parking lot corral. Seriously, this kid was going at it for a full 10 to 15 minutes.

I can't really point fingers, since it's a running joke among only everyone I know that I like things just so. There's this scene from Lost in which the Shannon character is packing a suitcase for some reason. Another character (Walt) asks why she's folding everything so neatly when it doesn't really matter and she answers, "Because I'm anal." See, it's hard to explain to normal people the satisfaction derived from a neat stack of papers or a suitcase of folded clothes. I can't verbalize exactly why I like the soup cans to all face the same way or the checkbook to balance. It's just…better that way.

Like in the movie Elektra, when Jennifer Garner's character is lining up all her toiletries—I kinda do the same thing! I know it's weird, yet I can't not do it. None of this started until college (you could not even see the floor of my bedroom for the first 18 years of my life), so I blame a subconscious desire to keep things neat for my roommates. The negative repercussions of dorm living continue.

April 9, 2007

April 9, 2007

Things I've Read: East of Eden

So I finished East of Eden last week. I haven't written about it until now because I wanted to mull it over for a little bit. And also because I was busy turning in the group project from hell. But mostly the first one.

Anyway, for a book I picked up on a whim because I needed something to read during lunch breaks, it was surprisingly good. While I'm not sure just how many parallels can really be drawn between Adam and Eve and the Trask and Hamilton families, I think Steinbeck did a fair job of showing the ramifications of one action through several generations.

Actually, shifting background characters into the forefront of any narrative is extremely difficult. It's the law of tv spin-offs: for every Frasier, there is an equal and opposite Joey. I lost interest in the Anne of Green Gables series when its focus turned to her kids (I think one was named Rilla? And there was a Jem in there somewhere?) So when the focus of East of Eden shifted from Adam to Cal and Aron and I actually continued to care, I had to give the author some props. (And Steinbeck rests happily in his grave, I'm sure.)

I really only have two criticisms. The little one is that I was not all about the Hamiltons. I understand their narrative purpose as a contrast to the Trasks, but…yawn. Though I was definitely shocked when (SPOILER ALERT) Tom killed himself. My big criticism is the Cathy character. Somehow I find a girl who burns her parents' house down WITH THEM IN IT, becomes a prostitute, nearly gets beaten to death, tricks a man into marrying her, sleeps with his brother on their wedding night, shoots her husband shortly after giving birth to twins who may or may not be his, becomes a prostitute AGAIN, and kills her boss a mite implausible. I mean, just a tad. But maybe that's just me.

"And Cain went out from the presence of the Lord, and dwelt in the land of Nod, on the east of Eden." –Genesis 4:16

April 5, 2007

April 5, 2007

Me and the Swedes

If you ever read a yearbook I've signed, there's a good chance I've thrown the phrase "And don't give your kids weird names" in there somewhere. I have taken the banishment of strange names as my own little personal crusade. It's especially important now that my peers are actually of child-bearing age. Yeah, that yearbook message was a little weird back in, like, junior high.

Anyway, you can understand, then, why I would be rather amused to read this article about one Swedish couple's attempt to have their daughter christened Metallica. Apparently, couples in Sweden must get names approved by the tax authority. To which I say: awesome system. If anyone, anywhere, is exerting just a little effort to prevent the lifelong agony sure to result from being named Metallica, I'm all for it.

"You can be sure of this—whenever a human has a nickname it is a proof that the name given him was wrong." –East of Eden

"I've heard some beautiful names on my travels, but I suppose they're a bit too grand for daily wear and tear, as you might say. The Gaffer, he says: 'Make it short, and then you won't have to cut it short before you can use it.'" –The Lord of the Rings

April 4, 2007

April 3, 2007

April 3, 2007

Down with Plants

I realized the other day that I'm basically a pseudo-vegetarian. I eat fish, I eat pork, and I eat chicken, but I hardly ever eat beef. Don't get me wrong; I have nothing against beef. I've resisted reading Upton Sinclair's The Jungle mainly because I'm afraid it'll turn me off to beef entirely. No, I eat so little beef mostly because it's hard to cook. My beef consumption is limited to beef and broccoli at my weekly Chinese lunch with my dad and the occasional tv dinner.

I found a page of quotes from vegetarians; as a bunch, they strike me as kinda not-fun. Anyway, I found a few that amused me, including "He is a heavy eater of beef. Me thinks it doth harm to his wit" from Twelfth Night and "I am not a vegetarian because I love animals; I am a vegetarian because I hate plants" by someone named A. Whitney Brown. So there you go.

April 2, 2007

April 2, 2007

Intermission: The Pops Concert, Vol. 2

I went to the orchestra on Saturday night. And since writing about the concerts I go to makes me feel both intelligent and cultured, it's really a win-win. Anyway, the theme was "A Night at the Oscars," though that's a bit of a stretch, since the music itself wasn't necessarily Oscar-winning. The first piece was medley of lots of familiar themes, though there were a whole bunch I didn't recognize. That made me feel not so cultured. On to the featured films:

The Adventures of Robin Hood. You know what people don't practice anymore? Archery. Is there a way to make that happen? I mean, if knitting can make a comeback, surely archery can, too.

Gone with the Wind. My feelings about the South aside, I do like its music. The soundtrack to Gettysburg is one of the few I actually purchased via legitimate means. One of the featured scenes involved a gigantic fire, so I was all over that.

Ben-Hur. I think a few comparisons are in order here:

Charlton Heston back in the day: Scary hot
Charlton Heston, present day: Just scary

Racing entertainment for the masses then: Chariots
Racing entertainment for the masses now: NASCAR

And while this is sacrilegious on many, many levels, I swear that the one wise man's gift looked like a Big Gulp.

During intermission, a woman behind me commented that the movie music concert she attended in Hollywood was better. Lady, it's Milwaukee. News flash: our beans aren't as good as Boston's and London has better fog.

Citizen Kane. Rosebud is a sled. Spoiler alert!

An American in Paris. This one was weird because they just played a scene from the film without any accompaniment. The one character is imagining himself as every member of an orchestra. He played some kickass piano, though.

The Wizard of Oz. The only film of the bunch I'd seen. Yummy Technicolor! Judy Garland—early advocate of the dog as accessory? Discuss.