August 29, 2008

August 29, 2008

Spot Inspection: Your Next 5 Songs

Here are mine:

Sleep Through the Static, Jack Johnson
Like most Jack Johnson songs, this one makes me want to whip up a big pitcher of lemonade, find a hammock, and stare at clouds all afternoon.

Tree Hugger, Kimya Dawson
Sometimes a movie's soundtrack trumps its content. In the case of Juno, they were equally good.

In My Place, Coldplay
No comment needed, really.

Mars, the Bringer of War, Gustav Holst
From my typical playlist, you'd never guess that I really only listened to classical music for the first two decades of my life. However, occasionally a song pops up to affirm my band geek cred.

We Can Be Best Friends Tonight, Tokyo Rose
My friend Nicholas sent me this. It's...fine. I...have nothing more to add.

What are yours?

Duly Noted Recommends, Episode 12 (Improv Edition!)

If you don't have NINE MINUTES (gah) to spare, use this handy chart instead:

8/7c - Gossip Girl (The CW) - Premieres 9/1
9/8c - Heroes (NBC) - Premieres 9/22

8/7c - NCIS (CBS) - Premieres 9/23

8/7c - Pushing Daisies (ABC) - Premieres 10/1

8/7c - America's Next Top Model (The CW) - Premieres 9/3
10/9c - Dirty Sexy Money (ABC) - Premieres 10/1

8/7c - My Name Is Earl (NBC) - Premieres 9/25
9/8c - The Office (NBC) - Premieres 9/25
9:30/8:30c - 30 Rock (NBC) - Premieres 10/30
9/8c - CSI: Crime Scene Investigation (CBS) - Premieres 10/9

If you DO have an extra nine minutes, well, click here or use the player below. (There's a weird skip around the time I start talking about My Name Is Earl. Sorry about that.)

August 28, 2008

August 28, 2008

To Harley-Davidson 105th Anniversary Attendees

Dear Harley-Davidson Owners and Riders,

Welcome to Milwaukee. As you’ve no doubt noticed, we’ve rolled out the proverbial red carpet for you, though in this case orange and black would perhaps have been more appropriate. (Good thing it’s just a proverbial carpet.) We’ve even arranged a parade. And awesome weather. Win-win-win.

Anyway, you are now here for four days. All 100,000 of you. People who haven’t hard about this event probably think I added an extra zero (or two) there. Alas, no. My town will be packed with the sounds of motorcycles, the sights of leather, and the smell of burnt rubber. When you consider the alternative sounds (gunfire), sights (petty crimes), and smells (the Milwaukee River), it’s probably a fair trade.

Oh, but I kid. As your travel agents, tourism literature, and Milwaukee-based hosts* have probably informed you, Milwaukee has plenty of wonderful things to do. I myself once made a list. While I expect your time here will be focused on biker-centric activities, I implore you to check out a cultural venue or two. At least go look at the lake.

However, I must make a small request of you, Harley-Davidson owners and riders.

You and I must co-exist for the next few days. It is inevitable that we will come into contact on the roads. And perhaps even in buildings. But I would prefer not to hear you while in my house during the hours I call “darkish.”

I understand that nothing thrills you more than the trademark “potato potato potato” rumble of a hog. I’m sure it evokes the same feelings for you that the theme song to 30 Rock does for me.

But if you could keep it down a little, that would be great.**


* Just as they did for the 100th anniversary celebration, people are renting out their houses. To complete strangers. FROM PLACES LIKE GERMANY. I love it.
** Also, please stay off my lawn. Just because the guy down the street is throwing a nightly beerfest doesn’t mean the rest of the block is your playground.

August 27, 2008

August 27, 2008

Diversification Trumps Specialization: The Rebuttal

This is part two of a series…of two parts. In case you missed it, this was part one.

I have a theory.

Well, okay. I have many theories. But among them is one pertinent to the topic at hand.

I think that every person—you, me, and everyone we know—is really good at one thing. REALLY good. ONE thing.

If you think about it, the odds aren’t great in favor of discovery; I suspect that the vast majority of us of have missed our calling. S’okay; we find other things to amuse us. But who knows whether you might not be an awesome weaver? Or I should have gone into sailing? Obviously, there’s really no way to know. This is why I’m in favor of letting kids try whatever hobbies they want; you never know when the next Michael Phelps will show up.

Ah, Michael Phelps. The lynchpin of my argument.

See, here’s the thing about Michael Phelps: he was engineered to swim. Even if you don’t believe in intelligent design as I do, just take a look at this:

The man was built to do this. And someone, somewhere along the way, took a look at the kid in the pool and realized it. That, to me, is incredibly random and fortunate. The combo some (me) would call crazy lucky. What are the odds? What if Phelps never went to the local Y? What if he had hydrophobia?

Yet things aligned just so in order to take the man and give him the training that allowed him to utterly dominate competition at the very highest level. I assume the NBC Powers That Be thank their lucky stars every night that things worked out so well. They very easily might not have.

I don’t necessarily believe in soul mates, because I find the belief that each of us can only be perfectly happy with ONE person out of SIX BILLION a little depressing. But the thought that someone like Michael Phelps can not only discover his true talent but also excel at it in such a way?

Well, now you have something.

August 26, 2008

August 26, 2008

Diversification Trumps Specialization: The Argument

After watching Olympians for the past couple of weeks, I find myself unable to form an opinion on which is better: diversification or specialization. Such is the curse of being a Libra. Thus I’m going to go old-school debate team on it and argue for one today and the other tomorrow. Who says you can't be on both teams?

In the wild, diversification is a survival strategy. Mastering one skill, be it jumping or climbing or running, is good. Being able to jump AND climb AND run is better. We’ve all seen enough episodes of Nature to know this.

So while the men and women who can run really fast or hit a ball really far certainly deserve admiration, I’d like to make a case for those who diversify. Those who tackle multiple disciplines, sometimes one right after the other.

I feel that they are the true champions.

Let’s talk about the decathletes. For those of you who didn’t study the metric system (or Greek) in school, we’re talking ten events. Serious events. I mean, sure, you could probably string together event combinations even I could do; y’know, the old blog/snark/eat triathlon. But that’s not what this is. We’re talking pole vault. Discus. Javelin. Events that not only require skill but really hearken to the foundation of the games themselves.

Let’s be real: the ancients didn’t play a lot of basketball.

Or how about the gymnasts? It’s not enough to be able to flip and bounce like some creature from another world across a floor. You also have to do so on a beam that’s FOUR INCHES wide. Then fling yourself willy-nilly from bar to bar. And vault yourself into the air.

You can keep your divers and your swimmers. Give me the renaissance athlete any day.

Tomorrow: I step back into my Phelps fan shoes and grab a bowl of corn flakes for the rebuttal.

August 25, 2008

August 25, 2008

Things I’ve Read: The Fortune Cookie Chronicles

Chinese food has become an omnipresent part of American culture; its restaurants outnumber McDonald’s two to one. This isn’t authentic Chinese food, mind you—we’re too squeamish for duck feet or fish eyeballs. The things sold in stalls on the streets of Shanghai would probably make most of us queasy. But Americanized Chinese food? We’re all over that. In fact, some of the best “Chinese” foods aren’t Chinese at all, including anything with broccoli, chop suey, General Tso’s chicken, and fortune cookies.

That’s right: fortune cookies. NOT Chinese.

In March 2005, 110 people won the Powerball lottery’s second-place prize (they matched every number BUT the Powerball). After the obligatory investigation, lottery officials discovered that the winners had gotten their numbers from fortune cookies. While I tend to pay more attention to the fortune and the mini Chinese lesson, these people had taken those lucky numbers to heart, played ‘em, and won big. Just goes to show you.

The people were from all walks of life and all over the country. Really the only commonality was that somewhere along the way, they’d eaten at a Chinese restaurant.

Jennifer 8. Lee (yes, her middle name is a number denoting luck) decided to research this event. What she discovered led to a book about so much more than a lottery drawing. And frankly, it was a fascinating read. Among the things I learned:

- Jewish people eat a lot of Chinese. One of the reasons: it’s an easy cuisine to keep kosher, as it uses very little dairy. (Kosher laws requires keeping meat and dairy separate—bonus fact!)
- There are two schools of thought on soy sauce: it’s either made from soy (a la Kikkoman) or not (a la La Choy). What your palate prefers probably depends on what you had growing up. (I’m a Kikkoman girl.)
- The vast majority of Chinese restaurant workers comes from the city of Fuzhou. Each one pays $70,000+ in order to come here. Illegally. Just to work in a Chinese restaurant. (I’m going to be pulling that fact out every time someone tells me that the rest of the world hates us.)

The saying is “as American as apple pie.” But when’s the last time you had apple pie? Now think about how often you eat Chinese food. Perhaps not as often as I do; the best part of my Saturday is eating way too much of it. But still, if you’re a typical American you’re probably more familiar with egg rolls and beef with broccoli than you are with apple pie.

Perhaps we need to revise that saying.

August 22, 2008

August 22, 2008

Spot Inspection: Your Next 5 Songs

Here are mine:

Past in Present, Feist
For whatever reason, my MP3 player has been bringing up a lot of Feist lately.

All Because of You, U2
Probably my favorite U2 song. The beginning guitar section blows my mind. From what I'm told, playing something like that could very possibly make your fingers bleed. BLEED.

So Says I, The Shins
That this song has a shout-out to Thomas More is enough to make me love it.

Lying Is The Most Fun A Girl Can Have Without Taking Her Clothes Off, Panic at the Disco
Panic at the Disco titles are always fun, no?

Low, Coldplay
Sometimes I wish I saw the world in black and white. Then I realize it's probably better to have a little colour. (British spelling in honour of Coldplay. Ooh, I did it again. Nice)

What are yours?

August 21, 2008

August 21, 2008

Writer's Almanac Highlight of the Day

It's the birthday of the boy who inspired the Winnie-the-Pooh books: Christopher Robin Milne, born in 1920 in London, England, the son of the children's writer A.A. Milne. His parents expected a girl and the only name they had picked out was Rosemary, so when they realized they needed to name a boy, they couldn't decide, so each parent chose one.*

When Christopher Robin was a year old, he got a teddy bear that he called Edward, and his father took the name "Winnie" from a bear at the London Zoo that Christopher loved. That bear and Christopher's other stuffed toys became the inspiration for the stories his father wrote about Winnie-the-Pooh and friends. But at the same time that A.A. Milne was writing poems and stories about Christopher Robin, the boy was brought up almost completely by a nanny. He was taken downstairs three times a day to visit his parents.** He loved to work with his hands — sewing, knitting, dismantling clocks, and rigging up burglar alarms.*** He took apart and reassembled the lock on his nursery door when he was just seven years old.

Before Christopher Robin started school, he loved to help his father write his stories, but at school his classmates mocked him and recited verses about him from his father's books. Christopher grew to resent his father for making it impossible for him to have a normal life.**** He went off to the army, and when he returned he felt even more trapped by the fame of being a character in Winnie-the-Pooh, so he decided to leave London and open a bookshop in Dartmouth with his wife, although it attracted lots of customers looking to meet the original Christopher Robin. Eventually, he published three memoirs: The Enchanted Places (1975), Path Through the Trees (1979), and Hollow on the Hill (1982).

* Excellent improvisational naming strategy aside, this is why you plan ahead, people.
** Um...what?
*** Is it just me, or do those get progressively weirder?
**** Whoa. For something about Winnie the Pooh, this just got dark.

It’s a dessert, not a disease.

My favorite part of World Market is not the furniture or the housewares. It’s the food. They have ethnic stuff from all over. It’s great.

Upon first discovering such exotic goodness, I of course had to peruse the British section, as the blandness of British food makes me wish I’d grown up there. (The awesomeness of England makes me wish I lived there now. But that’s another topic entirely.) While I could have bought a LOT of stuff, I limited myself to just one item. Behold:

That’s right. Spotted dick. The reasoning: 50% because it was fun to say, 20% because it was British, 20% because it’s sponge cake, and 10% because of this:

Yep. One of the few preparations I have mastered.

In case you ever find yourself with a can of spotted dick, proceed as follows:

1. Open the can. Do not be alarmed at the contents.

2. Flip it out onto a microwave-safe plate.

3. Cover with a microwave-safe bowl. I used Corelle because it’s what we have. We have Corelle because it is unbreakable. It’s unbreakable because it’s made of awesome. I will not be asking for wedding china; I will be asking for Corelle.

4. Heat.

I have no picture here because I’m still afraid to stare into a microwave. It’s like crossing my eyes for too long—I was told as a child not to do it, so I’m not doing it.

5. Remove from microwave, uncover, and serve. Note my attempt at artful Cool Whip garnish. (Note also that there's probably more Cool Whip than cake. Go dairy go.)

6. Eat. It is this final step which is my favorite.

And now you know what to do with spotted dick.

August 20, 2008

August 20, 2008

“Johnny, Grandma was a spy.”

The Office of Strategic Services opened up its personnel files last week. And boy, were they a doozy.

The record getting the most buzz is also my favorite: Julia Child. As the article states, “She was hired in the summer of 1942 for clerical work with the intelligence agency and later worked directly for OSS Director William Donovan, the personnel records show.”

That’s right: she started clerical and worked her way to the top. Of the agency THAT WOULD BECOME THE CIA. Reaction #1: “Awesomeness.” Reaction #2: “Any chance I will do this?” (I have applied to the CIA; however, they get 10,000 resumes every month. So, um, cross your fingers and your toes.)

As with any good agency, though, the notable names are supplemented by many, many average folks. The ones who toiled for the Service in relative anonymity, with the added factor of having to probably conceal much of their work from their families. I have a little experience with this, and I know that as cool as it might seem to be, it’s not fun. Frankly, it can be downright scary on occasion.

However, I love thinking about how the families of these former agents, agents who are now pretty…mature, are handling this. Imagine finding out that your crazy great-uncle was a secret agent. How would you even process that sort of information? I mean, it’s weird enough finding out that actors, politicians, and chefs were spying for America.

Victoria’s secret? She ran black ops.

August 19, 2008

August 19, 2008

In My Opinion: Prince Caspian

Let me get this out of the way up front: I am a Tolkien girl. My exposure to C.S. Lewis before seeing Prince Caspian was a selection from The Screwtape Letters I read in high school.

I briefly considered seeing the first Narnia movie. My thought process was something like this:

“Four British (love the Brits) schoolchildren (kids, eh) use a magical wardrobe (old furniture, yes!) to go to a magical land (oh). There, they meet a lion (scary) and battle a witch (hmm).”

That uninspiring dialogue with myself and my preference to (if possible) only see adaptations of things I’ve read combined to make a lose-lose case for The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.

However, a pretty frakking good trailer and an empty Saturday afternoon allowed me to see movie number two. I realize that my enjoyment of it is pretty superficial, as I had to take things as they came. I’m sure the movie made all kinds of references that whooshed over my head.

And I’m okay with that. If you aren’t interested in a shallow review, then please stop reading here.

Characters. My favorite kid was the younger boy, Edmund. He didn’t have a whole lot of lines, or a whole lot to do, but I liked what I saw. I’ve found that in life and in art, it’s the quiet ones that you have to keep an eye on. I’m guessing by the foreshadowing at movie’s end that Edmund still has things to do in Narnia. Interesting.

I also liked the swordfighting mouse, though his PG presence smacked of Ratatouille a little bit.

Plot. Here’s where the Lewis-philes are going to hate on me. See, while the plot was relatively easy for even a Narnia newbie like myself to follow, I couldn’t help but think that Tolkien did it better. Trees coming to the rescue? A river summoned to sweep away the enemy? Trebuchets?

It’s like I was watching the junior version of Lord of the Rings. I say that with admiration and respect, but I say it nonetheless.

The rest of it. I can’t deny that the thing looked good. Makeup, wardrobe, cinematography—the whole bit. Once the Pevensie kids changed into their Narnia clothes, well, THEN we were talking. A chick doing amazing archery is good. A chick doing amazing archery in a gown with flowy sleeves is better.

“Oh, you've got to be kidding me. You're it? You're the kings and queens of old?”

“I do not think I am ready.”
“It is for that very reason that I know you are.”

August 18, 2008

August 18, 2008

Debidamente Notado

According to stats released last week by the Census Bureau, minorities will be the majority by the year 2042. Currently, 1 in 3 people is a minority; in 2050, over half of people will be minorities, with 1 in 3 people being Hispanic.

I’m technically a minority, so I feel qualified to speak on the topic. (Though, to be honest, not being qualified to speak on a topic has never stopped me before, so eh.) I personally have never experienced any sort of discrimination; this is probably because you really can’t tell that I’m half-Korean. In college, when people found out my mom was Korean, they’d give me an appraising look and say something like “Ah, I can see it in the face.” Um, NO YOU CAN’T. Believe me. I’ve been looking at my face for over 20 years; I’m aware of what’s there.

One might optimistically hope that a minority majority would signal the beginning of the end of discrimination and prejudice.

[pause for laughter]

Yeah, I know. Wishful thinking. Racism is like dust: it’s everywhere, impossible to eradicate, and annoying as hell. I suspect that even if we ever got to the point where every single American was of mixed race*, discrimination would still exist. Suspicion of people who are different seems to be hardwired into our DNA. Remnants from the tribal days, perhaps.

I hope to still be around in 2042; I suspect may of you will be, as well. I suggest that we all start learning Spanish.

* Incredibly unlikely, in my opinion. Biology class was my favorite and best science in high school. Punnett squares were one of my favorite topics. However, despite the whole dominant-recessive dealio, it seems impossible to totally eradicate certain traits. For example, we still have blonde and/or blue-eyed people, despite the dominance of the brown gene. Thus it seems certain that, to this blog’s delight, we will always have white people.

August 17, 2008

August 17, 2008

Things I've Read: Nancy Drew, Girl Detective #24: Murder on the Set

Sometimes, you want to read something substantive. Inspiring. Literary filet mignon.

Other times, you're looking for Cool Whip. That's where Nancy Drew comes in.

I stopped reading the new "Nancy Drew, Girl Detective" series quite a few months ago because...actually, I don't know why. I'm doubt it was a conscious choice because I love her.

Thus when I needed a last-minute read while waiting for the dentist, I reached for the most appealing of the recent books, one subtitled "Murder on the Set" (insert intrigued oohing noise here). It's Hollywoody, you see, and I tend to enjoy that sort of thing a little. (A little too much, you might say. Whatever.)

I'm convinced that the plot elements of every Nancy Drew book could be interchanged with little strife. You have your prime mover (in this case, a movie comes to film in River Heights). You have your drama (someone's threatening production). You have your suspects, obvious and not so much.

At some point, Nancy's life will be in danger, usually after she's Figured It All Out. In the end, though, she'll survive to laugh it all off with Bess and George, perhaps having earned an interesting souvenir or two in the process.

Formulaic? Absolutely. But there's nothing wrong with a little formula once in a while.

It's comfort food, plain and simple.

August 15, 2008

August 14, 2008

August 14, 2008

Videos That Made Me Laugh: A Threeve

I’ve collected several amusing videos recently; rather than piecemeal them, I’m going to post them all together.

From Nicholas, Facebook News Flash:

“Up next is the MySpace news hour, which you’re probably starting to notice is looking an awful lot like this program.”


I couldn’t have sung it better myself:

“Ikea: just some oak, and some pine, and some Norsemen.”


From Ian, Font Conference:

“Mailbox! Open mailbox!”


And you know I love Harry Potter, but…

“No, I meant heavy in terms of kilograms.”

August 13, 2008

August 13, 2008

Hello Hulu

Sometimes, when I’m bored or avoiding responsibility, I watch things on Hulu. I was first directed to Hulu when NBC sanctioned it and provided clips and/or full episodes of many of its fine shows. It also provided clips and/or full episodes of many of its less-than-fine shows. The plus side is that the whole thing is free, so I can try things and pay only with my time.

As when I tried the pilot episode of Journeyman. Going in, I was hopeful; the thing starred Kevin McKidd of Rome and someone with this name:

How can you go wrong, right? Well, it turns out that Quantum Leap did the concept much better and Kevin McKidd acts much better when he’s in a toga.

Where Hulu really shows its worth to me is the full episodes. 30 Rock, Arrested Development, and Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip—all shows I’ve re-enjoyed via Hulu within the past few months. I’ve discussed 30 Rock and AD already; the demise of Studio 60 kicked off a pretty depressing week last year. Re-watching, I can focus more on the details than the general story. Like the scene when a character on Studio 60 tells Jordan McDeere her loves her while she’s eating a sandwich:

You know this is exactly the sort of thing that’s going to happen to me someday. And you know this is exactly the expression I’ll have.

Thank you, Hulu.

August 12, 2008

August 12, 2008

In My Opinion: The Mummy: The Tomb of the Dragon Emperor

“She speaks yeti?”

To me, that throwaway line is the essence of this movie. Don’t get me wrong: I loved the first one and utterly loved the second one. Even this film, the third in the (let’s hope) trilogy was filled with explosions, excitement, and adventure galore.

But I was hoping for a little…continuity. Probably too much to ask for, I know.

Among the changes:

- Maria Bello replaces Rachel Weisz as Evie. Bello does a fine job, even looking and sounding the part. But she’s no Weisz-esque spitfire. The great thing about Evie, especially in the first movie, is the incongruity between the tiny bookish waif at the film’s beginning and the gun-toting fatale kicking mummy ass by the end of the movie.

- No actual mummies were involved in the making of this movie. As the world’s longest opening voiceover informs us, the dragon emperor was turned for blah blah blah reasons into a…statue. So, basically, the title was just to tie this movie to the previous two, in case the moviegoing public wasn’t smart enough to figure it out. Wait, I’ve seen the moviegoing public. This one was probably a smart move. Never mind.

- Egypt, Schmegypt. Turns out I’m more of a purist than I thought. I didn’t expect the absences of mummies and Egypt would grate on me. I was wrong. While I can appreciate Asian elements in anything (or “my people,” as I call them), and while the Chinese setting is especially appropriate right now,* sometimes a girl just wants hieroglyphics.

- We’re in the post-war boom? I’m not sure why the franchise had to be advanced ten years for this installment. Perhaps just so the sidekick/secondary hero role could be filled by the son. Comments have already been made on how Brendan Fraser, eerily ageless, doesn’t appear much older than his alleged son. That actually did not bother me. I just like to link mummies and the Egypt craze with the 1920s and 1930s. (Then again, we’ve established that neither mummies nor Egypt have anything to do with the film. Hmm.)

Those criticisms aside, I did enjoy the return of Rick and Jonathan, the excellent car chase, Michelle Yeoh, and the aforementioned yetis. I think Lord of the Rings did the (breathy voice) “I choose…a mortal life” thing better, but just about anything loses to Lord of the Rings in my book.

* If you aren’t sure why, then put down this blog immediately and turn on NBC.

August 11, 2008

August 11, 2008

Promote the General Welfare

Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.


At least you have your health.

Aphorisms like these, deep bred in the minds of most Americans, would seem to indicate the importance of health to your average person. We may not all BE healthy, but we certainly wish we were. Thus it’s no surprise that healthcare, and the means of its provision, are a pretty big issue this election. To put it into perspective: bigger than lapel pins, but not quite as big as Paris Hilton.

My friends and fellow bloggers Mel and Nicholas have already weighed in on the topic. To (over)simplify their positions (and guys, feel free to correct me), Mel appears to feel that the government should neither restrict nor provide access to universal healthcare. Nicholas, on the other hand, advocates a government-controlled healthcare system. Each has a much better worded and thought-out argument than I will present here, so I would encourage you to click on the links above and check out their posts. (Then look at Mel’s food posts and Nicholas’ videos, because they crack me up. Ahem.)

Since nothing makes a Monday like examining a historical document, let’s take a look at the Constitution, shall we? According to the preamble, the purpose of the Constitution (and, by extension, the concept of a united states) is as follows:

1. Form a more perfect union.
2. Establish justice.
3. Ensure domestic tranquility.
4. Provide for the common defense.
5. Promote the general welfare.
6. Secure the blessings of liberty.

And, yes, I had to sing the Schoolhouse Rock song in order to get all of those.

Those of you with a good eye (which, let’s face it, is all of you*) can probably already spot several governmental and civic institutions, like the military and judicial systems.** I think, however, that it’s item number four that pertains to the topic at hand.

What, exactly, is the general welfare? How should the government promote it?

I personally don’t think that it’s the responsibility of the government at any level—federal, municipal, or anywhere in between—to provide healthcare for citizens. Yes, I think legislatures can and should pass laws to protect the people’s health, like food labeling guidelines or medical certification requirements. But do I think it’s the government’s job to make sure that John Doe gets an emergency room visit, surgery, and post-op medications for free? No. No, I don’t.

Call it whatever you will, I’m an advocate of smaller government. (Yes, I am also trying to get into government. No, the irony isn’t lost on me.) Keep the choices and the ramifications, good or bad, with the people.

* Pandering alert!
** I’ve applied for jobs at both. Hooray.

August 8, 2008

August 7, 2008

August 7, 2008

To Furniture Craigslisters

Dear Milwaukee and D.C. Area People Who Put Furniture Ads on Craigslist,

As someone who has very little furniture of her own, a hearty sense of thrift, and a lot of disposable income, I am what you might call a motivated buyer. Show me a good thing, and I’m perfectly willing to take that bookshelf, desk, or coffee table off your hands. You say you’re a motivated seller? Well met, and let’s make a deal.

However, I’m afraid I have a little point of contention with you, Milwaukee and D.C. area people who put furniture ads on Craigslist. While I appreciate your including a picture of the item for sale in the ad (in fact, I only consider ads with pictures—I’m shallow that way), few things make me sadder than seeing pictures like this:

I’m sorry, is there something for sale under all that?

You see, proffering items on Craigslist is sorta like marketing. No, wait. It’s EXACTLY like marketing. You’re selling a product, right? Hoping I will buy it? Then how about letting me see it?

To be fair, the vast majority of you put up decent, well-lit (or at least, crap-free) pictures of your stuff. This greatly ups the odds that I will contact you to look at the item, as I’m able to tell that there is, in fact, an item for sale and not just a random pile of your junk.

A man selling a car doesn’t put up a picture of a parking lot. Just a hint.


August 6, 2008

August 6, 2008

Come Fly with Me

It’s official: there’s water on Mars. While the method of discovery seems to have been a bit roundabout (there was, like, an Easy Bake Oven involved), scientists smarter than me tell me it is so. Thus I put aside my skepticism about the space program in general* and move to the next logical step: planning my life on Mars.

My vast SimEarth and SimCity experience tells me that, once the planet is terraformed, you start with a mix of residential, industrial, and commercial. I usually start pretty heavy on residential and industrial, since you have to build a tax base and all that. Obviously, you all are invited to come live on Mars with me. As intelligent and reasonable people who also (hopefully?) find me amusing, we should get on quite well.

I have no idea what industries I would support, as the SimCity option was just general “Industrial.” Maybe…something foodish? Peanut butter? There has to be a marketing hook in there somewhere. (Though I should maybe look into hummus, as I ate not one but TWO hummus-centric dinners last week. Yep, I’m eating condiment-based meals now.)

My commercial development would start and end with one word: Ikea.

I suppose I would have to throw in community services, too, though I hope we’d all get along well enough to minimize the need of law enforcement. Ideally, one of you would be a superhero a la Spider-Man who could maintain order. It’s that or concealed-carry. Sorry.

At this point in the SimCity game, some sort of natural disaster usually occurs. I have no idea what Martian weather is going to be like, so I have to assume our biggest threat will be aliens. Since the movie Signs scarred me for life (I mean it--I was afraid of the dark for WEEKS after), I’m going to have to leave you all to handle the aliens. I’ll be in my secret bunker lined with books and peanut butter monitoring the situation from a command post of some sort.

Otherwise, I think we’ll be just fine. That’s the plan anyway; did I leave anything out?

* I understand and admire the reasoning behind knowledge for knowledge’s sake. But in the midst of a flatlining economy, geopolitical instability, and federal fiscal crises, should we really be shoveling money into Easy Bake Ovens? I’m just saying.

August 5, 2008

August 5, 2008

A Woman’s Right to Shoes

After almost five hundred posts (wow, I apparently have a LOT to write about…or at least think I do), it’s probably time for me to play a girl card and do post number two about shoes.

Folks, we’re in the throes of summertime. For many of us, that means sobering, sobering heat. (Except for my southern hemisphere and/or Canadian readers, of course--you all should continue on.) While I’m all for shorter, lighter clothes, staying indoors, and cold beverages as ways to combat the rising temperatures, I’m afraid I have to draw the line at footwear.

I realize that I am the odd one in this area (and oh so many other ones), but I like shoes. Real ones. When choosing foot protection, I prefer foot protection that protects my feet. And that’s how that works.

I mean, other than the clubbing of a baby seal, have you ever seen anything sadder than this?

That’s right. The lone croc.* I saw one just last week at the State Fair. It was very small and very pink. I can only assume its mate was on the foot of a tiny girl with a very pissed off mother.

I’m not saying that you never see lone shoes out there. Rather, I’d like to (duly) note that one would seem less likely to lose footwear that is more substantial than…whatever it is crocs are made of. (Plastic? Rubber? The shattered dreams of millions of Taiwanese kids?)

Do your part, nation.** Choose shoes.

(The title of this blog post, aside from being a horrible pun, was also blatantly stolen from an episode of Sex and the City. Apologies on both counts.)

* Taking second: the lone flip-flop. Again, NOT A SHOE.
** I have got to stop watching so much Colbert.

August 4, 2008

August 4, 2008

The Prisoner’s Dilemma

And now for something completely different, I’m going to blog about logic. Well, more specifically, about game theory, and a little problem known as the Prisoner’s Dilemma.

For those of you wondering where this is coming from (“Logic, Heather, seriously?”), I saw Batman again this weekend. In case you’re one of the four people who hasn’t seen it yet (well, okay, technically it’s like twelve people, but the other eight are in space), one of the more…notable scenes involves two ferries filled with people. They are asked to make a choice that’s similar to the Prisoner’s Dilemma.

It is at this point that I should probably explain what said dilemma actually IS:

Imagine, if you will, that the police have two prisoners. There’s not enough evidence to convict either one, so the cops have to cut a deal. They make the same offer to each prisoner: If you testify and the other guy doesn’t, you go free and he gets 10 years. If no one testifies, you both get 6 months. If you BOTH testify, you each get 5 years.

Long story short: in this case, each prisoner chooses to sing like a bird. He maximizes his own payoff, despite the fact that the best choice would be for each to stay silent. Thus each prisoner gets 5 years in jail, Harvey Dent gets all the evidence he needs, and Batman lives to fight another day. (Wait, what?)

Wikipedia and most stats books go into the long explanation of the logic (or lack thereof) behind this literal lose-lose situation. Basically, each player acts in his own self-interest and ends up worse off. Hence the dilemma: by doing what’s “best” for me…I get screwed.

Where Batman comes into play (“Ah, finally,” I hear you say) is that the people on the ferries actually BEAT the dilemma. Instead of blowing the other boat to kingdom come (as, let’s be honest, quite a few wanted to*), the people waited…and waited…until deciding to live and let live. They defied logic. Logic that the Joker was depending on.

Questions I will now raise (but not answer):
- If the Joker was depending on logic, does that make him crazy like a fox?
- Is the altruism of the ferry riders too big a logical leap?
- Is there any chance I will someday marry Batman?

The scenario as presented in the film isn’t exactly the classic Prisoner’s Dilemma setup, I realize. But I thought it was close enough to warrant a little comment.

* Maybe including me because I love explosions. Judge away.

August 1, 2008

August 1, 2008

Spot Inspection: Your Next 5 Songs

I think my laptop is finally starting to go; it's doing very funny things with applications and files. Not "ha ha funny," either. More "'I'm going to chuck you across the f---ing room, you piece of s---' funny."

So...not funny at all, really.

Luckily, Windows Media Player seems to still function well enough, because I will never switch to iTunes. Sorry, Steve Jobs.


Fortunate Fool, Jack Johnson
Strawberry Swing, Coldplay
I’ve Got all This Ringing in My Ears and None on My Fingers, Fall Out Boy
Not Coming Home, Maroon 5
Information Travels Faster, Death Cab for Cutie