July 31, 2009

July 31, 2009

Notes from the Underbelly, Continued

I saw my very first rat yesterday morning on the way in to federal-agency-that-shall-not-be-named. Freaked out though I may have been, I was equally relieved that my department is no longer located in the sub-basement. (Technically, SOME of my co-workers are still in the sub-basement. I had to go down there the other day to get some information. I get way too excited when I get to use the sentence “I have to go down to the sitroom.”)

I find that the amount of hummus in my dinner contains is inversely proportional to the goodness of my work day. Since it’s been a pretty craptacular week, a lot of my dinners have looked like this:

Were it not for the Boca burger, I would pretty much have a condiment-centric meal. Oh, and the pickle. I also ate some raisins, but they were camera shy.

My sole comfort while sending cost estimates at 11 p.m.? Next week will be EVEN worse.

I’m going to Sam’s Club tomorrow to stock up on hummus. Obviously.

July 30, 2009

July 30, 2009

In My Opinion: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

This review is written by a woman intimately familiar with the Rowling oeuvre, and aimed towards those of like mind. Not sure whether this includes you? If you can name all the Weasley children, you’re in.

I’m a big Harry Potter fan. You may have noticed. Please don’t judge too harshly; I’m sure there’s a fantasy franchise (or three) that you enjoy as well. So ha.

That said, you may be expecting me to join the legion of Potterphiles spewing vitriol about the latest film. Demanding that the director be fired. Pointing out the wholesale changes made this time around. But I can’t do that. Because frankly, I enjoyed the movie quite a bit.

Let me be clear: as a book adaptation, it sucked. Not the worst I’ve seen, but pretty close. I understand that adaptations have to be, well…adapted. You can’t film page for page with a tome of any size; you’d end up with an 18-hour movie.* Ironically, my favorite film of the entire series so far is the first, and that was probably the closest derivation. The point is, plot compressions, character excisions, and a myriad of other modifications are necessary to this sort of project.

Yes, Ravenclaw’s diadem was nowhere to be found. Yes, Luna’s role was increased while Tonks’s was diminished. Yes, the Burrow was burning like a freaking matchbox.

But let’s get some perspective. Ideally, I would at this point turn it over to someone who has only seen the movies and he/she could explain how to a non-reading fan, this movie was easiest to comprehend. But since we’re all Weasley-naming freaks, suffice to say that burying some of the backstory (e.g. Ron’s quidditch plotline) and filling in some of the book’s holes (e.g. Draco and the vanishing cabinets) made for a more-digestible movie. In my opinion, anyway.

The inferi still scared the crap out of me, as they do every time I read the book. I don’t think enough emphasis was placed on R.A.B., as I seem to remember much sound and fury about that when the book was released. Overall, though, I think it was a good continuation of the series.

Bring on the deathly hallows.

(Side note: I went to a 9:15 a.m. show. Let me say that this is the way to go. There were like 30 people in there, and no kids. NO KIDS.)

* However, I am one of the crazies who would absolutely sit through a 36-hour Lord of the Rings movie. Twice.

July 29, 2009

July 29, 2009

In My Opinion: Public Enemies

While I’m as big a fan of summer popcorn fare as the next girl, I do occasionally venture off that buttery path in search of something a little meatier. In this case, it was Public Enemies. I’d been excited for this one since seeing the first trailer (possibly back in 2008, good lord). For one, much of it was set in Chicago. For two, much of it was filmed in Milwaukee. For three, it starred Christian Bale. For four, it was a period piece. For five…see points one through four.

Public Enemies, based on the book of the same name, describes the career and capture of John Dillinger. The name of Melvin Purvis, the FBI agent who was in charge of the operation, has been largely lost to history. For once, this wasn’t because of government negligence. J. Edgar Hoover (portrayed in the movie by Billy Crudup in what I’m told is a spot-on impression) actively minimized Purvis’s involvement while embellishing his own. You gotta love those megalomaniacal agency heads.

[comments about the leadership of Federal-Agency-That-Shall-Not-Be-Named redacted]

You’re probably familiar with the Dillinger life story (he robbed banks) as well as the Dillinger death story (he was shot to death outside a movie theater), so I won’t go into detail there. Allow me to briefly mention the excellent performances of Johnny Depp (as Dillinger) and Batman Christian Bale (as Purvis). Perhaps the only casting gripe I have is Marion Cotilliard. In real life, the woman has a very thick French accent—no surprise, since she’s French. She wasn’t able to totally eradicate the accent for the film, though, so words like “okay” sounded utterly wrong. And my ear for a good upper Midwestern accent is pretty good, hey.

Production values were good, as well, especially when you consider that this was a Michael Mann film. It takes range to go from shooting sexy cities (Heat, Miami Vice) to, well, Chicago. (No offense, Chicagoans, but c’mon.)

Though the film clocks in at over two hours, I didn’t find myself clock-watching at all. In addition, my dad read the book and endorsed the film version. So you purists out there, please take note.

Back in the 1930s, people were losing their jobs left and right. The banks were portrayed as faceless, soulless, and evil. People viewed the government with suspicion.

The more things change, the more they stay the same, huh?

July 28, 2009

July 28, 2009

Sorry I Missed It: Burn Notice

Anyone who’s visited the International Spy Museum here in D.C. or even watched a James Bond movie has probably wondered how they’d fare as a spy. WOULD you be able to complete a dead drop? COULD you operate a shoe phone? HAVE you considered sharing top secret information for baked goods?

Of course, being a spy is much more difficult (and boring) than Jack Bauer makes it appear. I’ve know a few people in the field and there’s a lot of sitting around and doing paperwork. (Actually, in that case I am perfectly qualified, but whatever.) Not so much with the jumping, shooting, and using things that come in metal briefcases.

While I don’t think I’d make it as a spy (can’t shoot or run, would certainly trade information for cookies), I enjoy watching and reading those who can. Several sources turned me on to the USA series Burn Notice, starring the actor I refer to as “the guy who looks like my friend Kevin” but you all should refer to as “Jeffrey Donovan.”

Donovan stars as Michael Westen, a former spy who was “burned.” In layman’s terms, someone blew his cover and now he’s no good for government work. Sort of a Valerie Plame type of thing, but with hotter people and no book deal. So he fills his days with private gigs while trying to figure out who done him wrong.

Accompanying Westen on his missions are his ex-girl, Fiona (played by the actress I refer to as “that chick who played Henry’s sister on The Tudors” but you should refer to as “Gabrielle Anwar”), and his buddy Sam (who we all should refer to as “Bruce Campbell”). Westen’s mom occasionally shows up as well, and she’s played by a woman who was either Cagney or Lacey.

Now that I’ve completed that STELLAR cast list, let’s talk execution. What attracts me to this series is the same thing that attracts me to NCIS: a serious subject is dealt with in a light (but NOT frothy) way. Westen is dealing with some pretty bad people and does quite a few bad things himself. But he still finds time to wear nice clothes, eat a lot of yogurt, and tell jokes.

The show also uses verbal exposition to explain quite a bit of interesting spycraft. I don’t want to make a bomb, pick a lock, or kill a man with only a pen. But I’d like to think that I could.

July 27, 2009

July 27, 2009

More elusive than Bigfoot. And tastier.

I seem to have a penchant for rare foods. I’m not talking about goat or caviar or anything like that. I’m talking about flavors/varieties of the products you know and love. A certain brand of oatmeal. A particular flavor of pudding. Stuff like that.

When I lived in the old country*, I went to one grocery store. It was giant. It was clean. It was well-lit. And it stocked everything.

Now that I live in the new world**, I have a plethora of stores to choose from: Shoppers, Safeways, and Harris Teeters galore. They are not giant. They are not clean. They are not well-lit.

And they stock nothing.

To be fair, they stock SOME things. And if you go at the right time (read: late at night and/or before the weekend rush), you might be able to find a majority of the foodstuffs you require.

But cinnamon roll Jello pudding? No. Quaker Simple Harvest Maple Brown Sugar flavor? No. Any of Dannon Light & Fit’s limited edition flavors? No.

Whenever I’m back in the old country, I make sure to stop at the grocery store just to verify that these items do, indeed, exist. Apparently they do, but not in the entire metropolitan D.C. area.

“Oh Heather,” I hear you say. “Surely you exaggerate.”

Do I? DO I???

I submit to you the following case study:

Safeway’s store brand is called Eating Right. Among its offerings is a pretty fraktastic vegetarian masala frozen dinner.

I bought one of these last November at a store way the frick out in the middle of nowhere***. It was delicious. So now when I’m at a Safeway (unusual, since it’s not my normal chain), I check for this dinner.

People, I have checked seven stores in multiple jurisdictions and blanked EVERY TIME. I understand that this flavor isn’t as popular as macaroni and cheese or spaghetti or whatever. But this seems excessive.

Some people search for rare gems or antiques. I go food hunting.

* Any chance I can start referring to Milwaukee as “the old country”? It makes me feel like a Tolstoy heroine.
** Any chance I can start referring to Alexandria as “the new world”? It makes me feel like Colin Farrell could show up at any moment.
*** Actual distance: approximately 25 minutes from my apartment. Remember, I’m a city girl and would prefer not to drive more than 5 minutes for anything. Ever.

July 23, 2009

July 23, 2009

GeoCities is Dead

Back in the days before blogging and social networking and Twittering (oh my), those of us with information to share used GeoCities. We built websites ourselves, dammit, and from scratch!

I myself ran a li’l one involving trivia from the TV show Friends. Until very recently I did not know my own bank account number. Yet I have known Chandler Bing’s bank account number since circa 2000. It’s just not right.

I also had a posted list of ways in which my two favorite fantasy trilogies are similar. That led to my getting cited in not a few academic papers. You’re not really living until Mr. Bertucci of St. Rosa’s AP English in Secaucus, New Jersey has seen your name in print.

However, I was more than distressed to get an email a few weeks ago that led me to this:

Say WHAT now? Oh no you di’int!

I honestly can’t say that I’m all that surprised. It seems that these days, anything not represented by Google, Bill Gates, or a piece of fruit is doomed to extinction. But be forewarned: the day I switch to Gmail will be a dark day, indeed.

Yahoo, you gotta pull through. Do it for me. Do it for the children. Do it for me.

July 22, 2009

July 22, 2009

In My Opinion: The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3

How do you get to work?

I daresay the vast majority of you drive. Perhaps a few take a bus (or, like me, multiple buses). If you’re lucky enough to walk, count your blessings.

We all need to stop a moment and think of the train riders.

To be fair, one of the things I most liked about D.C. during my initial visits was Metro. I was enthralled. Milwaukee has nothing like it. I don’t know that Chicago’s L can even compare. And I still use the train, when TheBoy and I go to dinner in the District, or I get out of work before my regular afternoon bus starts running.

But hoo boy, I’m glad I don’t take it every day. Because when Metrorail is bad to you, it is BAD TO YOU. Imagine, if you will, standing face to backpack with some idiot’s oversized bag. While avoiding making eye contact with anyone. And trying not to fall over because the conductor keeps inching along the platform. Oh, and the chick behind you is checking her BlackBerry with one hand while drinking coffee with the other and WHOA, IT ALMOST SPILLED. My Metrobus may be slow and carry the occasional criminal, but at least I get a seat every time, y’know?

And in the same way that NYC is D.C. on steroids, their subway system makes ours look like child’s play. With our color-coded lines, intelligible stops, and clean platforms. I mean, seriously, it’s like D.C. wants people to enjoy the train. NYC’s subway system involves oddly-stained stairwells, stations that are the stuff of children’s nightmares, and routes that involve phrases like “Take the A line uptown and catch the 1, 2, 3, 5, or 7, but not the 5 express, and the 2 isn’t running local, so not the 2.” And watch out for the kid selling candy on the actual train itself. (I swear, that actually happened when I was there in May. I was so ready to get it on with the little punk, too, but whatever.)

Suffice to say, anyone who’s ridden a subway system in general—and NYC’s in specific—can acutely appreciate this film. Actually, anyone who commutes via bus or train knows what it’s like to eye your fellow passengers and wonder who’d be the first to die in a hostage situation.

(Or is it just me that does that? I swear, I do. Every time I’m on a plane, I try to match people with their according character on Lost.)

(I’m Faraday.)

In The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3, Denzel Washington plays a transit employee with a stellar record…until he’s accused of taking a bribe. After that, he gets reassigned to the (too shiny to be real) subway control room. He guides the various trains like a conductor guides an orchestra, keeping everything flowing smoothly.

Unfortunately, a man looking for vengeance (played by John Travolta) decides one day to hijack the system. He takes one car captive and demands $10 million. He and Washington’s character play cat-and-mouse throughout the course of the film—it’s definitely an old-school thriller. Since it’s a remake of a 1974 film, I suppose that makes sense.

Excellent supporting cast, including John Turturro as the NYPD negotiator and James Gandolfini as the mayor of New York City. A film like this, though, is really an ensemble picture, and I would be remiss not to mention the nameless actors who played the various passengers in the train car. I have no idea who they are, but they brought the stock characters (mom with kid, tech-saavy teenager) to life.

This movie shouldn’t make you paranoid, afraid to ever use a train or bus again. But it should make you think a bit more about how you’d respond in a crisis. Or maybe just convince you to work from home.

July 21, 2009

July 21, 2009

In My Opinion: Angels & Demons

In the same way that I kept my huge Harry Potter obsession quiet during high school and college, I revealed to as few people as possible the fact that I’ve read all the Dan Brown books. Partially because they’re formulaic potboilers. But mostly because I suspect many of my teachers and fellow students would have started throwing words like “heresy” around. I’d prefer not to get burned at the stake, thanks.

Anyway, now that I’m free of The Bubble (as we called it), I’m more open about my reading choices. I’m the chick reading Lady Chatterley’s Lover on the bus. Or that version of The English Patient with a cover featuring a very happy Juliette Binoche. Me-ow.

However, just because I’m free to admit that I’ve read the Dan Brown books doesn’t mean I should. (See: formulaic potboilers, above.) Honestly, they’re like Nancy Drew for paranoid adults. Catholic church? Evil. Masons? Evil. NASA? Evil. Is nothing sacred, Mr. Brown?

Those of you who didn’t see the film adaptation of The Da Vinci Code probably know it as “that movie in which Tom Hanks has crazy hair.” Actually, those of you who DID see the film might know it as that, too. I think the complexities and deep historical intrigue of the book were lost in the editing room.

I feel similarly about this film, the prequel.

No, wait, the BOOK was a prequel. The magic of cinema somehow turned the FILM into a sequel. Hollywood ftl.

I feel similarly about this film, the sequel. In between the foot chases and implausible romantic attraction between the bookish main character and an improbably hot scientist chick, a Dan Brown book teaches you a crapload of stuff. History. Science. Math. Art. It’s like a sexed-up episode of NOVA, set in Europe.

But when the entire film has to run no longer than 150 minutes and include at least 30 minutes of mindless special effects*, the complex plotlines suffer. Thus what in the book takes several pages to explain is reduced on-screen to a brief sentence or two.

But that’s enough of my ranting about how the books are always better. It’s not like you’ve never heard that one before. Let’s talk plot.

As the film begins, the pope is dead, long live the pope. A new Holy Father is about to be elected, and he’s almost certain to be one of four pre-selected candidates**. However, someone (dun dun DUN) is killing them off, one by one. Certain crime scene details indicate the work of The Illuminati, a secret society (dun dun DUN) that has plotted for centuries to overthrow the Church (and cause chaos in general).

Thus we call to the rescue one Professor Robert Langdon (Hanks). And here I could insert the Mad Libs summary of every Dan Brown story:

Landgon, accompanied by (attractive female subject-matter expert), visits (several European locations) to determine why (shadowy organization) is trying to undermine (hugely-important world organization). Along the way, he finds himself in grave danger. The true culprit is unexpected, and Langdon almost dies before stopping him/her. At the end of the book, Langdon and (attractive female subject-matter expert) find themselves giving in to the sexual tension they’ve been resisting since page 1.

So, yeah. The good guys win. A new Pope is elected. Woo.

Props in this film to Ewan McGregor, who plays the camerlengo. In my opinion, the character steals the show from Langdon in both the book and the film. I also enjoyed the scene in the Vatican Archives, because a) Vatican Archives and b) more glass shattering than you could shake a stick at.

You know what I didn’t enjoy, though? The graphic depictions of people being buried alive, burned, stabbed in the lungs, and drowned. If I want to see a rat coming from someone’s mouth, I’ll go to Jersey.

Skip the movie and read the book instead. You’ll never look at a Pope the same way again.

* Which I totally enjoy, but that is not the point.
** Sort of the BMOC of the Catholic Church.

July 20, 2009

July 20, 2009

In My Opinion: Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen

I once ate an entire canister of Cheerios.

I think soccer is boring.

As a child, my greatest fear was that my parents would have another kid.

I make these confessions not to provide fodder for your judgment (goodness knows I’ve given you plenty of that already). I make these confessions to brace you for what’s coming next.

I watched the Transformers movies. And I liked them.

Believe me, no one is more ashamed of this than I am.

Should I have seen this coming? Because I surely did not. I offered to accompany TheBoy to this summer’s sequel out of the goodness of my heart. We do funny things for love, eh?

In preparation , I requested to watch the original film. (Remember, I’m the girl who read a Tomb Raider novelization. Even when it comes to mindless entertainment, Heather does her homework.) I was able to look past Shia (and Josh Duhamel in uniform, holy pete), though, to…

THE MIND-BLOWING SPECIAL EFFECTS.

Yeah, they’re a bit much at times. I don’t think the Decepti-whatevers or Automatomatons* need to make such a to-do when transforming. So many wheels and gears and spininess, y’know? If I want to watch giant freaky Rube Goldberg machines, I’ll go back here. All I need is for you to FINISH TRANSFORMING ALREADY and start shooting at each other. With flamethrowers.

My main gripe, though, would have to be the utter implausibility of every single aspect of Megan Fox’s character. A woman who looks like that is not going to be mechanically inclined. A woman who looks like that is not going to date a nerd like Sam Witwicky.

No, my friends. A woman who looks like Megan Fox is going to go into showbiz and pose in men’s magazines. Just like, oh, I don’t know, MEGAN FOX. Notice that she’s not taking her clothes of for Popular Mechanics. It’s all I’m sayin’.

I saw this at the Smithsonian air-n-space museum that ISN’T on the mall. Coincidentally, the same museum that had a brief appearance in the film—that was cool. We all clapped. Then wondered if the SR-71 sitting outside really WAS a Transformer. Then got distracted by all the explosions on-screen.

You know how it is.

Oh, and I think this movie had a plot, too. No idea what it was. Whoops.

* Transformers fanboys, please don’t stone me. Thank you.

July 17, 2009

July 17, 2009

Cool Runnings

As promised, documentation of the homecoming of my newest appliance. To wit:

It arrived more-conspicuously than I had hoped. I didn’t exactly want to announce to the office that I had gotten a mini-fridge. Plus, it came while I was eating lunch (behind my favorite part of my office: the closed door). So it was on display for all to see until I got a heads-up email from our admin. Oy.

She look-a pretty good, no? I cut off the ties around the outside of the box and it popped right off, as if by magic. I may or may not have actually gasped. Very emotional time for me.

I decided to put it on one of my many filing cabinets. The space had previously housed some pictures, my date-stamp, and the awesome rubber band ball my friend Amber made me. Rest assured, all objects have found new homes. Actually, I pretty much just moved them all over on the half of that surface NOT covered by fridge.

And here it is, all filled up with a week’s worth of lunches. Yes, I posed the yogurt. (Don’t pretend to be surprised.)

I’m insanely pleased with it so far. I drink a LOT of water* every day and it’s convenient beyond all get-out to be able to keep it cold AND accessible. My office is finally complete.

Though I was walking through some fifth-floor cubicles the other day and saw a woman with her own microwave…

* That’s D.C. tap water, baby. I estimate that by the time I retire from federal service in the National Capital Region, I’ll either be immune to all disease or able to glow in the dark. Thank you, Potomac!

July 16, 2009

July 16, 2009

Things I Don’t Understand, Part 4

Tanning.

I understand that the blinding paleness I have going on isn’t ideal. But really, people, come on. How do we still not understand that skin cancer is NO FUN? 15 minutes in a tanning booth is like 4 hours in the sun. And I didn’t even make up that statistic, ha.

You know how you get rid of the deathly paleness? Fake bake. They got creams. They got lotions. They got spray-on wizardry. There is no need to stand under an actual source of UV light for any amount of time.

Please keep in mind that the key with any good fake bake product is to apply conservatively. I’m afraid that some of you may be confusing tanning products (a dab’ll do ya) with sunscreen (apply liberally every 2 hours or as needed). Many of you live in the upper Midwest. I don’t care what time of year it is, no one in Wisconsin is ever tan a la George Hamilton. Please keep it real.

And remember, pale skin was once considered an asset. A sign that you were privileged. You know, like the ability to read or possession of all your teeth. Think about it.

July 15, 2009

July 15, 2009

Things I Don’t Understand, Part 3

Lying about your age.

I suspect none of you, my regular readers, are over the age of 30 or so. Thus I guess none of us can really judge people who lie about how old they are; you never know when we’ll turn into one of them.

But even though I’m “just” 25, I don’t see myself as one who’ll someday joke about turning “29 again.” As I see it, lying about your age is a lose-lose: you look desperate, and you miss out on the chance to bitch about getting old. Think about it: all those sentences beginning with “kids these days” or involving the myriad prescriptions required just to keep your body from falling apart. Someday, I want to be able to say “When I was your age…” and go on for like ten minutes about how Thursday night tv required the use of two VCRs. That’s right, TWO. VCRs. While I watched a third show live. Good times.

Getting old isn’t a curse. (Well, okay, technically I suppose it is thanks to that Eden debacle, but y’know.) It’s the gateway to a land where you are free to complain all you want. And the older you get, the less anyone can do about it.

Plus, when you consider the alternative, being old doesn’t seem so bad.

July 14, 2009

July 14, 2009

Things I Don’t Understand, Part 2

Two-part bathrooms.

By which I mean those involving a toilet/tub in one room and a sink in A COMPLETELY DIFFERENT ROOM.

Actually, this also goes for those wacky open-concept bathrooms in which the tub/shower is basically right out in the open.

Folks, I may be old-school. I may be prudish. I may be overcautious when it comes to bodily functions.

Actually, there’s no “may be” about it. I’m totally all of those things.

Why, then, must we make a show of washing up?

I guess I can understand in theory (though definitely not in practice) the benefits to having a bathtub in a large, naturally-lit room. It would help if I were down with the concept of baths. I’m sorry, but sitting in a pool of filth for an extended period of time doesn’t appeal to me. Why soak when you could be eating or watching tv?

In addition, having the sink out in the open (e.g. in a master bedroom) really screws the people who share that space. My Charlottesville hotel room had the sink separate from the rest of the bathroom. And as much as TheBoy enjoys my company, I’m sure he was less-than-thrilled to hear me brushing my teeth at oh-dark-thirty in the a.m. Were the situation reversed, I’m sure I would have resorted by throwing shoes.

So for those of you who will someday build, design, or remodel a bathroom, please consider my plea to keep the functions of toilet, tub, and sink locked away in a tiny windowless room, as God intended.

Your assistance in this matter is greatly appreciated.

July 13, 2009

July 13, 2009

Things I Don’t Understand, Part 1

Sunglasses.

But let’s back up here. I understand the purpose of sunglasses. Sunblock for your eyes and all that. I just don’t wear them personally because I have regular spectacles to contend with. So the concept itself not my issue.

My issue, rather, is twofold:

Part the first: mirrored sunglasses. Unless you are a member of the United States Secret Service, it’s really not necessary for you to hide your eyes from the rest of us. You may not know this, but when I’m speaking to you and you’re wearing mirrored sunglasses, it’s like I’m talking to myself. If I wanted to do that, I’d be having this conversation with a mirror.

Part the second: wearing sunglasses when the sun isn’t out. Unless you are a member of the United States Secret Service or a celebrity on at least the B-list, don’t wear sunglasses at night. Or on rainy days. Or inside. You know I love you, but you just don’t have the cachet to pull it off.

Look at it this way: Are you married to a Kennedy? Have you been on an episode of Gossip Girl? Have you sworn an oath to protect the President of these United States? If the answer to these questions is no, step away from the sunglasses.

You’re welcome.

July 10, 2009

July 10, 2009

Notes from the Underbelly

I’m in a busy season at work, hence the lack of scintillating posts. Or, y’know, my usual rambles. Whatever.

My mini-fridge arrived safe and sound; pictures to follow once I load ‘er up next week. Because, yes, I took pictures. Some people document the arrival of children. I document the arrival of small, food-bearing appliances.

My friend Amber’s suggestion aside, I don’t think I’m going to call it Fridget Jones. I’ve never been one to name inanimate objects, be they cars, appliances (Stevie the tv, anyone?), or otherwise. Bestowing lasting monikers on things has always confused me; as a kid, I gave my pets person names that I liked because, well, why wouldn’t you? Thus I was the 7-year-old with a gerbil named…Ashley. (After that, inspired by Barney, I had two in a row named Zippity. Sometimes inspiration strikes. But sometimes you just steal from a PBS show.)

Summer interns are in full force here at federal-agency-that-will-not-be-named. While it’s wonderful to no longer be the youngest person in the building (save for the IT contractors who appear to get recruited out of elementary school), I continue to be disconcerted at how students get younger every year. Am I old? I was born in the 1980s. I work with people who already had one marriage under their belts in the 1980s. I can’t be old, can I?

Happy Friday.

July 9, 2009

July 9, 2009

Least Helpful Directions EVER

You’d think I’d be used to confused tourists by now, but I swear it throws me every time I’m approached. On the way to the bus stop yesterday afternoon, I had this conversation:

Tourist man, with wife and kids in tow: “Do you know where the White House is?”

I briefly consider the following options:

a) Pretend not to speak English.
b) Pretend not to know what or where the White House is.
c) Help the poor guy, who’s obviously perplexed with D.C.’s heat and streets.

I go with option c, since I’m obviously a local. And since I occasionally try not to be a total bitch.


Me: (points east) “It’s over there. 1600 Pennsylvania.”

Him: “1600 Pennsylvania. Okay.” (walks away)

All right, here are the ways in which I botched that exchange:

1. I pointed. Though I work mere blocks from the White House, you can’t see it from where we were standing. Thus my point encompassed approximately 25% of the District of Columbia as far as that guy could tell.

2. As if to provide further explanation, I gave him the street address. Perhaps the most well-known street address in freaking America. I’m sure his inner monologue went something like, “Oh, the White House is on 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue? YOU DON’T SAY!” See, in my mind it made sense because we were a few blocks from 1900 Penn. Not that I explained any of that, mind you. I just…assumed the guy would read my mind, I guess.

As I got to my bus stop, I looked back at the tourist family and saw them sitting forlornly on some benches. I’m going to pretend it was because they were hot and tired.

Yeah.

July 8, 2009

July 8, 2009

Charlottesville: Old Houses, Balloons, and Fondue

Day 1

As all good trips must do, this one started with a good dinner. At The Melting Pot. During which we maybe ordered too much dessert.

Oh, never mind. No such thing.

Charlottesville’s pedestrian mall was shockingly crowded. I mean, no offense to tiny towns, but really? Apparently this is what happens when you don’t have an Ikea nearby.

Day 2

Here’s the thing you may not realize about hot air ballooning. For meteorological reasons beyond my ken, it only occurs at sunrise or sunset. Thus I found myself waking at 4:45 a.m. on day 2. Of my VACATION. Luckily, inflating the balloon involved fire.

And the ride itself meant views like these.

Plus, waking up that early means you’re ready for a huge waffle at brunch.

We spent the afternoon at Ash Lawn-Highland, the home of James Monroe.

The tour guide asked that we follow “normal museum rules” and not take pictures inside the house. You know what normal museum rules are? YOU CAN TAKE PICTURES WHEREVER YOU DAMN WELL PLEASE. Grr.

Since it was the 4th of July and all, we finished the day with fireworks at the big downtown park. Since we’re in an economic collapse and all, this was scheduled to be the last year. They went out with (brace yourself) a bang, HAHAHAHAHA.

video

(The preceding video was courtesy of TheBoy. Thank you, honey.)

Day 3

Monticello was the main attraction on day 3; it’s probably Charlottesville’s best-known landmark.

Again, I was not allowed to take pictures inside the house. Again, I was pissed. Fortunately, the kitchen was in a special subterranean wing and not inside the house. Ha!

We finished the trip with a stop to this great mill/general store.

And managed to buy one postcard and two pieces of candy. Bow before our self-control!

July 7, 2009

July 6, 2009

July 6, 2009

In My Opinion: Away We Go

TheBoy and I survived a long weekend in Charlottesville, thanks for asking. There were fireworks…a hot air balloon ride…Monticello…champagne…it was good. Tiring, but good. And he didn’t leave me on the side of the road, either. Bonus.

Pictures and trip recap to follow, as soon as I dig my camera out from underneath all the Pop-Tarts I stole from the hotel’s continental breakfast area. Shutup.

After one failed attempt, I believe I have finally found Juno’s companion film: Away We Go. If you’re a JKras fan at all, you perhaps know this movie as “the one where he’s all scruffy.” If the abbreviation JKras means nothing to you, please read on but also go here.

Away We Go is the story of a young couple about to embark on that joyous milestone of adulthood: having a baby. (I say “joyous” because I’m told that it’s quite the wonderful experience. However, as I do not consider myself kid-inclined, I hope to maintain a solely theoretical knowledge of parenting. Until they change how the whole delivery process works, OW OW OW no.)

The young couple, as played by John Krasinski (JKras…get it?) and Maya Rudolph aren’t sure whether they’re ready to be parents at all. Not in that “We really don’t have as much saved as we should have” way. More like a “We are not even ready for a dog” way. There’s actually a scene in which they repeatedly wonder “Are we fuckups?” to each other…and can’t decide on an answer.

So, long story short, these two are going to need all the help they can get. Luckily, while her parents are deceased, his (played by Catherine O’Hara and Jeff Daniels) are right in the same area.

Oh, but wait. They announce a couple of months before the baby’s born that they’re moving. To Europe. For two years.

WTF.

After getting over the initial shock, the couple realizes that they no longer are tied to…anywhere. So they set about finding a new home. They try Phoenix. And Montreal. And several places in-between. But finding a home is more complicated than just finding a house. They eventually do, of course, but it’s quite a journey.

I think of Away We Go as Juno: thirtysomething. We again examine the consequences of pregnancy. In this case, the focus is more on the macro level; the mom-to-be isn’t freaked out about giving birth. She’s worried about what comes after. I think that sort of perspective can be gained only with age.

JKras and Rudolph have good chemistry. I particularly liked the scenes in which she was freaking out and he would calm her down. I’ve certainly been part of a few scenes like that myself. Ahem. (Please note: I am not casually announcing that I am having a baby or anything. I’m usually freaking out because we can’t decide on dinner plans or a movie is sold out. Thank you.)

I also enjoyed Allison Janney’s role as a capital-C Crazy friend of Rudolph’s character and Maggie Gyllenhaal as an uber-hippie friend (from Wisconsin, holla) of JKras’s. Casting makes or breaks an indie like this, and I think it was definitely an asset here.

Though not typical summer fare, Away We Go is certainly a nice change of pace from talking robots and boy wizards (not that I don’t love them all equally). It’s the Nilla wafer that’s hiding in your bag of Oreos.

July 3, 2009

July 3, 2009

Take the Day Off

As many of you head off to picnics, barbecues, and displays of colored gunpowder, allow me to wish you and your families a very happy Independence Day. I’m heading to a long weekend in Charlottesville, Virginia. In exchange for Monticello and gelato, TheBoy gets a hot air balloon ride and a vineyard tour. Everybody wins.

Let’s meet back here on Monday with tales of watermelon and...well...

Oh, and do try to keep all your limbs intact, okay?

July 2, 2009

July 2, 2009

A Trio of Short Open Letters

Dear Orville Redenbacher,

Until I watched a recent episode of American Eats on the History Channel, I had no idea how much work you did to bring microwave popcorn to people like me. God bless you, sir.

Cheers,
Heather

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Dear Mercedes-Benz Driver Parked in the Goodwill Parking Lot,

Someday, I hope to be you. But with a Lexus.

Cheers,
Heather

=====

Dear SunTrust Banker Lady,

Thank you for not giving me too much grief when I closed my accounts. It’s not my fault the credit union’s rates kick your butt.

Also, thank you for calling me Miss Heather. No one does that since I stopped teaching 1st and 2nd grade Sunday school.

Cheers,
Heather

July 1, 2009

July 1, 2009

Judge Away

Our battered and bruised office refrigerator passed away this week. Our relationship only started back in November, but I'm told it had been ill for quite some time. I did what I could (applied lots of paper towels), but it was too little, too late.

Fickle woman that I am, I started shopping around for new models. Since I can't legally (or even "legally") use my government card to buy a new one for the entire office, I had to cough up my own money. And I sure as hell ain't buying something for THOSE PEOPLE.

So I checked out cute ones (for me, myself, and I) and found this. Check out that interior shot, people! It's the one fridge on earth cleaner than mine!

Matching containers? Diet Coke?? Pink??? As my friend Amber would say, "zomg."

So, um, yes. Yes indeed.

A girl needs somewhere to keep her lunch, know what I'm sayin'?

In My Opinion: Super Size Me

Okay, okay. I realize this movie is forever old. For whatever reason (overzealous critics, perhaps?), I thought this was a much grosser film than it turned out to be. While Heather tolerates a lot of things in her movies, rampant grossness is not one of them. Hence her reluctance to watch anything in the “frat boy” genre. But that’s really a rant for another day.

Before I started this movie, I considered my motivations. It’s a documentary, so “get entertained” was really not one of them. To me, documentaries are like non-fiction books. You don’t expect fun, you expect to learn. While you sometimes are blessed with both, more often than not you finish only older and wiser. Such is life.

My reasons for watching Super Size Me were two-fold:

1) To provide that extra diet motivation I’ve been lacking lately. I don’t know if you people have noticed this lately, but there is food, like, EVERYWHERE. People at work have candy and cookies. They invite me out to lunch, too. TheBoy and I go to dinner. I get groceries. It’s a non-stop orgy of eating, AND IT MUST STOP. So I figured watching one man down his bodyweight in saturated fats would do it.

2) To make me feel morally superior. By my estimation, I have not eaten a McDonald’s meal since I visited the National Zoo on a D.C. vacation in October 2007. It’s not that I don’t find the food delicious. Believe me, I do. It’s not that I don’t find the prices affordable. Believe me, I do. One look at the nutritional information, though, and all that pales in comparison. Now that I’m a hyper calorie counter, there’s just no way I can justify eating 95% of the things on the menu. I’d be the girl ordering a side salad and a yogurt parfait. (Actually, this is what I had on that October 2007 visit. I think I may also have had a Filet-O-Fish. Beside the point.)

The premise of the movie is simple: one man ate nothing but McDonald’s menu items for 30 days. He had to eat everything on the menu at least once. He wouldn’t super size value meals unless asked. And he would have a team of medical professionals chart his “progress.” Oh, and his girlfriend, who was ironically a vegan chef.

As you can imagine, a diet heavy on Big Macs and Cokes is going to wreak havoc on both your body and your mind. He gained weight. His cholesterol skyrocketed. He became lethargic. His doctors counseled him to stop immediately if not sooner.

But he lived to film the tale, and in doing so also provided a glimpse into the American psyche. The filmmaker argues that McDonald’s, more than any other chain, targets kids. Playplaces. Happy meals. A clown mascot. Think about it. Though I’m of the school who blames, oh, I dunno, PERSONAL IRRESPONSIBILITY for a lot of the modern obesity epidemic, you can’t deny the lure of in-your-face McNuggets.

Since I’d already de facto sworn off McDonald’s, I can’t say whether this movie alone would be enough to turn you off the restaurant. I do know that once you’ve seen what fast food does to an otherwise extremely-healthy man, the question “Do you want fries with that?” becomes much more sinister.