November 30, 2009

November 30, 2009

Shake Once for Yes, Two for Conspiracy

Recently, friend-of-blog Michael was in town. Like any good hostess, I submitted an all-inclusive list of possible Things to See. Like most people, the list was returned with a “Yes, please.” Tourists. (A co-worker of mine once got a request to take her out-of-towner to “the Smithsonian.” There are like fourteen, people. Pick one and deal.)

Luckily for me, a couple of things on that list were things I myself had never done. Despite being an old hand at D.C. tourism (just go with it), even I have a list of things yet to visit. Thus it was off to the George Washington National Masonic Memorial.

Before I start with the pictures, let’s get a couple of things straight:

1. Yeah, parts of it were seriously creepy.
2. No, I did not become a Mason.
3. No, I would not tell you if I had become a Mason even if I HAD.

Draw your own conclusions.

The building itself is nice enough, with a mix of temple-like base and architectural tower.

The first floor rotunda was also lovely, with pillars, a statue, and giant paintings on the wall.

And I actually was rather impressed by the Scottish Rite room—a small museum dedicated to the different roles Washington played (farmer, politician, soldier, etc.).

Then we got to the York Rite room and it all blew up in my face.

I mean, REALLY? You wanna memorialize Washington with a re-creation of the Holiest of Holies?

(Side note to Masons: please don’t kill me! Thanks!)

Moving on up (movin’ on up—sing it with me!), we came to the Knights Templar Room. Awesome because a) knights templar, b) stained glass windows, and c) suit of armor.

The top floor observation deck provided some stellar views of Alexandria’s fall foliage.
Who knew my city had trees?

While the basement included meeting rooms, a theater, and several exhibits by the Shriners.
That’s a whole lotta fez going on.

As you can see, there’s plenty inside the memorial.

And that’s just the stuff I CAN tell you about.

November 27, 2009

November 26, 2009

November 25, 2009

November 25, 2009

In My Opinion: The Men Who Stare at Goats

You’ve probably watched enough television and film to realize that the government does some crazy crap. People like us don’t even know the half of it. I’m sure it’s better that way—less chance of being held for ransom. “The more you know,” NBC? More like “The more likely you are to be abducted.”


In The Men Who Stare at Goats, Ewan McGregor plays a journalist looking for His Big Scoop in order to win back his wife’s affections. Figuring the Middle East is always good for a laugh, he heads to Kuwait. There, he meets George Clooney’s Lyn Cassidy, a former military man/psychic spy.

Yes, you read that correctly. Turns out that the 1970s and 1980s were more than bell bottoms and greed. A hippie soldier played by Jeff Bridges founded the New Earth Army on the principles of love, peace, etc. Y’know, exactly the sorts of things you want your military focusing on.

The film jumps between McGregor/Clooney in the present day and Bridges/Clooney in the past. Back in the day, Clooney became one of the New Earth Army’s top pupils. In present time, he and McGregor get captured by criminals while searching for Bridges—who mysteriously disappeared years ago. The scenes set in the past involve dancing, LSD, and—yes—goat staring. Also, Kevin Spacey as Clooney’s rival. The scenes set in the present involve sand, turbans, and cloud staring bursting.

I won’t spoil the ending by revealing the fate of either the men or the goats. Suffice to say government truth is almost always stranger than fiction.

November 24, 2009

November 24, 2009

Things I’ve Read: Born Round: The Secret History of a Full-Time Eater

For many years, Frank Bruni had a dream job: restaurant critic for the New York Times. Perhaps that might be better marked as “dream” job, since having to eat out every lunch and dinner (and sometimes multiple dinners), then critiquing each of those meals, pretty much sucks all the enjoyability out of the experience.

Further complicating things for Frank: a torturous relationship with food that started with baby bulimia, drug use, sleep eating, and midnight snacking binges that make even me recoil in disgust. As I remarked to friend-of-blog Patricia, Born Round repeatedly swings from cautionary tale to food porn and back.

Allow me to explain the “baby bulimia” reference. As a baby, Frank was—no surprise—chubby. Baby fat, right? Maybe. Sure. But explain the occasion when baby Frank, wanting a third burger but not getting it, proceeded to regurgitate his first two burgers? Perhaps not dramatic enough to warrant an eating disorder label; Bruni tends toward the theatrical. Still, not a good sign.

Frank’s parents, Italian immigrants both, showed their love and showed off their affluence through food. There was always more than necessary. Family gatherings are cast as epic landscapes of savory and sweet. Third and fourth helpings are encouraged, even recommended. And, of course, you’ll be taking a plate home after having one last piece of pie, right?

No shock that Frank had constant trouble keeping his weight down. He resorted to bulimia, drugs, and solutions not fit to blog. Suffice to say the man was desperate to stay thin. Eventually, he got down to fighting weight through the tried and true practices of eating less and moving more. Bruni notes his pants sizes (and shows the pictures to match, hi narcissism) throughout the book.

Weight issues aside, Bruni does have a love of food. Though he started out in general journalism and not food reporting, he’s always appreciated a good meal. That comes through in his descriptions. However, he also describes his binges all too well, so don’t worry that you’ll be tempted to snack while reading. More likely, you’ll want to hop on a treadmill and throw away all your takeout menus.

November 23, 2009

November 23, 2009

Duly Noted Recommends: Little Static Dusters

Though I now have Skype capabilities, I can’t figure out how to use it to access my recording program, Gabcast. Thus you will have to continue to read my recommendations for the time being. I would apologize for being such a luddite, but I have to go polish my rocks.

Even as a child, I was of the “children should be seen and not heard” school. Ideally, children were not even seen. We were allowed to eat quietly with the adults at social gatherings, then summarily dismissed to go upstairs/to the den/in the other room to play or watch TV. I’ve always willingly interacted with others only when food is involved.

In practice, my social retardation severe shyness has several ramifications. I don’t know what to do in a bar. I have no idea how to score the good drugs. My Facebook wall is devoid of zombie pokes.

Yet, somehow, I soldier on.

On the plus side, an inability to approach strangers for assistance, information, or the good drugs requires you to learn by observation. It’s how I figured out the D.C. subway system. It’s how I figured out sushi. It’s how I figured out parallel parking. Monkey see, monkey place hands at 10 and 2.

So I’m always on the look-out for the ways in which those-who-know-what-they’re-doing do things. What shortcuts do the cabbies use? Which washing machines are most coveted? How does the cleaning lady keep federal-agency-that-shall-not-be-named so darn clean?

It’s while researching that last one that I noticed the use of one of these:

Um, little static duster, where have you been all my life?

Here’s the thing. As freakishly anal as I am, with my need for lists and schedules and neatly-organized piles of everything, I’m not a fan of cleaning. In the 13 months I’ve lived in D.C., I’ve mopped my bathroom twice: before each time my mom has visited. If a surface can’t be cleaned with a vacuum, tough luck. As long as my piles are stacked and arranged in right angles, they can get as dusty as they want. Even my beloved wipe cleaning products come out rarely—they’re so high maintenance, with the can opening and getting the hands wet and UGH.

But with the little static duster? I just have to whisk around my apartment, Mary Poppins-style, humming “A Spoonful of Sugar” and dusting away. Yeah, it doesn’t last for long. But sometimes I pretend to have a swordfight and that helps.

Hey, we do what we must.

November 19, 2009

November 19, 2009

Listen to This, Volume 23: Owl City

(Yes, yes, I know. I’m sure I’m taking a page right out of Stuff White People Like by recommending Owl City. Next week: peacoats and kickball!)

For a brief time last month, Federal-Agency-That-Shall-Not-Be-Named unblocked streaming media. For a good week and a half, I was able to Pandora my heart out. (Well, until I hit the 40 hour monthly limit. Um, note to Pandora: wtf?) As it had in the past, Pandora played a mix of my old favorites, new things I absolutely hated, and new things that intrigued me.

Owl City fell into that last category. Now, please, let me know if I’m just now jumping on an old bandwagon. “But Heather, an Owl City song was played on Grey’s last year.” “But Heather, Owl City is sponsored by the X Games.” “But Heather, Owl City played an Obama inauguration party.” Guess what? I don’t watch ABC dramas, can’t skateboard, and voted for the other guy. As far as I know, Owl City was muddling in obscurity until Pandora plopped it in my lap.

But if we want to talk about ways in which I am disconnected from Things That Are Cool, we’ll be here all day. So let’s talk about why you need to add songs like “Hello Seattle” to your playlist.

Owl City was started by one man. From Minnesota. Who recorded an album IN HIS PARENTS’ BASEMENT. And cites Imogen Heap as a musical influence. As critics compare him to Ben Gibbard.

Do I even need to keep going? I didn’t think so.

For good measure, keep in mind that it sounds like this:

Download now, thank me later.

November 18, 2009

November 18, 2009

To Gossip Girl

Dear Gossip Girl,

Allow me to congratulate you on being the titular character of a popular CW drama. While it’s perhaps not quite as prestigious as being the titular character of a popular NBC comedy, I think we can both agree it trumps being the titular character of a TLC reality show or any sort of book. Also, as a fan of said CW drama, I can attest that this season’s hijinks are no less salacious than those of past years. Fans of the show, many of whom are even younger than I am, continue to see such haute concepts as high fashion, political intrigue, and the ménage a trois.

In fact, this season’s characters and events have been so diverting that we audience members have hardly noticed a simple fact: you, Gossip Girl, are no longer among them. Unlike as in years of old, many an episode goes by with little more from you than brief narration. This, Gossip Girl, is not to your credit.

I realize that Gossip Girl the program is in transition. With many of its characters off at (conveniently) the same college, your high school territory is no longer the show’s main setting. Those who remain at Constance Billiard are but unworthy echoes of their bitchy forebears.

However, as you may have noticed, the college that Blair, Serena, Dan, et al. are attending is (conveniently) in the same city as Constance Billiard. Gossip Girl, I do not know who you are. But I assume you are located somewhat near New York City. It would seem that nothing is preventing you from dropping in occasionally on the characters who have gone on to college (or, in the case of Chuck Bass, speculative real estate ventures). I suggest picking up your mobile device and a couple of subway tokens and heading downtown.

It’s the least you can do, really, since they named the freaking show after you and all.


November 17, 2009

November 17, 2009

Ready, Set, Count

Folks, it’s that time of decade again. Census time. Well, technically, the forms get mailed out in March...but as someone who savored the decannual* ritual of completing a census form, I say it’s never too early to get excited about a li’l bit of bureaucracy.

As the anal-retentive only child that I’ve always been, I got tasked with a lot of clerical tasks growing up. Checking the mail. Completing surveys. Answering the phone. Putting up Christmas decorations. I was a latter-day Joan Holloway, really. And I loved it without even realizing it was preparation for my several-year stint in office administration. I was just that sort of kid.

No surprise, then, that when the census form came in 2000, my sixteen-year-old self was all over it.** I hoped and prayed that we would get the long form. The 72-page behemoth that would require at least two pencils and the patience of Job.


(I may have been the only person in America to open the envelope from Census Bureau and exclaim, “Yes! We got the long form!” I was certainly the only one to do so with a fist pump. I mean, c’mon. I may be oblivious to many things, but I’ve always been acutely aware of my weirdness, thanks.)

The only downside: my competence and relatively small family made completing the form quick and easy. Even the complication of an Asian mother took up just marginal extra time. Still, while it lasted, putting one letter or number per space, checking the appropriate space for each applicable answer, and double-checking my completed form was pretty freaking amazing.

I have no idea whether I’ll get to complete a census form in 2010. I have no contacts at Census Bureau (cross it off the list of candidates for Federal-Agency-That-Shall-Not-Be-Named), so I can’t work a deal. How in the world am I going to satisfy my desire to complete a government form, mail it in, and hope it’s successfully delivered?

Guess I’ll have to wait until April 15.

* Word? Not a word?
** I’m sure my six-year-old self would have been all over the 1990 census form, too, but she was more concerned with color-coding the crayons in her Crayola box. It happens.

November 16, 2009

November 16, 2009

To the Army Man Who Chatted Me Up at the Dentist

Dear Army Man Who Chatted Me Up at the Dentist,

I hope I didn’t come off as rude when we met in Dr. Silverman’s waiting room last week. I hope I came off as disinterested, aloof, and perhaps a bit annoyed.

You see, Army Man Who Chatted Me Up at the Dentist, you should know that I was Dr. Silverman’s first appointment of the day. As you’re aware, we met around 8:30 a.m., which is during peak “Heather isn’t communicative” hours (any time before 10 a.m., anytime after 11 p.m., all day on Mondays). From your discussion with the receptionist, I gathered that you had loosened a recently-installed cap while eating a steak over the weekend. From later Googling, I gathered that you are a Sergeant First Class. From observations of the size of the waiting room and your general demeanor, I gathered that we were going to get to know each other quite well.

Boy, was I right.

During that 5-minute conversation, I learned the following about you:
- You’re 2 months from retirement.
- It was a really good steak.
- You don’t like going in to work but your wife makes you.
- No seriously, it was a GOOD steak.

During that 5-minute conversation, you asked the following of me:
- How are you?
- Are you doing okay?
- So how are you?

During that 5-minute conversation, you learned the following about me:
- Fine, thanks.

Right around, 37 seconds into our conversation, I rued my decision not to bring a book. “What could happen in the 5 minutes I’ll have to wait for the dentist?” I asked myself.

Now I know.


November 12, 2009

November 12, 2009

Life is Normal Today

You’re not special.

It’s okay. I’m not special, either. No one is. At least, not all of the time. Excepting an Election Night here or a World Series there, the vast majority of us live lives of quiet monotony. Not that regularity is a bad thing; I think Jamie Lee Curtis has a whole ad campaign about it involving yogurt. Sometimes keeping your head down is the best strategy—ask anyone from Communist Russia, Tudor England, or AIG.

Allow me, then, to present My Life is Average, a website I recently discovered wherein people submit ways in which their life is, well, average. Sample gems:

Today, I was talking to my boyfriend online trying to figure out what to do the next time we see each other. His response? Wear red shirts to target and pretend to work there, but act like lousy employees. His rational? They couldn't fire us because we dont work there. He's a keeper.

Today in church the pastor asked the congregation what "amen" means. After a few moments of silence he proceeded to tell us that it translates into "true dat." I love church.

Today I realized that indigo isn't part of the rainbow, Pluto isn't a planet, Dora the explorer is now a teen, and the cookie monster likes veggies. How much more can they ruin childhood?

There are the sort of observations we all have, with the occasional devious scheme or wtf coincidence thrown in for good measure. Reading through the archives, I even saw a proposal and acceptance. (Not as good as the guy who proposed via Bakerella, but still.)

You can vote on whether a story is good (“Average”) or not (“Meh”). You can also submit your own. I certainly have. Because while life certainly rocks on occasion (and there’s a blog for that, too), the vast majority of it doesn’t rock. It just IS. Nothing wrong with that.

November 11, 2009

November 11, 2009

God Bless All the Vets

I'm taking a break today from my usual snark to thank each and every one of you who has served in the Armed Forces, past or present. I've no doubt that you're braver, stronger, and faster than I could ever be.

Last week, I discovered Ian Fisher: American Soldier--the life of an American soldier in pictures, from recruitment through duty to a courthouse marriage. Mind-blowingly amazing, in my opinion. Please check it out.

Then go hug a vet. I'm going to wait a couple of weeks and hug my dad.

Semper fi.

November 10, 2009

November 10, 2009

Nothing Like an Original

While the American Dream seems to have morphed into something involving appearing on a reality show and having a Twitter account, I believe it was once something to the fact that anybody can make themselves into anything. The celebration of the common man. Success as a natural effect of originality. Ayn Rand-ian principles, etc.*

Sadly, I’m here to tell you that I’m all for civilization’s degeneration into derivation and spin-offs. Granted, it’ll never happen (and someone please tell that to those who insist that blondes will eventually be kicked out of the gene pool). But a girl can dream, can’t she?

Let’s talk about some beloved derivatives that have met (yay, even surpassed) the originals.

Diet Coke. (Obvious.) I’m not sure whether it’s the bitter aftertaste, the shiny silver can, or the guilt that comes with the cup of sugar in a regular Coke. Your average American will gladly order that triple Whopper meal with extra fries and a Diet Coke. This average American, who hasn’t had a Whopper since the bygone days of her youth, averages 2 a day. (Cans, not pallets, HAHAHAHAHA, shutup.)

TV spin-offs. Perhaps your favorite television spin-off is Angel. Pinky and the Brain. CSI: Miami. Frasier. I could go on and on and on. Mine is The Colbert Report. The man, the snark, the Word—I love it. I may miss a Daily Show here or there, but I make a point of keeping current with Colbert. Are they all good? Heck no—for every Frasier, there’s a Joey. But in the best cases, a spin-off lets the creatives take the best one or two parts of a program and put them in the spotlight. Why go to an all-you-can-eat seafood buffet if you know a good place with bottomless buckets of shrimp? Am I right?

Children. Those who’ve reproduced take great delight in telling the rest of us how the little one looks/thinks/behaves like one or both of the parents. Cool. You know why? Because any child you have is pretty much “You: The Sequel.” A whole-hearted back-slap from me for increasing humanity’s odds of success against the extraterrestrials. All I ask is that you properly manage your genetic material when it’s in public places such as airports, train cars, museums, and retail outlets.

A wise man once claimed there’s nothing new under the sun. I’m going to let you ponder that statement while I drink this Diet Coke.

* I think you’ll agree that little is less congruent than the phrase “Ayn Rand-y.”

November 9, 2009

November 9, 2009

It was 2-1-6-6.

(What follows is a sordid account of Virginia’s electoral process. Those not in the mood should click here. Thanks.)

While I’m glad I moved to Virginia most of the time, occasions pop up that make me question my trek from the frozen tundra. Long drives, for example. Hot days.

Also, Election Day.

Let me start by explaining Wisconsin’s voting system. A registered voter shows up at his/her appointed polling place on Election Day. An ancient poll worker finds the voter’s name in the roll book. Another ancient poll worker hands the voter a ballot. The voter goes to a booth, grabs the pencil, and connects the arrows for each candidate of choice. When finished voting, the voter inserts the ballot into a machine, grabs an “I voted!” sticker, and leaves.

Or, by filling out a simple request form that requires no excuse, any registered Wisconsin voter can vote absentee.

Bing, bang, boom.

Then you’ve got Virginia. Hoo boy.

November 3 was Election Day here in the Old Dominion. Despite it being an odd-numbered year, Virginia had several big races (including gubernatorial) on the ballot. Again, it’s 2009. 9. Odd year.

Strike one for the state that cannot count.

After registering via mail several weeks ago, I received a voter card with my personal info and polling place location. A card that I was required (so the card told me) to present on Election Day or I wouldn’t be allowed to vote.

Strike two for the state that requires superfluous identification. Hey, Virginia, you already ID’d me with this little thing I like to call a DRIVER’S LICENSE.

Since my voting method of choice back in Wisconsin was absentee (repeat: bing, bang, boom), I checked out how that all worked in Virginia. And found out that I would have to select one of 19 reasons I couldn’t vote in person and provide justification. Since I’m not PREGNANT, CONFINED/AWAITING TRIAL, SPOUSE OF STUDENT, or the like, I was unable to vote absentee.

Strike three for the state that stops just shy of requiring a statement signed in blood before letting one vote via mail.


Okay, so on Election Day, I realized that trying to vote before work was a no-go. Since the pools are open until 7, and since (let’s face it) not a lot of people vote in non-Presidential elections, I figured after work would be the way to go.

Got to the polling place around 6:30. Dodged the Deeds campaigners trying to sway my vote at the legally-appointed distance from the polling building. Stood at the end of a line maybe a dozen people long. Finally approached the table and saw two ancient poll workers.

(I guess that’s a universal.)

The woman at the table asked me to state my legal name. I did, and then immediately spelled my last name out of habit. (Hey, when you’re ethnic, you just get used to it.) She pulled me up on the computer (ancient woman! Computer! Point for VA!) and muttered a small “Uh oh.”

Cue heart dropping.

“I’m sorry. I have to send you to that table (points to table) and I don’t know why.”


The woman handed me a form and sent me to The Table. While I waited to be helped, the person currently at The Table was getting advice that included the words “If you’d like to hear your case in person.”

Sweet merciful crap, what the frak is going on here?

When my turn at The Table rolled around, I presented my form to the poll worker and waited for the sword of Damocles. Luckily, it turned out to be a simple fix: since I’d registered by mail, they need to see my driver’s license to prove I was, indeed, me. I coughed up the photo ID, got a yellow card that said “Registration Verified” and was directed to table #3.

At this final table, I handed the yellow card to one worker while the other gave me a paper with a super secret 4-digit code on it to unlock the voting machine.

That’s right: “voting machine.” Code. I want to pick a governor, not rob Fort Knox, people. Anyway.

I step up to the machine and realize that there is no numerical keypad. Rather, there is something like this:

A scrollwheel? Are you kidding me? I was able to navigate the wheeling and the entering and the ballot casting with only minor difficulty, but I’m guessing those Of a Certain Age would have an easier time piloting the Starship Enterprise.

Strike four for the state that assumes everyone can navigate an iPod.

Anyway, I made my selections (only five races and no write-ins, thankfully) and cast my ballot. As any good voter knows, it’s all about the sticker, so I found the woman handing them out. She was standing about 6 feet in front of the garbage can, which was in front of the door to exit.

“Are you handing out the stickers?” I asked.

“I sure am,” she replied.

My plan, in the interest of efficiency, was the grab a sticker, toss my super secret 4-digit code paper in the garbage, and leave.

I went to take a sticker from her…and was rebuffed. “Why don’t we trade?” she suggested. And refused to let me possess both a sticker and a super secret 4-digit code paper simultaneously. Y’know, in case I maniacally ran to a machine, unlocked it, voted again, and dashed out of the polling place.

I’m all for sticking to the rules, but come ON. Strike five for sticker stinginess.

So I did my civic duty. Got my sticker. Used this blog to cathartically purge the memories of the experience.

But the next time a big election rolls around, I’m going to find a way to vote absentee. Never has CONFINED/AWAITING TRIAL looked so good.

November 5, 2009

November 5, 2009

Should I watch The Sopranos?

I need your help. I’m about to make a life decision, and I’m not sure what to do. On one hand, I see the potential for great happiness. On the other, disappointment and distress. I don’t want to dive into something for which I’m not prepared. But recent events make me think I just might be ready.

Should I try watching The Sopranos?

As someone not in the mob, from New Jersey, or Italian, I wasn’t terribly interested in the show while it was airing. HBO’s other notable offerings, Sex and the City and Rome among them, had much more shoe/toga action to catch my fancy. The Sopranos? Guns and pasta. Eh.

However, the current season of Mad Men (mind-blowingly good as per usual) has gotten me thinking. Wondering. Craving more of showrunner Matt Weiner’s work.

Thus my quandary.

I’m not worried about being disappointed in the execution. HBO’s programming is evidence enough that the network knows good production values. Weiner et al. can certainly write/direct/produce the heck out of anything. The show was freakishly successful, pulling in network numbers despite being on premium cable. It was incredibly lauded. Vanity Fair called it “perhaps the greatest pop-culture masterpiece of its day.”

But, again, it’s not the HOW of the show that I’m concerned about—I have no doubt the thing looks and sounds amazing. Rather, I’m worried about the WHAT.

Because I got bored during Goodfellas.

I’m sure it’s my fault. A genetic deficiency. Maybe I should have introduced myself to the mob genre with The Godfather. Maybe it’s all about the horsehead in the bed. I don’t know. But what’s done is done, and now any movie description involving “mobster” or “crime boss” gets a point against.

(The fact remains that 2.5 hours of Ray Liotta was 2.5 hours too much. In the Pacino/De Niro argument, I’m firmly on the side of Al. And my favorite Joe Pesci movie is Home Alone.)

So 86 hours of Tony Soprano and company? Daunting, to say the least.

Add in my squeamish nature and aversion to pasta, and I’m not sure that the most ebullient production in the world could make up for all the killins.


November 4, 2009

November 4, 2009


In my quest to become more acquainted with the DMV (D.C.-Maryland-Virginia) area, I ventured to Annapolis recently. I’d been to the Milwaukee of Maryland (Baltimore), so I figured it was time to hit its Madison. Also, for a time, the capital of the U.S. And also, home to the U.S. Naval Academy.


Don’t worry; TheBoy kept a close eye on me. I was good. Plus, I had natural beauty to focus on.

Maryland State House

As I stated earlier, Annapolis is the capital of Maryland. Since the State House opens early, I wanted to hit it first.

Though not as impressive as Wisconsin’s, the capitol building included some nifty skylights, beautiful marble, and the spot where Washington resigned.

Lunch at Sofi’s Crepes

If you end up in or near either Annapolis or Baltimore, you must stop and get one (or two) of these. I had a Kevin Bacon and a Peanut Butter Cup. TheBoy had a Mozz and a Bananarama.

Life’s short: order a dessert that is JUST AS BIG AS YOUR ENTRÉE.

U.S. Naval Academy

Once we got past the armed ID-checking guards, we found that the Naval Academy had a giant store:

A decent collection of exhibits:

Great views of the water:

And some really excellent architecture:

You know what it didn’t have? Hordes of seamen. Boo.

Hammond-Harwood House

I wish I could tell you who Hammond was. Or even Harwood. But our tour guide was more interested in the architecture of the house.

In which I was not allowed to take pictures. Boo again.

Streets of Annapolis

We spent the rest of our time wandering the downtown, enjoying the water, passing candy stores, and checking out overpriced t-shirts.

Thanks, Annapolis. I’ll be sure to stop again.

November 3, 2009

November 3, 2009

Shameful Confession

I still like Kanye West.

There, I said it. (Not what you were expecting from that picture on the right, is it? Misdirection ftw.)

I realize he’s done some abhorrent things. Questionable magazine covers. Idiotic outbursts. Quixotic battles with law enforcement.

And yet.

The music’s good. Very good. The collaborations, too. Though Mr. West followed several of his colleagues into the fashion arena, he also plans to open several Fatburger restaurants in Chicagoland. Fatburger. Chicago. YOU CAN’T MISS.

I’m not saying he’s a completely redeemable human being; none of us are. I’m just suggesting that we separate art and artist.

That is all.

November 2, 2009

November 2, 2009

Things I’ve Read: Cold Mountain

Before you ask: No, I haven’t seen the movie. No, I didn’t pick this book up because I was planning to see the movie. Rather, during my weekly library book run, I saw Cold Mountain on a featured books cart and grabbed it. One of the side effects of commuting 2+ hours daily is that I go through a lot of books. A LOT. Of books.

Now, since I only own books that I have read and loved, and since I only go to the library on weekends, running out of new books mid-week means I end up reading a Nancy Drew book for the umpteenth time on the way to work. (I’m such an adult, everybody!) Suffice to say I try to leave the library every Saturday morning with no less than three books. If I see something that looks marginally interesting, I’ll grab it. Thus Cold Mountain.

I knew only the vaguest plot details going in, which is probably a good thing. My memories from the film trailers: “Jude Law as Civil War soldier who walks back to sweetheart Nicole Kidman. Lots of fog.” Which side did he fight for? What state(s) are we in? Where is the fog coming from? Who knows.

Having read the book, though, I now realize that I may have to see this movie after all. Dang.

Cold Mountain is the story of a Confederate soldier named Inman. As the novel opens, he’s recovering at a field hospital (cue “Suicide is Painless” music) in North Carolina. (In the interest of complete disclosure, I thought this novel was set in Virginia the entire time I was reading it. To be fair, the maps inside the covers had no state label. And I live in Virginia. Ha.)

If you’ve any idea of the state of medicine during the Civil War, you know that it weren’t purty. After seeing a man die (and being advised by a blind man—cue Odyssey parallel #1), Inman decides to brave the long road home to his love. Even though they technically barely know each other. That’s how it was in the old days: someone has a hoop skirt, letters are written, BAM it’s a courtship.

Cold Mountain alternates between Inman’s story and that of his love, Ada. (If only Homer had been so open-minded.) She’s a preacher’s daughter trying to make ends meet after her father dies. Unsurprisingly, she has no idea how to run a farm. No offense to any PKs out there—I certainly couldn’t run a farm either, and I grew up in Wisconsin. Luckily for Ada, a capable girl named Ruby shows up to help. (I know I haven’t seen the movie, but I couldn’t help picturing Renee Zelwegger as Ruby.) As someone not afraid to roll up her sleeves, Ruby shows Ada the meaning of independence. (Hint: hog butchering is involved.)

Inman encounters the various interesting people and places required of any good odyssey. Sirens, the whole bit. Ada and Ruby do, too, though their sphere as isolated farming women is much more limited. Once Inman finally returns, he (psychologically and physically scarred) and she (scraggly, wearing PANTS) realize they’re much changed from the carefree young’uns that courted once upon a time. They also realize that they like Inman and Ada v 2.0 a lot better.

(Then there is some adult activity that made for awkward reading on a Metrobus.)

As all young lovers do, Inman and Ada make great plans for the future. The homestead they’ll build in the shadow of Cold Mountain. Buildings, and animals, and children.


During the Civil War, the South had something called the Home Guard. The apparently found, captured, and killed/ransomed deserters. Deserters like Inman.



At least Ada ends up having a daughter to remember Inman by. She lives with Ruby’s family on the homestead. Thus not all is lost. (Well, besides the war, of course.)