February 25, 2010

February 25, 2010

Best Story Ever

It involves pudding and cheapness. WHY DIDN'T I THINK OF THIS?

Pudding Guy

In 1999, UC-Davis civil engineer David Phillips was grocery shopping when he noticed something peculiar. Healthy Choice Foods was offering frequent-flyer miles to customers who bought its products. But a 25-cent pudding would bring 100 miles — the reward was worth more than the product itself.

Recognizing a good thing, Phillips bought 12,150 servings of pudding for $3,140, claiming he was stocking up for Y2K. Then he enlisted the Salvation Army to help him peel off the UPC codes, in exchange for donating the pudding.

He mailed his submission to Healthy Choice, and to their credit they awarded him 1.25 million frequent-flyer miles, enough for 31 round trips to Europe, 42 to Hawaii, 21 to Australia, or 50 anywhere in the United States.

There’s no downside. Phillips also got Aadvantage Gold status for life with American Airlines, which brings a special reservations number, priority boarding, upgrades, and bonus miles. And he got an $815 tax writeoff for donating the pudding.

(Source: http://www.futilitycloset.com/2010/02/22/the-pudding-guy/)

Unhappy Hipsters

Friend-of-blog Aimee pointed me to Unhappy Hipsters some time ago. I’d like to pay it forward.

Unhappy Hipsters posts several photos a day of freakish modern design. Don’t get me wrong: I love design. I subscribed to Metropolitan Home, for goodness’ sake, and I rent. But the photos on Unhappy Hipster would make even the most avant-garde designer weep. Perhaps from the atrocity therein, perhaps in embarrassment at seeing one’s own work. I dunno.

It’s the captions that really do it for me, though. To wit (source):

“With the shelves finally ordered by size, function, and smell, he got to work separating the pine needles from the sawdust on the terrace.”

Please don't think I'm judging the people in/behind these photographs. While making dinner the other night, I realized that I had not one, not two, but THREE laptops going:

Though I'm neither unhappy not a hipster, I certainly am in no position to judge.

This blog is like Stuff White People Like, but condensed to pictures and snarky captions. Simple. Bitchy. Brilliant.

February 24, 2010

February 24, 2010

I’d call myself The Corroder.

I’m corrosive. Literally. (I feel like I should clear than up, since when you hear someone say “I have an abrasive personality” you realize the way they act isn’t physically chafing you. But I actually destroy metal.)

Back in the Days of My Youth, I played clarinet. Those poor metal keys never knew what hit ‘em. I tried to attribute it to rust…caused by, y’know, water in the atmosphere and not my wicked-acidic skin.

Then there are the headphones. (Don’t get me started on earbuds; we already know they don’t work for me.) While the typical person’s headphone pads are black (as God intended), mine seem to eventually end up an odd dark greenish. What IS that?

Then we get to the dealbreaker: my watch. Some time in college, I decided to retire my Winnie the Pooh watch (I am NOT even kidding—I graduated from high school while wearing a Disney accessory) and get a grown-uppy metal one.* Two weeks later—TWO WEEKS—I noticed corrosion.

Yes, those pictures are from today. But that’s pretty much how it’s looked lo these many years.

At this point, I realize the men among you are ruing the fact that I’m single, while the ladies are wishing they had my superpower of destroying the best craftsmanship a Wal-Mart giftcard can buy. Because this is the sort of thing you never hear about, except possibly a little in the Spider-Man saga: the dark side of having a weird ability. Jean Grey can move things with her mind, so of course she hurls cars at bad guys and stuff. But what happens when she sneezes and accidentally dumps a piano on the babysitter? Huh? HUH?

On the flip side, if D.C. is ever struck by a villain made of tin, we just need to set something up so I could sweat on him over the course of several weeks. Problem dissolved.

* From Wal-Mart, so it was a wash on the maturity front.

February 23, 2010

February 23, 2010

In My Opinion: Up in the Air

The oeuvre of George Clooney is quite something, innit? Has any contemporary so perfected the roguish charm, the devil-may-care attitude, the like-him-no-matter-what quality? The man can rob entire casinos on-screen and yet we love him anyway.

In a nod to the economic crisis, Clooney’s latest film involves the filp side of headhunting: contract firing. Ryan Bingham (Clooney) fires people for a living. Don’t judge him: he does it well, with as much human decency as possible, and always with the victim’s best interests in mind. Bingham loves what he does (but not in a morbid way), as it lets him be in near-constant motion. He swings through a sea of alphabet soup, from LAX to DCA and every ORD in between. If anyone can be said to have distilled travel to a science, it’s the man who spends over 350 days annually on the road.

Yet what would this movie be without a little romance? Enter Alex (Vera Farmiga), the female Ryan Bingham. Another mighty traveler, she and Bingham compare travel rewards memberships over drinks upon first meeting. Things progress in the way that most roadtrip relationships do, and the two agree to meet again. Whenever it works out, of course: no sense in getting tied down. Bingham’s time with Alex, though, makes him begin to question whether domesticity is really the burden he’s always assumed.

Another complication: Natalie Keener (Anna Kendrick), the Type Capital-A who believes that all this flying around to fire people is So Old School. Why do in person what you can do via Skype? Like, seriously? Bingham’s called upon to show Keener the ropes, which he does reluctantly. Props to Anna Kendrick for making the character sympathetic, btw—I think it could easily have gone the other way.

As Bingham and Keener teach each other about the merits of in-person firing and internet firing, respectively (it’s like Obi Wan and Luke, but with webcams), he finds himself more and more drawn to Alex. He even takes her to his sister’s wedding in (zomg) Wisconsin. Unlike me, she doesn’t just go for the free cheese. She goes for him.

He even decides to visit her house, when it all hits the fan. To say any more on that would spoil the twist.

Suffice to say that by the end of the film, Bingham’s original hypothesis remains true, at least for him: A life on the road, between the terminals, up in the air—this is the way to live.

“Never get [in the airport security line] behind people with infants. I’ve never seen a stroller collapse in under 20 minutes. Never get behind old people. Their bodies are littered with hidden metal and they never seem to appreciate how little time they have left. Bingo, Asians. They pack light, travel efficiently, and they have a thing for slip on shoes. Gotta love 'em.”

February 22, 2010

February 22, 2010

Remember This? Volume 11: The Velveteen Rabbit

When I was in elementary school, the teachers had a small rotation of videos to show us on those days when it was raining, we were about to go on vacation, or they were otherwise unwilling to teach us. You had your Charlotte’s Web. Your science/nature educational filmreels (wow I’m old).

The one I’d like to discuss today, however, is The Velveteen Rabbit.

Did anyone else see this thing? It was an animated version, since my school days pre-date the CGI wizardry that Kids These Days have. I seem to remember a lot of pastels.

Oh, and also, THE BURNING.

See, I understand that most animal-based children’s tales have a moral message. That I completely disregard. Some children, after seeing Charlotte’s Web, swore off pork products. I, on the other hand, continued to eat the ham in my Lunchables. (And loathe spiders. I don’t care if the thing can spin a web containing the entire Gettysburg Address. KILL IT, KILLITNOW.) The Velveteen Rabbit, like Pinocchio, teaches kids that true love can overcome even the trickiest existential barriers. You know what I took away from this story? Friendship leads to illness leads to incineration.

And thus the first steps down the path of social distancing.

I assume that teachers these days with some down time just let the kids fire up their iPhones and update their Twitter feeds. But just in case anyone out there still shows films, heed my warning: stick to the films about plants.

February 17, 2010

February 17, 2010

In My Opinion: The Hangover

Please don’t look at me in that judgmental way. I’ve mentally self-flagellated enough already. Sometimes I do shameful things. Singing along to Britney Spears. Eating the entire box of Oreos. Watching The Hangover. I justified that last one by telling myself it wouldn’t sink to Judd Apatow-levels of crude. Also, Ed Helms was in it, and I love me some Ed Helms.

Plus, I enjoy films whose raison d’etre can be summed up in a single sentence, to wit: “The morning after a Vegas bachelor party, four buddies try to figure out what happened.”

Why bother? Because said party resulted in the following:
- The men now have a baby.
- There’s a tiger in the bathroom.
- One guy lost a tooth.
- The groom is missing.

And so on. You know how boys are.

Using receipts and logic, the men do their best to re-create the evening. Since they’re not exactly CSIs, it doesn’t go well. Mike Tyson shows up at one point. They also get shot at several times. But you know what? Watching it happen is pretty freaking funny. While the humor wasn’t exactly commedia dell’arte, it was nowhere near as juvenile as I feared.

(Bonus: shirtless Bradley Cooper, HELLO. Someone find me the world whose grade school teachers look like THAT, and having children will be worth it.)

“You guys might not know this, but I consider myself a bit of a loner. I tend to think of myself as a one-man wolf pack. But when my sister brought Doug home, I knew he was one of my own. And my wolf pack... it grew by one. So there... there were two of us in the wolf pack... I was alone first in the pack, and then Doug joined in later. And six months ago, when Doug introduced me to you guys, I thought, ‘Wait a second, could it be?’ And now I know for sure, I just added two more guys to my wolf pack. Four of us wolves, running around the desert together, in Las Vegas, looking for strippers and cocaine.”

February 16, 2010

February 16, 2010

Mentholicious

Addictions come in many flavors. Drugs. Caffeine. Love. In modern society, you find the remedy/support group/coping mechanism of your choice and you move on. In some cases, the addiction has become so socially-accepted that one has to wonder who ISN’T in the “_____ Anonymous” group.

So, okay, I think I got one. Vitamin C drops.

Here’s the problem about these dastardly little things. They’re healthy AND they taste good. Usually, I play one or the other. “It’s not healthy, but it tastes so yummy.” Or, “It tastes like death, but it’s so healthy.” I find something that is both good for me AND delicious? I’m screwed.

Sugar free, 5 calories a drop, and my favorite flavor (the vaguely-antiseptic “citrus”) means I’m taking at least one of these a day. Considering that each drop has 100% of your daily recommended allowance of Vitamin C, my chemical makeup is rapidly approaching that of a Florida orange.

Do I get the shakes if I don’t have one? No. Would I break the law to get some? No. But if given the choice between one of these lozenges and a piece of chocolate, I would have to think for a minute. THAT worries me.

Hi, I’m Heather, and I’m addicted to ascorbic acid.

February 15, 2010

February 15, 2010

Anatomy of a Super Feast

Yes, I realize the Super Bowl was a week ago (side note: WHO DAT?). Yes, I realize you couldn’t care less about what my dad and I ate. I’d thank you to note that my blogging about Super Bowl food is nothing new.

Let’s start with an overview of the spread:

Begin with proteins: meatballs and shrimp, in our case.

Move on to the deli portion: cheese, meat, and crackers.

Chips, veggies, and dip come next.

Deviled eggs made an appearance this year, mostly because my dad had eggs he wanted to use up. There’s no better way to use up food than by adding mayonnaise.

Finish up with some relishes: pickles and olives.

Once you’ve had a couple of platters (yes, platters—we gave up on regular-sized plates years ago), settle in to watch the game commercials. Leave the leftovers out, as you’ll want to nosh again around halftime.

February 11, 2010

Terrible Terra Cotta

As I’m wont to do, I checked out a local museum exhibit recently. It was much-hyped, and kept inconveniently selling out every time I wanted to go.

I finally scored an opportunity, though, and grabbed it. Yes, I actually paid for a ticket, Miss If-The-Smithsonians-Are-Free-Then-What-Right-Does-Any-Place-Have-To-Charge-Admission.

Unfortunately, it was a major letdown.

Since the advent of Google alerts, my blog is scarily traceable. The StatCounter was going wild after I wrote about my visit to the Naval Observatory. (Dear DHS Person Who Was Clicking Around for 90ish Minutes: Please don’t put me on a watchlist.) So rather than naming names, I’m just going to say that the exhibit was here:

About these:

And that I had been led to believe it was face-meltingly awesome.

However, I saw very few of these:

Rather, I was buffeted about by schoolchildren with worksheets. To my teacher friends: WHY must kids on field trips be required to complete worksheets? When I was a kid, the bus driver dropped us off at the zoo for a couple of hours and no one was the wiser. Now, you got children blocking the artifacts with their damn worksheets. I didn’t pay to see junior high students painstakingly copy down the significance of jade in ancient China. I PAID TO SEE THE FREAKING JADE.

I have a similar issue about audio tours (you’ll notice that at the first few stops, everyone is listening intently but by the end their eyes glaze over), but it’s a rant for another day.

That being said, it was a lovely day, I was in and out in 15 minutes (seriously, weren’t there like several thousand of these things excavated? I think this exhibit had six), and I didn’t knock anything over.

February 10, 2010

February 10, 2010

Leggo My Legos

While browsing vintage ads recently, I came upon this from Lego:

Thought 1: Adorable.

Thought 2: That is the exact same sort of rambling, freakish thing I built as a girl.

Some of you may have been blessed with parents who gave the special Lego sets. Things like airports, or pirate ships, or castles with little bubble-headed knights and maidens.

My parents got me the all-purpose bucket o’ Legos. The box was even shaped like a big blue Lego block. I at least had that big flat green piece, though. That puppy served as the yard for a LOT of houses.

Because that’s what I built. Houses, with the little shutters and a roof, and ideally a bubble-headed person or two.

Sometimes my cousins (one older, one younger) would come over and bring their Legos. No intermingling was allowed, as even a young Heather realized that everyone’s toys should be kept separate but equal. My cousins (both boys) brought pieces that made strange new creations: airplane windshields, and lances for jousting bubble-headed knights and (wtf) SPACESHIP FINS.

I had, um, square blocks in various sizes and colors, woo-hoo.

But, like the girl in the ad, I rocked it as best I could. I made houses, dammit, and I made ‘em good. If I was on a roll, maybe a doghouse. Maybe a playhouse. Maybe a strange fencelike structure that was perhaps going to be something awesome until I realized it was snacktime. Whatever.

I suspect you, too, had Legos as a kid. What did you build?

February 9, 2010

February 9, 2010

WTF Product of the Day, Volume 9: The Pink Fedora

Despite my admiration of What Not to Wear, Project Runway, and the look…the feel…of cotton, I’m not at all a stylish person. I believe that the word “fashionable,” like the words “graceful,” “morning person,” and “restrains herself at the seafood buffet,” will never be applied to me.

I’m okay with that.

While I can admire good style from afar and even attempt it on a semi-regular basis, I’m too cheap and, well, cheap to really do it up. I throw up in my mouth a little every time What Not to Wear has the “Jenny looks charming in a $90 pencil skirt and $40 sweater set” segment. OUCH.

All this to say that I’m not the most reliable fashion indicator. What works for Tim Gunn sometimes just confuses me. Nothing to be concerned about.

Enter this:

The pink fedora.

Riddle me this: under what sober, non-Halloween circumstances would one wear this? Initiation to the pastel mafia? Traveling back to 1930 in order to rob a bank while showing your support for breast cancer research? Interviewing for a job at Hooters?

More perplexing: Target advertises this as a men’s hat. I believe you’d find the man who’d willingly wear this hat somewhere between NO and FREAKINGWAY. Not even Justin Timberlake, for real.

Please don’t Google “pink fedora hat,” because it gets much, much worse. Sometimes sequins are involved. Fur. Or both.

The horror.

February 8, 2010

February 8, 2010

D.C. Auto Show: 2010

The theme of this year’s Auto Show was something “Change happens here” or “Change you can believe in” or “Does anyone have any loose change we can use to plug the smoking crater that was once our economy?” Thus the emphasis on hybrids and electric vehicles, and a dearth of cars ending in –hummer. (Also, Hummer is going out of business. Who knew?)

Why is it important to get to the show early? Because you avoid the unwashed, sticky-fingered hordes. You can actually get close to the vehicles. Touching is allowed, and even encouraged.

I certainly groped my share of Mini Coopers.

As someone who opts for qualities like “cheap” and “not a deathtrap” in her vehicles, I’m not sure why one would pay exorbitant amounts of money for teh fancy hybrids. Then again, I’m a Republican, so I’ll be all drill-baby-drill until a group of those freaky Avatar aliens come and set me on fire while Al Gore cheers them on.

However, I do sorta wish my car did this:

The trend in cars this year (besides “polluting as little as possible”) seemed to be decorated running boards. Y’know, in case you can’t recall the name of that car you’re stepping into.

Sign 864 that America is aging: we forget what we’re driving in the TWO STEPS from the front/rear to the door.

Ford also had a very! Shiny! Display, and for good reason: like Britney, the Ford Taurus is back.

Plebians everywhere can breathe a sigh of relief and terminate their Chevy leases.

As the day progressed and people started filtering in, I decided to head out. But not before noticing a little brand adoration:

Probably the closest either of us will ever come to driving a Lexus.

Thank you, vehicle manufacturers of the world. See you in 2011.

February 4, 2010

February 4, 2010

Tales Out of Work

Actual conversation I just had with a co-worker:

(Co-Worker steps into my office.)

Co-Worker: Why does it smell like chocolate in here?

Me: I don't know. I haven't opened my pudding yet.

(I gesture to my unopened pudding. Co-Worker continues to look around.)

Me: Maybe it's me. I smell like chocolate. When I'm hungry, I start licking myself.

Co-Worker: Speaking of that...

Me: Seriously? Speaking of licking myself? What kind of segue is that? Well DONE, sir.

Obviously, the impending SnOMGasm has us all a little crazy.

Reply to whom, exactly?

The list of things I don’t understand could certainly fill even the largest container offered by Ikea. I make no claims to be a genius, though the online IQ quizzes tell me it may be so (and they’re completely reliable, though). I do, however, claim to be a pretty sharp cookie, my use of mixed metaphors notwithstanding.

That said, here’s another concept I can’t wrap my mind around: the Reply to All function in email. I understand Reply. I’ve used Reply for years. Forward and I have also become great friends. But it wasn’t until very recently that I discovered how to use Reply to All. I’d been using Reply, and manually adding in other people on the To and CC lines as needed.

Once I learned about Reply to All, I felt a ray of enlightenment. Here, with one click, I could save so much work! Right?

Well, no. When you look at how Reply to All actually functions, things get dirty. I still find myself moving people from the To to the CC line or vice versa. Deleting people who don’t need to get my message. Adding people who weren’t included on the original.

So I ask you: why Reply to All?

Two of my co-workers were discussing Reply to All last week. One of them said, “I just used ‘Reply to All’ so everyone who got the first message would get my message.”

Nononono. Allow me to speak from the other side of that fence: just because someone sent or copied on that first message, doesn’t mean I need to keep seeing the back-and-forth you have with the original sender. Look at the original addressees, determine who’s relevant, and leave the rest of us out of it.

I’m forced to conclude that Reply to All is like Linear B: very few people understand it, fewer still know how to use it, and the rest of us should just leave it alone.

February 3, 2010

February 3, 2010

Does metal even burn?

Houston, we may have a problem.

In the recent Conan O’Brien/Jay Leno Tonight Show debacle, I was firmly on Team Coco. Thought I enjoyed my share of Monday night Headlines bits as a youth, Conan O’Brien’s wacky tangential humor (c’mon, let’s call it what it is) snagged me as a teenager and I haven’t looked back. Did I think he’d do well with the respectable middle agers at an earlier hour? Heck no. But it was what he wanted, so I went with it. If you love something, set it free to tell jokes and interview people at 11:35.

Consequently, I must now view NBC as the Axis of Evil’s network of choice. Fool us once by forcing Johnny Carson to abdicate, shame on you. Fool us twice by forcing Conan O’Brien to resign, shame on you again, and wtf.

So here’s where the moral dilemma comes in: while I loathe every fiber of NBC’s being for screwing the pooch on the programming at 11:35, I still love the Thursday night comedy block. Community? Love it. Parks & Recreation? Love it even more than I did last year. The Office? I cautiously await baby Jam, but still good. 30 Rock? Unquantifiably amazing, with the same exception of Julianne Moore’s attempt at a Boston accent.

I mean, it was the greatness of these very shows that convinced TheBoy to get me this:

…which is currently prominently displayed in my office.

Defacing it in protest seems appropriate, but is it required? Am I allowed to two-facedly scorn NBC for dropping Conan while praising it for Thursday’s must-see tv?

Let’s see the Ancient Greeks take on THAT conundrum.

February 2, 2010

Cuidado: Sin Fotografía

To the chagrin of whoever’s making the next National Treasure movie, the National Archives has banned photography. Technically, photography of the historic documents housed in the rotunda was already banned. However, for every well-behaved “I will put my camera away” tourist, there are approximately 29 “I will just turn off my flash, even though I’m not sure how to do so…whoops, I guess that was my flash, sorry” tourists.

According to the article, 50,000 errant flashes go off at Archives every year. Those people need to be publicly shamed.

Lest you think this is just a rant-laden offshoot of my “Tourists Suck” material, fear not. My concern really IS for the documents in this situation. That I wouldn’t object to tarring and feathering anyone who wants their Facebook profile picture to include the Constitution is just a small bonus.

It’s like that woman who accidentally stumbled into a Picasso recently. Sure, the tear was small. And reparable. But the thing lost half its value. In case you’re keeping score at home: half the value of a Picasso = more money than I will make in my entire lifetime assuming I never get on Jeopardy! or blackmail a congressman.

These cases of patron interest vs. art preservation make me wonder who should bear the burden of responsibility here. Perhaps you’d argue that art must be RIGHT THERE in order to be fully appreciated. Yet does protecting an artifact reduce our enjoyment of it? Would the Mona Lisa be more intriguing if it weren’t behind 18 layers of bulletproof glass? Somehow, I doubt it. I suspect, though, that if the Mona Lisa were displayed without any protection, it would be suspect to more than a few flashes, sneezes, and spit takes.

Readers, you know I love you. But keep your grubby hands and runny noses away from the art. Remember, this is coming from me. The girl who never met an uneven floor surface she didn’t stumble over. You could shod the children of Lesotho with the shoes I’ve lost to revolving doors.

Why ban photos and restrict access to the world’s most important cultural objects? It’s for the greater good.

February 1, 2010

February 1, 2010

Join the Navy, See the Stars

When you hear the words “United States Navy,” you probably think of submarines, men in white uniforms, or possibly the guy from Mary Poppins whose house was sort of a boat. (That last one may be just me.) That’s what the Navy is about, right? Ships, sailing, somewhere beyond the sea? Skippers, sloops, and sails? Other water-related concepts that don’t start with the letter s?

Okay, yes. The Navy DOES do a lot with watercraft. In the same way that the Air Force does things with planes and federal-agency-that-shall-not-be-named does things with [information redacted because Heather doesn’t want to get dooced]. But little did you know that the Navy does so much more.

Like OBSERVING. At the aptly-named U.S. Naval Observatory in Washington, D.C. Just yards from the Vice President’s house and several embassies. Brett Favre could easily stand in one spot and pass to Joe Biden or the New Zealand ambassador, though I’m guessing the sack from Secret Service wouldn’t be worth it.

The USNO holds tours twice a month or so, and my October request was finally granted last week. (Yes, I had to wait three months. It is easier to see the freaking Magna Carta, people. As friend-of-blog Patricia would say: Bitch, please.)

The tour started in building 56. I asked TheBoy whether that meant there were 55 other buildings. He said yes. I’m still thinking it’s a conspiracy. I mean “surface warfare”? Is there any other kind? Stop playing me, U.S. Navy.

This telescope, the very telescope used to discover the moons of Mars, isn’t usually part of the tour because it’s being used to, um, scope things. However, since we went on a cloudy night, the telescope wasn’t in action. I don’t have any pictures of the whole thing because it’s too long to get in a single frame that’s what she said.

Notice that my tour group included several Georgetown students who (not kidding) arrived in a cab and bearing CVS bags. Because who DOESN’T run errands before going sightseeing, right? (I actually got excited at first, because I saw potato chips and thought we were all going to get a snack. In my mind, life should be like kindergarten, with designated snack and nap times.)

The library was my favorite part of the tour, because holy. crap.

The tour ended with a room about how the Navy tells time. Little did I know that the Navy sets official time for little things like THE ENTRE GPS SYSTEM and OH YEAH, THE INTERNET.

Well, okay, obviously there IS a master clock SOMEWHERE, right? Right?