April 29, 2010

April 29, 2010

To the Blasphemer Joe Gibbs

And I quote Joe Gibbs, speaking of Washington, D.C.:

“This is probably the most exciting place in the world to coach football.”

OH NO YOU DI’INT.

Dear Mr. Gibbs,

I recently read your quote about Washington, D.C. being the “most exciting place in the world to coach football.” Though your zeal for another Redskins season is completely excusable (but your acquisition of Donovan McNabb perhaps not), I must take issue with the specific sentiment.

Perhaps in your enthusiasm, you forgot about a place I like to call Titletown, USA: Green Bay, Wisconsin.

Sir, you went on to say, “In this city, it is so important and it's such an important area in the world, and one thing that unites everybody is the football team.” Like so many of the teams you have coached, you started strong and then you crashed and burned. You see, you are absolutely right in asserting that this area, the National Capital Region, is important. Some go so far as to call it the capital of the free world. We are the headquarters of government, the land where laws are made, and—for two weeks a year—the home of some pretty amazing cherry blossoms. We are a city of embassies, of lobbyists, of memorials, of headquarters, and of Ben’s Chili Bowl. Sir, we are home to institutions too many to name.

And also, a football team.

Now let’s talk about Green Bay, Wisconsin.

Green Bay is home to a little more than 100,000 people.

And unless the Packers are in town, that’s about it. I mean, the Packers logo is on the freaking city seal. The Packers have been the lifeline of Green Bay since 1919, winning twelve championships and the devotion of the entire city. Packers fans pass down season tickets in their wills; the average wait time right now is 30 years. YEARS. They pay to buy the sod from the field. They go shirtless in frigid weather. They wear foam diary products on various body parts.

In short, they are what you might call “hard core.”

I have yet to meet half the devotion in a ‘Skins fan. Despite their penchant for setting garbage containers afire after games (regardless of the final score), I don’t think the passion is quite the same. D.C. would survive without a football team. Green Bay would falter without the green and gold.

Now I’ll thank you to retract that blasphemous statement.

Cheers,
Heather

April 28, 2010

April 28, 2010

Things I’ve Read: Government Girl

Okay, just look at the cover. Cardigan. Federal job. Tell me how I could avoid reading this book. Psh, tell me how I could avoid BEING this book. Even better, it’s a true story and not some salacious thinly-veiled memoir.

In Government Girl: Young and Female in the White House, Stacy Parker Aab recounts her time in the Clinton White House. Though she spent a large chunk of her time running the correspondence operation for George Stephanaposnuffleupagus, she also worked on Presidential travel detail and zomg it’s cool enough already like I even need to say more.

Parker (this all happened before she married the Aab) started as a lowly correspondence clerk. Yes, it’s a real job—and among the 300 I applied for Back in the Day (summer 2008, shutup). As you can imagine, there are lots of people here in D.C. who get letters, they get letters, they get lots and lots of letters. While 80% are routine requests, there are always a few white powder-holding, hand written crazies. Plus, when you’re working for someone like George Stephenpapadupakis, the normal-to-fangirl ratio is even more out of whack. Let’s be real: it’s not like *this* loyal analyst is getting marriage proposals in the mail or anything.

After a successful run laboring and then leading the correspondence shop, Parker moved to Presidential travel, getting to be the RON (Remain OverNight) at each location the President traveled to. She got to scope out the rooms, making sure everything was just so. Also a cool job, if you like traveling and the occasion awkward sexual advance.

Because, oh yes, this was the Clinton White House. And, oh yes, Parker was an attractive young woman with not a ton of authority. And, oh yes, she was dealing with powerful men, like top level staffers and Vernon Jordan, on a pretty regular basis.

Don’t worry—there’s nothing graphic. There’s not even anything too painful; it’s not The Lovely Bones. But there are a few uncomfortable moments, some of Parker’s making. It was the era of Lewinsky, and that shadowed every young girl working in that White House. You can’t help cheering for Parker, though; this is truly a Detroit girl done good. Breaks can be hard to come by in this town, even for someone who doesn’t lick yogurt lids.

April 27, 2010

April 27, 2010

Things I’ve Read: What the Dog Saw

Wow, it seems like forever and a day since I reviewed a book for you all. Though I have continued to read (some things good, some things not, none of them hobbit-based), things like the confluence of weaponry and beverages has kept me from properly discussing my reads. Until now.

What the Dog Saw is the latest book from Malcolm Gladwell, he of Blink and The Tipping Point. This book is a collection of his essays from The New Yorker. They range from 5 to 20ish pages, and are about everything from hair dye to the dog whisperer (hence the title).

Let me unabashedly say that I found them all fascinating.

Like Gladwell’s other books, this examines what we think about and how we think about it. The piece on Ron Popeil (the “Set it and forget it” rotisserie guy) shows the reader why Popeil became such a success. Is that fabulous rotisserie the cause? Partly. But it’s more about Popeil himself, and how he makes customers truly believe they can’t live without moist chicken.

The piece on ketchup wonders why, in a world that contains eleventy thousand kinds of mustard, no one has come up with any innovations in ketchup since…ever.

The world of sports comes into play, too (no pun intended, obviously—God hates puns). Why do some draft picks go on to stellar careers while others fail horribly? How is it that some of today’s greatest NFL quarterbacks came from nowhere schools and in some cases didn’t play much college ball at all? Where’s the correlation? Is there one? And if there isn’t, why do we use a draft system at all? How does that translate into job hiring at large—is the interview process really the best way to find the right person for the job?

As I mentioned earlier, the book’s title comes from the essay on Cesar Millan, better known as the Dog Whisperer. It turns out that Millan has such success with “problem dogs” because he gets into the mind of the dog. He thinks like the dog. He moves like a dog would. He gets the dog to respect him not as some random man, but as a fellow canine. It’s freaky…but it works.

Which is really the book’s whole point: this stuff doesn’t intuitively make sense. But that’s because there’s a problem with our intuition. We’ve overthought and overwrought things, ending up with systems that do more harm than good. Keep it simple, stupid.

Look for what the dog saw.

April 26, 2010

April 26, 2010

Soylent Yellow is Eggs

Note: While I’m back from a whirlwind tour of the land of my Asian ancestry, this week’s entries were written before I left and set to post automatically. Did I have a good trip? Did I eat whale? Did I see a North Korean soldier? SIGNS POINT TO YES, PEOPLE.

When you’re as cooking challenged as I am, creating a good potluck dish can be tough. Back in my Midwestern days, my church had a monthly potluck to celebrate birthdays and anniversaries. I always made meatballs, by which I mean I heated Sam’s Club meatballs and added Sweet Baby Ray’s barbecue sauce. (I reiterate: While I can’t “cook,” per se, I can assemble and heat like no other.)

But on those rare occasions when saucy balls (oh SNAP) aren’t appropriate, or the partygoers don’t eat meat, or I need to bring (gasp) TWO dishes, my other go-to is deviled eggs. Which involves not only making boiled eggs, but also mixing the filling and piping (yes, I said piping, HA) it into the egg halves. It’s like 58 more steps than my normal recipe.

AND I ROCK IT.

I’ve made deviled eggs enough times not to make rookie mistakes. For example, you gotta make an extra egg or two, because you always end up with a couple of mutant ones:

What the F is that about, seriously. I just mix the mutant eggs in with the filling, so it’s like soylent green is people, but with eggs. And that is probably only funny to me.

Anyway, that sorta brings me to tip number two: make sure you have plenty of filling, even if you have to sacrifice a good egg to do it. Maybe you’re a dainty eater who prefers crustless tea sandwiches and petite deviled eggs. Me? I say BRING IT ON. If that thing isn’t almost as big as a baseball, you’re just not trying hard enough. That’s what she said.

TheBoy introduced me to paprika as a topping, but I still prefer seasoned salt. My filling always includes mayonnaise and yellow (not Dijon, spicy brown, or any other fancy) mustard, so the extra salt helps spice it up a little.

My final word of advice: transportation can be nasty. Get one of those dishes with indentations for the egg halves, or they’re just going to roll and slide into yolky oblivion on your vehicle/bus/train/helicopter seat.

This may be the only time I ever purport to give culinary advice, so let’s wrap it up there, shall we?

April 12, 2010

April 12, 2010

Aeogae? Meokgol? I just need a soda.

I know I was sick recently and didn't post for an entire week. Seven days of your life that didn't include my rantings and ravings. My book reviews. My pictures of papier mache lizards filled with Reese's products.

However, I'm afraid I must now leave you for two weeks. In case you haven't heard, I'm about to take my first-ever trip out of the country. To London? To Canada? To Burkina Faso?

Nope, Korea. Land of my maternal ancestors and all that. I'm pulling an "Eat, Pray, Love" that isn't fueled by divorce and will probably be mostly eating.

Also, navigating the subway system:

Seriously, WTF. I'm used to this:

Now let's look at that first one again:

It's not enough for all the stops to be in Korean (which, admittedly, is only to be expected). Why are there DIFFERENT SHADES OF BLUE?

Odds that I'll get detained for trying to enter an exit at least once on this trip? My mom once got detained by transit police in Germany. I'm just trying to continue the streak.

Anyway, wish me luck. I'll certainly be taking a lot of pictures, mostly of food but also the handful of cultural sights I plan to visit. Fun fact: Samsung has a museum. About...art.

I don't know if they let you take pictures at the DMZ, but I'll see what I can do. Look for the "Blogger arrested at Demilitarized Zone, claimed to be looking for snacks" headline any day now.

See you in two weeks.

April 8, 2010

April 8, 2010

I think bobtails come up in Isaiah.

A few weeks ago, Conan O’Brien announced his national tour, including a stop in Washington, D.C. As soon as I heard, I rushed to Ticketmaster to try to score some seats. Of course, since I heard about an hour after the announcement (ARGH ARGH STUPID DAY JOB), I had no luck.

I did, however, get reeeeally familiar with Ticketmaster. I’m sure those of you who’ve purchased tickets there have seen this:

I only recently found out that this is called a “captcha.” Which sounds to me like a Pokemon or something (‘90s shoutout), but whatever.

Did you ever notice this, though?

I’m all for just and noble causes, but it seems like there should be a better way of digitizing ALL THE KNOWLEDGE OF THE AGES than two words at a time.

But maybe not. Perhaps if Gutenberg had had captchas (I have no idea what the plural is, just roll with it), he would have churned out the Bibles like nobody’s business.

April 7, 2010

April 7, 2010

Remember This, Volume 13: Kerplunk

I don’t remember what I was Google image searching for when I came across that picture to the right. I just remember thinking, “Whoa. I used to love that game, mostly because I could play it successfully despite being an only child.” Those of you with siblings may have rued the day of their birth, but you have to admit they came in handy when playing board games. It’s really hard to do both sides of Battleship. Or Uno. For real.

Kerplunk, though, relies on gravity, dexterity of the player, and an understanding of the principles of containment. Um, DONE. It’s like that game with the plastic ice cubes you had to knock out one-by-one. As long as you were 80% skilled and 20% lucky*, you were fine.

Adding to the beauty of games like Kerplunk: one person goes at a time. Quietly. None of this Hungry Hungry Hippo craziness. If Jenga had been invented when I was a child, I’m almost certain I would have enjoyed the quiet concentration. I say “almost” because I have way too much fun pretending those blocks are dominoes. (Yes, I’m 26, hi!)

In terms of nomenclature, Kerplunk sucks. Let’s get that out of the way. It’s obviously in the WTF category of boardgame names, like Parcheesi or Scrabble. Whatever happened to descriptory game names? Connect 4? What about Monopoly? Anyone? Bueller?

Still, I yearn for the days when I could spend an entire afternoon perfecting my technique of removing plastic sticks from a tube of marbles. Good times, no?

* A ratio I can only dream of today. It turns out that adulthood demands an entirely new set of skills other than snacking, napping, and a wicked Uno face.

April 6, 2010

April 6, 2010

Now with Salmonella!

While going about my duties at federal-agency-that-shall-not-be-named, I have reason to visit a lot of government websites. Some for travel. Some for HR stuff. Some for purchasing. The great thing is that I just never know what I’m going to learn when I’m on these things.

For example, the other day I was searching the federal government version of Amazon (for printer cartridges, I think) and saw this warning:

Customer Advisory: Potential Contamination of MRE Dairyshakes

DLA is notifying customers that purchased MREs about a potential problem with Dairyshake Powder included as a component in some meals. The Powder comes in various flavors (Chocolate, Vanilla, Strawberry and Strawberry-Banana) and the manufacturer is investigating possible bacterial contamination with Salmonella. No illnesses have been reported, but customers are urged to remove and destroy any packets of Dairyshake Powder until more information is available on which lot numbers are confirmed as safe.


Now, as someone who just experienced a moderately severe stomach virus, I should probably be glad they caught this in time. Urge anyone and everyone out there with these MREs to toss them. But this is ME we’re talking about, and my food- and money-hoarding sides die a little bit to think about the waste (of food and money, of course) involved here.

Oh, but also? MREs come with freaking strawberry banana shakes now? Since when? I thought MREs were supposed to be, like, beans and beans. And tuna. With beans.

I swear, if there is someone in the wilderness eating better food out of an MRE tin than is served in the cafeteria of federal-agency-that-shall-not-be-named, I am going to…shake my fist in impotent rage. Because I can’t do anything about it. And I always bring my lunch to work anyway. But still. It’s the principle of the thing, dammit.

April 5, 2010

April 5, 2010

Guns at Starbucks

"Guns at Starbucks"

That, my friends, is a recent headline that pretty well sums up the dichotomy that is my Commonwealth. The story was about not-so-concealed carry laws in various states and how freaky it might be to see some dude with a sidearm in front of you at McDonald’s. Ah, Virginia.

Though I’ve been only as far south as Williamsburg (“Disney for history nerds”) and as far west as Richmond (“not even close to hillbilly land”), I’ve come to realize that my adopted state has two very different types of people.

On the one hand, you have the gun-totin’, Palin-votin’, red-statin’ Virginians. The kind who whose ancestors probably owned slaves disliked people of other colors and creeds. Those who pass the whiskey on Saturday night and praise the Lord on Sunday morning.

I’m not judging, I’m just saying.

On the other hand, you have the earth-savin’, latte-sippin’, blue-statin’ Virginians. The kind who would remind you that our state flag features two men touching.

I’m not judging, I’m just saying.

Wisconsin wasn’t like this. In Wisconsin, people mind their own business, only bothering the neighbors to drop off casseroles or return washed casserole dishes. Political, religious, and (gasp) culinary preferences are to each his own, as long as Campbell’s soup is involved. Starbucks? Why frequent a place that serves $4 coffees when, for the same price, you can go to the grocery store and get an entire meal? (If it’s double coupon day, two!) And guns? Everyone in Wisconsin hunts or knows a hunter. Children graduate from fishing poles to blaze orange mid-elementary school.

It’s just a different place I live in now. One where people are equally concerned about frappuccinos and firearms.

April 4, 2010