October 28, 2010

October 28, 2010

So Close, Yet Mo Far

As the Facebook- and Twitter-inclined among you know, I saw Mo Rocca* this weekend. And failed to do anything but snap a couple of distant pictures. I finally saw a celebrity (C-list, sure, but still) and found myself completely unprepared.

Here’s how it went down: We were walking towards the house at Mt. Vernon. TheBoy nudges me and says, “Isn’t that Mo Rocca?” I look and think it is but am not sure. Mo’s companion stares me down in a very bodyguard-esque way. Realizing that I have nothing for Mo to sign other than my Mt. Vernon visitors’ map (dammit, Heather!), I did nothing until he had passed. At which point I started taking pictures like this (he's in the burgundy flannel, proved here):

So, yeah. Fail all over the place.

How do you prepare for something like this? We didn’t have famous people walking around the streets of Milwaukee, so it’s not like you would ever bump into Sarah Jessica Parker at Citgo. Now that I work in D.C., I guess I should be more prepared. Always carry a Sharpie, for one thing.

I should probably learn that famous people can be very inconspicuous. Mo was not accompanied by any of the following things: bow tie, camera crew, studio audience. I had no paparazzi tip-off. I think it was this normalcy about the way he was going about his business (celebrities can be touristy, too) that really threw me off. I’m sure even Kelly Ripa has her quiet time.

Have you ever seen anyone famous in a regular setting, and what did you do?

* Correspondent for The Daily Show, CBS Sunday Morning, etc.

October 27, 2010

October 27, 2010

Science, Engineering, Cheerleaders

The first-ever Science and Engineering Expo was held last Saturday on the National Mall. Now, since I pretty much decide everything we do all the time,* I threw TheBoy a bone with this one. He is a left-brain thinker who loves numbers and computer code and whatnot, whereas I’m more comfortable with images, language, and food. Little did I realize this expo would involve all of the above.

We split the day pretty evenly between booths and lectures.

The Booths

Every organization, company, association, educational institution, and branch of the military got in on this action. I’m talking dozens of booths and groups like “Engineers of America Who Minored in Education and Like Football.” Well, not really. But you know.

I’m just saying. They seem to be very specific.

Many of the booths tried to lure people in with activities. Some involved food.

Licorice nerve structures? I’m in.

Some involved activities.

Some involved games.

Some involved…other attractions.

The Lectures

The morning lecture we attended was supposed to be a chemistry-themed magic show. I wanted to see someone burn magnesium—that’s the coolest thing I remember from high school chemistry. Alas, no magnesium. Though the calcium carbonate was pretty good.

We joined the Edison lecture a bit late. Fortunately, we arrived in time to hear someone ask about Tesla. Burn!

The lecture on the science of comic books was PHENOMENAL, not least because the presenter was a ringer for John Hodgman.

It’s science plus art!

The last lecture we saw was supposed to be about physics and the movies. Unfortunately, the guy’s movie clips wouldn’t play for the first 35 minutes. An audience volunteer gamely acted out scenes from Spider-Man, Mission: Impossible, and XXX. It was mortifying.

Overall, though, it was an excellent day. Bill Nye was right. Science rules.

* I. Am. Delightful.

October 26, 2010

October 25, 2010

October 25, 2010

Been sane and fearful the whole time? Bummer.

As you may know, Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert are in town this week preparing for their joint Rally to Restore Fear and/or Sanity, taping shows, and generally launching their mojo on the National Capital Region. I’m a fan of both programs, and I couldn’t be more thrilled that D.C. was chosen. It helps that we have the White House, U.S. Capitol, and National Mall, I guess. Whatever.

Though I daresay whipping thousands of people (plus the hundreds bused in by Arianna Huffington) into a frenzy is going to take most of their time, I’m hopeful that a moment of two will be spared for touristy activities. If ever someone has the right to stand on the left of a Metro escalator, it’s Jon Stewart. (Dear Jon Stewart: Please don’t stand on the left of the Metro escalators. Cheers, Heather) I’d love to see Colbert get to the bottom of the freaky-deakiness at the Masonic Memorial.

To my chagrin, I will be unable to attend the rally on Saturday. A shock, I know. I love the shows, I’m barely sane but definitely afraid, and IT’S FREE. Heck, I was even invited to this pre-rally dealio:

Alas, I’ll be out of town with TheBoy. &*$% happens. Not to say that YOU, dear reader, can’t attend. I know you’ve thought about it. I know you’ve looked at bus fares, scoped the Craigslist rooms for rent, and considered whether that second kidney is REALLY a necessity. Allow me to be that little voice of reason that tells you, “DO IT DO IT NOW DO IT DO IT DO IT.” If only because I can’t and I asked you to so nicely. (DO IT.)

Plus, while you’re here, you can enjoy some of our many attractions (most of them free) and unique metropolitan ethos (security clearance: essential, fashion sense: not so much).

Take lots of pictures, okay? Thanks.

October 21, 2010

October 21, 2010

Things I’ve Read: Sh*t My Dad Says

This isn’t about the TV show. Or even about the Twitter feed. It’s about the book by Justin Halpern (also involved in said program and tweets). Yea, it is a veritable world of sh*t-spewing dads out there. For real.

The premise is pretty basic here: Justin Halpern’s dad says a lot of funny stuff. Rarely is the father trying to be humorous. It just comes out that way. It also comes out rather profane, as you might have guessed from that title. Critics reviewing the TV show have been rather inventive; I’ve heard everything from “Bleep My Dad Says” to “Feces My Dad Says” (Aimee, that Sepinwall reference is all for you).

The book is composed of short anecdotal chapters, usually involving a traumatic event from Halpern’s childhood. Sports games, activities with pets, school projects, etc. The sorts of memories children have experienced with their fathers and then discussed in therapy for generations. Each chapter ends with related quotes from the dad. I’m going to steal a few from Timothy B. Riley’s Amazon review:

ON MY BLOODY NOSE
What happened? Did somebody punch you in the face?!... The what? The air is dry? Do me a favor and tell people you got punched in the face.

ON SHOPPING FOR PRESENTS FOR HIS BIRTHDAY
If it's not bourbon or sweatpants, it's going in the garbage... No, don't get creative. Now is not a creative time. Now is a bourbon and sweatpants time.

ON BEING ONE WITH THE WILDERNESS
I'm not sure you can call that roughing it son... Well, for one, there was a (EXPLETIVE) minivan parked forty feet from your sleeping bags.

In general, the quotes and anecdotes are much profaner. Believe me. They are also HILARIOUS.

It’s a short read, easily done in one or two sittings. If only your dad (or mine) were half as funny, huh? (To be fair, my dad referred to redbox as “the little red boxes” yesterday. So he’s getting there.)

October 20, 2010

October 20, 2010

Remember This? Volume 15: Jem

Here’s the official story: “Jem, also called Jem and the Holograms, is an American animated television series that ran from 1985 to 1988 in U.S. first-run syndication. The show is about music company owner Jerrica Benton, her singer alter-ego Jem, her band the Holograms, and their adventures.” So sayeth Wikipedia.

Here’s what I remember: this girl put on pink star-shaped earrings and transformed into Jem. She had a band. They were awesome. Another, evil band, tried to ruin all the fun. All while I sang along into my hairbrush while sitting on the chair I’d pulled in front of the TV. So sayeth the blogger.

Apparently, a computer named Synergy (we had computers in the 80s?) and orphaned girls also had a part in this series. These probably escaped my memory because they weren’t involved in my many hours of singing along to the Jem cassette tape. Tapes. Both sides. Ahem.

To this day, I can still recall the opening lines of the theme song…which I can’t have heard for over 20 (!) years. This from a person who has forgotten the entirety of geometry class (learned circa 2000) and can no longer name the judges in order (circa 2004—Dr. Saxon, I am SO SORRY). Heck, I used to be able to name all twelve of Jacob’s sons, but now I can only do ten. On a good day. (Issachar and Zebulun, egad!)

Now I learn there’s a Jem convention in Holland next year. This year’s was in New Hamphsire; 2009’s in Detroit. I guess Jem’s moving on up, huh? One assumes the attendees contribute more than my half-memories and an old cassette tape. Still, it’s comforting to know that, if I wanted to, I could jump back into the days when my pre-K self escaped the drudgery of normal life for half an hour every afternoon.

(If only my pre-K self had known what was coming, I probably would have beat myself senseless with the hairbrush. It’s a good thing time works the way it does; goodness help us once humanity develops clairvoyant abilities.)

October 19, 2010

October 19, 2010

To Have and to Happy Meal

It has come to my attention that McDonald’s now offers a wedding package. For $400, you get ceremony, reception, cake, and catering for up to 100 people. I understand that the average wedding costs thousands of dollars and the sacrifice of several goats. This is a relative bargain, no?

Surprisingly, I’m neither for nor against trans-fatty nuptials. For myself personally, I would prefer an incredibly historic location with top notch food, service, and entertainment. Should I ever get married, and should you attend the wedding (you shall all certainly be invited, faithful readers), prepare to have your mind blown. Like, Mount Vernon-meets-unlimited-fondue levels of awesome.

Though le Big Mac wouldn’t be my wedding entrée of choice, I can’t judge those who prefer two all beef patties to chicken or fish. I believe a woman’s wedding day is one of the few days when she can openly tell the world to screw itself* because IT IS MY DAY. (Others: birthdays, any day you get elected to public office, whenever you medal at the Olympics, and every single time you push a living being through your hoo-ha.)

I mean, you hear about people getting married in crazy-yet-significant-to-them places all the time. Wal-Marts and such. Who are we to judge they who use the Little White Chapel? You gotta make your own kind of music, people. Like you wouldn’t get married in your living room in sweatpants if you could. (Bonus: If your venue is a Wal-Mart, you totally can!)

My only issue: when scheduling a wedding or other celebratory life event, I believe you make reservations, correct? Shutting down at least a part of the venue, and perhaps the whole of it. Not a problem when you’re in a church, or a hotel, or someone’s backyard. But I’m not sure how people will react if they aren’t able to get a Filet O’ Fish because the fry cooks are making 100 orders of chicken nuggets. Maybe they’ll keep the drive-thru open.

* On all other days, a woman should quietly tell the world to screw itself. I know I do.

October 18, 2010

October 18, 2010

New York 2010: Didn't Stop, Made It Pop

Since very few of you want a blow-by-blow recounting of my recent trip to New York, allow me to give you the best of:

BoltBus

Though I was a big MegaBus fan in my Milwaukee days, the online ratings for BoltBus are even better. Plus there’s a bathroom on Bolt buses, which comes in handy when you’re taking a four hour trip on the eastern seaboard. I’m pleased to report that our buses arrived and departed on time, were clean, and didn’t cause bodily injury to anyone on the New Jersey turnpike.

The Met

We spent most of our time in the European and American areas. The place is so huge that each of those could take up an entire day, a fact which makes me tear up with its awesomeness. Well, not really. But y’know.

Birthday Dinner

Though I painstakingly photographed all our meals, this is the only one I’ll mention. We ate at Bubba Gump Shrimp Company in Times Square, which you make think is kitschy and overpriced but shutup. It’s a menu based on shrimp, for crying out loud.

Statue of Liberty/Ellis Island

Tickets to go into the statue’s pedestal (the highest you can go without giving a DNA sample) were all sold out, so we got lots of pictures like the one above.

Since my not-too-distant ancestors on my dad’s side emigrated from Poland, I feel an affinity to all those huddled masses yearning to breathe free. Then I found out that they came here to make like 5 cents a day and hoped that breathing free made it worth it.

Central Park

We spent a good portion of one afternoon in CP (can I call it that? maybe? no?) listening to a chick play violin (good!) and watching nannies wheel children around in gigantic strollers (not good!).

United Nations

Not a typical tourist attraction, perhaps, but one of my favorite things on this trip. I didn’t even mind getting my water confiscated in the security line, because I GOT MY WATER CONFISCATED BY THE FREAKING UN. It’s not like I was planning to spray Kofi Annan, but I guess you never know. The UN has a coffee shop, but it only sells Pepsi. There goes my dream to drink a Diet Coke at the UN. Come to think of it, that’s reason enough to spray Kofi Annan right there. Now I see what they did. (Yes, I know there’s a new Secretary General, just deal with it.)

Empire State Building/Top of the Rock

As in Chicago, New York has two similar observatories. And as in Chicago, I suggested that we do one during the day and one at night. I figure that it’s better than seeing (virtually) the same thing twice. Rather, you can see two slightly different things one time each. Much better.

Did we do other stuff? We sure did. Times Square, Grand Central Terminal, and so on. Oh, and these guys:

video

Whose performance was shut down by the cops shortly after I stopped filming. Po-po shut it down, as Ke$ha would say. And I believe the fact that I have now lived a Ke$ha lyric makes this trip worth its weight in gold.

October 14, 2010

October 14, 2010

By the Way

New York was fantastic. My favorite moments included...

...finding a gift store with both Coke and Hello Kitty items for sale in its basement,

...going to Tasti-D-Lite all four days we were there,

...getting my water confiscated by the United Nations, and

...watching the police shut down a breakdancing troupe.

Also, seeing iconic stuff like this EVERY FREAKING DAY.



More details to follow. As if I could resist.

October 13, 2010

October 13, 2010

How to Pick a Health Insurance Plan

Note to readers: I am not, nor have I ever been, a medical or financial professional. I am a woman who licks yogurt lids. Please do not construe the tale below as intended for anything other than amusement.

Recently, I was informed that United HealthCare, my plan of choice since I was a wee lass, will not be offered to federal employees in 2011. One assumes UHC didn’t willingly dissociate itself from the 2 million of us in that insurance pool, but who knows? It’s the dark side of Obamacare.

Causation aside, I find myself in need of a new health plan. And like any situation involving choice (whether from menu, TV listing, or classified ad), I began with a small freakout. “Why can’t things just stay the same? Who’s responsible for this? How did eating an entire jar of peanut butter not solve this problem?”

Then I started my research. Preferable in situations like these is a grid of pros and cons. It helps me distinguish between potential apartments, vehicles, suitors, etc. The key is to list every damn thing, so that even if the items being compared are 90% similar, you’ll find that 5% difference. And then realize that you suck at math.

Anyway. Though the federal open season hadn’t started, the 2011 prices had already been published. I also found that last year’s materiel regarding the plans was still online. Sources, hooray.

At some point, I realized that instead of picking the cheapest insurer, I should probably assess my needs in a health plan. Determine whether any of the following were applicable, for instance:

- Medical condition or health problem
- Disability
- Breast or cervical cancer
- Dependent under 21
- Nursing home or long term care
- Special healthcare need
- Pregnancy
- Veteran status
- American Indian or Alaskan Native

It was at this point that I realized that the life of a single 26-year-old is pretty boring from a health care perspective. I didn’t get to check any of the boxes, though I wanted to select “Alaskan Native” just to screw with ‘em. I mean, as I see it, my greatest health risks are food poisoning, car-related injury, and getting punched in the face by a Justin Bieber fan whose t-shirt I’ve just mocked. As long as I have basic medical and dental, I’m good to go.

So I threw out all options but the three cheapest plans. (Like Bruce Willis, thrift dies hard.) Aetna, Kaiser, and Piedmont Community. I eliminated Piedmont Community because it sounded like a plan favored by the characters in Deliverance. On the flip side, I’m a HUGE fan of Kaiser’s name, because “Kaiser Permanente” is just fun to say. Whenever I pass one of their buildings, I’ll yell “KAISER PERMANENTE” in a Ricky Ricardo-esque accent. My apologies to Mr. Kaiser and Mr. Permanente. So I was all ready to go until TheBoy told me he’d heard bad things about Kaiser. I’ve never been one to discard a bad review (curse you, Yelp!), so I decided on Aetna. Not gonna lie: the word Aetna has one too many vowels for my taste, but I’ll go with it.

(I also did things like search for doctors and hospitals, verify coverage, and calculate annual payments. But those aren’t nearly as interesting for the purposes of this story, wherein I appear to pick a plan by doing little more than closing my eyes and pointing. Artistic license.)

October 12, 2010

October 12, 2010

Break That Fast

During my middle school years, I ate the same thing for breakfast every morning before school: a Red Baron sausage scrambles. It was a small pizza topped with cheese, scrambled eggs, and bits of what could reasonably be identified as a meat-like substance. You warmed the whole thing up on a fancy tray made of that magical reflective grey film that allows things to be nuked yet crispy. Also, it was a fricking delicious way to set myself on the path to heart disease.

Like much of my middle school years, this item had dropped from my memory. Recently, though, I found out that Domino’s is offering what I assume is a full-sized version of the breakfast pizza. For $7.99, you get eggs, cheese, and up to three additional toppings.

At first, this discovery felt like a blatant commercialization of a childhood memory. Then I realized that said memory was pretty commercial to begin with. Also, cheese. Perhaps your youth was spent eating fructose laden cereals or pancakes lovingly made by a stay-at-home parent, so you can’t relate. Imagine if you found out that IHOP had killed the Lucky Charms leprechaun and the Trix rabbit, but only so they could use the parts to make pancakes embedded with fruity bits AND marshmallows. Out of some regular breakfast food, a really awesome hybrid; I believe the Latin is “Flapjackio Ex Chocula.”

The breakfast pizza is only available at one location in Dayton, Ohio, as far as I can tell. Not exactly an area I find myself near too often. Nor could I necessarily stomach so much grease so early in the morning now that I’m nearing 30 (seriously, I turn 27 this Friday—middle age is not far behind). These days I tend towards oatmeal or grits and yogurt with a side of WHYDOIHAVETOGOTOWORKTODAY. You know how it is.

(Did you ever notice how kids’ cereal commercials always seemed to feature a big bowl of cereal, a glass of milk, and a glass of orange juice? Sometimes there was toast, too. Never in my youth did I have such a spread. The presence of two beverages—two—seemed to me like glorious excess.)

October 8, 2010

October 7, 2010

October 7, 2010

Two Weeks Down, Twenty to Go

Since it’s never too early to snap to judgment, here are my thoughts on the TV season so far.

Gossip Girl: I’d hoped the Juliette Sharp plotline would last a lot longer than it (apparently) will. She was outed as evil so soon; the mysterious prison guy she’s working with/for had better be VERY entertaining. Also, less Georgina, please.

Castle: Was Beckett’s hair that long last season?

Hawaii: Five-0: The best part is still the theme song, but that shouldn’t reflect poorly on the rest of the show. The theme song is just THAT good. Daniel Dae Kim seemed a bit stiff in the pilot, but he was much better in episode 2. The main character, whatshisname, is too bland for me, but I love love LOVE Danno. Love.

Glee: The Britney Spears episode is quite possibly my favorite so far. It helps that I knew all the songs. It also makes me a bit sad that I knew all the songs. Also, more Sue, please.

Modern Family: Hasn’t suffered a sophomore slump as far as I can tell.

The NBC Comedy Block: Community has usurped the title of my favorite Thursday show. I’m just as shocked as you are, because between my slavish devotion to Liz Lemon and my long relationship with The Office, there were some pretty binding ties. While no one character on Community strikes me in the way that Liz or JAM do, the aggregate are just plain hilarious.

October 6, 2010

October 6, 2010

Maintenance Required

Are you the type of person who avoids going to the doctor because even though you think something’s wrong, you’re more afraid of getting confirmation from the doctor than just dealing with the itch/sore/pain/whatever? Even though there’s a good chance it’s all in your head, you’d rather not risk an actual diagnosis?

I find that I’ve become that way with my car. (Did this blog just go in a different direction than you’d expected? But you already know I’m a slight hypochondriac with Web MD access.) I think things are wrong with it, but I don’t actually want to know for sure. And they don’t seem like serious things yet. And I realize that’s not at all a good reason.

Okay, it’s a 2002 Hyundai Accent, for starters. This was not a fancy car at any point during its lifetime. You know how Hyundais have the 10-year warranty? That makes no sense to me. They just don’t live that long. It’s like taking out a life insurance policy that will quadruple your money unless you die before the age of 200.

I don’t drive very much. Like, maybe 2,000 miles a year. I get the oil changed every 6 months, more because I feel like I should than because I’ve actually driven 3,000 miles. I don’t like to drive, either. I park in an unsecure lot, outside. See, these are all perfectly good reasons to make my current car last as long and cheaply as possible, right?

But I think it may be giving up the ghost. I had some work done on it last year. (I’m trying!) A new brake cylinder and battery. Perhaps like bailing out the Titanic, I dunno. But now I think the steering is going, because when I turn the wheel very far (as when parking), I hear a weird metallic popping noise. I also think the battery has issues, because the car sort of shudders when I’m waiting at stoplights (and sometimes when I’m driving). Or maybe this is a transmission issue. But the check engine light isn’t on or anything.

Dear lord, I’m getting nervous just writing all of this down. DO I OWN A DEATHTRAP OR NOT?

The semi-annual oil change is actually due right about now, and the fall one is the one where I also have them do an inspection of the systems for an extra $20. I’m delaying the inevitable by waiting for a good coupon.

Yet another reason to be glad I don’t have a kid.

October 5, 2010

Red Delicious

On Saturday, we went to the National Apple Harvest Festival in Biglerville, Pennsylvania. Why is this particular one the National festival as opposed to others around the country? I have no idea. Maybe Biglervilla (rightfully) saw this as its one chance to shine, and jumped the frak on that bandwagon.

It’s a pretty good gathering, though. Starting with that initial hand stamp. Theme-y.

The festival has several activity tracks. You have your crafts.

You have your old cars. Check out this badass VW.

Your have your hay-related dealios (for the non-allergic).

You have your music. I discovered that I. Love. Bluegrass.

video


Oh, and you have your FOOD.

Let’s hope that next year involves just as much fun, but less cannibalism.

Seriously, the little guy deserves a better festival than that.

October 4, 2010

October 4, 2010

It's My Party

On Friday, I will be turning 27 years old. Per our custom, TheBoy threw me a party, with a theme of my choosing. This year: Hello Kitty. What?

The menu, also at my suggestion, was appetizers. I insisted on referring to them as “appeteasers.”

But a birthday isn’t about food. It’s about presents.

Okay, card first. But then presents.

You can’t get a scale on this thing from the picture, but it’s like 18 inches of HK awesomeness.

I have already used this thing a LOT. (Get your mind out of the gutter.)

For those hard-to-reach scratches.

Yep.

Wait, TIME FOR THE DESSERT!

No-bake peanut butter bars. We hadn’t already eaten half the pan—we just didn’t have a pan small enough for the recipe.

By the end of the weekend, though, we had totally eaten all of them.

Birthday month is off to an excellent start.