March 30, 2011

March 29, 2011

March 29, 2011

Kennedyz

My fascination with the British monarchy (some would call it an obsession, but those people can shut their pieholes), is sorely hampered by my permanent residence in the United States. While I love this democratic republic as much as the next girl, I do so wish for a bit of the glamour only royalty can bring. The way I see it, the closest thing we have to royalty in America is the Kennedy clan. Money? Influence? Beauty? Check, check, and check. Joe Kennedy certainly did his Queen Victoria-esque best to produce as many heirs as possible, and then marry them off to the well-connected. Victoria had the Hapsburgs, Joe had the Shrivers. You work with what you have.

I’ve read a bit about the Kennedys*. Familial dysfunction and liberal politics aside, I think they’re a hoot. You’ve got estates and people who owe you favors and more teeth than genetics would seem to allow. When you grow up chubby and shy with an unpronounceable last name in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, this sort of life seems pretty damn good.**

Thus my excitement about the upcoming Kennedy miniseries. Originally commissioned by the History Channel History, so you know it’s quality. Now airing on Reelz or Filmz or something similarly impossible to locate on the dial. Look, the trailer:

Chills, right? CHILLS. And while the project was canned by the History Channel History without a good explanation (I call Kennedy power play, which makes it EVEN COOLER), all I see are enough period details to make me drool.

(Speaking of ambitious period pieces, HBO is currently airing a miniseries called Mildred Pierce, about which one could reasonably assume I would be excited. Wrong. From what I can tell, MP is about a Depression-era woman who leaves her husband and raises a monstrous daughter. None of that fits the money/influence/ beauty requirement as stated above.)

I don’t expect you to watch the Kennedys. Or even to get the channel that airs it. (Starz? Moviez?) But please don’t despair those of us who will.

* To be fair, I’ve read a bit about everything. Currently: parallel universes and string theory. Long commutes suck.

** Now that I have moved to DC, one might assume the advent of my entrée to this society. However, the fact that I have voted for both Mitt Romney and Sarah Palin has resulted in my lifetime debarment.

March 28, 2011

March 28, 2011

Cut the Cord

You may get the sense that I like things organized. You would be correct. If the evidence is to be believed, I may actually have some sort of disorder, because this really cannot be healthy. At least I know I’m not alone. I’ve been browsing through the archives of A Great Blog called Unclutterer recently, and the number of people who also like clear surfaces, good containment, and a profusion of labeling is really quite comforting. Hooray for enablers! One of my favorite features on the blog is “Workspace of the Week,” involving a picture and short description of a random person’s office. For me, these are in the same category as Ikea and Container Store catalogs: better than porn. Than food porn, even. I love seeing how different people keep their computers, office supplies, and files in check. My own workspace is nothing to brag about, but I like to think it’s not bad.

Yet spending literally hours reviewing the pictures on Unclutterer brings to the fore an area in which I feel as strongly as TheBoy does not: cords.


TB is of the opinion that a mass of cords is a tangly thing of beauty.


I’m of the opinion that cords, like children and shattered dreams, should be neither seen nor heard. Bind them* together with twist ties or zip them* in a cable. KEEP THEM* CONTAINED.


Good thing I’ve learned the hard way that other people generally do not like me to organize their things.


* Q: Children? Shattered dreams? Cables? A: All three.

March 24, 2011

March 24, 2011

What the wheel?

A great deal has changed since you and I were kids. The youth of today think nothing of sending a tweet or mocking Charlie Sheen (sometimes simultaneously). Nothing wrong with that; doesn’t each generation strive to make the world a better place for those that come after?

However, here’s an area in which I think my generation has dropped the ball: shoes with wheels. I’ve never tried them, but they disturb me even in theory. Observational research (mostly at shopping malls) reveals that the wheels are in the heels. (SEUSS ALERT!)

Now, I consider myself somewhat of an expert at walking, as I have been practicing for over 25 years. Very little of that walking has involved sustained balancing on my heels. In fact, I’ve found that a heel-toe motion works best when trying to cover distances.

How, then, are wheels in the heels ideal? (SORRY, CAN’T STOP!) Shouldn’t you put them in the toes? Or in the arch? Maybe both? I mean, the toe is sort of a natural balancing point; didn’t Black Swan teach us this? You don’t stand on tipheel, after all.

But forget about the health of the children for a minute. (I know I do.) Let’s talk about safety. Not the safety of the kids; the safety of those of us near the kids.

You know what’s going to happen if a small object is hurtling at me via wheeled shoes? I’m going to pull a move I call “block and defend.” Hands go up and out, people. Up and out. If that results in a small person getting hurled to the floor, I cannot be held responsible.

Why, people why? Why would you do this to your children?

Why would you do this to YOURSELVES?

Let me science at you: The functional point of a shoe is twofold: protect the feet, and allow momentum by increasing friction. (Pretend I inserted a bunch of Greek symbols here.) But wheels reduce friction, right? So what exactly is going on here? What self-respecting adult gets up in the morning and says, “Man, I wish shoes were more difficult to walk in”?!

For the love of Doc Marten, please stop this unholy commingling.

March 22, 2011

March 22, 2011

Never Listen to a Swoosh

Ronald McDonald is retiring. Actually, he is being forced into retirement, which is not at all the same thing. In this economy, I assume he’ll have to get another job working kids’ birthday parties, the circus, or a really freaky theme restaurant.

Apparently he was not classy enough to fit in with McDonald’s new branding as the place for lattes, wraps, and whatnot. But here’s my worry: If you start with Ronald McDonald, where do you end? Is no mascot sacred?

Back in the good old days of advertising (by which I mean, those featured on Mad Men), companies advertised with a slogan, a jingle, or a mascot. Sometimes, a combo of the three. And I think we were better for it. Logos today are, like, shapes. Swooshes and matrices. They’re not even anthropomorphic! (Though if the Nike swoosh talked, I would probably shoot my TV.) Forget about a slogan; you’re lucky to get a single word. Don’t get me started with “But it sells better overseas.” IF FOREIGNERS WANT AMERICAN PRODUCTS, THEY SHOULD COME TO AMERICA.

But anyxenophobia, I’m sure greater minds than mine have calculated the return on investment for something like this:

Versus something like this:



Mascots and spokespeople are expensive, I get it. Jared Fogle requires a lot more handling than the Microsoft Office paperclip (one assumes). Too bad I don’t trust talking office supplies.

March 21, 2011

March 21, 2011

My #DigiornoHoops Party

Through the magic of the internet and my winsome e-personality, I was selected to host a Digiorno Hoops house party this past Saturday. House parties, for those of you not devoted to getting free stuff, happen when a retailer send selected people tons of free stuff to promote a product and/or event. In this case, pizzas and March Madness.

Perhaps a visual would help:

I got everything I needed to host a college basketball-themed pizza party short of an oven and a charge of statutory rape. Included were six (SIX!) coupons for free pizzas and fifteen (FIFTEEN!) coupons for $4 off a pizza.

Though I’m not as socially-inclined as Digiorno might have hoped, TheBoy came. As did Hello Kitty.

We broke out the pizza and cookies, because it involved both pizza and cookies.

As they baked, we fought with the rumble sticks and shot hoops. By which I mean I watched TheBoy shoot hoops because I lack both height and coordination.

Finally, it came time to eat. And eat we did.

Thank you, Digiorno! You are now second only to fresh Chicago deep-dish on my pizza pantheon.

March 17, 2011

March 17, 2011

In Space, No One Can Hear You Tweet

Friend-of-blog Patricia and I went to a Tweetup at NASA headquarters yesterday. I would pause a moment to let the awesomeness of that sentence sink in, but I was there and can attest that we were a pretty socially-awkward bunch.

Unlike most Tweetups (so I’m told), this one was very structured. Astronaut lecture, Q&A, done. No drinking, no chatting each other up (socially-awkward, remember?), and no going home with someone whose name you don’t know but whose Twitter handle you do.

NASA has graciously posted the entire thing online, and if you look carefully, both Patricia and I show up several times. This may be the closest I ever get to fame, so I’m milking it for all its worth.

March 15, 2011

March 15, 2011

In My Opinion: Takers

Though the recent demise of Blockbuster (I say "demise," you say "flameout") speaks volumes about such important issues as the effect of the internet on modern business models, I’m more concerned about how it affects my weekly movie night. Redbox is great, but its selection of old(er than six months) movies is pretty limited. Netflix’s subscription fee annoys me. Honestly, without the public library and a good supply of Redbox rental codes, I’d be left to pirate films with Dutch subtitles. (Kidding.) (Totally not.) Anyway, the end result is that I watch a lot more “new releases” than I might otherwise. The problem is that I see the best of the “new releases” in the theater. By the time we’re selecting the Redbox option, I’m left with sloppy seconds.

Like Takers.

Prima facie (OH YES I KNOW LATIN), this would seem like an excellent film. Heist movie, which I love. Ensemble cast, several of whom are recognizable, and only one for domestic violence. Plus a “cops v. robbers” angle, which falls after only “cops v. cops” and “cops v. journalists” on my list of favorite movie angles involving law enforcement.

Can’t lose, right? Wrong.

Problem the first: None of the characters were memorable. I knew who the actors were. I did not know who the characters were. Even now, I could not provide a single character name from this movie. I have read the Wikipedia, and none of it is ringing a bell.

Problem the second: Too many people die. The best formula for heist movie deaths: All the bad guys die except one, and all the good guys survive except one. The lone bad survivor sets up the sequel. The lone good death sacrifices himself for the good of the crew. Bonus points if he was already terminally ill and/or facing the death sentence. Don’t look at me, this is the math of movie heists. Takes, unfortunately, definitely kills off way more people and probably kills off even more. It’s like crime doesn’t pay for anybody, and I think we all know that’s not true.

Problem the third: The film is (I think) set in LA. The best heist films are set either in Las Vegas New York, or Europe, so as to allow for the robbery of a casino, a super historical artifact, or a super historical artifact in a casino.

I should’ve just sifted through the rubble of my local Blockbuster to get Casino.

March 14, 2011

March 14, 2011

My Retirement Will Be Sticky

On House Hunters International, couples (and sometimes singles) search for property around the world. Sometimes they’re looking for a vacation home in Cancun. Other times they’re looking to relocate from London to Paris. All times, those of us in the U.S. get to see how the figurative other half lives, which is often surprisingly crudely (but at great prices!).

I recently saw an episode about a couple moving from Los Angeles to Melbourne, Australia. One of the houses they looked at was perfect. Well, except for all the bees. Yeah, the neighbor was a beekeeper, with huge hives and whatnot in the yard. The couple, who had young offspring, were worried that backyard playtime might turn into something out of a Hitchcock film.

My friends, I wish I were that neighbor. Not because I dislike children (coincidence), but because I think beekeeping is really cool. What did Sherlock Holmes choose to do when he retired? Bees. What is the hardest-working domestic animal? The bee. Bees are amazing creatures with delicious barf, seriously. I’m not a huge fan of their stingers, but it’s all good as long as I keep my distance. (My mom is horribly allergic to bee stings, so I assume that if I ever get stung, I’m going to die.)

But, yeah, beekeeping. That’s the esoteric hobby I most wish I did. Requires a lot of equipment, sure, but completely worth it (see: not dying, above). Not sure what I would do with all that honey. Donate it to charity, maybe. The world stickiest tax write-off.

Given time and money, what hobby would you pursue?

March 10, 2011

March 10, 2011

Remember This, Volume 20: Awana

Many thanks to friend-of-blog Mel for reminiscently tweeting about Sparkies yesterday and inspiring this blog entry.

One summer, long long ago (second grade), I was in Awana for a summer at the convincing of my friend Sara Mont. Now, those of you who grew up in non-fundamentalist or non-religious homes probably have no idea what Awana is, so let’s let Wikipedia fill you in:

Awana (derived from the first letters of Approved workmen are not ashamed as taken from 2 Timothy 2:15) is an international evangelical nonprofit organization founded in 1950, headquartered in Streamwood, Illinois. The mission of Awana is to help "churches and parents worldwide raise children and youth to know, love and serve Christ." Awana is a non-denominational program and licenses its curricula to any church willing to pay for and use the Awana materials consistent with its principles. Awana offers multiple curricula levels. In the U.S. and Canada, Awana is split into six age groups: Puggles, Cubbies, Sparks, Truth & Training (T&T), Trek and Journey.

I confess that I don’t remember a whole lot about how Awana worked. What DO I remember?

You got a book, with a Bible verse (verses?) on each page. Once you could successfully recite the verse(s) from memory, an Adult signed the page. Every few pages, you would get a small plastic gem to place in a small plastic crown, like so:

Awana now appears to use patches, a vest, and some sort of flight theme instead of tiny plastic choking hazards. But, anyway, it was very achievement-through-intelligence, and even an adolescent Heather was ALL OVER IT.

Because, friends, I got through all three books in one summer. That is a LOT of Bible verses. I sneered as other kids would do a page or two a week. I would then wow the leaders by doing like 30 pages. Was I a horrible child? YES. Horribly SMART. Snap.

I believe there was also some sort of theme verse and/or song that we would all say in unison. There was probably a story, a game, and/or a snack. I suspect this only because I have run literally hundreds of programs for church kids and they have all featured a story, a game, and a snack. But anyway. I seem to remember getting candy thrown at us for some reason. Which I hated, because even before I started wearing corrective lenses, I hated having things thrown at my freaking face.

Oh for the days when rote memorization won you tiny plastic prizes and you called it a day. Good old Sparkies. (To my fellow Awana alumni: But not Cubbies. Cubbies is for babies.)

March 9, 2011

March 9, 2011

Gym the Future

In an attempt to prove that the South really will rise again, Virginian legislators have introduced a bill requiring 150 minutes of physical education for students each week. Other legislators have argued against the bill, citing cost and the importance of, y’know, actual subjects.

Here’s another good reason: EVERYBODY HATES GYM.

(Disclaimer: I was a fat kid. I was a really fat kid. I hated gym, I hated exercise, I hated all time outside under the blinding sun. I still have an aversion to summer because you can take the fat out of the kid, but you can’t take the fat kid out of the adult. Or something.)

I’m not talking about recess, when you played hopscotch or kickball or “LET’S RUN IN CIRCLES YAYAYAYAYAY” with your friends. I’m talking about organized, instructor-led time that required you to do things like the following:

- Climb a giant rope
- Square dance
- Walk a balance beam
- Dodge balls BEING THROWN AT YOUR FREAKING FACE WITHOUT REGARD TO THE FACT THAT YOU ARE WEARING GLASSES

As you may suspect, I was required to do all of these things at various points during my gym class career, and I loathed every minute of them. In fact, I’m convinced one particularly hard fall on the balance beam set me on the path to various health issues related to [redacted for the sake of my male readers].

Oh, and despite all that, I was still fat. So you have public humiliation, injury, and fatness. These are the things that gym class did for me. It didn’t help my concentration or improve my coordination or any of the things I suspect pro-gym class people would cite.

I guess that 10% (5%, 1%, what-have-you) of the population who loved throwing basketballs and doing cartwheels is now ruling the Old Dominion’s statehouse. And suggesting thrice-weekly gym class. You know what’s going to help us beat China? NOT GYM. How about more time for reading, math, science, even art?

It’s not like we’re going to do-si-do Asia into submission.

March 8, 2011

March 8, 2011

My Dad Has More Followers Than Your Dad

Well, I think we can both agree that no matter how embarrassing our parents have been throughout the years, they have nothing on Charlie Sheen. (Note: If you are one of Charlie Sheen’s kids, my sincerest apologies; also, how did you find this blog?) You probably have a good story (or twenty) about cringe-worthy things your parents did when you were growing up. I myself personally refer to the entirety of my teenaged years as cringe-worthy. What IS it about that period? As a kid, you think your parents are the greatest thing ever—the smartest adults you know. Then, as a teen, you go completely to the other end of that spectrum. As an adult, you settle somewhere in the middle. (My dad is probably still my chief mechanical and legal adviser, despite his inability to understand most of the internet.)

Yet when I read the other day that Charlie Sheen apparently has a kid who is 26 (our age! Our! Age!), I said a silent prayer for him or her. Sure, it’s cool to claim President Josiah Bartlet as your grandpa and everything. Plus that Mighty Ducks guy as your uncle; and I guess Jon Cryer as a sort of half-uncle, maybe? But there’s really nothing good about being the spawn of Charlie Sheen these days. I’m glad his twins are too young (hopefully) to remember any of this…including the eventual messy ending.

Then again, I was saying this about Robert Downey, Jr. 10 years ago. Now he is both Sherlock Holmes AND Iron Man. So who knows?

(I was not actually blogging about Robert Downey, Jr. 10 years ago. It’s called hyperbole. Check it.)

March 7, 2011

March 7, 2011

In My Opinion: The Hammer

Among the few things TheBoy and I disagree on is the virtue of one Adam Carolla. Though my exposure to Mr. Carolla is admittedly limited (I always preferred Dr. Drew during their appearances on Hollywood Squares), suffice to say I’m not a fan. From what I understand, The Man Show involved women on trampolines, right? I’m not seeing any redeeming value there; sorry, fellas. Though TheBoy was an avid Loveline listener, I’ve found that any story beginning with “This one caller on Loveline…” ends badly for everybody.

However, my terrible memory and TB's sinister patience resulted in a recent movie night featuring The Hammer. Starring Adam Carolla. I did my best to go into it with an open mind, because even the worst of us can have a good movie. (I’m looking at you, Charlie Sheen.)

In The Hammer, Adam Carolla stars as Jerry Ferro. He’s middle-aged, newly loveless, and working construction. As is often the case in situations like these, Jerry was once A Big Deal—a boxing star on the rise. Now, he resorts to teaching a few boxing classes at the local gym. Circumstances conspire to give Jerry another shot at becoming a successful boxer, with a chance at going to the Olympics. I really do hope you’ll see this film yourself (GASP, I KNOW), so I’m not going to spoil it here.

Adam Carolla is no Christian Bale. He doesn’t lose himself in the character. You’re very aware that Adam Carolla (and, from what I understand, several of his friends) is the star of this movie. Luckily, Adam Carolla turns out to be a pretty funny guy. I didn’t laugh at every line, but there is something amusing about a guy who is unabashedly crude. He even manages to believably win a ladyfriend, which goes to show that he’s not 100% distasteful to those of us with two X chromosomes. (80%, maybe. But not totally.)

Don’t be alarmed if you haven’t heard of this thing; it apparently stayed mostly on the festival circuit. It’s available for download, and you don’t even have to dodge women on trampolines to get it.

March 4, 2011

March 3, 2011

March 3, 2011

Right Said Fed

It’s hard out there for a fed. Contrary to what you’ve heard, not all of us are lazy good-for-nothings. Like 80% of us, sure. But the rest of us are doing the best we can to serve our customers, the American public. (Notice that I didn’t say taxpayer because while not everyone pays taxes, everybody benefits from the federal government. EVERYBODY. DEAL WITH IT.)

So though I’ve written before about your humbler blogger’s penchant for public service before, this recent blog entry has encouraged me to get up on that soapbox once again.

What do you do for a living? Do you teach in a private school? Are you a stay-at-home parent? Do you write books, sell houses, invest people’s money, or make computers? These are all good professions, and one would hope that get at least a little thrill out of being able to point to your student/child/Macbook Air and say “I did that.”

It’s a lot like that for those of us in the public sector. Darnit, we take pride in the business of America. Its diplomacy. Its justice. Its energy. Perhaps your employer keeps its money at Bank of America? Mine keeps its money at the United States Treasury. And I find that freaking AWESOME.

Federal employees (including your humble blogger), on their first day, are required to take the following oath of office:

I do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.

Is it all fun, games, and walk-and-talks? No. Really no. I watched the West Wing episode “Shutdown” last week and found it immensely less enjoyable than I have in the past. Frankly, that show was much more fun before I started living it. Yet I wouldn’t stop living it for anything.* During the election, Obama tried to make public service “cool again.” Not sure that he succeeded—the faces I see at federal-agency-that-shall-not-be-named are as grey as ever they were. But we young ones are out there. Slowly preparing to welcome the robot overlords in 2031.

What, have I said too much?

* Possible exception: to become the princess of Wales. I love America, but the monarchy has like 1000 years up on it.

March 2, 2011

March 2, 2011

Sorry I Missed It: Good Eats

Alton Brown is one of my favorite reality show hosts. It’s quite all right if you haven’t heard of him. He doesn’t shepherd entrepreneurs or Grammy hopefuls. He’s not shedding for the wedding or dancing with the stars.

Alton Brown is the Bill Nye the Science Guy of food. That’s really the simplest way to put it. His program, Good Eats, isn’t really a cooking show. It’s more of a…food history. Take the episode about popcorn. Alton doesn’t just give us popcorn recipes. He explains how popcorn was first invented, its iterations through history, and even the science behind the pop. THEN he gives us popcorn recipes.

(Be warned that Alton loves him some science. Watch this show regularly and you will see more people dressed as molecules than you can shake a stick at.)

Allow me to also shout-out his weird penchant for making things himself despite perfectly acceptable market-ready alternatives. What’s the difference between Absolut and homemade pepper vodka? About a week, it turns out.

Still, God bless a man who will rig up a homemade turkey fryer out of a ladder and cabling:



I wanna do Thanksgiving at HIS house.

March 1, 2011

March 1, 2011

Taxonomy

This morning, I put my taxes in the mail. Ending the arduous annual process in which I wrestle with forms, calculators, and the United States tax code. While it involves blood, sweat, and tears, I continue to take a little pride in it. You can’t keep me down, Uncle Sam! I will file the old-fashioned way until you pry the Wite-Out from my cold dead hands!

Because I don’t understand the withholding process (la la LAAAA), I always owe on my taxes. Wiser people than I say this is actually the way to go. Why lend the government your money when you can invest it in stocks that pay ginormous dividends, right?

I wish I could say that this is my strategy. However, since my money is in a money market account that accrues infinitesimal interest…not so much. You know that guy who lives in a shack in the woods and keeps his money under a mattress? Yeah, even that guy thinks I should accept more investment risk.

Hey, guy who lives in a shack in the woods? Suck it.

So anyhoo, I somehow owed less than $100 to the Commonwealth this year, which was pretty cool. I hope someday to owe so little taxes that I can tape change to my return. It will make up for the fact that I keep having the pay the United States Treasury four-figure sums. I suspect that itemizing could help me out here, but DO YOU KNOW HOW MANY FORMS THAT INVOLVES?

Because despite my advanced education, doing taxes is like torture for me. A glimpse into the process:

0:01 – 0:02 Begin state taxes. Complete name and address portion.
0:03 Realize that federal taxes need to be done first, in order to input an amount from the federal return on the state return.
0:04 – 0:09 Begin federal form 1040EZ. Complete name and address portion, and even some of the money stuff!
0:09 – 0:19 Pore over instructions to determine whether I must file Schedule M. Some crying at the incomprehensibility of IRS instructions.
0:19 Decide to file Schedule M, just in case.
0:20 Realize that my possession of a Form 1099-G means I can’t file a 1040EZ, and must instead file a 1040A.
0:20 – 0:25 More weeping.
0:25 – 0:30 Snack break.
0:30 – 0:40 Complete name and address portion of federal form 1040A.

That’s usually where I end up on day one. Over the next two or three days, I complete the federal and state forms. Then do them again, because I always make a mistake the first time.

How are accountants not jumping off bridges on an hourly basis?