January 30, 2013

January 30, 2013

42...Cents Per Inch

Folks, there is an epidemic going around in the world of food. Not botulism or salmonella. (Well, not JUST botulism or salmonella.) I’m talking about short-shrifting.

First, it was the Subway footlongs that are actually eleven inches.*I think anyone who’s been eating Subway sandwiches for a long duration** has noticed that those puppies have been getting shorter. Or it’s the fact that my hands used to be a lot smaller. Anyway, 12 inches of tuna salad definitely used to seem like more. Caught in the act, Subway. You’ve been scienced.

Now it’s underweight packages of Oscar Mayer products. Ham, alas, and not hot dogs. Can you even have an underweight hot dog? They’re already like 99% mystery filler. DELICIOUS mystery filler. My bologna has a first name, it’s D-E-L-I-C-I-O-U-S.

It’s the same everywhere. Packages get smaller and prices go up. Things that used to come in half gallons come in quarts and nobody says anything because Americans suck at math. It’s fine. I’ll gladly add “Food came in bigger sizes” to my “When I was your age” list. (I may be only 29, but it is one hell of a list.) If this is the way things go, though, how big were the Subway sandwiches in Victorian times?

Speaking of the British, I was so proud of myself for remaining spoiler-free regarding the current season of Downton Abbey. Then the most recent episode aired, killing off a major character in the process, and I was emotionally unprepared to process the death. Now that I’ve pondered it a bit, I’m pretty sure the moral of the story is “Stay away from the Irish.”

* When this story broke, TheBoy’s first thoughts went to England—“Do they convert the sandwiches to metric?” We’re just that kind of couple.

** e.g. Me.

January 29, 2013

January 29, 2013

In My Opinion: Pitch Perfect

The first movie I’ve seen since the holiday rush, Pitch Perfect, turned out to perfectly encapsulate a microcosm of my past. I cannot relate to moves about greatness in sport, achievement in science, or success in romance. These were things not encouraged at the parochial schools I attended. What did we do? Music. And while my ability to sing three parts and play two instruments is rarely trotted out these days, I live in remembrance of choirs and bands of yore.

--- Begin boring plot explanation ---

Pitch Perfect stars Anna Kendrick (she of Up in the Air and—surprising to me, at least—Broadway) as Beca. Though Beca’s just started college, her real passion is to become a DJ.

(Normally I would scoff here, but I just read an interesting article about the mathematics involved in DJing and I must grudgingly admit that there’s something to it.)

Alas for Beca, the only group for DJs at Barden University involves Deaf Jews. Rather, she has to join the Bellas, an a cappella group headed predictably by one Type A girl and one slightly-less Type A girl. Their names are not important.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Beca gets a job at the school radio station (I guess that’s a thing) where she hopes hopes HOPES to someday play her own jams. Until then, she banters with the obvious love interest a guy she met at orientation who also happens to be a member of a rival campus a cappella group.

As with Glee, the teams go to regionals, and then nationals, hijinks ensue, etc.

--- End boring plot explanation ---

YOU GUYS, THIS MOVIE WAS AMAZING.

Exhibit A: Fat Amy. Played by Rebel Wilson, Fat Amy’s a member of the Bellas. But also, every word out of her mouth is solid gold. If you liked her in Bridesmaids, you’ll love her in this.

Exhibit B: The songs! The songs, you guys! I am a sucker for a cappella done well. It makes me all tingly inside. Remember, I’m the one who watches The Sing-Off solely for the performances. Take a group of young people, add matching outfits and choreography, and I am there. A nice bonus in this film particularly: there’s an all-male group, an all-female group, and several mixed-gender groups. It’s equal opportunity a cappella.

Exhibit C: Fat Amy. She deserves to be mentioned twice.

Exhibit D: Alum lang syne. It’s a movie set at a college. You know you’re going to get a little misty-eyed remembering your own school days. S’okay.

Exhibit E:


January 27, 2013

January 27, 2013

The Office Machine Whisperer

It struck me as I was loading paper in our office’s many printers recently how lucky I am to have started my illustrious career* as an admin. As any admin worth her salt will tell you, we are what is technically known as Office Machine Whisperers. We can unjam, restart, configure, and otherwise service any model of copier, printer, or fax machine manufactured in the past 20 years.

For some reason, the most brilliant minds of our offices, cubicles, and corporate environments seem to be completely befuddled by these machines. I have seen executives brought literally to their knees when asked to load legal into tray 2. It’s not rocket science, man.

(I have a secret dream to get a job at NASA so I could use the “It’s not rocket science, man” line on an actual male rocket scientist.)

(I need cooler secret dreams.)

For those of you who entered the workforce via other means, are your starter jobs proving just as useful? If you started in retail, does the shirt origami you learned at Old Navy come in handy now? For those who cooked and/or served in restaurants, can you still fry a potato to perfection? I’ve always been jealous of people who worked at shoe stores. No matter how many times I ask the clerks to “see if you have any size 8s in the back,” no dice. They just stare me down until I leave the store.

(Slight exaggeration. They will sometimes briefly pretend to consider going to the back before refusing.)

But don’t get me started on people who worked at their parents’ store/restaurant/insert-service-business-here. Down with nepotism!

(Unless your family business is the Monarchy, obviously.)

Feel free to spend the rest of the day reminiscing about a time when you were young and carefree, when your income was almost all disposable, and when gas prices started with a 1.

* “Illustrious” may be me humoring myself, true. I’m not saying I’m Maya from “Zero Dark Thirty.” I’m also not saying I’m not Maya from “Zero Dark Thirty” because dang.

January 24, 2013

January 24, 2013

Pivot! PIVOT!

Ever have one of those days where you accomplish something great at work? Like that time you taught a kid to read? Like that time you built a cedar chest? Like that time you bought Instagram? (Obviously, I have no idea who my readership is.) I myself recently wrote a program with a pretty wicked left outer join that I’m quite proud of.

In fact, I was certain that program would be the highlight of my January at Cabinet-Department-That-Shall-Not-Be-Named. But then I dropped my water bottle cap in the crevice between my filing cabinet and the wall. And a whole new opportunity for greatness opened up.

Stay with me here.

Imagine, if you will, a narrow gap about 2 inches wide and 18 inches deep. Your arm is a bit too wide to fit in the gap past your forearm.

Actually, maybe a crude diagram would help:


Magnificent, I know.

So, anyway, I’d basically written the bottlecap off as lost, because there was no room to maneuver the minifridge (there are complicating factors that I’m leaving out of this story, so go with it), and my hand couldn’t reach to cap from above or any side.

But then I realized that it’s not for nothing that I have two college degrees. So I rolled up my sleeves and fashioned what some might call a crude poking device (veiled Friends reference) but what others might call a plastic knife taped to a ruler:


By applying my knowledge of physics and mechanics (leverage and elbow grease, really), I managed to wiggle that little mofo out of there. I believe it’s this sort of thing that led a co-worker to refer to me as a “plucky Midwesterner.”

I realize that this is a tiny matter in the grand scheme of things, but it was pretty much the highlight of my day.

Yeah.

January 16, 2013

January 16, 2013

Back to Stoneybrook

Friend-of-blog and former college roommate-of-blog K recently posted a Facebook comment about Scholastic Book Clubs. Remember those? You’d get a little flyer on newsprint every month, would pore over it for hours, and would finally place your order after agonizing over whether or not to get both the new Baby-sitters Club and Nancy Drew books.

Granted, your mileage may vary. If you’re a guy, for instance, you may have been too busy doing whatever it is boys did instead of reading. Peeing on things? I don’t know.

But Women of A Certain Age such as myself fondly remember the book series of our youth. For me, the BSC was at the top of the heap. I’d get the new book every month without ever marveling at the amount of work that Ann M. Martin must have put in to crank those puppies out every few weeks. Yeah, I know, they weren’t exactly works of Tolstoy. But still. It’s hard for me to find the time to crank out 300 words for you people on a regular basis.

Kristy. Claudia. Mary-Anne. Stacey. Mallory. Dawn. Jessi. Dedicated phone lines. Southern boyfriends. The death of a grandparent. Diabetes. Written correspondence. New York City. This series taught me about so much, you guys. So much. (Even though my favorite character was totally Janine because duh.*)

They did a few videos, too. Well, I guess they may have originally aired on TV somewhere, but I watched them on VHS courtesy of the Milwaukee Public Library because that is how I rolled. In the days of yore. Before the internet. (And torrents.)

The Baby-sitters Club, Nancy Drew, the Sleepover Friends, the American Girls…all staples of my young library. Back before childrens’ lit turned all supernatural and apocalyptic. Those were the days.

* Asian. Genius. Enough said.

January 14, 2013

January 14, 2013

John Hancock Had It Easy

Jack Lew’s signature has been a bit of a dealio around here lately. Lew, as you may know, is the President’s nominee for Treasury. He’s worked all over the place: White House, State Department, OMB, etc. No one’s doubting his cred, unlike with many cabinet nominees. It’s in fact his signature that is under fire. Here it is:

 
 

If Jack Lew becomes the Secretary of the Treasury, that signature is going to be on every single piece of currency. Some people (your humble blogger not included) believe this series of loops isn’t nearly serious enough to be printed on The Legal Tender of These United States.

Whatever.

Sympathy to Lew is probably dependent on factors like gender, age, and name. For this female Generation Y-er with an 18-letter name (NOT EVEN COUNTING A MIDDLE INITIAL, YOU GUYS), I totally get it. People give me crap about my signature all the time because it’s basically two flat lines. You know what I say? If I had to make each letter in my name distinct, I’d still be finishing signatures from 2007, SO BACK OFF.

Jack Lew can’t use that excuse, but I also bet he signs a lot more stuff than I do.

Are the cabinet nominations news where you are? This is another one of those things that seems like a huge deal around here but is probably unmentioned everywhere else. Whereas we keep wondering things like

IS Chuck Hagel an anti-semite?
SHOULD Obama nominate another woman to replace Linda Solis?
CAN Susan Rice still make it into the cabinet as National Security Adviser?

I understand that the rest of America is wondering things like

IS our Hurricane Sandy relief money coming, like, ever?
SHOULD we close the libraries one day a week to pay for extra police officers?
CAN Quevenzhane Wallis become the youngest ever Oscar winner?

Wait, I care about that last one, too. Because if anything can distract me from inside-the-beltway shenanigans, it’s Hollywood awards season. #TeamArgo

January 9, 2013

January 9, 2013

Regionals

For someone raised in Wisconsin, I’m surprisingly open-minded when it comes to ice cream. To all frozen dairy products, really. I like them all, be they custards or froyos, Edy’s or Blue Bunny. Our right to ice cream is defended in the Constitution, after all.* Why quibble over the merits of vanilla vs. vanilla bean, of chocolate vs. dutch chocolate? Embrace diversity!**

I say this because certain times of year seem to highlight the differences between fans of what I’ll call regional ice creams. You know who you are. The people who will eat nothing less than Blue Bell. The people who defy America to find anything better than Graeter’s.

Yeah, okay, whatever.

I’m not saying these ice creams are bad. In fact, they’re good. Real good. But so is the soft serve at McDonald’s, and that’s like 49 cents a cone, man. In order to get Blue Bell, I have to pay $100 for 4 half-gallons, because it’s not sold in Virginia stores. I’ve never even had Graeter’s; I assume I’d have to fly to Ohio first, and that’s not the sort of activity that comes up on my to-do list often. Or ever.

Look, we had local ice cream in Wisconsin, too. Cedar Crest, for example. Delightful. Probably handmade by delightful Swedes in the north woods. Came in little plastic buckets that my mom would reuse to store clothespins in. The list of stores that carry Cedar Crest is a veritable pantheon of Midwestern childhood: Festival Foods, Pick ‘n Save, Piggly Wiggly, Sendiks, Sentry, and Woodmans.

Yet in the 4 years since I moved 800 miles from Pick ‘n Save territory, I’ve not once found myself craving Cedar Crest. Because there’s Ben and Jerry’s, and Edy’s, and approximately a gazillion other brands of ice cream that are just as good. As Cedar Crest. As Graeter’s. As Blue Bell.

THAT’S RIGHT, I SAID IT.

So in this season of special edition flavors featuring mint and/or cookie bits and/or holiday colorings, let’s just agree that ice cream is ice cream is ice cream, okay? It’s all good. And not good for you. And that’s what the holidays are all about.***

* Note: This may not be true.
**The rare circumstance in which I endorse this sentiment.
*** Also, forced family interaction.

January 8, 2013

January 8, 2013

There Are Dreams That Cannot Be

Be careful what you listen to before bed. A lesson I learned last week.

One of my favorite podcasts is Firewall & Iceberg, in which two TV critics from Hitfix.com discuss TV, some movies, and  the occasional sports issue. It’s good times, people. Good times. And rarely psyche-damaging in any way.

Then last week, I listened to an episode, went to bed, and dreamed a dream (not of time gone by, because no). In which the two critics from the podcast gave their listeners an assignment: plot out an episode of Aaron Sorkin’s “The Newsroom.”

But dream me being very similar to real-life me, I resolved to kick this assignment squarely in the buttocks. So after having someone let me into the Kohl’s employee breakroom of shopping mall in which I found myself after having returned from Belgium, I grabbed a napkin and started drawing out my ideas. Here’s what I came up with:

- They go to Texas to shoot a “News Night” episode.
- Will is afraid of air travel.
- MacKenzie thinks it’s funny to act, dress, and speak like a cowgirl.

(I’d also thought up something for Joshua Malina and Sam Waterston’s character to do, but then I realized that Malina’s not actually on the show and Waterston’s character wouldn’t travel even if “News Night” did.)

Newsroom viewers: What do you think? It’s at least as good as anything we saw last season, right?

Other humans: Are your dreams as weird as this?

* Rather than explain how all these things fit into the dream, suffice to say my dreams are both vivid and freakish.

January 2, 2013

January 2, 2013

Rules of Order

(It’s gonna be real inside-the-Beltway today; I apologize.)

Depending on your profession, you may find yourself participating in certain activities more than the average person. Kindergarten teachers paste construction paper pieces together.* Astronauts eat freeze dried foods. Moms clean up poop. Firemen slide down poles. You get the idea. While these are all things everyone does from time to time, certain people do them every day, and that’s just how it is.

All if which is to say, I find myself watching a hella lot of C-SPAN. Glamorous! And a prime example of how real life DC is not at all like The West Wing DC. Sure, Sorkin’s show would have monitors showing ZNN coverage or whatever, and they made for nice background while CJ and Josh sparred in her office. Heck, the West Wing characters even testified a time or two, right? But sit through a congressional hearing (or four) and you quickly realize that it’s a bunch of white guys figuratively patting each other on the back while verbally smacking down whoever the poor witness is that day.

(Not that there’s anything wrong with that; I am a Republican, after all.)

Take the recent Benghazi hearings, both of which I watched (almost) in full. True to form, each member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee took time out to thank Senator Lugar for his service, wish him well, mention a personal anecdote, etc. Which would be totally cool if we were at his retirement party. C’mon, guys.

It’s not just the US Congress. Prime Minister’s Question Time is just as bad, except the personal anecdotes are 300% more adorable because they’re about people like “My constituent Nigel St. Livingston” and “The good people of North Argyllshireshire.” Those stories I find endearing. Fifteen senators seeing how many times they can fit the word “aloha” into a speech directed at Senator Akaka? NO.

So if ever I have the chance to watch you on C-SPAN 3 (yes, Virginia, there are three C-SPAN channels), please keep it short and to the point. Don’t dis the chair when s/he cuts you off because you wasted all your time blathering about. Stick to your job as a congressional committee member: Excoriating the witness while your aides futz with their smartphones behind you.

* I honestly spent several minutes trying to think of a good stereotypical kindergarten activity. This is the best I could come up with. I’m old!