May 30, 2013

May 30, 2013

Trivial Pursuits

Were I normal, I’d probably tell you about my recent trip to New York City. (I will eventually, I promise. I saw Hello Kitty again and almost died of happiness.) Perhaps my plans for the summer (this year’s re-watch: The West Wing). These are the sorts of things my co-workers and friends are talking about, and I have to believe they’re closer to the norm than I am otherwise this whole elaborate construct of social structure I’ve built will collapse around me like this metaphor is doing.

But screw all that because [really exciting news about something happening on June 9 redacted, continue reading for context clues].



Suffice to say I’ve been preparing by upping my usual consumption of information. I have three books going. I’ve paid the type of attention to my news magazines that I usually reserve for Entertainment Weekly. I’m turning into a Wikipedia freak.

(Speaking of, it turns out that my habit of sneezing in bright sunlight is an actual thing and not a psychosomatic whatever. Woot.)

Yesterday’s Trivia Night was all about DC’s hometown heroes. People with connections to DC, whether through birth, career, or otherwise. And though I consider myself in the 90th percentile when it comes to random knowledge, I was absolutely SPANKED. I got 6 out of 20 right, and 4 of those were guesses.* Dang, you guys. Dang.

On Saturday, I’ll be joining thousands of people to participate in the World Quizzing Championships. Two hours, hundreds of questions, and (I can only hope) several #2 pencils. That may sound like torture to you, but I’m beyond excited. Other people enjoy the outdoors or whatever, I like taking tests. It’s a shame that we have so few test-taking opportunities after entering adulthood, isn’t it? My disappointment upon learning the Civil Service Exam no longer exists was not small, lemme tell ya.

Okay, but back to the Thing. My weak points are admittedly concentrated in the sciences and geography. If only “The Animaniacs” had done more science songs. Other than freebasing “Schoolhouse Rock” science videos, I’m not sure how to proceed. Is there some sort of SAT-prep science podcast? Maybe with puppets?

If you’re not too busy living your real life on Thursday, please send your happy thoughts westward. With any luck, I will not be covered in stress sweat and In-N-Out burger cheese.

* I knew that Clara Barton had founded the Red Cross, and that Dulles was the Secretary of State. #themoreyouknow

May 22, 2013

May 22, 2013

To Be Fair, the Signs Just Say "No Eating or Drinking"

(Brace yourself, because today we’re going to talk about poop. And the Metro. Two different things, though sometimes the DC commute feels like being crapped on by the universe.)

Recently, someone spotted poop sitting at the bottom of a Metro escalator. The, um, feces were trapped between the moving stairs and the comb, rolling around with the motion of the escalator. Perhaps a crude diagram will help, since there’s no freaking way I’m posting the photograph:

Now, you have to understand that the escalators of DC’s Metro system are many and varied. Some are long; in fact, the longest escalator in North America is at Wheaton. If you stand instead of walk up that thing, it takes almost three minutes. Which, I think we can probably agree, is sufficient time to drop a somewhat-rushed duce.

But many of the escalators in the system, including the one apparently in question, are short mezzanine escalators. They go from one level of platform to another level of platform. You’re talking maybe a 20-second ride. So unless the poop was stored and ready for dumping (no pun intended), this person has some mad bathroom skills. It’s impressive in a really, really gross way. I’m not saying that speed pooping should become an Olympic event or something, but it’s not like NBC has much further to fall.

Also, a red line train apparently started on fire last week. Just out of nowhere. No reason has been reported, probably because Metro is such a giant flustercluck. I’m a little worried, since it hasn’t even been that hot yet. When it’s hot, I expect this sort of thing. The tracks melt (seriously), the trains turn into ovens, and it all gets a little Slaughterhouse Five.* But May is a little early for things to be spontaneously combusting. Global warming, I guess.

In other news, that thing I mentioned the other day that I couldn’t talk about yet is probably happening. It’s really good, you guys. For realsies.

* At which point your best bet is to get the tourists off the train. Get them anxious by whispering urgently into your fist. It works best if you’re wearing a suit and sunglasses. Not that I would know or anything.

May 21, 2013

May 21, 2013

The Devil’s in the Details

Having a good start to your summer? That’s nice, because a lot of people around here aren’t. It’s like a real-life episode of “Scandal,” though even Olivia Pope would have a hard time with the mess(es) popping up every day. Rather than letting DC’s dirty underbelly get me down, though, I’ve chosen to escape through reading. Specifically, through reading a political thriller about DC’s dirty underbelly.

Wait a minute.

Sedition, recently (and perhaps still) offered as a free Kindle book, is set in a DC where both the President and Vice President have recently died. Since the VP-designee had not yet been sworn in when the President died, there’s a bit of a Constitutional crisis. Who becomes President? The VP, who had not yet taken the oath as required by the Constitution? Or the Speaker of the House, as per the Presidential Succession Act of 1947 and somewhat out of line with Article II, Section 1?

*dun dun DUUUUUNNNN*

I’m not gonna lie, this is heady stuff. Thankfully, the book also includes a plot to kill most of the Cabinet, an intrepid NSA analyst, and a few other twists and turns to sex things up a bit (yes, sometimes literally, you perv). But I kept getting distracted from what promised to be an interesting read by little mistakes. Not just the occasional typo or incorrect homophone use; I’ve accepted that those are just more common in e-books. I’m talking about things like a reference to 33rd and Constitution Avenue, “just north of the Lincoln Memorial.” For one, the intersection just north of the Lincoln Memorial is 23rd and Constitution Avenue. For two, 33rd and Constitution Avenue doesn’t exist.

Then there was the reference to Blue Bell ice cream. For people of the South, and Texas especially, Blue Bell is omnipresent. But it wasn’t available in the DC area until March of this year. Even now, the closest it comes is Stafford, Virginia. The character who allegedly ate it every night lives near Fort Meade, Maryland. That must be some dedication to drive over a hundred miles for ice cream.

I realize that this sort of thing probably annoys only me, but I am my most valued constituency. On the off chance that any authors are reading this, hear my plea: get a fact-checker. Heck, I’ll do it. I love to read and edit; too few of my college friends took advantage of that. (This is why they’re working as bank tellers and I’m working for a clandestine government organization seeking to rid the world of evildoers.) Call me. Or, um, email me. Because calling me would be weird; we don’t know each other like that. Yet.

May 20, 2013

May 20, 2013

Where in the World

Conversation turned the other day to international travel. See, I have a little carousel of flags in my office, representing the countries I’ve visited (whether officially or touristically).

I’m up to seven, though only the UK has so far left me wanting more. But it would probably take several lifetimes for me to satisfy my Anglophilia, so…

Germany is first on my list now. You’ve got history, temperate climate, and (most importantly) a diet based almost solely on the meat-cheese-bread trifecta. Sure, Germans eat vegetables. But they’re pickled and/or covered in gravy. I’m a quarter German, and that means two things: I’m slightly more likely than the next guy to start a world war, and I love wurst. Braunschweiger? Yes please!

France is in second, though I focus on Paris and not the delightful countryside or beachy parts of the country. If I wanted delightful country living, I’d visit Appalachia. When I go to France, I want to be sneered at by men in berets and horizontally-striped shirts. I want to use my high school French to ask where the library is (“Ou est la biblioteque?”), what time it is (“Quelle heure est il?”), and how to get to Ikea (“Ikea?”) Plus I’m going to eat croissants like nonstop.

Canada used to finish the trifecta because it’s like Wisconsin, concentrated. But also more exotic. It’s colder, the people are even more friendly, and they use the metric system. It’s like bizarre Midwest. Plus, my French would once again come in handy when needing to find the library (“Donde esta la biblioteca?”) or the Ikea (“Ikea, eh?”).

But I think I’m going to have to throw Japan into the mix, and if history is any guide, it will tear Canada right out of that third place on the list. (When you refer to certain of your currency as the “tooney,” you have to see that sort of thing coming.) Tokyo, from what I can determine after reading the works of David Sedaris, is clean, polite, and organized. In other words, it’s Asian. Even better, it’s the homeland of Hello Kitty. It’s a country where my obsession would be not only accepted, but possibly encouraged. If Seoul was good, I assume that Tokyo will be even better.

So there you go. My top three:

1. Deutschland (Frankfurt? Berlin? Hamburg?)
2. Paris
3. Tokyo


May 15, 2013

May 15, 2013

Dinner and a Show

Much as I like to aspire to class, with my tales of international travel, Smithsonian lectures, and PBS, down deep I’m a girl from Wisconsin. Give me my bread and circuses. Luckily for those of similar mind who still live in the Midwest, Marcus Theatres has just the thing to scratch your itch:

Okay, let’s talk this through.

I’m not a huge fan of marathoning, be it movies, TV, or actual marathons. Rather, I prefer to watch once a week, live, to take part in what I call the joint national consciousness. There’s something chilling about seeing Pete Campbell fall down the stairs, Billy Campbell’s resurrection, and the face of the Mother simultaneously with millions of other Americans.* Plus, I’m a glutton for anticipation, and there’s no anticipation like the anticipation of waiting a week to see what happens next.

But there are some days, perhaps a Thursday in late May, when the weather is warm(er) and young bloggers turn to thoughts of car chases and kickass explosions. As an ardent fan of popcorn movies, I should not have been surprised when I fell in love with the Fast & Furious franchise. But I was. Because I’m not at all into cars, I don’t have a criminal record, and I don’t lift weights. To wit, I’m not the target demographic.

But this marathon. Man. You can choose to view both the first and second F&F trilogies or just the second trilogy.**Plus—and here’s what sells me—all day refills on popcorn and drinks. Yes, please.

Alas, my nearest Marcus Theatre is in Ohio. So that’s a no-go. But maybe you’re closer, and willing to eat your body weight in delicious buttery goodness while watching cars do things that may not actually be possible.

* If you recognize and experienced all three of those, let me know because I think we are soulmates.
** In a recent interview with EW, Vin Diesel said he viewed the F&F movies as trilogies. Currently, seven movies are planned. Either two more will eventually be announced, or Vin Diesel doesn’t understand the concept of a trilogy. I figure either one is possible.

May 14, 2013

May 14, 2013

EU Open House 2013

As I’ve mentioned previously, the foreign embassies in DC throw their doors open once a year and set out goodies for swarms of curious Americans. We’re like locusts when it comes to swag, not that there’s anything wrong with that. This was either my fourth or fifth year, so I had a solid routine. I’ve blogged in great detail about this in other years, so let me share some of the highlights.

- There were two people handing out butter cookies near Denmark’s embassy. Those really good cookies that come out of a tin. One person was a woman draped in a flag poncho sort of getup.

The other was a man in normal clothing.

Yet our subconscious bias against lone men handing out food remains so strong that people swarmed crazy-wearing-a-flag lady.

God bless America.

- Friend-of-blog L accompanied me for the first time. Her affinity for freebies and willingness to drink alcohol for the both of us made her an excellent companion.

- The UK embassy opened up the Ambassador’s residence for the first time this year. We didn’t get to walk through his bedroom or anything (you kinky minx), but the dining room, entrance hall, and parlor were on the tour.

Alas, Prince Harry had left the building. So close.

I ended up with a great haul, including a number of tote bags, several EU-branded styluses (stylusii? stylii?), and a full-size jar of cookie spread. (Yeah, Belgium went all out on the freebies this year. I imagine the Greece embassy was handing out tissues.)

[Annoyingly-vague insinuation ahead]

Alas, I can’t tell you about the most exciting thing I did on Saturday due to a non-disclosure agreement. Yet. Hopefully soon. Very soon.

May 10, 2013

May 10, 2013

The Great American Novel

The Great Gatsby is in the news again. I say “again” because I assume it made some headlines when it was published, and then again throughout the years as literature students everywhere were supposed to intuit the meaning of that dock light. Now, we have a spectacle of a film, full of glimmer and headbands and Jay-Z. Exactly as Fitzgerald intended, obviously.

Is Gatsby the Great American Novel, though? Some would argue yes. At a recent trivia night, I correctly guessed the answer to a question about Sigourney Weaver* because the phrase “great American novel” led me to Gatsby. (After also considering The Grapes of Wrath and parts of the Twain canon.) It’s the easy answer, if not necessarily the correct one.

My vote, I think, would be for To Kill a Mockingbird. A book that left me exhausted, in a good way. I didn’t even mind that one of the main characters is a child. That’s how good it was. Then again, there’s also The Scarlet Letter. And Little Women. Slices of unique times in American history. (I would mention The Good Earth but that’s perhaps the Great Chinese Novel Written by an American.)

But Gatsby? Meh. Despite my love of Art Deco and the Jazz Age in general, I just didn’t get it. I bet it’s because I’m not a party person. Or into watersports. Or a stalker (sorry, Jay, you come off a little stalker-y).

Then again, my favorite book is The Lord of the Rings, so who cares what I think?

* Turns out she took her name from a minor Gatsby character. #themoreyouknow

May 3, 2013

May 3, 2013

This Sidewalk's Mine

Do you live in a city with an –ist? I’m codependent with DCist to an unhealthy degree, and I’m getting there with Gothamist. Call me a sucker for hyperlocal news, call me an RSS addict, but don’t call me unaware of the idiosyncracies of our great cities. Even Shanghaiist paints an exotic picture of stray puppies, school hijinks, and reviews of the new Iron Man movie. Long live our metropolises (metropolii?)!

(Well, except Austinist, because seriously? One of these things is not like the others.)

(Yeah, haters gonna hate.)

Sometimes, a trend can be found in the travails of multiple cities. Case in point: bike sharing programs. Whilst in London, I learned of but didn’t really take note of the whole Barclay “Boris” Bike situation. I was a tourist in a city that can do no wrong. Why should I care about racks of blue bikes? There were PALACES to visit! With ROYALS!

Then Capital Bikeshare came to DC and




Hell to the no. Because now I’m dealing with the typical Capital Bikeshare cyclist:

A. Not from around here = unfamiliar with the streets.
B. Allowed to bike on the sidewalk, WHERE I AM WALKING.
C. Not used to riding a bike.
D. Riding a Capital Bikeshare bike, which is almost as unwieldy as a wonky grocery cart that even the homeless won’t steal.

La di freaking dah. And the program just keeps expanding. It’s like an STD*, or the Kardashian family. Now, it’s New York’s turn. The program there is going to be called Citi Bikes, and has already raised a number of hackles. (Note to self: What is a hackle?) The racks has been shoehorned into already-cramped streetscapes. The bikes suck (see point D, above). And so on.

It’s like a train (bike?) wreck. I can’t look away. I mean, DC is one thing. But New York is even bigger, and more crowded, with less parking. Who thought this was a good idea, again? Freaking cyclists. (To blog friends who cycle: I don’t hate you individually. I hate the people who rides these shared bikes collectively. Because I typically WALK faster than they BIKE.)

Where I grew up, we didn’t have this sort of thing, because it’s warm enough for cycling only three months of the year. Since those three months are dedicated to the complete overhaul of every road and sidewalk, it’s barely possible to drive, let alone cycle. Plus, we’re not so hot on the whole physical fitness thing in Wisconsin. Because CHEESE.

Should this sort of shared-bicycle program come to your town, and should that town not be Portland, you’ve been forewarned.

* I first typed “like a bad STD” then realized, aren’t they all bad?