June 27, 2013

June 27, 2013

“Earth had 3rd warmest May on record”

That USA TODAY headline made me chuckle. Not because it’s yet another proof that our civilization is slowly killing itself. I mean, we had a good run. Rather, I laughed because it addressed not the United States, but the entire planet as a whole, and quite possibly the entirety of history. As if May 2013 was the third-hottest May since, like, the Big Bang.

[Scientists: Was the Big Bang hot? Because it seems like it would be really hot and loud, but with space being a vacuum and all, was it like one of those scenes from Firefly where spaceships are shooting each other in eerie silence? Inquiring minds want to know.]

I’m hoping we’ve started down the road to EARTH TODAY, because that’s the sort of periodical they always show in movies about The Future. Nations are subsumed by a sort of global society (which, if we’re being realistic, speaks Chinese). Once we’re done warring with each other, we can turn our joint monetary and intellectual resources to improve humanity by:

- Traveling into space.
- Traveling back and forward in time.
- Inventing a self-heating pizza.

[That last one may just be a priority for me. Unclear.]

Not that I’m advocating a New World Order just so I can have hot deep dish on demand, but…it seems as good a reason as any.

They have pizza in China, right?

June 24, 2013

June 24, 2013

Having/Knowing

I’m pre-disposed to dislike you.

Well not YOU, because you’re reading my blog. Evidence of good taste as well as cognitive ability. But, y’know, people in general are not really my thing. Thus it’s unfortunate that I run into a great number of them on a daily basis. Often, as was the case yesterday, asking me to say or do things. Like the guy outside the Metro station who asked me if I had a minute for gay rights. I refused to make eye contact or otherwise acknowledge his existence. So it didn’t end so well for him.

But it could have!

You see, even we hardened misanthropes can be reached. It’s all in the approach. Let’s look again at his question:

“Do you have a minute for gay rights?”

Did you spot where he went wrong? Look again, I’ll wait.

No?

Word #3. “Have.” Questions from strangers that start with “Do you have…” typically end with a bad deal.

“…fifty cents for the bus?”
“…a problem with me?”
 “…a dollar? I got to feed my kids.”
 “…any idea how Keystone XL will affect the environment?”

And so on. You get the gist.

I don’t want any part of a “Do you have” situation. I’m not going to give you money, engage your crazy, sign your petition, or debate with you on the merits of a trans-American pipeline. You may be a taker, but I am really not a giver.

BUT, if you start your entreaty with “Do you know,” it’s a whole. Other. Ballgame. Because showing off how much I KNOW is my third favorite thing after all-you-can-eat-buffets and genius Asian babies. The phrase “Do you know…” often ends with things I totally know, like:

“…where the Washington Monument is?”
“…what DC attraction opens really early?”
“…how to get to the Metro from here?”
“…the names of all the Presidents in order?”

And I will happily provide you directions, point you to Arlington Cemetery, and sing you the names of the Presidents to the tune of “Ten Little Indians.”

So if the gay rights volunteer person had just said “Do you know how many currently-legal marriages could be nullified by Supreme Court action?” we might have had something. Think about it, all ye petitioners.

June 17, 2013

June 17, 2013

Hold the Applause

AirTran and Southwest recent got their acts together enough so that AirTran flights can be booked via Southwest. What does this mean for me? It means two free checked bags each when I fly home for the State Fair in August. So I will be bringing back not only an entire new wardrobe sourced from the Goodwill stores of southeastern Wisconsin, but also as much Usinger’s kielbasa as I can stuff into a 26-inch rolling upright.

God bless America.

Speaking of meat products, Yankee Candle has this line of man scents. Heard of it? I think it includes grass, tires, and stuff like that. But while flipping through a catalog I noticed that one of the newest additions is BACON, and when I scratched-and-sniffed I almost CRIED it smelled so good. Like a smokehouse. (If you’re anything like me, the smokehouse is your favorite part of any historic site. Even centuries later, those things smell amazing.) Smoke, meat, fire, wood…all in a candle. Win.

As a child of Milwaukee, though, I still long for the days of Midwest Express. Two-wide leather seats. Full meals with real silverware. FRESH BAKED CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES. Though I only few that original Midwest a handful of times before it became Frontier/Republic/AirTran/non-existent, I know it was about as close to first class as I’ll ever get. Le sigh.

(Possible exception: Korean Air, where the amazing staff make even the peons in coach feel  special. Another example of the truism that anything you can do, an Asian can do better.)

But one plus for every American airline I’ve ever flown: No PA announcements about soccer scores. This happened to me on a 1 a.m. Lufthansa flight out of Jordan. If you’re going to wake me up when I’m doing that barely-sleeping-because-I’m-upright thing on a plane, you damn well better have food, okay?

Oh, and also: Clapping when the plane lands. What is that? It’s happened on every international flight I’ve taken and none of the domestic ones. Is the entire rest of the world more polite than we are in this one very specific way? Pardon my American ignorance, but isn’t landing an essential part of the pilot’s job? I don’t mind thanking him, but applause seems a bit much. I don’t applaud my bus drivers, or the grocery cashier, or the mailman. Wait, should I?

Note to self: Research TSA’s policies re: whether one checked bag could contain a single very-large block of cheese.

June 13, 2013

June 13, 2013

California, There I Went

Though I’d been to San Diego, San Francisco, and a few other parts of the Golden State (motto: “We have a BEAR on our flag so screw all y’all”), Los Angeles was new to me. Not new in an intriguing way, more new in an I-watch-Southland-so-I’m-scared-witless sort of way. Sure, there were palm trees and the weather was delightful. But I figured I’d be mugged at least twice during my three-day trip.

(Spoiler alert: I was not mugged. Not even once.)

Since I had a little time the day before I had to [activity redacted], I consulted my list of must-see Los Angeles sights:
  • La Brea Tar Pits
  • Walt Disney Concert Hall
  • Grauman’s Chinese Theatre
  • Dolby (formerly Kodak) Theatre
  • Hollywood Walk of Fame
And after some confusion* in the subway station, I was on my way. First stop: the Walt Disney Concert Hall.

Swoopy.

At this point I was hungry even hungrier than usual, so I stopped into a CVS to get a sandwich. Which I ate at a bus stop in Koreatown. Classy, right? I know.

I ate outside this place, which I suspect was actually a front of some kind because COME ON.

Next up, the tar pits.

Who else is humming the Beverly Hillbillies theme song right now?

You may see a bubbling mess, but I saw the fulfillment of eight-year-old me’s fondest wishes. I had a bit of a thing for dinosaurs at that age, so the only thing better than getting to see the La Brea tar pits would’ve been finding an actual dinosaur skeleton in my backyard. (Believe me, I looked. ARGH Wisconsin.)

Then on to Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, in front of which are many hand- and footprints.

Howdy, Pilgrim.

Though this area was pretty crowded, I found it no worse than Times Square. Which is my actual measurement of crowdedness; your mileage may vary.

I didn’t have time to tour the Dolby Theatre, so I have not (yet) touched an Academy Award. But I did check out the Hollywood Walk of Fame outside.

The hills are alive!

I was disappointed to see that you don’t even have to be real to get a star:

I call BS.

Psh.

I forgot to look up to see the Hollywood sign, though I’d caught a glimpse of it on the ride from the airport. So no picture of me cheekily grinning in front of it, which is perhaps better for the world, anyway. Maybe next time.

* As someone who swears by public transit, I was frustrated not a few times by LA’s system. No wonder everyone drives.

June 10, 2013

June 10, 2013

Nuts

On a recent episode of The Nosh Show, one of the hosts introduced the idea of a Hot Pocket restaurant. Honestly—and this is no surprise—I think it’s brilliant. You could choose fillings and toppings, and perhaps even crust. Then your creation would be assembled and cooked to order. In a world with places dedicated to cereal and macaroni & cheese, this seems like a logical extension.

(In related news, I fear my generation is going to run society into the ground. Because instead of curing cancer and splitting the atom, we are dreaming up restaurant concepts based on comfort food.)

Blame Chipotle, which got us hooked on the whole idea of customization when it comes to food. When I was your age, we ordered from the menu and WE LIKED IT. Even now, when a dining companion asks to have something “without the cheese” or “with extra tomatoes” I want to smack the self-righteousness right out of them. I don’t like tomatoes and onions on my Whopper. You know what I do? I order a Whopper and then I pick out the tomatoes and onions. It’s not rocket science. The only possible excuse is some sort of deathly allergy to tomato residue, in which case you probably shouldn’t be eating out in the first place. Or, you know, participating in society in general.

Speaking of, what is the deal with peanut allergies. I don’t mean to hate on humanity*, but apparently some kids just self-combust when exposed to nut fumes? Has this always been a thing? Were they worshipped as gods in olden times? Can we someone contain all these people in one place and maybe have them do our bidding? It would be easy. They get discontent, all we’d have to do is hold up a cashew and be all, “How you like me NOW?!”

Not that I’m suggesting this as an actual suggestion or anything.

*whistles*

Wait Wait recently mentioned that a brand of nuts were recalled because the package didn’t explicitly state that it contained nuts. Which would seem to be obvious, but okay. It also seems like just about everything either contains or has touched nuts (not a euphemism). So how do people with really severe nut allergies cope? Do you go straight to a Bubble Boy situation?

I guess people who eat specific diets (kosher, halal, etc.) have similar concerns. Hard for me to fathom, since I’ll eat just about anything. (I take your five-second rule and raise you a solid 25 seconds.) It’s immunity boosting and hardly ever ends badly. I think my mom only had to call poison control twice during my childhood. In my defense, condiments and cosmetics look very similar when you can’t read.

Now I have the Hot Pockets jingle stuck in my head. Fabulous

* Haha, I totally do.

June 4, 2013

June 4, 2013

Moving and Shaking

In my family, we judge events, enterprises, and other Big Things not by what went right, but by what went wrong. Your party may have been 99% fabulous, but we will discuss and remember it by that 1% that was a little wonky. Please don’t be offended; we hold ourselves to the same standard. And honestly, if our response to your wedding was “I had a little trouble hearing the minister,” you should consider it a rousing endorsement.

For example, we took a trip to Yosemite National Park in 1999. Our recollections of that trip start not with the majestic waterfalls and redwoods, but with the Japanese family in the neighboring tent who insisted on singing the Battle Hymn of the Republic ALL NIGHT LONG.

Last year, we went to Gettysburg, PA. We loved the museum, the battlefield tour, the hotel, and the battle-themed buffet (General Pickett’s) where we were waited on by a Rainman-esque savant. But the first thing we mention is how I got lost on the way to the buffet and had to do a u-turn in a cornfield.

So if you ask me next week how the trip to LA went, you’re most likely to hear about the weird guy who sat next to me on the plane, or how I tripped on John Wayne’s footprints outside Grauman’s Chinese Theatre. Consider yourself warned.

As I mentioned previously, I’ve been preparing by exposing myself to a lot of trivia. A lot. Of trivia. Surprisingly, this has involved listening to a lot of NPR. (Whatever you think about NPR listeners, you can’t deny they’re a pretty smart—if boring—bunch.) Though I’m probably two kale-centric meals away from purchasing vegan footwear, I’ve discovered several new podcasts to while away the hours I spend sitting on broken-down Metrobuses and whatnot.

Did you know that NPR is actually based in DC? You probably did, and I’m the one who’s late to the party. They recently upgraded to fancy new headquarters building, and are going to (be still my heart) start offering tours. My chances of spilling something on Carl Kasell just tripled, you guys. But anyway, I stumbled on this trippy little OK Go music video in which the song starts in the old building and ends in the new. Enjoy. (My favorite cameo, of course, is Carl. My second favorite cameo is the Chinatown Arch. My third favorite cameo is the crazy street guy at the end. Good old DC.)



OK Go videos are one of the few things make me proud of humanity.