September 30, 2013

September 30, 2013

Duly Noted Recommends, Volume 29

A quick rundown of things keeping me from gouging my eyes out…

Smell: Yankee Candle MMM, Bacon! Car Air Freshener

Since this product isn’t sold on the Yankee Candle website, I assumed it was no longer sold. Imagine my joy, then, when I walked into the Fair Oaks Mall location and found not just a shelf full of them, but also that they were on sale for a dollar each. Honestly, I should have bought 20 and called it a (meaty) day. Alas, I bought just one for fear it wouldn’t be nearly as wonderful as the bacon-y scent I imagined in my head (and experienced in the scratch-and-sniff catalog).

Behold, it was even greater. Turns out the combination of air freshener + greenhouse effect makes my car smell exactly like a smokehouse on sunny days. Best possible outcome. It has reduced my road rage by at least 4 percent. 

Listen: Royals by Lorde

You know how the last half hour of the workday lasts at least three hours? What is that? Is this what Einstein was talking about with that relativity stuff? Because ugh, right? I just want to go home to my Trader Joe’s paneer tikka masala and my television. I speed the time up a little bit by putting this YouTube video on loop. (There probably are other ways to do this, but I was a business major, so.)

Look: Men Taking Up Too Much Space on the Train

Just as misery loves company, a commuter loves hearing the woes of other commuters. Bring me your train derailments, your naked cyclists, and your traffic jams, yearning to breathe free. (I will raise you one poop-covered escalator, but still.) Half the reason I follow Gothamist is to read about MTA problems.

Thank goodness I found out about mentakingup2muchspaceonthetrain.tumblr.com. I had experienced the “leg spread” but didn’t realize it was a freaking epidemic. If you, God forbid, do this…I don’t even want to consider it. Because you seem so cool otherwise, and I feel like this is a dealbreaker. Knees together, luggage on lap or under the seat, and DON’T EVEN THINK ABOUT BRINGING THAT BICYCLE ON BOARD.

(Notice that I didn’t suggest anything pumpkin flavored, because I’m honestly kinda ambivalent about that. I love fall because it gets darker and cooler, and people give me gifts and food on October 8. But I’m not big on sweaters, decorative gourds, or hayrides. Suggest going to a corn maze and I will probably slap you.)

September 25, 2013

September 25, 2013

Take with Lime and a Grain of Salt

Though I think of this blog as my life’s work (at least until the book deal comes through), from time to time I peruse other interests. Like the day job at Cabinet-Agency-That-Shall-Not-Be-Named, which keeps me in hummus and Diet Coke. And also like this thing run by friends-of-blog D & M, TVquila.

At TVquila, a number of people apply their intelligence and humor to some of your (and my) favorite TV shows. Oh, and they’ve asked me to join, so this has sudden taken a self-serving turn. Funny that. In fact, my first New Girl is already posted. Soon to be joined by reviews of Hannibal, Parks and Rec, and other shows written by my fellow reviewers.

But really, if there’s anything I like better than the analysis I do for my day job, it’s everything the analysis I do between the hours of 8 and 11 p.m. ET. You haven’t really lived until you’ve live-tweeted Genealogy Roadshow on PBS.

So I encourage you to check out TVquila, where I myself shall be recapping New Girl and Sean Saves the World (for as long as the latter lasts, not that I’m pessimistic or anything). There’s the blog itself, as well as a Twitter, Facebook, and quite possibly smoke signals. TBD. I’m still new to the game.

September 24, 2013

September 24, 2013

My State was "In Need of a Restroom"

[So in a giant fail, I never posted this. Glad I checked my drafts folder, and a thousand apologies. Pretend it's February.]

Warning: This starts well and then ends up being mostly about me going to the bathroom. Deal with it.

While perusing my archives*, I realized that I never gave you the play-by-scintillating-play that was my State of the Union experience. As you know, I was invited to watch the speech from a White House briefing room and participate in a Q&A afterwards with members of the Obama policy team.

#yolo

Since I kept the "McCain/Palin 2008" shirt at home, it went pretty well. I got through the first level of security with no problems, because I keep two valid IDs with me at all times. (Friend-of-blog P keeps her passport on her person, and this is reason #18 that she's one of my favorite people.) After security level 1, I was ushered into a disorganized holding area for security level 2.

Imagine 100 dressed-up Bright Young Government Things making awkward conversation for an hour. Because that's what happened. Eventually, they started taking us through. I got through the second level of security with no problems because I can remove all metal from my person in four seconds. In airport security lines, I turn into just a blur.

So now I'm inside the briefing room, trying to play it cool when internally I'm all "ZOMG JOSH LYMAN IS GOING TO WALK OUT OF A DOOR AT ANY MINUTE." But at least I didn't go up to the front of the room to pose for a picture, as some people were doing. I just set up my laptop while covertly comparing myself to everyone else in the room.

A view from the top. By which I mean, my seat, which was actually somewhere in the middle of the room.

We watched an "enhanced version" of the speech. Think graphics. Pie charts. Bar charts. Factoids. It was a data nerd's wet dream. For me personally, it was a bit like work. Ew.



The speech wrapped up a bit after 10 p.m., at which point the Q&A commenced. At this point, I was tired and had to pee. Unfortunately, the other 99% of the room was ready to get their questions on. Like the kid next to me, who asked a very thougthful question about IDON'TKNOWWHATBECAUSEIHADTOPEE.

That face? Is the face of a woman who needs to pee.

We finally got out of there in time for me to scramble to the train station (they stop running at midnight on weekdays beacuse New York City is better than we are), ride to where I'd parked my car, speed home, and empty my bladder at like 12:06 a.m.

Whew.

It was fun to pretend to be a wonk for an evening, though suspiciously like what I do all day long.

Oh.

* Kidding. I don't read my own blog, that would be so narcissistic and wrong, ha ha ha.**
** Shutup.

September 23, 2013

September 23, 2013

Bootylicious

You probably heard about Talk Like a Pirate Day, perhaps because you spent your day argh-ing around or because you were constantly asked why the rum was gone. Thanks to movies and books and things, we know what pirates sounded like. Or at least what the stereotypical pirate sounded like, which is really just as good.

The Smithsonian’s Food & Think blog, though, chose to focus on eating like a pirate. First of all, BRILLIANT. Second of all, ew. Excuse me, let me politely use the words of Food & Think: “From a food standpoint, a pirate’s life was problematic.” As you can imagine, getting a balanced diet while living on a ship was tough. Even more so during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.

Honestly, when romanticizing history, you really have to consider the gastronomy. I’m always harping on about how I should have been born in the Victorian Era, but really? I’d be miserable. No Diet Coke, no microwaves, and way more sweetmeat consumption than I’m ready for. Thank goodness Sue and Giles set me straight. No more dreams of the Roman Empire or the Restoration. I’m just not ready for that jelly. Because it probably came from an eyeball.

And I bet everyone on the ship smelled, too. What are the odds that a group of pirates would a) have soap and b) use it? C’mon. It’s possible that body odor may be even more of a dream-killer for me than the food thing, since I hate people even when they smell good. Even once they figure out time travel, think before going back to the Tudor era or Colonial times. The people there are going to talk and smell funny. And they’re going to put f’s in the middle of words instead of s’s.

Though I feel like I’ve heard science-y people say that should a time machine ever be constructed, it may only be able to send people into the future. I’m okay with that, and not just because the past is messy and soda-less. The future is either going to be crazy cool (sleek, clean, full of Asians) or crazy crazy (urban blight, uncontrolled income disparity, full of Asian zombies). Much better than dying of seasickness and scurvy.

September 20, 2013

September 20, 2013

The State of the TV Schedule: Fall 2013

Several of the entertainment publications I read describe the new crop of fall shows using words that rhyme with “oring” and “ackluster.” Frankly, I agree. A couple of new shows vaguely pique my interest (Hostages, Super Fun Night), but I’m committing only to Sean Saves the World. (Here’s hoping it’s “Just Jack—The Series.”) I’ll check the rest out on Hulu and we’ll go from there.

Mondays
How I Met Your Mother

Tuesdays
NCIS
New Girl
The Mindy Project

Wednesdays
Modern Family
Revolution

Thursdays
Parks and Recreation
Sean Saves the World
Glee
Scandal

Fridays
Undercover Boss

Saturdays
Saturday Night Live

Sundays
Boardwalk Empire

This is an alarmingly light load. Were this college, I’d be one of those weird part-time students. Yet I expect to find enough to keep me busy that I needn’t return to any shows I’d given up (Hawaii: Five-0, Castle, or Blue Bloods). The internet has a way of filling in the blanks when it comes to entertainment.

September 17, 2013

September 17, 2013

In Memoriam (1981-2013)

For death is no more than a turning of us over from time to eternity.William Penn

In 1981, my Dad bought a Sony TV. I don’t know how much he paid, because I was -2 at the time. I don’t think my parents had even met. Twerking hadn’t been invented. It was an innocent time.

Here we both are, circa 1989:

Adorable. I’m referring, of course, to the TV.

It was an old-timey thing, with buttons for each channel and a slider control for the volume. It didn’t have a remote control, because what? I was the remote control, with the distinct disadvantage of not being able to reach the uppermost buttons during my youngest years. Speaking of controls, the panel next to the channel buttons was removable, with little plastic inserts you could swap in to match your local lineup. This discovery was my first exposure to the idea that not everyone watches ABC on channel 12, and some places have (shudder) a channel 2.

Because when you’re a kid in Wisconsin, you kinda think that your situation is everyone’s situation. Everyone has a basement. Everyone cheers for the Packers. Everyone has a winter coat. THAT’S THE WAY THINGS ARE, DUH-DOY. I suppose kids in more diverse areas and/or who moved a lot realized that this wasn’t the case, but it was Wisconsin in the 1980s. The most exotic people you’d meet were from Ohio.

So, all right, I’m tearing up a little (no kidding) because my Dad just told me that the TV died this past weekend. He mentioned last week that it was starting to go, but I was holding out hope. But on Sunday, he turned it on and got nothing but a white line in the center of the screen.

We understand death for the first time when he puts his hand upon one whom we love.  –Madame de Stael

I imagine this is the way people feel when their dogs die. My dad and I debated whether we should bury the TV, and we were only partially kidding. It was a part of our family for so long, it has Giving Tree-like status. Was it our primary set? No. But it could always be relied upon to stand sentry in a spare bedroom or the basement rec area, ever-ready to be tuned to The Price Is Right.

We’re not going to throw it out just yet. We have room to let it hang around for a while. It’s the least we can do to respect a lifetime of service.

Goodbye, old friend.

September 5, 2013

September 5, 2013

The Science of Panhandling

As a woman of means employed in a big city, I encounter my fair share of homeless people.

(Does the phrase “woman of means” come off a little Golden Girl? If so, I heartily embrace that.)

(Note that I said “homeless people” and not “hobos.” The sentence that ends with “I encounter my fair share of hobos” begins with “As a woman of means crossing this great country by rail in the year of our Lord 1937.”)

It’s not necessarily that there are so many more homeless people here than in Wisconsin; I think it may be that in Wisconsin everyone drives everywhere. It’s a little harder to read a sign detailing your troubles when I’m whizzing past it at 70 miles per hour. On foot? Much easier. And by the way, that sign tells quite a story. Like, Quite a Story. And if I may, a suggestion: A homeless person’s sign, like a resume or a rap sheet, should be no longer than one page. Try, but not TOO hard. Boil your message down to two or three key points, one of which will ideally be something zen. Sun Tzu, maybe. Or the Buddha.

Also consider looking the part. One guy near my office gets into position each morning by setting up his cup, positioning his sign, and removing his shoes. It’s one thing to see a guy sitting forlornly on the sidewalk but a guy WITHOUT SHOES? Egad.

(Right? I have a heart of stone, but I feel like shoeless is way way worse than, um, shoed.)

(If you grew up in a part of the country where “shoeless” is a way of life, I urge you to review our nation’s per capita income distribution and then re-consider the value of footwear.)

There was a woman I may have mentioned before here—and certainly mentioned on Twitter—who used to sit a couple blocks from my office. She was pleasant, she was well-dressed, and I sometimes saw her getting into a black SUV. I don’t know whether she was living on the streets or performing a massive sociology experiment, but I feel like the cognitive dissonance reduced her take.

And let’s talk props. If your sign mentions kids, maybe have a kid around. It doesn’t have to be an actual kid; no one’s going to ask to hold your baby. Get a fake baby. (I guess you consider getting a real baby, but that’s difficult and possibly illegal.) Get a dog. Get a monkey that does tricks. Get a stuffed monkey and pretend it does tricks. Anything that adds to the “Do you SEE what I’ve been reduced to?” vibe.

And finally, before I’ve completely offended all advocates for and members of the homeless community (too late!), in the words of Mamet: Always be closing. It seems to me that homeless people are typically opening. “Do you have any spare change?” “Can I borrow a cigarette?” “How are you doing today?” All great opening lines. But “Thank you and God bless you” has the dual impact of guilting me into reciprocating and convincing me that you’re but a stray soul in search of Christian kindness. See what you did there?

It’s time to put the “profit” back in “profligate.”

September 2, 2013

September 2, 2013

In Defense of the Ladybug

Friend-of-blog B recently mentioned that he has a fear of ladybugs.

I can't. I can't even.

Insects, as a class (in the technical biological classification sense), are terrible. Just awful. Even the words used to describe it"creepy" and "crawly" among themare synonyms for disgusting. I say this not just as a woman, but as a human being. But also as a woman, because ew ew ew ew ew.

But nature has a funny way of throwing you a bone with things like this. For every unlovely group, there is a redeeming exception. Bears have pandas, the Polish have Copernicus, and insects have ladybugs. QED.

Remember a few years ago when we had that huge infestation, wherein the apocalypse was to be broughten upon the wings of Asian lady beetles? I remember spending an afternoon in my parents' backyard filling a jar with them. I don't remember what I did with the jar, but let's pretend I kept it and cherish it to this day. Because ladybugs are CUTE. They refute all of the things that make the rest of Insecta so terrifying:

Ladybugs move slowly. They plod, really. They don't scurry or scamper of whatever the crap it is that silverfish do.

Ladybugs are brightly colored. Call it red, call it orange. You know what you can't call it? The gross shade of brown sported by most bugs. [Grudging respect for bees, who have been rocking a bold yellow and black horizontal stripe for millennia. This is why bees have jobs, people. They're smart cookies.]

Ladybugs know how to play it cool. They don't FREAK OUT when suddenly exposed to light or STING. Obviously fans of Michael Pollan, they eat food. Mostly plants, plus the occasional fungi because who doesn't love a good mushroom, amiright?

This is why ladybugs were featured in the coloring pages of our youths, people. They're about as family-friendly as you can get when you have six (or more) legs. And allow me to quote directly from Wikipedia for a moment:

Many cultures consider coccinellids lucky and have nursery rhymes or local names for the insects that reflect this. For instance, the Turkish name for the insect is uğur böceği, literally meaning "good luck bug". In many countries, including Russia, Turkey, and Italy, the sight of a coccinellid is either a call to make a wish or a sign that a wish will soon be granted.

And how can you not love a bug sporting polka dots? Come ON.