June 30, 2014

June 30, 2014

Once There Was a Tree

Every Friday, our building sends out a little newsletter with important (and not so important) announcements. They’re generally about things that don’t affect me, like pets and storage and the pool. But every once in a while, I’ll see something like the recent notice about the communal herb garden and it’s like a little light shining down from above onto FREE FOOD.

I’ll be honest: I’m a little suspicious about eating anything that I’ve actually seen come out of the ground. We who grew up in the city are the exact opposite of the farm-to-table movement. If it hasn’t been washed, processed, packaged, and shelved, how can it be trusted? You know what grows in nature? DEADLY MUSHROOMS and POISON IVY. End of story.

However, in the spirit of broadening my horizons and yada yada yada, I decided to check out the communal herb garden. And I recognized what was either a giant chive plant (bush? vine?)—and I love me some chives—or something that would end up killing me. MAYBE BOTH. Long story short, I bit the bullet (or the chive, heh heh) and lived to tell the tale. Now I have fresh chives whenever I want them. It is glorious. Basically, I'm feeling what the Pilgrims felt at their first harvest.

But.

As per usual, the universe spotted the door that I left ajar and kicked it WIDE OPEN and I don’t know what to do. Just when I’d gotten comfortable with the idea of eating something that didn’t come in plastic wrap, I see a woman hanging out at a tree in my building’s driveway, pulling something off the tree and eating it.

I repeat: She was standing at a tree, pulling something off the tree, and eating it. Like some freaky scenario out of The Giving Tree.

Maybe it’s a result of growing up in Wisconsin, where we have few-to-zero trees that grow anything you could eat. When I was very small, we had an apple tree in our backyard. But then I grew up and met people who had effing ORANGE trees in their backyard and I’m getting cold sweats just thinking about that. GROWING YOUR OWN CITRUS IS UNNATURAL, YOU GUYS.

So back to the woman and the tree.* My first thought was that she was a hobo, because eating directly from a tree seems like something a hobo would do and also because I’m living in 1935. However, she appeared to be clean and well-dressed, and hadn’t tied her belongings in a handkerchief attached to the end of a stick, as all hoboes are required to do. Confusing.

I told TheBoy all about this—IN EXCRUCIATING DETAIL—and he agreed to take a look at the tree with me. As we approached, I kept an eye out for the corpse of that woman, but didn’t see it. So either the tree’s fruit was safe to eat or the poison was slow-acting enough to allow her to die after getting back to her condo. (“The Mystery Tree: berry eaters check in, but they don’t check out.”)

We took a good look at the tree, and saw something like this: 


I’m the first to admit that this seems pretty positive. But my top-notch Brownie training kicked in a reminded me that the best stuff in nature is always deadly. See: Poison dart frogs. Jellyfish. Angelina Jolie. Even after Google almost-incontrovertibly points to this being a mulberry tree, I’m not totally convinced. Why not?

1. Mulberry trees attract silkworms. It seems highly likely that I would go in for a berry and end up eating a silkworm, that would then burrow its way out of my stomach a la that scene in Alien.
2. The mulberries are probably covered in squirrel pee.
3. And weird microscopic aphids.
4. Per Wikipedia, “Unripe fruit and green parts of the plant have a white sap that may be toxic, stimulating, or mildly hallucinogenic.” Don’t mind me; I’m just over here TRIPPING OUT ON MULBERRIES WOO.

It’s just not worth it. You want the produce? I can’t handle the produce.

* IMO, this segue works equally well when telling the story of Adam and Eve.

June 27, 2014

June 27, 2014

Frank Yankers

When ZIP codes were introduced in 1963,
this fella—"Mr. Zip."—was used to educate the public
about the new system. WHY DID THE GOVERNMENT
STOP DOING THIS? Obamacare would have been a
zillion times more successful with an adorable
animated mascot.
Despite our childhood dreams of becoming astronauts, cowboys, and/or President of the United States, by now we’ve settled into our ultimate career fields, yes? Whether by virtue of education, experience, nepotism, or bribery, you have a job and—let’s be honest—it’s probably a little late in the game to quit everything and pursue a career in sand sculpture.

(Unless you’re reading this while still in school. Children of the world: Follow your dreams! Anything is possible! I’m sure plenty of paying work exists for English majors!)

Yet I think we all occasionally hear about a gig that makes us think “what if.” For the athletically-inclined, has the World Cup has brought back memories of college soccer* greatness? Did the National Spelling Bee make you wish Webster had pursued a system of human rather than paper dictionaries? Does trivia night make you realize that producing questions based on uncommon and archaic knowledge is quite possibly the one area in which you could be a functional rather than a support employee?

(Not to crap all over my chose field, but administration is not at all sexy or interesting to talk about at parties. It is in fact one of the main reasons I avoid attending parties, the others being my misanthropy, my crippling social anxiety, and the tragic lack of spinach dip at 99% of parties.)

Anyway, the daily Now I Know trivia newsletter today introduced me to yet another job I think I could have killed at: Postal Service data conversion operator.

(You should subscribe to NIK, both because it will make you a better, more informed person and because you obviously have time to read amusing things in the middle of the day.)

In short, data conversion operators translate wonky handwritten addresses on letters and packages into something the computers understand, keeping the mail flowing while simultaneously assisting our future robot overlords. It’s quite possible that the only thing keeping us from the idyll of the Matrix is the insistence of people (let’s be honest: old people) on addressing things in cursive. I’m all for calligraphy on notable documents, but does the envelope my birthday card comes in REALLY need to look like the Magna Carta? *dismissive hair flip, followed by two snaps*

The New York Times article about this whole operation also mentions “impossible letters, like the one addressed to the house ‘down the street from the drugstore on the corner’ or one intended for ‘the place next to the red barn.’” It’s been 51 years since the introduction of the ZIP code, so I reiterate: Humanity, we are doomed.

But if you have to spend the time between now and the day the computers seal you in a pod to harvest your body’s electricity in order to run a universal computer simulation doing something, it might as well be something like this. Something that makes everyone’s lives a little easier.

* Or, if you went to school in Latin America, fútbol. ¡Olé!**
** I don’t actually understand how the upside-down punctuation works (is it mandatory?), but I like the idea of it.

June 20, 2014

June 20, 2014

In My Opinion: Oblivion

As a married* homeowner*/misanthrope**, I don’t get to the movie theater as much as I used to. Frankly, in a world of Redbox, Netflix, and the internet, I can’t be convinced to spend $20 and two hours in the presence of strangers eating loudly. Bah humbug. Anyway. We watched Oblivion recently and I had some thoughts. Here be spoilers.

  • Tom Cruise is still not aging, and I remain okay with that. If he’s going to run from/after things for the next several decades, he’ll need to be physically fit. To quote Wikipedia: “The single most difficult scene to film in the entire movie was when Harper takes a break to admire the view and waters a flower; it was filmed by having Cruise sit next to an 800-foot (250 meters) drop at the top of Iceland's Jarlhettur on the root of Langjökull, a peak that the crew nicknamed Earl's Peak, which is only accessible by helicopter.” I can’t imagine Johnny Depp doing this. (Will Smith, maybe.)
  • Clean dystopian futures are my favorite futures. I appreciated the stark color schemes and design of everything alien-designed, whether Tom Cruise’s house, spaceship, or the HAL-esque big bad revealed at the film’s climax. I may be human, but I am a neat freak first. If an alien race comes to earth that can tidy this place up a bit, then YES PLEASE.
  • Still not 100% clear on how you’d get all of humanity to agree to a mind wipe—or even how that would work. If it’s not consensual, then how many times have we been mind-wiped without realizing it? Has Kim Kardashian been married EVEN MORE TIMES?
  • The ending, in which Julia ends up with Tom Cruise clone #52, is admittedly creepy, even if you consider that the rest of the movie starred Tom Cruise clone #49. Perhaps I just need to get more comfortable with the concept of clones. Like, if you could clone a now-dead friend or relative, and have them come back exactly like the person you remembered, would you go for it?
Oblivion was based on a comic book graphic novel, so it translated well to screen. Didn’t do so well at the box office, probably because there were no vampires or kids killing each other for sport. (Don’t hate; I love the Hunger Games. Twilight, not so much.)

* New for 2014!
** Not new for 2014.

June 13, 2014

June 13, 2014

New Event: Hotcar Inferno

[Self-serving announcement: I'm getting married on Tuesday. In lieu of presents, cross your fingers that no blood is shed. Why did I schedule lunch for AFTERWARDS?]

“Boston, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Washington are the cities still in the running for a possible U.S. bid to host the 2024 Summer Olympics.”

Hoo boy.

The Olympics are one of those few times when all of humanity 1) comes together to 2) celebrate achievement. Let’s not ruin that with a broken mass transit system. Because if you thought Sochi was bad, anything involving the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) is going to impress you. Our trains start on FIRE!

Having been to the three other cities on the list, I can attest that they have fine bus and train networks. And who doesn’t want to see track and field events on the Golden Gate Bridge or soccer football soccer on the Boston Common? One if by land, two if by sea? HELLO BIATHLON.

(I have no idea what the actual biathlon events are. Is the biathlon even a thing?)

(Speaking of world sport, I’m trying to keep a cursory eye on the World Cup for trivia purposes, but…yikes. I feel like you’re either in or you’re out with soccer, and I’m out. Let me know who wins, okay?)

Has anyone considered having the Olympics hosted by a country rather than a city? The logistics aren’t workable now, but once they figure out how to use wormholes, I think we’re golden. I’d put track and field in Kansas (flat), swimming in the Gulf of Mexico, and cycling on route 66 (whoever makes it farthest wins).

Until scientists get that all sorted, though, I guess we’re stuck with a city at a time. And if I have to pick one of those four, I’d go with Boston. Since it’s in my time zone, there’s a good chance I’d get to see many events live. Everything on the West Coast wraps up at like 1 a.m. Eastern (I’m looking at you, Academy Awards), and I prefer to be in bed with a book* and a sherry** no later than 8:30.

* Kindle
** Not really, but this sounded classy.

June 9, 2014

June 9, 2014

Don't Forget the Presidential M&Ms

Ah, summer. Weekends at the beach*, brunches on the patio*, and sweating straight through all your clothing. Innit grand? Even if you have a job that keeps you office-bound, workin’ 9 to 5 (“What a way to make a livin’”), you may notice the presence of more daylight and interns.

Let’s talk about interns for a minute.

I was recently reading an article about internships, and it turns out I myself personally got a RAW DEAL in this regard. To wit:

“Sitting in a kitchen stocked with free food, a handful of 20-something Google summer interns weigh their favorite perks, but where to begin? With bikes, buses, massages, swimming pools, dance classes, nap pods, parties and access to their tech heroes, it's a very long list.”

My obvious reaction:


I interned in college for a few years, in order to get experience in my chosen job field. As a business administration major, I wanted to administer stuff. Business stuff. Which I did. It was good. You didn’t need to sex it up with freaking nap pods. I probably sound jealous, because I am. Did you read the words “free food”? Did you? DID YOU?

Perhaps it’s different in highly-competitive fields, like finance and law. You have to lure the kids in with treats to balance out the years of soul-sucking toil. Like how banks give kids lollipops in the bank drive-thru (or at least they used to) in the hopes they’ll one day not store their money in a coffee can under the bed. Not that that’s what I do or anything. Because it isn’t.

(HAVE I SAID TOO MUCH?)

I am unaware of what’s done for the interns at Cabinet-Department-That-Shall-Not-Be-Named, other than supporting and defending the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic. HOOAH. You know what I’d like to imagine, though?
  • Supreme Court interns get to try on the justices’ robes.
  • Pentagon interns get to ride the rings on Segways.
  • Nuclear Regulatory Commission interns get to turn the reactors off-and-then-on-again-really-fast.
  • Fish and Wildlife interns get to declare one animal “endangered.”
  • Smithsonian interns get to keep one thing from the collection, provided it is not currently on display and is no larger than a breadbox.
  • Bureau of Engraving and Printing interns get to insert their own faces on one single bill that then becomes legal tender.
  • NASA interns get all the astronaut ice cream they can eat.
So many possibilities!

* So I’m told. I don’t do outdoors.

June 2, 2014

June 2, 2014

YOU SHALL NOT PASS

I went to a performance of ABBA music at the Kennedy Center recently, and it was just as disconcerting as you would expect a performance of ABBA music at the Kennedy Center to be. It isn’t often that you get the National Symphony Orchestra and a disco ball in the same room. (To my great disappointment, they turned the disco ball on for just the last song. As if we hadn’t already been grooving for ninety minutes.)

Before the show and during intermission, I pretended to read a book on my Kindle app while secretly eavesdropping on the groups around me. (It’s an intelligence-gleaning practice I have perfected, if I do say so myself.) As I perused The Mental Floss History of the United States (WINK), I overheard both the couple on my left and the group on my right mentioning the musical Mamma Mia! as the reason they came to this show.

Hold up.

I’ve no doubt Mamma Mia! is a wonderful show, as it has spawned a film version and earned many millions of dollairs.*But if you come to an ABBA concert and I hear you say something like, “Oh, these songs were in Mamma Mia!” while looking at the program, there’s a decent chance I will slap you before the 85-year-old lady usher realizes what’s happened.

Similarly, I would expect a true ABBA fan—someone who remembers that 1974 Eurovision contest—to slap both of us. Because we are both Johnny come latelies** when it comes to ABBA and how DARE we pretend to know anything about anything? I don’t announce my entrance into Mormon churches (temples? halls?) with “Oh, I’ve seen the Book of Mormon so I’m all set.” I don’t know whether Mormons slap people, but they would be within their rights to do so on this occasion IMO.

Okay, so back to the concert. I was in a section specifically set aside for “young people” (ages 18-30) under the Kennedy Center’s MyTix program. It’s a great program, exposing poor uncultured youngsters like myself to the grandeur of the tay-uh-tuh. Though I buy a full-price ticket when I have to (see Book of Mormon, above), I’ll happily use MyTix to get two cheap tickets and drag along friend-of-blog P (also 18-30, very cultured) for an evening of drama, music, or what-have-you.

So when I see people very obviously NOT 18-30, I get a little miffed. By which I mean my normal level of miffedness gets dialed from 10 to 11.

There was a couple probably in their 50s sitting in the seats in front of me. The woman had that preppy look going on wherein the sweater (with very prominently-displayed Polo logo) is tied around the neck. My reaction, obviously: 

My favorite commercial of all time, Cheerios. Well played.

This is not the first time this has happened, and it’s enough to make me consider ushering at the Kennedy Center just so I can throw out every person with a MyTix ticket and a pair of reading glasses, grey hair, and/or knowledge of what a ditto machine is.***

* I’m no Julie Klausner, but I try.
** Anybody know the capitalization and punctuation on that phrase? You hear it all the time, but too rarely do you see it used in your reference materials and your periodicals.
*** I was going to put in “memories of Burger Chef” as the last item in this list, as a callback to Mad Men’s excellent season, until my helper hippo informed me that the last Burger Chef didn’t close until 1996.