Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The Most Unintentionally Ironic & Kind of Sad Song I Have Heard in a While

From The Happiest Millionaire: "The Land of Golden Chariots"


Programming Update

Due to a sudden upswing in foreign-language spam (some of which I only learned the nature of when I got my coworker Wenge to translate it for me), I'm adding a word-verification step for comments*. That should teach those dirty-minded robots! If, by "teach" you mean "not affect at all."

We now return you to your regularly scheduled apartment cleaning.

*You can still comment anonymously, if you quite reasonably don't want anyone to know you're reading this stuff.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Shoesday: Out With The Old, On With The New

Don't you hate all the posts this time of year about renewal and resolutions? Well, tough, because here comes another one.

I spent yesterday cleaning out my closet, a development that actually has a lot less to do with the incoming year than it does to the fact that in about a week and a half we are moving to a fabulous new apartment, and even though it has ample closet space, I don't want to have to move anything more than absolutely necessary*. I've done this before, on previous moves, but I was feeling particularly brutal today, and even the usually-sacred-haven of my shoe closet was not spared in the frenzy of trashing and donating.

(For the faint of heart, I want to assure you that the shoes pictured here were not among the casualties. I'll get to writing about them in a minute, but I just wanted to make sure that was clear.)

The shoes I did get rid of fell into two categories: worn too much (already-replaced running sneakers, well-loved but past-the-point-of-repair everyday shoes, all sent to the trash with some regret) and not worn enough. The latter were a mix of purchasing mistakes and the not-quite or no-longer fabulous enough, shoes that simply were not earning their closet space. None of them had shown up on the blog, which I think is telling. If a shoe isn't interesting enough to write about, why keep it around?

These shoes, on the other hand, are interesting enough to have their own blog. They were my birthday present from Cameron (picked out by me), purchased on our stop in New York and fabulous beyond human comprehension. You should see them with the purple tights.** In fact, I wore them into BevMo and two separate people (an employee and a guy who was there browsing the tequila selection and talking about how he was growing chronic (his words) for the government now) spontaneously came up and told me how awesome they were. True story.

*Actually, my preference would be to have all of my stuff magically teleport to the new place. I hate moving.

**I'm trying to come up with a way to work these into my New Years plans of getting my hair cut, going to Karen's Rock-Paper-Scissors Invitational and hanging out in the barn watching movies with my parents, but so far I'm coming up blank.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Why Do Government Scientists Get To Have All The Fun?

Researchers at Los Alamos kind of, accidentally, partially blow up a building.


Thursday, December 24, 2009

Another Christmas Song

It occurs to me that my Christmas song posts have, in the past, been somewhat negative in nature. There was this analysis of what remains, in my opinion, the most annoying Christmas song ever. (Yes, even worse than the barking dogs. At least they didn't take themselves so damn seriously.) And, of course, this classic television moment. So I thought this year I would do something unrelentingly cheerful and positive, with much better production values. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you: Stephen Colbert with "Another Christmas Song"

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
A Colbert Christmas: Another Christmas Song
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical HumorEconomy


(Excerpts from the yet-to-be-written book based onthis actual headline.)

It was past midnight in the Cancun Museum of Science and Juan, the obviously expendable security guard, was making his rounds. Humming La Bamba, he played his flashlight across the exhibits on soap bubbles and rainbows and 11-dimensional M-theory, in the bored manner of doomed security guards everywhere.

When he came to the traveling exhibit of animatronic dinosaurs, however, he paused. Not because he was interested in the mot advanced examples of robotic dinosaurs available for public exhibition, but because his shoelace had come untied. As he stood back up, he heard a noise, like giant metal feet trying to sneak quietly across linoleum.

"Hola," he said. "¿Que es eso*?"

Then he saw it, and before he had time to scream, or even form an upside-down question mark, the giant metal teeth lunged out of the darkness and ripped through his flesh in a way that was nothing at all like breaking open a piñata.

Somewhere in the distance, the surface of an unattended glass of water rippled.

* * * * * * *

"My God, man, what have you done?" said Rick, the well-muscled American expat, living in Mexico for reasons having nothing to do with "tax evasion" or "outstanding warrants."

Dr. Benson, the older and much less attractive scientist, leaped up from his chair. "I was finishing my work! They wouldn't fund it as science, but for a travelling museum exhibit the money poured in. I was able to create the world's first perfect robotic dinosaur replica!"

"But what went wrong?" asked Carla, the hot and caring dolphin researcher who found Rick's machismo annoying but secretly attractive.

"Nothing went wrong. It worked perfectly! Except for the off switch," Dr. Benson added. "That went a little wrong."

"I'll say," said Rick. "It's killed three people so far, and Spring Break starts tomorrow. This place is about to be crawling with drunk kids."

The scientist went pale. "College students? Oh, no."

"What? What is it?" said Carla.

"Well, you see, I had some bad experiences when I was teaching undergrads, and it may have slightly influenced the programming. . ."

* * * * * * *

"Dude, I am so drunk," said a drunk college student.

"Dude, like, me too," said another drunk college student.

"Dude, we should get a reality show where we get drunk and, like, get girls and stuff."

"Heh. Yeah. Awesome."



"Is that, like, a dinosaur?"

"Dude, you are wasted!"

"Yeah, but, du-- AAIIIEEEEE!"

Moments later, blood with an alcohol concentration of about 0.07% gushed down the street and flowed into the darkened city's well-maintained gutters.

* * * * * * *

Rick looked across the table at Carla, or more specifically at the unbuttoned shirt she had thrown on over her bikini top when she heard the news. "It's up to us to stop this thing," he said. "The police don't believe us, they think it's the drug cartels. We're the only ones who can save these people."

"But, how? And by the way, my eyes are up here."

"Yeah, so? Anyway, we're gonna need something big to stop this thing. Bullets don't hurt it, and it'll tear right through anything smaller than a tank."

"Okay, well, do you have a tank?"

"Nope. But I can get us something better."

*Eso no es queso.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Scent of a Dead Person

Looking for that perfect gift for someone with a celebrity obsession and very little understanding of molecular biology? How about some cologne "Engineered from the(mtDNA)* of some of the most recognized Celebrities & Famous people in the world"? Celebrities and Famous people! The scent of DNA! And it's on sale!

I don't see how you can miss with this one.

*mitochondrial DNA. Which means you'll smell like anyone in their maternal line. Also, you will gain their ability to use the Force.

Shoesday: Green Christmas

We are suffering from brutal winter conditions here in the Bay Area at the moment, by which I mean it is raining. Rain is pretty much it for winter around here*, which suits me just fine. People who move here have a way of complaining about how they don't like it that the seasons don't change**, but I have been to other places in winter and what should have been spring and I realized there was a key fact these people were leaving out: Yeah, the seasons change; they change to things that are bad. Everything gets cold and gray and slippery and there are horrible things like sleet. (Rain with snow mixed into it. This is. in my opinion, a terrible idea.)

So I am perfectly happy to only have rain to deal with, but it does present some challenges to the dedicated shoe-wearer. Suede is right out, of course, and anything with a leather sole that I haven't gotten around to having rubber soles put on yet. (A good local cobbler is a fine thing to have. So is an apple cobbler, but that's another post.) Which makes it handy to have a few workhorses, like these kind of silly but surprisingly useful faux-fleece lined boots I got on sale at Aerosoles a couple of years ago. Stunningly fabulous? Well, no. But sometimes you go with the merely nice in order to save the fabulous for more favorable conditions.

*Sometimes we have frost.
**Clearly not true: We have when it rains and when it doesn't rain. In the summer there's fog.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Abandon All Taste, Ye Who Enter Here

Are you a fan of true late-mid-century, high-grade American design fromage? Then trust me when I say that you need to book yourself onto the Carnival Elation toot suite (that's French for "before you sober up"). It is a truly remarkable thing, not only for the quality of tacky decorations, but the thoroughness with which they were applied. Trust me, when it came to this ship, no expense (or surface) was spared in the designers' attempt to achieve chintzvana.

When we first got on, and I was faced with the brown-and-orange color scheme, I will admit that I was nervous. I had heard a bit about Carnival as a cruise line; that the ships were run-down and poorly maintained*, that the crowds were loud and young and drunk**, that the food was lousy***. So I was worried that this was not a good sign. But when we got out of the lower decks and into the public spaces, I realized my fears were unfounded. This ship was not a lousy place, it was an awesomely, spectacularly, fabulously awful place.

There was dark and heavily carved wood, inlaid checkerboard walls and the kind of stained glass you find in finer dive bars everywhere. There were pillars molded with vaguely Greek-vase-ish figures, accentuated by pinholes of colored lights. There was gilding, and neon, and tiers of rainbow lights. There was a five-story atrium with colored spotlights and a man at the piano singing heavily accented and largely out-of-tune renditions of classic rock songs, from lyrics he read off his laptop screen. And everywhere, and I mean everywhere, there were thousands of small plastic "crystals" that lit up and changed color.**** Also, they had decorated for Christmas.

It reminded me of San Luis Obispo's Madonna Inn-- in my opinion, the gold standard of unwinking absurdity in decoration, but there was also something very Vegas about it. But not the new, modern, shiny Vegas; this was the Excalibur of the sea.

Oddly enough, though, I actually came to like it better than the decor on the newer and more modern ships I have been on. It was more honest. Under the light wood and blue-tinted windows, as desperately as they want you to forget it, the new ships are every bit as mass-produced and tacky as an old booze-cruiser like the Elation.

And the strangest part? How quickly we assimilated to it. The light-up panel in the corner of our room bearing a drawing of the Mauritania went in less than a day from being a source of wonderment and hilarity, to just a way to get light under the TV. And it was the same with the rest of it; after a while it seemed perfectly natural to walk into a piano bar with a badly rendered Statue of Liberty head on one wall and a lit-up model of the Brooklyn Bridge along another. (And then to turn around and walk right back out, because they allowed smoking in there and living in California destroys your tolerance for that sort of thing.)

Never could quite stop giggling at those crystals, though.

*Not true.
**Kind of true.
***Entirely true, unfortunately.
****What I want to know is, what was the thought process that went into those? Did no one look at the giant boxes and piles of them and think, even for a minute, "Hey, maybe we're overdoing the little crystals." Or was there some kind of Spinal Tap/Stonehenge-type mixup, and they only meant to get a couple hundred of them but someone moved a decimal point and they ended up off by a couple orders of magnitude, and the couldn't return them, so they decided to jut run with it?

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Shoesday: The Return

You know how some weekends you start off just getting on a cruise ship, minding your own business, and the next thing you know you've spent way too much money on piña coladas and slept in so late that you were having your breakfast around the time most people would consider more appropriate for "lunch," and watched some terrible karaoke (but not participated, because you didn't spend that much money on piña coladas), and looked out the window at Mexico and decided not to bother, and attempted to learn the rules of football, which seems to involve something known as "downs" and also a lot of shiny pants (you're not sure, but you suspect that the real, secret, rule is that the team with the shiniest pants wins), and ate food that was not that good, but there certainly was plenty of it, and nearly scalded yourself in a shockingly hot hot tub, and discovered that you like both saying and drinking Harvey Wallbangers, and used your jewelry case as a purse, which worked fine until it flew out of your hand in the disco, scattering earrings all over the dancefloor? And then suddenly it's Monday, and you feel like you're still on a boat, though available evidence would indicate otherwise? And you realize the fact that you have not done anything remotely productive for the last four days, short of scribbling some notes for a blog post on a piece of stationary, which you really should dig up, because you're pretty sure they were brilliant?

What I'm saying is, these are not the times to confront the fact that at some point in the past you have purchased pink suede kitten heels. You know how it is.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

How To Make A Cup Of Tea: A Handy Powerpoint Guide

Shoesday, Eventually

The Story*:

Well, it's been a busy week, what with the traveling and the conference sessions and the working out in the hotel gym, and the torrential rains, and the poster sessions, and the complementary beverages at the poster sessions, and the additional beverages at dinner, and the wondering if the new storm moving in is going to be a problem with going on the cruise, and the hotel room TV channel selection, and the uncertainty as to who, if anyone will still be employing me after next week, and the very limited number of outfits I have to wear here, due to having packed the small suitcase because I don't trust Virgin America not to take away the other one and charge me twenty dollars. Also, I didn't even pack these shoes, because the pants they were supposed to go with shrank rather dramatically in the wash, so I didn't have to get them hemmed, which is all well and good, but I also do not, technically, fit in them now, which is not well or good, so I only have skirts. Also jeans, but I haven't been wearing them, because I am attempting to appear Professional, which would probably be going a lot better if it weren't for all the Beverages.

(I do actually have a couple of very nice pairs of shoes with me, but I don't have a picture of them so I am just going to have leave you in suspense.)

*AKA, the excuses

Monday, December 07, 2009

San Diego Bits & Bobs

1. At some point during this conference I really should make it out of dinner somewhat sober.

2. I saw a girl in the airport with boots like these, and now I want some. Damn my impressionable mind!*

3. People from Australia are impressed if you know about cricket, even if what you know is that England beat their team resoundingly earlier in the year. Also, the concept of a "rebuilding year" transcends national boundaries.

4. I am not going to get the Shoesday post written for tomorrow morning, because someone seems to have reordered the keyboard on my laptop. Sorry.

*Note: I am not going to go out and buy those actual boots. I'm not that crazy.

Conference: Day 0.5

Things I have learned so far today:

1. A small percentage of HIV-infected patients are able to control the disease with slightly autoreactive neutralizing antibodies.

2. The conference doesn't provide breakfast pastries, only coffee and tea.
2a. There is a Starbucks, but the line is long.
2b. The amount of frosting on the lemon poundcake is a bit much.

3. The new hot phrase in antibody engineering is "There's a lot of room on the bottom." (Possibly paraphrased from Feynman.)

4. I can make it through about forty minutes of straight presentation time before I doze off.

5. The H1N1 virus is closely related to the 1918 influenza strain, and may have re-emerged in part because most of the people with protective immunity have died off.

6. San Diego isn't a lot of fun in the pouring rain.

7. (Addendum from last night) I really should not drink wine at work events

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Off To San Diego!

Will report back as to whether there are any shoes there.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Shoesday: Got My Writing Boots On

The Story:

Last weekend I sat around the apartment, ate more carbs and drank more wine than was good for me, read an entire Carter Dickson novel and watched a variety of movies. This post isn't about last weekend. This is about the weekend before last, when I went to the Berkeley Mystery Writing Intensive, where authors such as Cornelia Read, Sophie Littlefield, Tim Maleeny, Tony Broadbent, Juliet Blackwell, Seth Harwood and Some Movie Guy held forth on topics useful to those interested in making a living out of murder, without all the messy cleanup*. (The event was organized by Sharon Johnson, whose powers of organization are such that she probably could actually herd cats, and then get them to fold flyers.) Also on the guest list was Sophie's agent, Barbara Poelle** who, by dint of her profession, was immediately the object of the desperate attention of the great unpublished hordes***. I don't know what Sophie has on her, but it must be good. I knew coming in that she didn't represent the sort of stuff I write,**** but that didn't stop me from piping up at every opportunity with increasingly inane comments, to the point where she not only knew my name, but pronounced it with a little sigh.

But what's the point? What does this have to do with the picture at the top of this post? You ask.

Thanks for the reminder, I say, hauling myself back from the brink of the mud puddle of self-loathing. The point is that I was wearing these boots on Saturday. So, while from the knees up I may have been a stammering moron, with two unsalable books on my hard drive and another one on the way, wearing a shirt that I didn't realize gapped quite so much at the top and asking ridiculously contrived questions the answers to which were only of interest to me, from the knees down I was awesome.

*I totally would have been an assassin, if it wasn't for the dry cleaning bills. Also, blood makes me pass out.
**Occasionally described as "slithery."
***Okay, there were about twenty of us.
****i.e. Barely comprehensible ravings of insanity, with lots of footnotes.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Holiday Weekend Stats

Wine Drunk: >Too Much

Writing Done: 0

Bejeweled Blitz Facebook Game High Score: 198,650

Bejeweled Blitz Facebook Game High Score Beaten On Sunday Night By: Cousin Jake's Wife Jen

Times Blanket Covering Couch Washed, Due to Recurrent Cat Pee: 3

"Scat Mat" Brand Electric Cat-Repellent Mats Purchased: 1

Pulled-Pork Sandwiches Eaten: 1

Small But Very Hot (Yet Still Kind Of Tasty) Peppers Eaten (By Me): .5

Small But Very Hot (Yet Still Kind Of Tasty) Peppers Eaten (By Cameron): ~10.5

Movies Watched On The Topics Of a) Zombies b) Drag Pageants c) Vacations In Italy: 3

Amount Of Harp Practice Done: 0

Next Harp Lesson: Wednesday

Heavy Cream Used in Sauce for Gnocchi: ~1/2 Pint

Magazines Read While Sitting Outside On The Patio: 2

Books Read While Sitting Outside On The Patio: 1

Happiness To Live In A Place Where You Can Sit Outside And Read At The End Of November:

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Aunt Lola's Etiquette Advice For All Possible Occasions: Thanksgiving Edition

For the most part, Aunt Lola offers her advice on twitter, but for those questions for which one hundred and forty characters simply isn't sufficient, I have offered her the space to answer them here on my blog. Enjoy.

Dear Aunt Lola,

Do you have any advice on getting through a Thanksgiving with a non-traditional family? Mother recently left Father for a younger vampire (she says it's a werewolf thing, but frankly, none of us are buying that) and she wants to bring him along, which is a problem because Grams says he tried to feed on her back in the 1870s. Aunt Mary's second husband is a zombie, and he always puts brains in the stuffing, even though no one else likes them. Grandpa insists on killing the turkey himself, except that with his false teeth it takes forever for him to rip out the throat, and by the time he's done there are feathers absolutely everywhere and most of the meat is ruined. (And don't even get me started on my cousins and their "science projects.") And the worst part is, I'm bringing my new boyfriend to meet them all for the first time, and I don't want him to think that we're weird. What should I do?


Hungry For the Holidays

Dear Ms. Holidays,

Firstly, it is foolish to ever ask Aunt Lola if she has advice. Aunt Lola always has advice, for all occasions. It's right there in the name. Secondly, don't worry so much about things you can do nothing about. There are some things in life we can not control, and family is most of them. The best we can hope to do is contain the damage. Therefore, I would suggest that you tolerate your mother's new beau as best you can, for her sake, However, if you think he is likely to attempt to renew his acquaintance with your grandmother, I would recommend that you keep a cup of Holy Water on hand, which can be "accidentally" spilled, as it is awkward to try and explain attacking someone with a stake in a social situation. As for the issues with the dinner, your best option is simply to have a quick bite at home before you leave, so you can take just enough food to be polite, without feeling compelled to eat it. Remember that Thanksgiving is more about family coming together and celebrating traditions than it is about the particulars of the feast, and it's better to wait while your grandfather gnaws his way through a turkey throat than to insult him by suggesting he is no longer able to play a valued role.

Thirdly, and finally, do not try to hide or change your relatives for the sake of your boyfriend. They are who they are, and he is bound to find out eventually. And the sooner he knows them, the better he will be able to arm himself for the next encounter.

Yours Truly,

Aunt Lola

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Shoesday: Wedging it In

The Story:

Why lizard print? More specifically, why lizard print on vaguely sneaker-ish three inch wedges with ankle straps and imitation shoelaces, that miss the appearance of orthopedic shoes by just thismuch?

Well, why not?

Seriously, I'm taking reasons.

Monday, November 23, 2009

My Top Five Names For My Band, If I Had One, Which I Don't

5. The Abashed Romantics
4. Crazy-Eyed Monkey*
3. The Human Phenom Project
2. Self-Titled Debut**
1. Shoetember!

*I have this necklace
**Only for the first album. For the second one, we would change our name to "Self-Titled Follow Up"

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Handy Holiday Gift Suggestions

Is there a girl aged 5-9 years* in your life? Does she like Hello Kitty? Well, you could get her something like this:

You know, if you don't care about her at all.

But if you really want her to be happy, you'll buy her this:

Sure, it costs 25 grand, but really, can you honestly put a price on a child's happiness?**

*I am aware that some of the above may actually be intended for real, fully grown adults; I simply refuse to accept it.
**Yes: $25,000. Or $5 for a tube of cookie dough.

Aunt Lola's Etiquette Advice For All Possible Occasions

Also known as my new Twitter project. In it, I adopt the persona of Aunt Lola, and provide advice for those social occasions that are not generally covered by your standard etiquette manuals. Such as:

Always enter the villain's secret lair from the left, to avoid the piranha tank.


It is almost never appropriate to bring C4 as a hostess gift.

The name is @etiquette4all, because Twitter limits the number of characters you can use and I couldn't think of anything funny that would fit.

(Update for the benefit of people named Karen: There is also an RSS feed option, for those who are not interested in the twitter thing. Just saying.)

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Shoesday: Shoe Block

The Story*:

Have you ever had one of those days where you looked at a pair of shoes and found you had nothing to say about them? Have you stared and stared at the photo, as if willing it spring to life and begin dictating a blog post to you? And then has your mind wandered to other thoughts, like whether you have enough milk for breakfast tomorrow, and how it's kind of sad that your browser has added the Facebook Bejeweled game to your most-visited pages, and despite that your cousin's wife is still beating your high score? And then have you eaten a few candied walnuts, because even though you don't like walnuts you will eat anything if it's covered with brown sugar, and thought about this picture and how you would have lots of things to say about those shoes, none of them nice?

No? Oh. Yeah, me neither.

Hey, look, sequins!

*Or, in this case, lack thereof.

Monday, November 16, 2009

It's Not Too Late! (But It's Close. . .)

For what? For signing up for the Berkeley Mystery Writing Intensive!

WONDER at the talents of several published authors and an actual movie writer/director/actor! GASP at the stories of real law enforcement officials! THRILL at the chance to see a rare live agent in captivity! DRINK with all assembled until you do something inadvisable! SPEND the next three weeks negotiating the return of the pictures!

What I'm saying is, you really should be there.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

It May Be a Trap. . .

Whoops, no, it's just a podcast of a story about them. My bad.

Actually, it's my story. Give it a listen, won't you?

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Double-Stuffed Oreos: The Quest for the Truth

Subtitle: Double or Nothing

With their labeling, Nabisco makes the bold, if implied claim that their "Double Stuffed" Oreos have double the stuff of a normal, or "wild type" Oreo. But do they? The question cried out to be tested. So I did.

Side-by-side comparison:


-- Subject Cookies
-- Razor Blade (clean)
-- Weigh Paper

And, of course:

-- A lab coat with my name on it*


Pre-Weigh the Cookies

(All weights in grams, because we roll like that.)

Disassemble, employing the razor blade.

Weigh the Stuff.

Wild Type:


Based on these data, I would say that the more accurate title for the Double-Stuffed Oreo would be the 2.38x-Stuffed Oreo. I expect a renaming to be imminent.

*Yes, that is my name.

Do I Have the Product For You

Do you like juice, but feel like it doesn't spoil fast enough?

Do you prefer your alcoholic beverages to be of questionable origin?

Do you wish you were more like the Germans?

Well, your dreams are coming true today.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Shoesday: Concatenation

The Story:
Bad title? Yes, but it's getting hard to do anything sans-catination around here, what with the wiliness and the claws. Also, he has taken to chewing clean through shoelaces*, which is why these (gold Missoni flats, thanks for asking), live safely in the shoe closet.

*We are considering the possibility that he may actually be a dog.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Country Music Word Problem II


What is the AMA-recommended treatment for a busted give a damn (see supplemental materials, below)? Chose one option and explain your selection in the space provided.

a) Elevate, apply a cold compress.
b) Immediate surgery.
c) Tourniquet!
d) Five shots of tequila, egg the sumbitch's car.

Supplemental Materials:

Friday, November 06, 2009

The Ugliest Pants in the History of Pants

Tapered. Cropped. High-waisted. Balloon-crotched. Distressed. Culottes. Apparently designed with Torgo as the fit model.

And the best part? Retail price: $352.

Of course, if you hurry, you can buy them from Gilt for only $138. And they have plenty of sizes left!

Free Music Friday: The Duhks

This Fall by The Duhks

(Edited: It occurs to me that this feature is somewhat misleadingly titled, as none of the music I've had so far is still free. But I'm not sure what else to call it. Free At One Point Music Friday? Music I Didn't Pay For, But I Think You Should?)

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Why I Get a Flu Shot

Today, my left shoulder is hurting and I have been asked repeatedly if I have ever had an adverse reaction to eggs. That's right: I got my flu shot. There are various points of debate about the value of getting a flu shot, some of which are reasonable, others that are stupid. My reasons for getting it are twofold:

1) It is a truth universally acknowledged that having the flu is, for the most part, no more than a minorly unpleasant experience, somewhat mollified by the fact that you get to stay home and watch The Price is Right which, shockingly, Drew Carey is not doing that bad of a job at hosting. No, seriously; he seems to be genuinely happy for the contestants, and he manages to introduce Plinko with a totally straight face. So: the flu. Bad, but not that bad. Getting shots: also bad. What to do?

Well, the flu isn't entirely innocuous. After all, it does kill thousands of people every year, mostly small children and the elderly.

"But, so what," you say. "I am neither a small child or the elderly. How do I factor into this?"

First: You're a terrible person. Honestly, who says something like that? Also, you aren't considering the bigger picture here. Viruses don't spread themselves*. They need vectors; in this case people, in others, mosquitoes. Which means that all of us, struggling in to work, curled up and whimpering in bed, yelling at the TV that there is no way that a two-pack of toilet bowl cleaner goes for $12.73, are all node points in the great epidemian** flow chart.

Which means, assuming that the people who determine these things*** guess correctly as to which flu strains are going to be percolating though our collective bloodstreams this winter, by getting the vaccine you can turn yourself into a dead end on that path, and the fewer people there are spreading the virus, the less it will be spread, and the lower the chances it will reach one of those sensitive people who you are not. And while, statistically, the contribution of one individual to this is almost vanishingly small,**** I figure it's probably the right thing to do.

2) My mom makes me.

Actually, it's mostly reason #2.

*At least, not until I finish my current "project." Then they will be sorry they laughed at me! Oh yes, they will be sorry.
**Firefox doesn't think this is a word; I think it should be.
***I'm pretty sure it's done by Magic 8-Ball.
****Just like voting!

Your Thursday Insanity

Because it is Thursday, I thought I would try and come up with with something insane to post for you enjoyment. But I've got nothing, because all of the insanity in the world is being used up by this trailer. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you: RoboGeisha.

(Note: Contains some inappropriate material. Though, shockingly, it is not porn.)

("Thanks" to David for the tip.)

(Also, that's a circular saw blade, not a chainsaw. I mean, honestly.)

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Selling Out: Not Just For Japan Anymore

(Discovered by Cameron via German TV)

Shoesday: A Night at the Opera Pump

The Story:
Every once in a while, fashion people get all excited about womenswear that looks like menswear, which is all well and good, even if it hasn't been that revolutionary for about seventy years. But what about womenswear that looks like menswear that looks like womenswear? Where, I ask, is the love, or at least the outrage? (Outrage, of course, being somewhat preferred.)

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Country Music Word Problem

In the Patty Loveless song "You Can Feel Bad If It Makes You Feel Better" the singer states:

Maybe I'll go out tonight, yeah, I'll paint the town
And maybe I'll run into you, while I'm runnin' 'round
There's a good chance I'll be alone
An even better one that you won't

Given the preceding, what are the odds that a) both will be alone and b) both will be accompanied. Please express your answer in terms of "chance" and show your work for full credit.

Extra Credit Question: The singer also states "Take another look at these tears I'm crying/They're not fallin' on your shoulders, they're fallin' on mine." Describe two situations, assuming normal human anatomy, in which a person could reasonably be expected to be crying on her own shoulders.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Boots For Abigail

(The following is the story of people looking at pictures of shoes on the internet. If this is not something that sounds interesting to you, I would advise that you skip this post, because you will be bored.)

This is Abigail:

*Cat sold separately.

Abigail lives in the DC area, due to an unfortunate clerical error that located the National Standards Bureau* there, an agency that apparently is in the business of abducting innocent Californians and giving them postdoctoral positions. Anyway, they seem to have some sort of winter thing, involving cold weather coming to you, instead of you going to visit in the mountains like a civilized person, so she is in need of some boots.

So she sent out a call for help, with a list of a few of her favorite options, and Mary** and I weighed in with our own ideas.

Because I know that nothing helps a person who is faced with too many things to chose from than more options, I came back these***, these and, of course, these:

While Mary offered her slightly-more-helpful selections from Abigail's list, topped by these:

Though she did mention some concerns about something called "snow" and "ice." Not sure what that was about.

As it stands, I do not yet know what, if any boots have been selected. I would say I would keep you updated, but I'm pretty sure that no one except Abigail has read to this point, and I expect she would already know.

P.S. The Moral of this Story? I really want some Frye short Engineer boots, though I remain neither an engineer nor a badass.

*Apparently, we have standards. Who knew?
**This is Mary:

***I subsequently fell in love with these myself, leading to my being quoted on the Lucky Magazine blog about my concerns of worthiness, due to lack of badassery.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Free Music Friday

I am a big fan of the free music downloads offered by iTunes and Amazon. They've sort of taken the place of the samplers I used to get from the now-departed, much-missed Hear Music. (Yes, I know it persists as Starbucks' in-house music label. I think that's all I need to say about that.) So I thought I would offer them a little "thank you," in the form of a regular blog feature that will, um, feature some of the ones I find particularly good. Like would-actually-for-them good.

Today's offering: Not one but two songs by Desoto Jones, a band I know nothing about but whose album I should probably buy, seeing as how I like their music so much.

Both of these came from Amazon, on Deep Elm Sampler No. 8 "Bonfire of Trust" which, sadly, is no longer free. (You can subscribe to their download newsletter if you want to know what's on offer each week.)

Giant Magnets


The interesting thing, to me anyway, is that I rated these songs separately, and only later noticed that they were by the same band. Make of that what you will.

: A link to all the free music currently on offer on Amazon.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Craziest Use of a Regular Polygon You Will See All Day

(Hat tip @BillCorbett, via the Twitwire)


This is a post about perfume. Sort of.

A couple of years ago I adopted, as my regular perfume, Daisy by Marc Jacobs, on the principle that if someone makes a perfume specifically for you, it would simply be rude not to wear it. As it happens, Daisy smells exactly like the sort of perfume I would wear, and it's in a bottle that looks just like the sort of thing I would own.

So it all works out very well. But now I have a conundrum.

You see, Marc Jacobs has come out with a new perfume, Lola:

Lola is not my name. But I wonder, if I wear Daisy, and I am Daisy, then if I wear Lola, will I become Lola? And what kind of Lola would I be? Personally, for a preference, it would be this one:

I'm not totally sure who she is, exactly, but I bet she wears some absolutely killer boots.

On the other hand, if I become a tall transvestite or the center of a fatal love triangle, well, that could be cause for some concern. I'll keep you updated.

Besides, I always said that one day I would buy some perfume strictly on the basis of a cool bottle.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Real Athletic Event I Am Totally Not Making Up

The International Yoga Asana Championship*

2009 International Yoga Asana Championship from Mike McInnis on Vimeo.

(Warning: Prolonged exposure to the accompanying music may cause brain damage. And the reggae is kind of a surprise.)

I wonder, what is the smack-talking like at a yoga championship?
"You call that meditation?"
"My grandmother could align her chakras better than that!"
"Hey, nice mat!"
"You really think you're gonna achieve liberation from all worldly suffering and the cycle of birth and death with toe positions like that? Please."

Further questions:

Do the kids competing in the youth championships have hypercompetitive yoga parents living through them in the wings?

Why has no one come up with high-tech specialized clothing for this event? Is there a marketing opportunity here?

Is there an app for this?

*Yes, I did tweet this. But then Karen pointed out that there was video, and it was clear that this needed a more in-depth treatment. But I went with this blog post instead.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Shoesday: Birthday Shoes (Previous)

The Story:
As some of you may know, I recently had a Birthday, at which I turned an Age. (I will not mention what this age is, only that it is the last power of two I am going to be seeing for a while.) But turning old didn't turn out to be so bad, because I received a truly awesome pair of shoes as a birthday present from my dear, if currently somewhat far away, boyfriend. Neither of these shoes, fantastic as they are in their own ways, are them, though. I actually don't have a picture of the new shoes yet, because Cameron took my camera and went to Germany*, so that will have to wait.

These shoes were given to me last year, by people who care for me enough to want to make me happy, though the phrase "coals to Newcastle" may be bandied about a little more than I find entirely appropriate. And last year it was particularly appreciated, as I was in the throes of the buying freeze that would eventually bring down the world economy. (What? I said I was sorry.) I had even blogged about the first pair, as an example of the essential unfairness of the universe.

Which is probably exactly the kind of loss of perspective that drove Mom to give me them, and Cameron to buy me the wedges off my wish list.*** They may not entirely grasp why someone who might be considered to have a sufficient supply of shoes would want to buy more, but they know a cry for help when they hear one.

*He's coming back.**
**I'm pretty sure.
***FYI, Amazon lets you make a list with things from anywhere on the web, not just the stuff they sell. It can come in handy for general shopping ideas, irregardless of whether you want anyone else to get them for you.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Gloworm and Pilot Squirrel: A Parable For Our Times

Here, by popular demand* are pictures of the famous Gloworm and the squirrel that was in his head:

As you can sort of see, the squirrel is dressed as a pilot of some sort, hence his name: Fred.

No, really, we've been calling him Pilot Squirrel, anything else seems kind of excessive.

Both of the flaps on his hat and one of his feet appear to have been chewed off, possibly indicating that one or more of the Bateman boys was not getting enough plastic in his diet.

To me, Pilot Squirrel is a symbol of hope. His message is that, no matter how bad things get, even if your hat-flaps and foot have been chewed off and you have been stuck in a Gloworm's head for twenty years, someday, someone might just come along and pull you out.

And I think those are words we can all live by, don't you?

*Okay, so only Karen asked. But she's very popular.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Introducing: Shoesday!

The Story:
New month, new day, new format!* What, you didn't think I only had thirty pairs of shoes, did you? Silly rabbit.

I bought these on a sensible whim two years ago, to wear to the going-away parties of what seems like about half of my friends. (Not that it bothers me or anything. I am a tough and independent individual who could care less if half of her friends callously go away and leave her for little things like "jobs" and "fiancés.") A whim because, well, they are zebra-print Kate Spade peep-toe heels. But sensible because whose life wouldn't be improved by zebra-print Kate Spade peep-toe heels? Plus, they were on sale. And I have to say, they have proved to be surprisingly versatile, useful for those occasions when I want to give off the impression of being a stylish person but am to lazy, or late, to actually change my clothes.

Zebra: It's like leopard print, without the whiff of desperation.

*I decided that it wasn't that interesting to know what the shoes were made of or whether I would wear them to work.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Claw Box

The Box That Claws People!

(See here for reference.) (Language warning.)

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

What I Have Done Since the Last Time I Posted

Spilled water on my computer, killing it (yes, again).
Visited a Civil War battlefield and narrowly survived a coordinated assault by bugs.
Took forty minutes to travel 1.5 miles on the Beltway.
Decided I would like to hit all Washington drivers with a stick.
Traveled to New York.
Was given a most awesome birthday gift of shoes from Cameron.
Saw a Broadway play, chosen largely at random.
Shopped again.
Saw the Latin American Pre-(Anti?-)Columbus Day parade.
Survived a night of drinking/eating/karaoke/drinking.
May or may not have survived the day after.

All in all, it was quite a weekend.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Capital Shlepps

Or, Why You Should Not Excuse Every Indulgence With "I'm on Vacation!" and Why Pepto Bismol is the Unrestrained Traveler's Best Friend

Today's big event was my visit with Abigail, who lives here in DC, having left the Only Place Worth Living (California) due to some bizarre need for "gainful employment" and "career advancement." I only get to see her a couple of times a year now, so I've been looking forward to this as one of the highlights of the trip, which is why it is particularly unfortunate that my digestive system took today as its opportunity to explode.

I will not get into details, because this is not that kind of blog; I will only say that I ignored the signs and brought it upon myself, and when one has been eating rich foods for a week straight (coming off a normal diet consisting of reasonable portions of whole grains, lean proteins and lots of vegetables) starts feeling a little delicate, one should not decide to deal with the situation by "only" having a small barbecue chicken pizza for dinner. That may have been my downfall.

I didn't skip the day, of course, that would be unthinkable, but I did abandon poor Abigail at regular intervals, in places like bookstores and restaurants, and took her on a brief detour through a CVS to stock up on the magic pink tablets (now in Cherry Flavor!). Also, I declared that I wanted Japanese food for dinner, so I could have miso soup and grilled fish, which isn't the most considerate choice when the other person isn't crazy about seafood.

But, despite all that, we ended up having a pretty good time, and we saw Betsey Johnson in person (from across the street), which I have to admit is more celebrity sightings than I typically get in California. (She's tiny, by the way. Seems very nice, from a distance.)

And next time, next time, I really am going to learn to pace myself.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

What Did We Do Today?

1. Slept in.
2. Washed clothes.
3. Hung out with Cameron's mom.
4. Said goodbye to Cameron's brother.
5. Went through US Customs. In Canada. (I know it's normal; it just seems weird.)
6. Flew on a Dash8.
7. Got a gas-guzzling car rental upgrade.
8. Learned to use a GPS. (Turns out it's pretty easy.)
9. Tried to watch baseball on the surprisingly small TV in the hotel bar. View occasionally blocked by the gathering of Hasidic Jews checking their email.
10. Remembered that my phone was still off from the plane.
11. Called Abigail and woke her up, in order to plan tomorrow's activities.
12. Paid an inordinate amount to access the internet, in order to bring you this vital information.

Toronto: Didn't Make It to the Shoe Museum

Meant to, of course. But what with the giant bookstore, and the underground corridors, and seeing where Cameron used to live, and the big open-air market, and Chinatown, and the French restaurant with the really excellent fish soup where the chef/waiter upbraided a patron for ignoring his dinner in favor of his Blackberry, I'm afraid we just didn't have the time. Next trip, maybe.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Canadian Thanksgiving

1) Very much like American Thanksgiving (turkey, three kinds of carbohydrates, nominal vegetables, pumpkin pie), only held in October and in Canada.

2) Not actually supposed to occur until next week, but observed last night by Cameron's family in honor of our visit.

3) Leftover pie still eaten for breakfast.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Gloworm and the Squirrelbotomy

We took the train from Montreal to Toronto yesterday, which was nice because I got to see the trees that had all changed colors, which apparently is something they do here. Then we took a local commuter train from Toronto to Burlington, where Cameron's mother and brother live and his aunt and uncle are visiting.

During dinner, the subject of toys came up. Specifically, Cameron's regret at not buying a Millennium Falcon model he saw once in the window of a comic book store, to replace the one he had had as a kid.

"But it's still here," his brother Ben said. "It's down in the toy room. I'm not sure what kind of shape it's in, though."

We went down to the toy room.

It was a closet under the stairs, with that same dusty-sweet smell that every basement room everywhere seems to have, The Millennium Falcon was not immediately visible, so Cameron started searching. Ben and I peered in behind him.

"Is that a Gloworm?" I said. "I always wanted a Gloworm*."

"Here." Cameron handed it to me an the head fell off. It turns out that a three-boy household can be kind of hard on the toy population.

I got the head back on without too much trouble, but the inner workings were long gone. We had it out on the kitchen table, trying to figure it out, and Cameron's Aunt Donna was peering into the head.

"There's something in here," she said. "I'm going to pull it out."

So she reached in, the head having been re-detached for this purpose, tugged for a couple seconds and yanked out: A stuffed squirrel. Wearing a little pilot's suit.

I'm not sure if this was actually the funniest thing I have ever seen, or if that was just the wine, but it is definitely in the top ten.

The Millennium Falcon was eventually located (along with a slightly gnawed-on X-Wing and two wings from a Tie-Fighter), dusty and with a significant number of pieces missing. I believe the restoration process is now underway. As for Gloworm, he is resting comfortably on top of my suitcase, free from his head-squirrel for the first time in probably twenty years. I think he looks relieved, myself.

*Also a Lite Brite**, but that is not relevant to this story.
**I did have a LOT of My Little Ponies.

The Gold Floor

While in Montreal, we stayed at the Fairmont Queen Elizabeth, a fine and luxurious hotel that unfortunately was built in 1958 and therefore has the exterior appearance of a municipal parking garage. But inside it is beautiful, and made even more so if you have paid the extra money to stay on the "Gold Floor."

People who stay on the Gold Floor don't have to check in with everyone else. They get their own glass-walled elevator that takes them straight up to their own check in/concierge desk, which is attached to a lounge, which serves breakfast in the morning, hors d'oeuvres* in the evening and free cokes** all day. And, if they have mad hotel-booking skills, they don't even have to pay all that much for all this luxury.

I am so good at this.

*And I'm not just talking about a Costco cheese platter and some vegetables. There was baked brie, little meat pies, yogurt parfaits, duck rillette and a really fancy cheese platter, among other things. The breakfast spread was equally impressive.
**And other sodas, and juices, if you want to concern yourself with the unimportant details. Also there was alcohol, which was not free, but was done on the honor system. No word on what happens if the BOC*** has to get involved.
***Caltech joke.

Saturday, October 03, 2009


Poutine (noun): Traditional Canadian dish of french fries topped with cheese curds, topped with gravy. Served in a bowl large enough that you can eat it steadily for the better part of half an hour and people will make fun of you because it appears that you have barely touched it. Sometimes served with Montreal smoked meat.

Montreal Smoked Meat: Seasoned brisket, closely related to the pastrami. Can be ordered in varieties ranging from "extra lean" to "extra fat." Medium is recommended.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Nous Sommes Arrivés!

Greetings from Montreal, which is a lot like Canada, only Frencher. The redeye to get here was exactly as much fun as a cross-country redeye is, with bonus customs procedures and a free spilling of orange juice down my front. We managed to get ourselves some brunch at an imitation 50s diner, but I think that is the extent of the activities today until we get some sleep.

There will be poutine.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Shoetember Finale: The Meaning of Shoes

I have to say, I never expected this to be hard. Hey, just throw some shoe pictures on the blog, tell some stories about them, instant success! Or something. Anyways, it's been good.

So, why shoes? What is the point, anyway? What's it all about, Pucci?

Shoes are the least cruel branch of fashion. Not in comfort, necessarily, though improvements have been made, but, of all fashion, they are the one thing that anyone, not just fourteen-year-old Bulgarian anorexics can put on and feel as fabulous and fashionable as anybody else. (That and jewelry, I guess, but going around showing off your jewelry is just vulgar. Also, it rarely makes your legs look good.) They are easy too-- the quick way to take a tried-and-true outfit and make it fancy, or casual, or appropriate for hiking*. And of course, they're popular for being popular, like beanie babies, or tech stocks. Fancy shoes have become the established metric for female status, which I should nobly claim that I do not buy into at all, but come on. The truth? Whether it is for good reasons or base ones, for a certain segment of the population, nice shoes make us happy. And there's nothing wrong with a little bit of happiness.

But really, the meaning of shoes is that they keep your feet from being naked.

*Okay, that might be stretching it.

Shoetember: Of Travels Past and Future

Brand: Lulu Guinness
Purchased: Lulu Guinness boutique
Materials: Leather, Crystals
Work Wearability: Nope

Notes: I bought these the first time I went to New York as an adult, before Lisa moved there or Cornelia was nominated for an Edgar Award, at the very charming Lulu Guinness boutique in the West Village. I agonized over the purchase, but I think at this point we all know how that turns out for me.

This is relevant because I'm off, along with Cameron, for an Eastern-US-and-Canada trip, starting with a redeye Thursday night, that will include a stop in New York (along with Montreal, Burlington (Ontario), and Washington (DC)). I may end up in this store again, or I may not. Either way, I have these shoes, and really, shouldn't that be enough for anybody?