Monday, October 27, 2008

This Was Not Full Disclosure

Not long after I arrived in Nashville I added a second weather widget to my Mac dashboard: now I have one widget showing the Nashville weather and one showing the Cambridge, MA weather. It's made it just that much easier to crow about how much warmer it is here than there. More than a few times, now, I've pointed out to friends and family just how nice the weather was here than there. Since it stopped being 95 degrees and 100% humidity, I've been reveling in the glorious weather here. It's hardly rained at all, and generally been beautiful since about the middle of September.

That is, until now. When I checked at around noon it was 46 degrees out. A little later in the afternoon it went all the way up to about 50. A whole 50 degrees. In October. It was WARMER IN MASSACHUSETTS THAN TENNESSEE today.

Who thought that was a good idea? I know I definitely did not okay that. I had to wear a sweater and a coat when I went outside. And for my grocery run tonight I wore my down coat. MY DOWN COAT. IN TENNESSEE. IN OCTOBER.

I was under the impression that the South would be a land of warmth and glory where milk and honey flow freely through the land - or at least I wouldn't have to wear more than a sweater until December. I've even been told, in so many words, that it stays warm here until Thanksgiving. It is NOT Thanksgiving, folks, not for another four whole weeks. So what gives? What's the big bonus of living in a red state (I LIVE IN A RED STATE) if it's not going to allow me to wear absurdly little clothing in complete comfort until after Massachusetts has seen at least one snowfall? Do you mean to tell me that I get strip malls, no ocean, poisonous spiders (oh yes, folks, we have those here), and pickup trucks with gun racks and McCain/Palin stickers...and it's not even WARM?

Seriously. I want my money back.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Fan Mail

I'm not so into writing fan mail. I wrote fewer than five letters of adulation in all my overeager childhood years (and only one really came back to embarrass me later). I generally figure that any overblown feelings of admiration I might for someone I never met are just as well kept to myself as sent off to a manager who might or might not open the envelope before dropping it in the trash. I understand the basic realities of the business of celebrity...and I'm honestly not that impressed by most famous people these days anyway.

That's not to say there aren't a few bigtime stars whose presence wouldn't reduce me to a stammering, inchoerent blob. I freely admit that those people do exist - and thank God they do, because what would life be if there weren't a single human on earth whom you admired so intensely that they could rob you of basic verbal functions simply by being in the room?

It's a fairly small group of people, though, who I really think would have such a strong effect on me. But there's a larger group of people who might not reduce me to a blubbering mass but nonetheless stand in my highest esteem for who they are and/or what they do.

One such person is Heather B. Armstrong (and this is her website). I believe I have referenced this site before - my favorite blog in all of blogdom. When I began reading it I simply found it entertaining in all its snarky glory. Now that I've gone through all seven years' archived posts, I have gained the utmost respect for this woman. I still get a kick out of her snarky sense of humor, but I also have been moved by what she has to say, and have honestly had my perspective changed on more than one occasion.

So today I broke down and I wrote a fan letter. (fan email.) I'd like to think that it was a nice balance of adulation and restraint, of intelligent commentary and gushing flattery. I basically just explained that I've now read every single post published on her blog and that I'm a huge fan of both what she has to say and how she says it.

I refrained from adding "P.S. Your daughter is beautiful, your husband sounds awesome, and I'd like to move into your basement and be your best friend."

That's good, don't you think?

Thursday, October 16, 2008

The Itsy Bitsy.... Not a Spider....

I was thinking, a few weeks ago, that eventually I'd probably have to write an entry on bugs. This is the South, after all. The South is serious about its bugs. I was actually concerned about moving here specifically because of the bugs. I do not do bugs. Not even a tiny bit. (There's a story that involves a broom and a telephone and some hysterical crying....I won't get into it.)

When I had that thought, though, I brushed it aside with the very reasonable rationalization that as soon as I blogged about bugs I'd find them swarming into my life, when at that point I'd had basically no encounter with the crazy Southern insects. I figured I'd wait until they'd already made their appearance and then I'd tell the story.

So here's my bug story.

I like opening the windows, as you may recall from my allergenic lament earlier this fall. I really, really like opening the windows and enjoying the fresh not-quite-fall air, particularly when I'm bumming around my apartment in the late afternoon and there's just a little bit of a breeze. So over the weekend I went to open my windows, and as I did I noticed a whole bunch of teeny tiny winged bugs on the screen....on both sides. They were so small - and the screen so coarse - that they could walk right through the mesh.

I closed the window.

I went to the other living room window, and before I opened it I looked through. That screen was populated by the same little bugs, inside and out. I went to the bedroom window - all the way across the house, and lo and behold there were those same tiny buggers. Damn and blast!

They were too small to see any characteristics, but I nevertheless checked a National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Insects and Spiders out of the public library and attempted to locate my pests in it. No dice. Turns out "tiny, with wings, on window screen in Tennessee" doesn't show up in any of the descriptions.

Well, not-very-long story shorter: I have bugs on my screens. For five days now I've been unable to open my windows for fear they'll all come rushing in and the apartment will fill up with little winged nuisances. I think they might be fruitflies, but it's really impossible to say.

Okay, so that's not much of a bug story, I know, but I'm hoping that by writing it up as my big insect encounter in the South I'll save myself from having any worse episodes for at least a while. And if you really want bug stories, sometime I'll tell you about the one I had to beat to death with a shoe.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

This Is NOT a Pyramid Scheme

So lately I've been contemplating the topic of monetary income, specifically what various ways there are to generate it besides the standard show up at work, do what you're told, get paycheck from employer model. A few ideas:

  • Write a book. (....Publish the book. Convince people to buy the book. Pay back publishing costs. See what's left.)
  • Sell Ivy League eggs for genetically engineered children, at top dollar. (...after taking weeks of hormone shots. Have genetic children wandering the world somewhere.)
  • Invent something, patent it, and sell it. (....... any ideas?)
  • Become a rock star. (Dude, I'm working on it.)
  • Start a box company. (I can't take credit for this one. It also needs capital.)

...and a few old standbys:
  • Prostitution.
  • Deal drugs.
  • Marry rich.

(I've recently heard a few other ideas but I don't want to give them away in case the generator of those ideas decides to follow through on any of them. I'll let you know if any of them come to fruition.)

As you can see, each of these options has a small downside. I guess I'll just have to choose the least onerous....

What's that website?

Sunday, October 5, 2008

This Is Me Doing a Small Victory Dance around My Oven

I have made a great discovery: stove tops and I are arch nemeses, while ovens and I are totally BFF.

I've always enjoyed baking, and been relatively good at it. I attribute this in part to my love of eating baked goods, in part to my mother's and grandmother's skill in baking (and letting me watch or help), and in part to the use of strict recipes in baking (because that's how baking works).

I've never considered myself a cook. In fact, I've had some rather heated conversations involving me proclaiming vehemently that I am NOT A COOK and the other party swearing that I COULD BE A COOK if I tried.

For a long time I had very little motivation to learn to cook, as my family full of awesome cooks and they're usually willing to share (as most good cooks seem to be). Then I started living places other than home and I had somewhat more motivation to learn to cook, as I was suddenly responsible for feeding myself and cold Pop Tarts are really only appealing for so long. I never got very far, though, because most of my culinary experiments were disasters and of course I couldn't afford to throw that much food away, so I'd spend ten days eating something that really might have been better off in the trough for the livestock. I managed to conquer a few basic things, namely scrambled eggs, grilled cheese, and pasta with sauce out of a jar. Aside from that I assembled (sandwiches, salads) and defrosted (they make amazing frozen meals these days).

But as my cooking ability persisted in sucking, my baking flourished. I spent hours and hours baking endless varieties of cookies for anyone willing to eat them. I made quick breads, and eventually triumphed over yeast breads as well. (Turns out trying to raise dough in a 60 degree apartment - because no one wants to pay for heat - doesn't work very well.)

I kept vowing to learn to cook, "someday." It kept not happening. Then I moved to Nashville and had no friends and nothing to do, so I figured I'd have another go at the whole cooking thing. The lack of income might be a slight damper on the lavishness of the recipes, but I'm not looking for filet mignon here, just a nice stir fry.

And stir fry is exactly what I attempted, my second go - but first I should mention the vegetable lasagna, which was my first experiment and a wild success. Oh yes, ladies and gentlemen, I apparently make a mean veggie lasagna. Yes, I intend to tweak it a little the next time I make it, and I do want to graduate from jarred tomato sauce to homemade, but I actually made an entire dish that tasted really quite good, and which I enjoyed eating. This is monumental, people.

Confidence high, I decided to get really crazy and try a stir fry. I've been gradually learning how to cook tofu so it tastes like something other than library paste, and I have a no-fail recipe for brown rice, so it shouldn't be all that hard, right? Wrong. (Obviously.) It became two hours of low-level disaster, with too-small pans overflowing and general unhappiness. The end result was edible, but not what you might call inspiring. Meaning I ate it because it was too expensive to throw away and because it wasn't actively gross.

In my frustration, I began to consider what could possibly be the common thread between my culinary failures as opposed to my successes, and I realized that all the "cooking" I do that comes out well comes out of the oven. Cookies: oven. Lasagna: oven. Brown rice: I bake it. The stove top hates me, clearly. I don't know if we'll ever get along. But! This means that I can assure myself a greater degree of success if I just stick to the oven!

So tonight was Nashville Culinary Experiment Number Three: pizza. I have never made a pizza before (unless you count helping put the toppings on, back when I was under the age of twelve). I attempted a whole-wheat crust pie with cheddar cheese, broccoli, and fake Italian sausage... and homemade tomato sauce! The result? Well, I need to use more spices next time, because it's a little bland. But it's really not bad at all. I'm excited to try again. By halfway through the stir fry I was vowing "never again."

Thesis proved: me + stove = 'where's the trash can?' me + oven = yum.

And luckily, for those days when it's just too hot to turn the oven on, I can pour a mean bowl of cereal.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Girls Will Be Girls

I have very definite opinions about the upcoming election, and I do believe there's a "right" answer to "who are you voting for?" But right now I don't want to talk about the right answer, I want to talk for a moment about what I see as one very, very wrong answer: Sarah Palin.

I've never met Sarah Palin. All I know about her has come, in some way or another, through mass media (interviews, articles, the debate). It's possible that she's a very nice woman on a personal level, and perhaps in another context I'd find her unobjectionable. However, as a candidate for the Vice Presidency of the United State, I find her personally offensive and insulting to women as a group.

Sarah Palin is completely unqualified to be Vice President. The state she's governed has the third smallest population of any state in the union; she didn't know what the Bush Doctrine is (which would be fine....if she wasn't running for executive office); she apparently legitimately believes that she has foreign policy experience based on Alaska's geographically proximity to Russia. This woman has no business being second in command in this country, and I hate to even consider the (very real) possibility that McCain won't make it through four years, and she'll be in charge.


Sobering though, isn't it?

Again, maybe she's very good at field dressing those moose - I really don't know. But she's completely unqualified to be VP.

The fact that the Republican's are trying to sell her as a champion for women is, quite frankly, insulting. First, to insinuate that we'd be happy with any female candidate - that Hillary and Sarah are essentially interchangeable, simply because both are women - is heinous. Second, are we not being set up with a clearly incompetent woman who will fail in the job and thus "prove" that women aren't capable of holding executive office? Choose someone who will be a disaster, and display her demise as publically as possible - making her a lesson for future generations?

Sarah Palin in the role of America's VP epitomizes people's claims about women's unfitness to hold high level jobs, and I find it absolutely heinous that the Republicans are trying to shoehorn her into this role. What can they hope to accomplish by this, other than 1. to establish a puppet in the position to allow for easy manipulation, 2. demonstrate that women, in fact, are not capable of holding executive office.

Am I being outrageous? Am I spewing apocalyptic bullshit? Making unfounded claims?

Even if I am, after the VP debate I can say this for sure:

I cannot handle another four (or - God forbid, and I really mean that - eight) years of hearing "nucular" on national television....said without irony.... by one of the top two leaders of the free world.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008


I have finally discovered when music videos are aired: 3am Central, which probably means 4am everywhere else. Thank you, VH1.

A few of the other gems I've uncovered in my exploration of the DISH Network:

- The NASA channel. DID YOU KNOW THERE'S A NASA CHANNEL? And am I too old to go to space camp?
- Latina women selling something that I first thought might be prosthetic breasts, but eventually concluded was a posture-enhancing device. (It would've helped if they had actually shown the product and not just a lot of closeups of breasts.)
- A priest getting very animated about the heresies of Arias. (Arms flying everywhere.)
- A documentary on Ronald Reagan.
- Jesus-music videos.
- The 2005 US Poker Championship.
- A James Woods movie.
- A Lawrence Olivier movie.
- A Robert Redford movie.
- A half-hour program on the internal cleansing craze sweeping America, titled "Is Colon Detox Hype?"

Watching television at 3am is one of the most depressing activities I can think of, right up there with getting paid $12 an hour to make photocopies for seven straight months.

One of my primary goals in life is (now) to have better things to do at 3am than watch television. Isn't it good to have goals?