Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Coming in from the cold - Lessons learned on moving back to a colder climate (hint: cold sports bras are bad news)

Because spring may almost possibly maybe sort of be upon us here in the Northeast (daylight savings time kicks in this weekend), I submit to you this post on lessons learned from moving to a cold(er) climate.

As he gets older, my father seems to be obsessed with watching The Weather Channel. He or my Mom will call, email and Skype me anxiously wanting to know if we ducked the latest tornado, hailstorm, thunder etc being hyped on cable TV. I appreciate their concern but usually I am blissfully ignorant of whatever weather pattern has been reported …

But at the risk of acting like a retiree, I have found myself thinking about and writing about the weather A LOT this winter. I am starting to understand why older folks move to places like Florida, Arizona, Costa Rica.

I spent my formative years in the mid-Atlantic region of the eastern United States. Since college, I’ve lived in Florida, California and Arizona. No coincidence that these are all warm places. A few years ago, work brought me back to the east coast, to the D.C. metro area.

I swear – and I keep telling my poor husband this – that when I lived in this region before, it wasn’t this cold. I don’t remember suffering through lows in the teens and this much ice and wind and hail and snow. I swear winter here has either gotten worse, or my blood really has thinned, as they say when you live in a warm climate for too long. Or, my memory is really that selective.

But by way of statistics, consider this. The average snowfall in the DC area is about 7 inches per year. Hardly anything. During the winter of 2009-2010, we got 70 INCHES. Quite a big difference. Will be interesting to see the final tally for this winter.

Anyway, there have been a lot of things I’ve had to learn and relearn about living in a colder climate. For those of you who live in the Arctic Circle (aka Michigan, Illinois, etc) these will be obvious but believe me, this wisdom has been painfully earned on my part.

Lessons for cold weather survival
Don’t leave your gym bag sitting in the car all day while you’re at work. Because then when you grab your gear to hit the gym after work, you’ll get a nice shock when you realize how COLD your clothes are when you go to put them on. Nothing quite like the shock of a cold sports bra.

Electronics (like portable GPS devices) also don’t seem to like being left out in the cold. Recently the Tom Tom got all confused and tried to take me to Hermosa Beach, or maybe it was just wishful thinking on both our parts.

Gloves do make a difference – who knew?

Clean the snow off your car sooner rather than later. If you decide to wait until later that day or the next day to clear your car off, you will often find that what started out as nice fluffy snow has turned into a giant block of impenetrable ice.

Give yourself enough time to clean off your car, I always underestimate how long it will take.

Don’t forget to clear the rear window and the rear-view mirrors.

Don’t be tempted to buy the inexpensive gas station ice scraper/brush, there is a reason why it’s $2.79 and that reason is that it is a cheap piece of crap that will break the first time you use it. Go to a nice Sears auto/tire center, they have a lovely selection of good snow removal accoutrements.

You must clean the roof of your car off too. Don’t be that a-hole on the roads with big chunks of snow and ice flying off your car and hitting the cars behind you. A broom comes in handy for this.

Don’t drive around with an empty tank. If roads are blocked you may not be able to get to a gas station. In the event of a power outage, which happens a lot around here because the snow and ice take power lines down, the gas pumps won’t work.

Don’t let your fridge and pantry stay empty for too long. Last winter, we were snowbound for a week. Even if you can get to the grocery store, everyone else in your county will have panicked and cleared the shelves of all the good stuff, like beer and whipped cream.

While you’re at the store, stock up on salt for the sidewalks and stairs. That always goes fast.

Make sure your laptop and phone are charged, in case of the aforementioned power outage, or if you get stuck in your car.

Know where the flashlights are, and batteries.

It’s always worth it to pay someone to clear your driveway if you don’t have a snowblower/plow. As much as I like being self sufficient and the workout that snow removal provides, the more snow is on the ground, the longer and longer my driveway seems to get.

My dad used to put a couple of 40 pound bags of dog food in the trunk of his car when road conditions were icy, something about traction. I can barely fit a 4 pound bag of anything in my trunk, so I take my chances with that.

During winter, it’s best not to dive onto the bed without first checking to make sure there isn’t a cat snoogled somewhere within the folds of the down comforter. Kitty’s had some close calls.

That’s the extent of my wisdom to date.

Feel free to mock my thin blood and contribute your own best practices and wisdom. And with this, may I not jinx spring from actually springing, and soon.

PS - in DC the other night I spied two cherry trees that looked to be sprouting little buds!! you don't know how exciting this is.

Peak cherry blossom season is forecast to begin on March 29 - stay tuned. (this is a big deal in the DC area, the cherry blooms bring in beau coup tourism dollars and it's just really, really pretty. there are people whose job it is to monitor the trees and predict when they will be in full bloom. Not sure if it's a full-time job, but sorta interesting nonetheless. )

Monday, March 7, 2011

Why I Love The Oatmeal

Please read this, The Oatmeal's take on the current state of the web-iverse. I luv the definitions of porn, depraved porn and really depraved porn. Lord Zuckerbeast - tee hee.

New Rule: No Cell Phones In the Bathroom – Ever

I believe in survey karma, so recently I found myself taking a survey online about the use of smartphones.

One of the questions was along the lines of -
Have you ever conducted a business meeting or call while:

Visiting someone in prison?

Wearing only your underpants?

While using a public restroom?

Having sex?

Getting a massage?


I am not making these fascinating questions up. I’d love to see the results of this survey, because you have to believe that if they are asking, it’s because people are actually doing these things. And remember, they were asking about business calls in particular.

That doesn’t even take into account how blasé people have become about personal phone calls. Now I’ll admit, I did once have a long conversation with someone while in the bathtub. It was unplanned – someone called while I happened to be taking a bath, I answered the phone. A long conversation ensued, and I quickly regretted it. Tub time should be sacrosanct. Plus, the water got cold while I was talking and the bubbles faded.

But I have never – never – used my cell phone while going to the bathroom. The advent of technology that allows us to be reachable anywhere, and worse, things like Bluetooth that let you talk hands-free, have created a terrible slippery slope in our civil contract with one another.

I can’t count the number of times I have been in a public restroom – at the office, at the airport, at a restaurant, etc. – and there has been a woman in another stall having a nice chat on her phone.
What makes people think it’s ok to be on the phone while urinating or worse? Let’s not even talk about the hygienic risks of this practice, but let’s talk about what this says about the person you’re conversing with.

If I were on the receiving end of a toilet call I would assume you didn’t have enough respect for me to wait 2 minutes to do your thing, wash your hands and then call me when you stepped out of the bathroom. Have some respect for yourself, too. Take a few moments for yourself. Trust me, you don’t need to be that connected, to anyone.

While we’re at it, why don’t you show some respect to your fellow bathroom users. I don’t want to be thinking that your great aunt Tilly is listening to me pee. It’s bad enough I have to be using a public washroom with you in the first place.

And god please tell me that no woman is chatting with her significant other while on the pot. Ewwww.

You might argue that a call by its very nature might be so urgent and important that you absolutely have to take that call or make that call while answering the call of nature. But in my experience, in 100% of the instances I have witnessed, the calls all seem to have been personal and trivial in nature.

The offending chitchatter will be happily conversing away about vacation plans, what little Johnny did at school that day, what she is wearing, how annoyed she is that her flight is delayed etc. etc. in other words, inane stuff that could have waited to be shared, if it needed to be shared at all.

Often, the offender will even say something like “where am I? Oh, I’m in the bathroom.” Even if you don’t admit that you’re in the loo, don’t tell me the person on the other end of the line doesn’t know – the echo, the sounds of flushing, running water. Puh-leeze.

What about dudes? So I checked with my resident authority, the husband. He said he has seen guys standing at the urinal, holding the phone between their head and their shoulder so hands could be free to do their business. At the office even. I guess they should invest in Bluetooth maybe.

Anyway, I’d like to know if you have ever had a phone conversation (business or otherwise) while visiting someone in prison (I’d like this story anyway).

If you see yourself in this post and I've offended you, that was not my intent. I just feel really strongly about this. And I’d really like to know if you have a reason why bathroom phone talking would be ok.

Just don’t even get me started on intra-stall communication …
Go soak your phone.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Space beer!

In honor of the recent successful Discovery launch, this weekend’s post is about space beer.

Apparently an enterprising brewery in Australia is developing a beer that can be enjoyed in space. (The Aussies love their beer, but I do wish American ingenuity had thought of this first.)

The idea is to be ready for the “space tourism industry.” So that future space tourists will have a nice brew to sip while they orbit the earth.

The considerations for a carbonated beverage to be sipped (or chugged) in a zero-gravity atmosphere are several:

• In space, your tongue will swell.

• Your ability to taste is severely minimized. According to the Beer Universe article referenced below, astronauts routinely douse food in hot sauce to get any flavor.

• Burping is a problem. Now this is really gross, but apparently where there is no gravity, gas is not separated from liquids, so you burp wet. Has to be a low-carbonation beer.

Richard “I’m Rich & I’m Crazy” Branson’s company Virgin Galactic claims that tens of thousands of people have already signed up for space tourism next year. Another company says it will open a space hotel within the next five years.

I won’t comment on the feasibility of these plans, or the costs, and I honestly don’t know what I’d do if I were offered a seat on a civilian space vessel. No, that’s not true, I’d say yes, assuming the fare was gratis … but I don’t think I’d want to be on the maiden voyage. Like how you don’t buy the first model year of a new car. Let them work the bugs out first.
But this makes me think of all the products that will have to be developed to support the space tourism industry. Surely there will be space weddings, therefore a need for space champagne. And strong-tasting cake … that won’t elicit wet cake burps.

What else would you pack in your overnight bag to the moon – toothbrush and toothpaste (will my electric toothbrush work differently in space), camera, jammies. I guess you wouldn’t be able to call anyone or send a postcard.

And what kind of outfit options will you have when preparing for a trip to space? I’m hoping it will be something along the lines of the rad spacesuits that James Bond and Dr Holly Goodhead wear in Moonraker, in which the evil villain plots to create a master race in an orbiting space station.

PS sweet Roger Moore action figure!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Toddlers, Tiaras and Terror

The emerging trademark of television channels like A&E and TLC is that peculiar brand of fascination and revulsion inherent in programs like Intervention, My Secret Addiction, Heavy.

What I like to call train wreck TV – you don’t want to be the kind of person who enjoys this sort of thing, but yet you JUST CAN’T LOOK AWAY. I’m the first to admit that I enjoy my share of this type of programming.

But let’s single out TLC. It wasn’t bad enough that they terrorized me with Hoarders (which just as it sounds features scary profiles of people whose homes have been scarily overrun with crap because of their psychological problems) and Outrageous Kids’ Parties (the MTV My Sweet Sixteen for the six-year old set) … you also had to go and deaden our souls and make me lose hope in humanity and the American Culture with the jaw-dropping “Toddler and Tiaras.”
This is a reality show that chronicles regional child beauty pageants and the stories of the families who enter their kids into them. The program will follow them as they prepare, practice and primp their way to the title of “Little Miss Perfect” or what have you.

I know many of you may have feelings about what impact this sort of thing would have on the self-esteem and development of a child – but rest assured that the children seem to terrorize the parents as much as it goes the other way.

Horrifying doesn’t begin to describe my reaction watching the little trolls –er, dolls - forced onto a stage for grotesque “dancing” and “modeling.” The children are inherently cute, but transformed into hideous creatures with fake eyelashes and enough blue eyeshadow to make Western Barbie feel right at home.

It’s hard at first to distinguish who is worse, the children or the parents, and each one seems worse than the last. The relationships between the mothers and the children seem mostly dysfunctional, bossing each other around and generally acting ugly.

In the pursuit of trophies and sashes, the mothers do things like get spray tans for five year olds, purchase false teeth, spend scads of cash on frilly sequined dresses (which run into the hundreds and thousands of dollars), pay for pageant coaches and force Coca-Cola down the throat of a two-year old so that she’ll remain awake and peppy for her competition.

In most cases, the mother is the driving force in the pageant habit (it does read like an addiction at times), but there are usually husbands involved, bland lumps of flesh, wan and henpecked who are there to help bankroll the efforts and tote around Rubbermaid bins full of pageant crap from hotel ballroom to hotel ballroom.

My observation is that the mothers are either fading beauties/frustrated pageant contestants themselves, or just flat out blorgs.

The other day I caught a rerun of a recent episode, that happened to take place in Arizona. Among the families this episode showcased were a hideous four-year old who threw a bitchin’ tantrum in order to get her pacifier, and a sort of fascinating woman from Lake Havasu, Arizona, who was pimping out her twin, ONE YEAR OLD girls to the pageant lifestyle.

This is a particularly intriguing subset of the child pageant circuit, the infants. How can you compete in a pageant if you can’t even walk? Someone has to carry the babies out onto the stage, where they loll around in overdone outfits with boys taped to their heads.

Anyway, I mentioned Lake Havasu for a reason. If you’ve never been, it’s a small city in Arizona best known for London Bridge and spring break. An enterprising entrepreneur decades ago purchased the actual, original London Bridge and had it shipped over, piece by piece, from England and reassembled in Lake Havasu as a tourist attraction. I suppose it worked because I’ve been there – and it’s a bridge. In its shadow there are little shops and you can watch candles being made. The other raison d’etre for Havasu is rampant spring breaking, fueled by the huge population of Arizona State University. If you’ve ever seen one of those reality shows that features out of control spring breakers getting alcohol poisoning, sharing venereal diseases, jumping off of really big rocks into the lake and needing to be rescued, operating watercraft while intoxicating and taking their clothes off – chances are they’ve filmed in Lake Havasu at one time or another.

So this Havasu woman clearly got the attention of the Toddlers & Tiaras producers not just because she has twins, but also because of her creepy plastic surgery, and the fact that she’s apparently loaded. Her husband is a doctor and I guess he has a hell of a practice because they live in a huge McMansion, are loaded to the gills with luxury cars, have their own private jet, etc. etc. etc. She (I forget her name) claims they have spent about $250,000 to date on the pageant stuff. Yes that’s a quarter of a million bucks. Did I mention the kids are one??

The irony is that so many of the mothers say they are in the game for the cash prizes, when there is no way that the money they win ever exceeds the money they spend on the pageants. The largest cash prize I’ve ever seen on these programs is $1,000. So even if you win, you’re still out about $249,000, give or take some change.

I know I’ve gone on and on about this, so I’ll just say this to the contestants’ mothers: your infant can’t get nervous about being on stage, she cannot. Because the 18-month old does not understand that she is on stage. Sure, she can be afraid, and rightly so, about being shoved into a scratchy tutu and paraded around in front of a roomful of strangers … but she can’t, in my opinion, get stage fright.
Here is a good description of this episode, which is a typical episode, that I found online – this was apparently written by a dude who was giving it a good go to try and watch the show… he ends up drinking heavily, which is understandable. He also refers to the Lake Havasu woman as resembling a “killer clown” which is eerily apt.

The show personifies so many things that are wrong with people in general, and the stereotype of pageant mothers in particular. Being a pageant mother is one thing, but somehow when you’re engaging in that behavior with a toddler, it just takes it to another level altogether.

Speaking of tiaras and terror, the whole John Galliano meltdown has been an ugly episode, hasn’t it? In France, anti-Semitic remarks are punishable by law, plus the PR fallout given what it is, the venerable house of Christian Dior had no choice but to fire him, and send him to rehab. And hire a new publicity firm. Here’s a short item from PR Daily on the story.

I love the veddy British mea culpa: “I unreservedly apologize for my behavior in causing any offense.”

Reminded me immediately of the scene in A Fish Called Wanda in which Kevin Kline dangles John Cleese out of a window and forces him to apologize.

Oh no, it’s K-k-k-Ken, c-c-c-coming to k-k-k-kill me! That’s a good flick.

Charlie “OMG” Sheen

Blogosphere, I’ve missed you! I’ve been offline lately because of travel and work and schedule things but I’m happy to be back.

Let’s get right to it: Charlie Sheen.

There has been so much in the media over the past few days, it feels like a crazy explosion. At first I have to confess I was fascinated by the unfolding events … then Sheen planted himself firmly in the land of Mel Gibson, Gary Busey, Randy Quaid – not exactly great company. Then I was morbidly fascinated by the train wreck that had fast become Sheen with his “tiger blood and Adonis DNA” and his goddesses.

Saying things like the bones of the producers of Two and a Half Men would melt like wax if they hung out with him. Quotes like: “I’m going to ride the winds of the universe.”

Highlights from his NBC Today show interview on Monday 2/28:

“I want a raise. Look at what they put me through. I’m underpaid.”

“I’m tired of pretending I’m not a bitchin’ total rock star from Mars. You can’t process me with a normal brain.”

Re curing his addictions: “I closed my eyes and made it so – with my mind. AA was created by a broken down fool and a plagiarist.”

"Thomas Jefferson was a p****."

“I am on a drug, a drug called Charlie Sheen.”

“They picked a fight with a warlock.”

He plans on winning “the war” against CBS with “violent hatred.”

They are going to rename Warner Brothers “Charlie Brothers.”

He said CBS owes him a public apology while licking his feet, and closed that portion of the interview with some paranoid questions for Chuck Lorre that he had written out on index cards. BTW, if you were Chuck Lorre what would you be doing? Besides dead-bolting your doors, I imagine.

So within a matter of days the whole Sheen thing has just gone from crazy/entertaining to sad. Sad, sad, sad. He very well may have bipolar disorder (sometimes it’s hard to tell what symptoms are mental illness and what symptoms are drug induced) and it just makes the whole situation that much sadder. He is going to crash and crash hard and who knows if he can ever come back from something like this, let alone the pain his family must be going through.

It’s also disheartening to see the media completely exploiting the fact that he has gone off the rails by touting their coverage of him and continuing to give him a forum and a platform to espouse his increasingly incoherent and violent thoughts. I just can’t help but think that there’s no way this isn’t going to end up in a courtroom, either civil or criminal and maybe both.

How would old Hollywood have handled this? I imagine he would have been spirited away somewhere and a publicist would release a statement saying he was ‘hospitalized for exhaustion.’ I don’t think they would have allowed him to self-destruct so publicly, not necessarily out of concern for him and his health but out of concern for the image of their studio.

At first I wondered if there was a different term for jumping the shark, to indicate that Charlie Sheen had officially gone too far – like ‘shooting up with the shark’ or ‘coking up with the shark” … but then I think we quickly moved into the Sheendenfreude phase. What comes next …

TV Palate Cleanser
After all the torrid Sheen-ness in the air, we all need a little palate cleansing.

The late great Bob Ross was on Arizona PBS the other morning when I was flipping channels in my hotel room. (yes I like a little TV to get me going in the morning. I’m also known for falling asleep with the TV on. White noise …. soothing.)

Highlights from Mr. Ross:

“Just a little yellow ochre – but not too much! “

He was painting a seascape and advised using a fan brush and to “…tap. Just tap. Tap tap. Make some rocks so the seagulls have a place to nest and the puffins too. Just caress it.”

“ I bet you knew I’d put a rock there!”

“Aren’t puffins just the cutest creatures God ever made? Like their noses are too big for their faces.”

Trippy and gentle at the same time. Good night all!
Ps why are they putting Busey on Celebrity Apprentice? Too sad.