Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Timing

12:10? If only I could make myself go to sleep by then.
Then again....
And so it came to pass many years ago when I was in grad school and living with the parents, my bedroom ceiling fell on me.

This wasn't a huge surprise to anyone. My bedroom ceiling was not what you'd call "intact". 

About 10+ years earlier when we'd moved into that house, my Dad put pink fiberglass insulation into the attic/crawlspace. The area was so unfinished that there were crossbeams on the "floor" and the second floor ceilings. And that's it. While sprawling around this awkward, precarious place, he slipped and his knee hit my bedroom ceiling. 

The truly impressive part is that he only slipped once.

So for 10+ years, a couple of ceiling tiles were a little dented. No big deal, and there were so many other home maintenance things that needed more urgent attention.

Until one night, when I was staying up late to watch Slash on some late night music show. I was sitting at my desk when I heard a noise. I turned around and saw that the dent in my ceiling had increased in dentiness. 

A smarter, cleverer Jen would've covered everything in plastic bags or tarp and spent the night on the couch. In my defense, it was summer and my room was air conditioned, unlike the living room.

So I shrugged it off, watched my show and went to bed much later than usual. Before I had a chance to fall asleep, the entire ceiling fell down. Since I was awake, I was able to run out of the room before anything too heavy hit me.

It was a terrible mess, but I was unharmed. Largely because I'd stayed up later than usual.

I was reminded of this story Monday night. I stayed up later than usual, reading. Because that's totally supposed to help you be sleepy. I was about to dive into yet another chapter and stopped myself because it was after 1am and if I hadn't stopped, I would've kept going and read the last 50 pages of the book. And then had a migraine the next day from staying up too late.

I got ready for bed and went into the bedroom quietly because HA was sleeping. And that's when I noticed a horrible burning smell. It was smell that demanded attention. A smell that gets right up in your face and yells like a baseball player arguing with an umpire.

I followed my nose. Nope - not the TV. Nope - not coming in through the window. Oh dear - it's coming from the corner.

You know those electronic pest repellers? (They work quite well, btw. I do recommend them.) I've had mine for 15 years. Which is apparently too long. We don't even use them anymore since there isn't a bug problem in our current apartment. 

But there was one plugged in, in the bedroom, behind the clothes hamper. And now it was hot. And fixin' to start a fire.

I unplugged it and it (and the outlet) cooled down pretty quickly. Disaster averted.

But the smell hadn't woken HA. Actually, he says he couldn't smell it even after I woke him up. There's no reason to assume that it would've woken me up. The smoke detector is in the living room, so that wouldn't have gone off right away. And it's always better to prevent a fire than escape one.

So if I hadn't stayed up later than usual, we might've had a fire. Though who knows how long it was going. It might've been stinky if I'd gone to bed an hour earlier. And if I'd stayed up later, the wall might've been on fire when I finally went to bed.

Some people might see a divine hand in my timing. Some people might see luck. (Cue Obiwan Kenobi saying, "There's no such thing as luck.")

Me? I dunno. I tend to think that God doesn't micromanage. Because if he does, he has a lot to answer for.

Besides, I used to be in a volunteer fire department. Having a fire in my home would be just so embarrassing. So I'm super vigilant. 

It didn't keep me up all night, wondering at the horrible things that could have happened. But I did feel slightly heroic. I had just averted disaster. By unplugging a thing. So I'm not expecting a parade or anything.

Which is good because I don't really like parades.

Another side effect of my fire department days. It's hard to be impressed with yourself when lifesaving is just part of the job. (In fact, if you brag about saving someone, the more experienced folks will tease you mercilessly.) And after walking in countless parades in an ill-fitting uniform, you develop an aversion to drums and glockenspiels

So yay for good timing. And replace your older gadgets and make sure you have fresh batteries in your smoke detector. And read these fire safety tips.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Which Type of Eater Are You?

This post originally appeared on The Famished Freelancer on January 7, 2014.

My eighth grade teacher once told us the cliché that either people eat to live or live to eat. He admitted that he lived to eat, but since he was a marathon runner with the slightly too thin body that can come with long distance running, I felt there was an implication that it was OK for him to live for food because he burned every calorie he ate and then some.

I don't know if he actually meant that subtext, or if was my own baggage combined with how damn mean he was.

But that old saw isn't entirely accurate. I've noticed that there are three ways that people look at food.

People Who Love Food

I'm in this category and proud of it. People who love food aren't gluttons - it's not about the quantity, but the quality. We like to eat good-tasting food on a regular basis. Disappointing food leaves us wanting more. We all have to eat anyway, so by gum, we're going to enjoy it.

Those pathetic excuses for tomatoes that show up everywhere in the Winter? Not worth eating. Overdone french fries? Why would I do that to myself? 

That Weight Watchers slogan about how food isn't love? These people know what BS that is. Food is love whether it's fattening or low cal.  

People Who Hate Food

These are people who eat only because it's necessary to sustain life. The actual food doesn't really matter to them. I'm not going to try to figure out why they're like this because I so completely don't understand. 

My mother-in-law is in this category - possibly because after a lifetime of feeding her family, she only has herself to feed and is so over cooking. I dunno. 

What I do know is that she doesn't understand us either. While we were visiting over the holidays, she told me and my husband that we needed to make something for lunch from whatever she had in the house (while not touching the food that we'd bought for dinner). She teased us that it would be just like Iron Chef. Our response was, "So the secret ingredient is Lean Cuisine?"

We convinced her to eat at Rib Crib. Where I tried to send back my ribs because they were overdone. They gave me a new serving, but left the old one on the table. Where my mother-in-law, who has many lovely qualities I want to note, tasted the bad ribs multiple times, each time declaring how bad they were. It's a level of self-flagellation that I never expected to see outside of Catholicism. 

I can't even.

Other examples of this behavior include going out to drink after work for hours and hours on an empty stomach. A couple of small plates of bar food shared among ten people doesn't constitute dinner. And yet, the bars of Manhattan are filled with these people every evening. When someone insists on grabbing a bite before meeting the gang at the bar, I know I've met a kindred soul.


People Who Have Been Taught To Hate Food

I used to be in this category, thanks to decades of dieting. These are people who see food as the enemy. These are the people who say that guacamole is a no-no, not because of its own inherent qualities, but because you might eat too much of it. 

Many of these people have socially-acceptable eating disorders. They love food, but that love makes them mad at themselves and the food. 

While I'm picking on moms, I'll just mention that my mom has never met a box of chocolate that she opened right away. Or for a couple weeks later. You want a piece of chocolate while at my mom's house? Just look on the sideboard and you'll find two or three boxes that someone gave her and she virtuously set aside for later. "Later" in this case being defined as "as close to never as humanly possible". Or "until company comes over" because my mom will feed the hell out of anyone who walks through her door. Four main dishes and three desserts isn't unusual at her parties.

But hand her something to eat, and it's 50/50 on whether she'll actually eat it. Even though she once ate a mud pie I made for her because I was all, "But I made it for you."


Did I miss any types? What type are you?

Monday, September 28, 2015

Monday Throwback Links

Get it? A picture of links. My husband's love of dad
jokes is rubbing off on me.
I've been thinking that once I finish with the daily blowing, I'll come up with a regular posting schedule. I've also been thinking that I'll take a (web)page from Adrienne Martini's (blog) book and make one weekly post a bunch of links.

Judging by the dates on these links below, I had the same idea in March 2013 and never actually did it. 

Riveting story, and I don't want you to miss the last section - an adult who was attacked as a child said that no amount of parental warnings would've saved him because he knew his attacker. This is only one case, but our culture of parental paranoia isn't enough to keep our kids safe, so maybe we should chill the fuck out a little.

All about male entitlement on public transportation. This Tumblr from 2013/2014 helped lead to the law against manspreading on the NYC subway system. A couple of guys have been arrested over it, which is excessive. And possibly didn't happen (details are sketchy, and the alleged guys allegedly had other outstanding warrants). Those arrests led to some (female) activists on Twitter protesting the law as just another way to target men of color. Which, no. Women of color hate manspreading too. The cops may enforce it differently depending on a guy's race, but the same goes for every other law. So, don't hate the game, hate the player.


Great story about a visit to Ireland

Commentary on the songs from Annie, the 1982 movie. I used to sing along to the soundtrack cassette with a friend. Just like every other girl our age at the time.

Explaining rape culture

I promise that if I make this a regular feature, the links will be much more current.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Popapalooza 2015

Silly hats off to the Swiss Guard for looking intimidating
in those outfits.
I asked HA if all the Lutherans have pope envy. He said no. Martin Luther broke from the Catholic church for 95 damn good reasons. He's also unimpressed because all the great liberal things Pope Francis has been saying are what HA's pastor was saying in the 80s. 

(Remember the joke that Windows 95  = Mac 1989? It's like that with Catholics and Lutherans.)

Pope Francis is super liberal. For a pope. He's not even that liberal for a Catholic. But as far as popes go? He's the Burning Man hippie of popes.

It sucks that the pope still thinks abortion is a sin, but it's awesome that he thinks it's a sin along the lines of a little casual coveting. It's progress. 

(Although I'm wondering now if priests were refusing to grant absolution to women who'd had abortions. Because those guys were willing to forgive serial killers and mass murderers as long as they were sorry. I'm not looking into this further because I really don't want to know.)

It looks like the pope is doing his damnedest to be a force for good in the world. Real good, not that "we help the poor and also sexually abuse a lot of children" flavor of good that previous popes had going on.

(NYC's Cardinal Egan performed some creative accounting back when he was Archbishop of Milwaukee in an attempt to hide money from sex abuse lawsuits. Every time I see him on TV, I say, "Fuck that guy," out loud, no matter who else is in the room. Goddess only knows what I'd say if I met him in person.)

I remember back when Pope John Paul II came to the US and people went crazy back then. But now it seems like the non-Catholics are equally excited.

A friend of mine has been understandably concerned at all the pope adulation. I mean, the guy is bigger than The Beatles.

He's quite the cult of personality, Pope Francis. As were Hitler and Mussolini. So, that's a bit worrisome. But JFK was a cult of personality too and he just used his power to get laid. I think we're OK as long as Pope Frankie keeps using his power to point out the evils of free market capitalism and shame world leaders into doing something about climate change.

He doesn't seem to want the power he has, which is a relief. He's declined so many of the fancy clothes, housing and cars that other popes have accepted as their due. I hope all previous popes are embarrassed, sitting in heaven on their elaborate heavenly thrones in their heavenly Gucci loafers.

But, dude, that Fiat? If you want to impress me by riding in a modest vehicle, it's gotta be a 2-door Fiat. Some friends of HA in Missouri have a 2-door Fiat and they gave us a ride a couple of years ago. Getting into the back seat involved some hilarious contortions. I saw the pictures of the pope getting out of a 4-door Fiat and was seriously unimpressed. Though, in fairness we now rent our own car when we visit Missouri so that I never have to get in the back seat of a 2-door Fiat again.

I'll leave you with this clip from Sweeney Todd because it's been stuck in my head the whole time Pope Frankie has been in town. Specifically, the line, "Nope! It was the pope!"

Saturday, September 26, 2015

How To Upgrade Your Cellphone in 65 Easy Steps

1. Double check that you're eligible for a free upgrade by seeing when you ordered your last phone case from etsy.

2. Go to an AT&T store because the last time you upgraded, your husband went to the Apple store and everything got messed up.

3. Give your name to one of the nice young people with uniform t-shirts and tablets milling about.

4. Notice that you are #5 on the waiting list.

5. Regret not going to Starbucks first for your afternoon tea.  

6. Notice that there's been some rapid turnover and you're now #1 on the waiting list.

7. Wait 17 minutes for someone to get to you. During this time, notice several employees milling about but not helping anyone. Also notice one person check that the phone the #2 person of the list wants is in stock, and give tech support to the #3 person on the list.

8. Be told several times that you're not eligible for an upgrade after all.

9. Explain that he must be looking at incorrect information.

10. Call husband while the guy gets his manager. 

11. Husband explains (while manager is figuring it out for herself) that when he upgraded your phone for you last time and they put the new phone on his number, which you then fixed - this nonsense left some residual confusion on the account. He used your upgrade last year, so now you should be able to use his upgrade.

12. First guy asks which phone you'd like and says that he'll have to check if they have it. He then turns back to ask which color you want as if they had tons of these phones in stock.

13. Tell him you want silver because that sounds nice.

14. Guy comes back and says they're out of silver, but they have gold. His tone implies that there is no way on earth you'd ever want the gold.

15. Agree to gold because who gives a shit? You're getting a case anyway.

16. Manager brings out the one iPhone 5s they have and warns you that "it's on open box" in an ominous tone.

17. Jauntily tell manager to open the box so we can all see if everything's there.

18. Something's missing. Manager declares "I can't sell this" and disappears.

19. First guy comes back and suggests you upgrade online.

20. He apologizes for the long wait and you say something snippy, but leave before you pitch a fit.

21. Because, seriously?

22. Seriously?

23. Get worked up on your way home. 

24. Once home, check deleted emails for that one about a free iPhone if you switch carriers. 

25. It's actually only $100 off an iPhone 6 and it's just not worth it to cancel the other contract and pay the fees.

26. Realize that you are AT&T's bitch and will continue to be AT&T's bitch forever as you and your husband are all about the free upgrade.

27. Go to the AT&T website.

28. Retrieve password that the husband can't remember.

29. Sign in and find the page from which you may upgrade.

30. Click on Upgrade next to husband's phone number, assuming that you can transfer his free upgrade to your number in a future step.

31. Discover that you are wrong.

32. Start a Live Chat with customer service.

33. Explain the situation three times while waiting so long for the rep's responses that you begin to suspect your instant messages are being sent via carrier pigeon.

34. Every time you go to a new page, the chat window also refreshes and scrolls down through the entire conversation before you can do anything.

35. Eventually find your way back to the page from which you may upgrade.

36. Click on the Options button next to your own number as instructed by the chat guy who you're starting to suspect is an Incarcerated American

37. Select a helpful radio button that will let you use the other number's free upgrade on this number.

38. Click Continue in the cheerful, happy pop up window.

39. Select a phone. But wait. This phone that should be free is $250. You could get a Samsung phone for free, but what are you? An animal?

40. Chat Guy has no idea.

41. Repeat steps 35-38 with the same result.

42. Let the chat guy transfer you to the premier support folks, whatever that means.

43. Wait for chat chick and explain the whole problem again because that's actually faster than waiting for her to read the whole chat history.

44. Re-explain the problem because chat chick seems to think it's user error, when you know that it's a website bug.

45. Remind yourself for the tenth time that you shouldn't get mad at your husband for the initial screwup because you told him to go to the Apple store instead of the AT&T store in the first place.

46. Wonder for the 15th time if you should've given up on live chat and just called customer support.

47. No. That way lies madness. When has have you ever emerged from a wireless customer service call with your sanity intact?

48. Remind yourself for the third time that even though TMobile would pay your contract cancellation fee, you left them several years ago for annoying customer service.

49. Consider browsing through cell phone covers on etsy, while waiting for chat chick's responses. 

50. Realize that the abundance of options would stress you out even more.

51. Tell husband to go ahead and order takeout for dinner.

52. Worry that you'll still be dealing with this problem long after he gets back with the food in 20 minutes or so.

53. Explain the problem to chat chick again because they have to verify everything you tell them.

54. Chat chick gets the same results when she tries it on her end.

55. Chat chick says that they specialize in site navigation, so you should call customer service.

56. Answer the post-chat survey because this is extremely not OK.

57. Break for dinner.

58. Apply some prophylactic peppermint oil to your forehead to stave off the migraine that's almost sure to come.

59. Have dinner.

60. Drag yourself off the couch and call AT&T because  goddamit, you are getting this settled today.

61. Press all the right numbers until you're on hold for a person. Expected wait time = 9 minutes. Actual wait time = 18 minutes.

62. Explain the whole problem again to a chirpy, chatty gal.

63. Chirpy chatty gal manages to get me the phone I want for 99 cents ($1.08 including sales tax). Plus a $45 upgrade fee. The new phone is not actually on your account, but you can allegedly have it activated on your account when it comes.

64. Get wallet because the $1.08 must be paid now. They couldn't possibly add that to the next bill.

65. Rest for the inevitable further problems that will arise when the new phone actually arrives.

Friday, September 25, 2015

The Day After

These are actual images from a movie that was shown
in prime time so all the kiddies could watch.
The other day I posted about the 2012 apocalypse that wasn't, and a friend reminded me on Facebook about how we weren't supposed to make it out of the 80s.

(BTW, the friend in question has a book coming out soon. Go forth and pre-order A Year of Drinking Adventurously for all your beverage and gift giving needs.)

But yeah, we of Generation X were told repeatedly that nuclear weapons would kill us all. I get that the Silent Generation and Baby Boomers grew up with the fear mongering too. Worse, they had drills where they had to duck under their desks like that would make a difference. But by the 80s, they'd found a way to carry on and shrug off the whole Cold War. We were stuck to process all this anew, all while surrounded by adults who had long ago decided that there was nothing they could do about it.

Apparently, the predominant no nukes strategy of the early 1980s was to terrify school children. I guess we were supposed to convince our parents to oppose nuclear proliferation and let their elected representatives know so that they would actually do something about it. Trickle up theory.

I had history textbooks that went all the way up to the 80s, yet my classes never got past WW2. But apparently we had time to watch a movie about nuclear weapons that began with kids our age talking about how there was no point in having kids because they wouldn't live to adulthood. Because of nuclear war. That wasn't going to happen before we were old enough to consider having kids on purpose. But was going to happen soon after.

I dunno. That's a lot of nihilism for Catholic school.

Of course, network TV milked that shit for all it was worth. Remember The Day After? If you don't, you're in luck. It's on You Tube! SyFy showed a few years ago and I tried to watch it, but I just couldn't. Not that it was too disturbing. But I couldn't get myself worked up over it all over again.

In The Day After, the Soviet Union drops a bunch of nukes on the US. We see people get vaporized. Including a small wedding party in a park who must have decided to go ahead with their plans instead of cowering in front of the TV worrying about nukes like everyone else. After we're done with that, nothing with batteries works anymore because of the electromagnetic pulse sent out by the explosion. So cars don't work anymore, but the streets are clogged with empty cars anyway. 

(The movie bombs were the type that left buildings, etc. still standing because they spent most of the budget on famous actors and special effects. There was nothing left over for creating an actual wasteland.)

Then people cowered in their basements while a bride-to-be kept insisting that everything was fine, and her wedding could totally go ahead as planned. To prove it, she runs out into the nuclear winter and gets a soon-to-be-fatal dose of radiation. As does her father who ran after her to drag her back inside.

The real takeaway from The Day After is that you wedding stress is bigger than end of the world stress.

At the very end, her fiancĂ© finally finds her and it turns out that he's dying from the radiation too. And it was played as sweet and touching. Which it kind of is, considering all the surrounding grimness.

The absolute worst part was the tag at the end. It said that the movie had portrayed what it would be like if only 1/10 of the world's nukes were used, and that a much more likely scenario would have all the bombs dropping and everyone being vaporized. 

So there really wasn't any hope of even surviving to experience an irradiated Hellscape. They had to scale back the destruction because the truth would've been too enormous for anyone to process. 

Good times.

This was on ABC in primetime. ABC promoted the hell out of it. At no point, did anyone say that children shouldn't be watching it. We were told not to let any kids watch it alone. My friend's brother actually watched it with us because the rest of his family was out doing something way less traumatic.

I remember back when Austin Powers was a thing, there were 2 versions of the talking doll. The adult version said such shocking things as, "Do I make you horny?" The adult dolls got into a children's toy store and it was on the news. There was a mom bitching that her kid had asked her what "horny" meant. "What am I supposed to tell her?" the mom said.

In my day, parents had to explain nuclear fucking war to their kiddies. You can handle coming up with a kid friendly (possibly fake) definition of "horny."

God, people are soft these days.

Maybe our playgrounds were so dangerous because adults figured we might as well die from falling off a jungle gym instead of sticking around for the bombs to start dropping. Maybe we were all such slackers in the 90s because we hadn't really planned that far ahead.

On the bright side, Ronald Reagan watched The Day After and it may have factored into his decision to pursue all those arms treaties with the Soviet Union. 

I guess it's a decent trade off. Who wouldn't traumatize millions of children if it managed to save their lives?

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Actually, I Do Go to the Movies to Read

We all know people who refuse to watch any movie with subtitles. "I don't go to the movies to read," they say, as if that were a reasonable argument. Either less Americans mind subtitles these days, or the splintering of pop culture has made room for even foreign language TV shows.

Either way, season one The Returned (aka Les Revenants) was a hit for Sundance TV. In a small French town, long dead people reappear unchanged and as unaware of what the hell is going on as everyone else. Zombies with ennui. Great stuff. Season 2 launches in the US on October 31, so try to track down the 1st season and get caught up.

Netflix has lots of foreign language movies and TV shows. This works out great for me because I need to watch shows with subtitles while using my Cefaly device. My magic space tiara delivers electrical stimulation to my trigeminal nerve helping the whole migraine sitch, but only if I keep my head still. Subtitles are perfect for tricking myself into keeping my head perfectly still the whole 20 minutes cycle.

So I've seen a lot of foreign films in the past year or so, in 20 minute increments. Here are my recommendations:


Instructions Not Included

This Mexican film was a huge hit in the US last year. A beach bum in Acapulco gets stuck with his baby daughter. Hilarity ensues. Thanks to a time jump, the Three Men and a Baby routine is only a small part of the movie. There's also enough drama that it took major self discipline not to blow off work and just watch the whole thing straight through.

Hjordis

In this Danish TV show, a school is putting on a play about bullying. The only kids interested in being involved are the outcasts who get bullied. Hilarity ensues, lessons are learned, hearts are warmed. At only four episodes, i was left wanting much more. Season One was made in 2015, so there's definitely reason to hope for a second season.

The Extraordinary Adventures of Adele Blanc-Sec

It's perfectly ordinary to want to get your ailing sister the best medical care available. It's less ordinary to steal the mummy of an ancient Egyptian doctor so you can revive him and get him to treat your sister. And a pterodactyl is terrorizing Paris. Because of course it is.

Mardaani

This Bollywood movie tries very hard to be an American action film. It mostly succeeds. The cop that plays cat and mouse with the criminal mastermind is a woman, so in that respect it actually improves on the films it's copying.

The Visitors

I've mentioned this before. It was made in 1993, but has a very 1980s sensibility. A knight (played by Jean Reno) and his squire get sent from 1193 to 1993. Hilarity ensues.

Water

This Indo-Canadian film beautifully shows how much it sucked to be a widow in India before Gandhi came along and changed things. Not a fun movie, but a touching one.


Haute Cuisine

Based on the true story of the woman who became the personal chef to France's President Mitterand, and later worked as a cook in Antartica.  Like all movies about French food, it will make you hungry.  Thanks to Mitterrand's cardiac issues, it also addresses how much it sucks to cook and eat a restricted diet.

The Women on the 6th Floor

A French film about a rich guy (or a reasonably well off guy) who befriends the maids who work in the building and live on the top floor. It goes the way movies like that usually do, but it gets there pleasantly enough.

Populaire

A French romantic comedy centered on the world of competitive speed typing. It's cuter and more charming than that description suggests. It's a little Pygmalion, a little Pushing Daisies and a little Mad Men.

The Painting

An animated film about the social distinctions between figures in an unfinished painting. The Allduns rank above the Halfies who rank about the Sketchies. A fellowship forms and sets off in search of the painter so they can get him to finish them, bringing about equality.

Girl on a Bicycle

Exactly what you'd expect from a French romantic comedy. Less insulting than most contemporary American romantic comedies, even when it gets slapstick.



Hit me with your foreign film recommendations. Even at only 20 minutes a day, I've been running out of subtitled stuff to watch. 


Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Still Surprised the Mayans Were Wrong

Ah, the Mayans. Their pyramids were stepped, and
their calendars were round. And they cultivated
chocolate, so good on them.
Heck, the Mayans didn't even predict the world would end on December 21, 2012. It was just some conspiracy theorists, or people who were really into the apocalypse. Lucky for the rest of us that they were just kooks and not Gozer worshipping doomsday cultists like the guy who designed the apartment building in Ghostbusters.

(Note to self: Write a short story about doomsday cultists in the roaring 20s. Obviously, the characters are much more interested in drinking at speakeasies than ending the world but WASPs would still stop by the doomsday cult ritual from a sense of social obligation. They'd even have a ladies auxiliary to arrange the snacks.)

Anyhoodle.

Intellectually, I knew that the Mayan calendar was cyclical and absolutely nothing would happen. Or nothing noticeable, at any rate. Remember the Harmonic Convergence? Nothing happened. Except that new age ideas became more mainstream, which is exactly the sort of cultural shift the Harmonic Convergence was supposed to mark.

And the Harmonic Convergence was related to the Mayan calendar. So, anybody feel any different in the past three years?

Come to think of it, Superstorm Sandy was in late 2012. So we're entering a new age of environmental disasters? (I blame Katrina on poor levee maintenance. That one's on us. Of course, climate change is on us too. So...I dunno. Do I look like someone who knows where they're going with this?)

Yeah. So. 

My point is that in late 2012, I was in a book store and saw the display of 2013 calendars. And I thought, "how optimistic."

I mean, of course the world wasn't ending. And then we would need new calendars.

There was a slight chance that the Earth would be destroyed by Vogons, or we'd be invaded by the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal. But there's a statistical possibility of that happening any day.

Still, I feel like there must have been at least one person working at a calendar company who knew that they'd feel a tiny bit foolish if the world ended and they'd spent the last year having heated discussions over which twelve penguin photos to put into a calendar that no one would ever get to use.

There had to have been someone working at a movie studio half hoping the world would end because they'd just greenlit a real stinker. An editor at a book publisher got the news that the novel she'd been championing wasn't being giving any marketing support and she thought, "What's the point? World's ending before the damn thing launches anyway." 

Someone got dumped on Thanksgiving and, faced with yet another tedious New Year's Eve without even a date to amuse them thought, "Maybe we'll have a lovely apocalypse and I won't have to go to Steve's annual NYE bash after all. Why am I friends with these people? well, I'm not getting new friends until after the holidays just in case we don't all get that far."

NASA made a video to post on December 22 to explain why the world hadn't ended. I just know that somebody working on it cracked a joke about how silly they'd feel if it did. And then someone else said they should auto schedule the thing so that it would go live in case no one was alive to hit publish. And then they got into a long, involved conversation about whether or not that would be pointless depending on the exact nature of the apocalypse and they'd all get really worked up over it because that's how scientists roll.

I was 99% certain that the end was not nigh. The other 1% was only because I didn't want to to be taken by surprise if it actually was nigh. Because that would be embarrassing. And (to paraphrase The Princess Bride) who wants to die embarrassed?

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Because We Don't Have Enough New Years Already

I've never had good luck working for people younger than I am, even though management skills are not something that come with age. I've done it twice and both times I've been astounded by how little my boss understood the company politics. And I'm especially clueless, so you know that's got to be bad.

The first time I worked for someone younger than me (by two years), we sometimes bonded by discussing apartment problems. It's a common thing in NYC. You settle for a shitty apartment that's less shitty than the other ones you looked at and then God help you if you need anything fixed. 

I remember one of his walls leaked every time it rained. This went on for months. Then in September, he had to have something fixed - possibly related to the wall. He called the building's super (or the handyman that his landlord used) and when he got off the phone, he told me that they can't fix the problem this weekend because it's Puerto Rican New Year.

Now, I realize that I don't know everything, so I asked him what Puerto Rican New Year was. He said he didn't know. "He said they couldn't come this weekend because it's the New Year."

That coming weekend was Rosh Hashanah. Jewish New Year.

So I explained how his Hasidic landlord couldn't let any of his employees work on a Jewish holiday.

I didn't have the sort of relationship with this guy where I could tease him as mercilessly as he deserved. I mean, who the Hell in New York City didn't know that Rosh Hashanah was happening in four days? Every time you try to schedule a meeting in September, people's availability is affected.

Also, why did he think he couldn't schedule any repairs for the weekend? Employees of Hasidic landlords can't work on Saturday and the repair guys are all goys, so their day of rest is Sunday. If the heat goes out on a weekend, you're gonna have to fix it yourself.

But I've always wondered...is Puerto Rican New Year the stupidest thing I've ever heard of? Or the coolest? I mean, who couldn't use another holiday? We could celebrate with conch fritters and plantains.


Go ahead - make up holiday. Maybe we'll adopt it.

Monday, September 21, 2015

The Great Escape

Our TiVo is freaking out because the new Fall TV season is coming and HA decided to record a Lost in Space marathon. So we spent the weekend resisting the siren call of Netflix and watched movies that we've recorded to make more room so the TiVo will calm down. Of course, that was pretty unnecessary since there are 2 weeks of shows in the Recently Deleted Folder, but the TiVo is more high strung than I am.

We started watching THX-1138, the cerebral, and let's face it - boring - movie made by George Lucas. One the stars is Donald Pleasence, so during the credits, I turned to HA and said, "oh, he's the one who'll make you a passport out of tin and jam." 

Which he did not get at all.

So, here. Let's all watch the Eddie Izzard bit I was referencing. Because it's a good 'un. And because I'm really tired after actually leaving the house every day for a week and can't possibly think of anything better to write about.


Sunday, September 20, 2015

Passwords

I've written before about how most online passwords don't really need to be as secure as they are. A few things have changed since then. Even more sites require super strong passwords. Two-step verification for Gmail is an excellent idea, but OMG what a fucking hassle. More sites won't let your browser save the password for you.

Most significantly, I no longer store my passwords on an electronic device. My phone could get stolen, or my desktop computer could be accessed remotely and someone could get my passwords from my phone's backup. And some people backup their phones to the cloud, which could be hacked.

These days the most secure place to store your passwords is on an index card on in a notebook you keep near your computer. With a second copy in your wallet for when you need to log into something away from home.

But what if my wallet gets stolen?! Your passwords will still be secure if you write down your passwords in code. If your password is Skippy1, write down Sk1. It'll be enough for you to remember what the password is, but not enough for anyone else to guess.

Even better, come up with passwords that you're sure to remember. Which yeah, I know. But it's a lot easier to remember if your password is a phrase. It's also a lot harder for software to guess your password if it's a phrase.

When His Awesomeness set up our home wi-fi network, he gave it the most ridiculous password. Here's an example password that uses similar logic:

'2+2=5'sezyersillyCousinButch!

It includes a math equation, funny spellings and punctuation. It's pretty long, but that's OK as long as there's no maximum number of characters requirement. It satisfies the requirements for at least one capital letter, one number and one special character. I've only had to look it up twice, maybe 3 times and that's mostly because I couldn't remember if it included quotation marks.

Or could use a phrase that replaces some letters with numbers and special characters, like:

Yermommawearsc0mbatboots'causeshe'saMarine!

With spaces so you can actually read it: 

Yer momma wears c0mbat boots 'cause she's a Marine!

These will take a few tries to memorize, but remember - you can write down a reminder, like "Cousin Butch" or "combat boots". Then write down the full password and put it in a different room, or in a locked drawer. For your banking sites, consider keeping your passwords with the other info your loved ones will need if you die or become sick.

Digression the first - when my dad was hospitalized (and totally out of it) last year, my mother couldn't pay the bills because all the bills were paperless and e-mailed to his account. Without his password, she couldn't log on to his computer to pay the bills. Fortunately, my brother was able to figure it out before anything was past due. Still, she really didn't need that stress on top of everything else.

Also, you know how it's a huge hassle to call the cable company because it's in, say HA's name but I'm the one home all day, so I should be the one making the service appointment? Just to pick an example entirely not at random. It's an even bigger hassle when someone dies. 

"I need to speak to the account holder."
"They died."
"I need to speak to the account holder."

If HA dies before me, it will probably be easier for me to close his bank accounts than to switch the cable over to my name. And if I go first, he'll have a hell of a time dealing with the cell phone company.

So while you're creating the folder of info your loved ones need, make a few calls and make each other authorized users (if applicable and if allowed). With money, maybe add a sibling or friend to your account so they can access your money in an emergency. Spouses are great in theory, but we all know couple who split up after one of them cleaned out the joint account so trust, but protect your life savings.

Don't feel too bad if you don't have a folder like that. I started a binder with info about my different retirement accounts, but ran out of steam pretty quickly because migraines. Hell, I still have some accounts in my unmarried name because I haven't gotten around to changing it in the last almost 8 years. 

Digression the second - I loathe the expression "maiden name". Traditionally and literally, "maiden" means virgin, which ew. Also, "maiden name' sounds like the name I was living under while working as a milkmaid in Switzerland. 

But I digress. Not every site lets you create a long password. So just use a short phrase. (Using just the initials of a longer phrase isn't memorable because you have to remember the phrase, while converting into an acronym.) Just 2-3 words can keep you within the character limit. 

Examples:

IH8Passwords (i.e. I Hate Passwords)
FuckTh!s
StoopidPupp1es

I'm not actually anti-puppy, but creating strong passwords makes me surly.

What's your favorite password trick?

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Quest for Tea

In keeping with the theme of things not going my way, I offer this post, first published on The Famished Freelancer on 1/19/14. This incident has taught me to travel with teabags in a little ziploc, even though I suspect that's a clear sign of mental illness.



I had a ridiculous ordeal trying to get my afternoon tea one day while I was in Kansas City. (As part of managing my migraines, I make sure to keep my caffeine intake the same every day - English Breakfast tea in the morning and a weaker tea after lunch.)

So we went into a coffee shop and I ordered a "hot tea". The barista gave me a latte because he swore that's what he heard. When I said I'd asked for tea, he said, "So what do you want to do?"

So much for Midwestern friendliness.

I explained that I can't drink coffee (migraine trigger), so I wanted the tea I'd asked for. He sighed the sigh of the tremendously put upon and got me a cup of scalding hot water. Which he handed to me. When I looked at him like, "I am now confused because this is clearly water, which is not tea," he got pissy again and asked, "What did I do now?"

Um, sighing like you're more persecuted than Sisyphus for starters. 

He directed me to the tea bags on the counter, all of which were either decaf (0-12 mg caffeine) or green tea (24-40 mg caffeine), which contained much less caffeine than I needed (14-61 mg of caffeine - I steep my tea for 4 minutes so I get close to 60 mg). (Caffeine stats from the Mayo Clinic.)

So the guy returned my $3 and we tried another place that claimed to sell all sorts of tea, but was covered in signs for bubble tea. So my husband asked the woman behind the counter if they had plain tea, "like Lipton." Her response?

"Well, we try to stay away from that."

I got really mean because that seemed to be what was necessary to cut through the pretension and ascertain whether they had what I needed. 

They had many varieties of tea, including Darjeeling which is very much like what you'll find in a supermarket tea bag, so get the fuck over yourself, Bubble Tea Girl.

Tea quality is closely related to the size of the tea leaves - the main difference between loose tea and supermarket tea bags is that the bags contain tea leaves that are broken into smaller pieces including "dust". There is some taste difference, but unless you're talking Earl Gray (which has bergamot) or English or Irish Breakfast tea (which contain more caffeine than other kinds), black tea is black tea. There's some variation in flavor between say, darjeeling and orange pekoe, but that's not a level of subtlety you're gonna get in a place that specializes in milkshakes with tapioca balls (which is what bubble tea is - what it is not, is tea.)


When she gave me the tea, she apologized, "if I offended you" which is the sort of non-apology the situation merited. I would've had much more patience for her if not for the asshole in the coffee shop. I mean, seriously, I'm from NYC, the surliest, most pretentious place in the country. And yet I can't recall ever encountering such surliness or pretentiousness in New York. Not even from Brooklyn Hipsters.

Next vacation, I'm keeping tea bags on me at all times.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Not My Day

Some days, I wish I could pop my eyes out,
 rinse them, then pop them back in.
This is one of those posts that I would ordinarily title "Why Is Everything So Fucking Hard?" But I'm a little disturbed at the high traffic those posts get. Do people really Google "fucking hard" when searching for porn? I can't even imagine how many dirty search terms I'd go through before landing on that one.

Anyway, I'm going to stop calling posts that because I don't want to attract a lot of disappointed readers who are just going to leave the place sticky.

OK, so.

This week, I had/have a medical appointment every day. EFT (I'm working with an actual practitioner/coach), reflexology massage, chiropractor, neurologist, pain management doc. It's a lot of leaving the house for someone as sickly as me. But I've been powering through them. Until Thursday.

I overslept a bit, panicked and then calmed down when I remember what day it was and that I didn't have to leave the house until after lunch. Things went smoothly-ish until around 11am when I realized that I was really sweaty. Either I just needed to put the fan on or I was having a hot flash. Joy.

Then I was so shaky that I didn't want to stand up and shower, even though the sweatiness made a shower quite appealing. So I did some work for one of my clients and finished with just enough time to shower, have lunch and leave for the neurologist on time, allowing an extra fifteen minutes of travel time because of subway construction.

If we're Facebook friends, you know what's coming next.

I put some body wash in my hands rubbed them together to make some lather to wash my face. I must have been lathering especially vigorously since something got in my eye. I figured it was some soap, and carried on.

But no. It was a wee tiny jojoba bead. I don't know what that it, but it's in my body wash. Which I only bought because the equivalent bar soap was out of stock for a couple of weeks. Because nothing is ever easy.

This wasn't my first rodeo, so I let my eye tear up in th hopes of washing it out. Then I pulled my upper lash over the lower like I learned from Aquaman in one of the PSA kickers on Justice League. Then I tried to find the speck and remove it with a moistened Q-Tip. Then, I did the eye wash thing by pouring a cup of water over my by now very irritated eyeball.

I paused to dry my face to make it easier to hold my eyelids open while pouring more water when I heard the loudest housefly ever. Then I saw the largest housefly ever. So I put my glasses on and saw that it was a bee. Or maybe a hornet. 

I actually waved the giant housefly away from my head, so I really dodged a bullet there. Some things do go my way. Except that now I had to move out because there was a hornet or bee in the bathroom.

It proceeded to fly into one of the light fixtures where it got stuck and died. Or flew out the window. I didn't stay for that part.

Time was getting tight, so I got dressed and made a sandwich for my lunch. While my afternoon tea was steeping, I decided to try the eye wash thing again. The flying stingy thing was nowhere to be seen, but my eyeball washing was unsuccessful. 

I had to stop rushing and face reality. So I called my eye doctor to make an emergency appointment. Then I called the neurologist to reschedule the appointment before they closed for lunch at OMG, it's almost 1pm and I have to leave for the eye doctor soon.

The neurologist's office put me on hold, so I ate my sandwich and drank my tea. Because multitasking. After I'd been on hold for 17 minutes, I hung up and called again and reschedule the appointment for a month from now. Which, fine. It's not urgent. It's not like he's been able to help my migraines anyway.

I got myself together and rushed to the subway station. I went straight to the platform heading away from my eye doctor (because construction) without actually looking to see if the other platform was closed (as in, blocked off by an impenetrable pink ribbon). When I got down to the platform, I looked across the tracks and saw that the other platform was empty, but so was the platform I was on. I'd just missed a train. Because of course I did.

The eye doctor checked my eye, but couldn't find anything in it. I had managed to wash it out after all, but my eye was so irritated that it still felt like there was a grain of sand (or a jojoba bead) in it. He gave me some moisturizing eye drops and reassured me that it was good I came in because leaving a speck in your eye just waiting for it to work its way out is a good way to really mess up your eye.

Afterwards, I stopped by the buffalo wing joint near the subway to pick up some wings for a consoling afternoon snack.

I did some more work, just enough to meet my deadlines and then spent the rest of the day on the couch with the Gilmore Girls because sometimes you have to admit that you just need to wait for a do-over in the morning.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Are You Ready For Some Sitcoms?

This TV stand shows a lack of commitment
because it lacks multiple stacks of DVDs waiting
to be watched.
Fall. When Americans get obsessed with very large men giving each other head injuries over possession of a ball while beating and murdering their loved ones in their spare time.

Many of us prefer scripted entertainment to sports. There's still a chance of disappointment, but emotionally it's way easier to give up on a TV show than a team.

We pore over the Entertainment Weekly Fall TV Preview issue like we're preparing for a fantasy football draft. The DVR draft, if you will. Which new shows will we want to check out When are our favorites returning? Will there be DVR conflicts leading to some hard choices? 

(Last year, we couldn't watch Fresh Off the Boat until Parks & Rec went off the air because everything good had to be on Tuesday night.)

Some of these shows will disappoint like Manhattan Love Story did last year. And some will be cancelled far too soon, like Selfie and A to Z, which omigod, why haven't the show runners revealed how A to Z would've ended?!?!?! They promised 26 episodes showing the entire time the lead characters dated each other. Would they have broken up? Gotten engaged or married? All we needed was 13 more episodes, but no, America was too busy watching 3 other police procedurals for a fresh show.

Hm. I guess that's something else we have in common with sports fans. Different genres are like different teams. Red Sox fans vs. Yankee fans, reality show watchers vs. people who don't want that crap in their brains.

My predictions for this season:

Doctor Who: There will be precisely one episode that no one I know has any complaints about. At all. I will be shocked. His Awesomeness feels that as long as it's Doctor Who, he'll find something to like about it. Most other Whovians will froth at the mouth over how the new season is total crap and completely unworthy of the franchise. Five years later, they will consider this season as part of the show's noble history that the current season is sullying. It's the Circle of Who and has been going on for 50 years. 

I know fans who stop watching the show because they take against a certain actor and then watch those exact episodes they skipped and decide that their hated actor is pretty good after all. Whovians are the TV fans most like sports fans, which is probably why they drive me crazy sometimes.)

Moonbeam City: The novelty of the 80s-inspired design will wear off pretty quickly. Will Rob Lowe's charm sustain it past that point? I doubt it, but I'm hoping to be surprised.

Sleepy Hollow: More crazy stuff that still pales in comparison to the first season.

Best Time Ever: Neil Patrick Harris' live show is Candid Camera meets Battle of the Network Stars. It is so insane, I'm not completely sure if I liked it, or was just flabbergasted by it. It seems too unusual to survive. But live shows are very tweetable, which means people sit through the commercials, so this show will be on forever.

Minority Report will be this year's Almost Human. I'll really like it, but it will disappoint in the ratings and go away too soon.

Scorpion and CSI:Cyber will get record ratings from all the techies hate watching it and bitching about it on social media the next day. I really don't understand that flavor of masochism, which is why I stopped being a Met fan when they went right back to sucking in 1987. 

The Muppets will be a bigger success than the last two attempts to bring the Muppets back into prime time - commercially and artistically. 

Heroes Reborn will be absolutely amazing or a complete train wreck. The pressure is on so they're gonna try their super very best and either rise to the challenge or fail spectacularly. I may have to live tweet the shit out of this one.

Shonda Rhimes will continue to make appointment television. I'm not into nighttime soaps, so I don't watch any of her shows. But I would like to point out that when Joss Whedon had three shows on the air at once, quality suffered. But not Shonda. She's got this.

EW usually prints a chronological list of show premieres that's very helpful when setting your DVR. They didn't do it this year (argh), but Vulture has you covered. 


What shows are you looking forward to?