Monday, May 28, 2007

Argentina Sounds Promising

I'm sure I wouldn't last ten minutes there, but this sounds like fun.

Poland's Taxes at Work

Teletubbies are under scrutiny in Poland to see whether they promote a homosexual lifestyle.

I sort of thought one of the hallmarks of the homosexual lifestyle was sex. Are teletubbies getting it on? My how children's programming has changed.

Maybe it's a tribute to Jerry Falwell.

What the hell?

I was listening to NPR this morning, and they had a brief feature on walking as a form of transportation (as opposed to fitness or recreation). They interviewed this guy Colin, who, with the blessing of his long-suffering wife, has pledged to do everything in his power to get down to zero environmental impact over the course of a year (they're about 6 months through the year now, so they're not at zero yet). This involves a lot of wacky stuff like walking everywhere, composting inside their apartment, looking for alternatives to anything disposable (you don't want to know), and not using elevators (he definitely started the year more fit than I am, and he's better at getting up in the morning--I think I'd have to add an hour to my commute, and I'd also have to pack a lunch, because there'd be no way in hell I'd walk down to the cafe from my high-rise office). I thought he sounded interesting, so I looked him up on the internet.

I went to a liberal college that is basically living as though the summer of love never stopped. I know the "we hate granola liberals" drill. I know that you don't talk politics or environmentalism with anyone who owns a gun (I make an exception for my father--sometimes). I know that you keep your environmentalism under your hat unless you're willing to be sworn at, threatened, and vandalized. So I knew there were going to be people who wanted to hang him up by his thumbs, ask him to leave the country, or whatever. But no matter what my intellectual understanding is of the hatred, I'm always unprepared for how ruthlessly violent it is when it actually comes out (the piece from the NY Times is linked at the top, and you can scroll through the comments to see what I mean--and if you go to his blog, you'll see more, including the fact that people who comment on his blog also get death threats--charming). I also see that he has published photos of his family on his blog, which was the first thing about him that made me think he might actually be crazy. I hope he has an environmentally friendly bodyguard.

I don't understand why people want to banish or kill someone for doing something that's not going to inconvenience them AT ALL. He's not trying to push his choices on others--which evidently makes him "self-absorbed." If he did try to push it on others, then they'd be all upset about that, too. What mystifies me is why these people are so upset about what's going on inside his apartment? How does this inconvenience people who want to take elevators and drive SUVs? It doesn't. More space in the elevator if this dude is taking the stairs, right? And would they rather that he talked the talk without walking the walk? No, I'm pretty sure that pisses them off, too. Apparently everyone who's willing to bring their own bag to the grocery store is supposed to live in some hippie commune far away from civilization. Well, sorry. He pays taxes and he's entitled to live here.

Don't get me wrong. I lived with my cousin for a while after I got divorced, and some of the stuff she did in the name of environmentalism drove me nuts. (Like the compact fluorescent bathroom lights that took so long to warm up when you turned them on that by the time they generated any light I was leaving the bathroom--I think the entire environmental evangelism of this product is that it convinces you that you can do almost anything in the dark if you are desperate enough. Or the refusal to spray for bugs. Roaches may be God's creatures, but God, sadly, has no vested interest in keeping them out of my home. That's why He gave us Raid.) I have no desire to live like this guy is.

Which is a good thing because in most cities, I'd have died trying. If I still lived in Phoenix and decided to walk everywhere, I'd be unemployed or living in a cardboard box (and also dead of heat stroke). If I lived in Phoenix and decided to eat only local food, I'm not sure what I would be eating. I've seen chickens, cattle and cotton in the Phoenix area, but I wouldn't want to live on that (particularly since I've now been told that red meat and dairy are killing us all, because cattle are chock full of greenhouse gas and are a model of unsustainable farming--which pretty much leaves chicken a la cotton). Seriously, it's way easier to be eco-friendly here than almost any other urban area I've lived in.

So I'm aware that he's an extreme person, and that what he's doing isn't feasible for people who aren't extreme (and he's only halfway there--yikes!). But if (it's a big if) his book sells, it will prove that there is a market for environmental conscience-wiping, and then I pretty much think capitalism kicks in from there--do the hate mongers have any problem with capitalism? I didn't think so. Of course, zero-impact living probably means he wouldn't be able to buy the new odorless apartment composter, say, or whatever else might be thrown at this wackadoo market. But the beauty of capitalism is that if you don't want one, you don't have to buy it. More cash left over to garage your SUV in Manhattan.

I also think it's entirely possible that I can get through the next six months without thinking, reading, or caring about him. So why the hell can't these other people just ignore him and leave him be?

Thursday, May 24, 2007


When did they stop selling Whoppers in a carton? I disapprove.

Drinking while low on blood

They took a bunch of blood today for tests. In the past, I have been known to pass out when they take blood for tests--once in the parking lot of an urgent care clinic. I remember blissfully embracing the warm asphalt as my mother ran inside for help. Good times. Once I thought this was because I was such a weenie, but it turns out that it has to do with having low blood pressure, so I'm not a weenie. (Or rather, I am, but not because I pass out when they take my blood.)

I went back to work, even though I felt sleepy and dizzy. Because, let's be honest, what else am I going to do? You can't just go to sleep at 3.

But my colleagues were not to be fooled. They saw pale, listless Katy, and they sent her home. Not until 5:30, 'tis true, but still. So I walked home (good for the blood pressure--I did feel better once I was walking around) and stopped at the grocery store on the way home. And tonight I had a beer with my dinner, which I've been trying not to do.

Turns out that although most days I totally can't finish a beer, I can if you take a bunch of my blood and then have me walk a couple of miles. I finished it, and it wasn't even that much of a challenge. In fact, it was fantastic.

On the other hand, I'm normally a lightweight, and tonight, one beer is more than enough. My head is spinning. I want to watch the season finale of "Lost" and maybe another episode of "Heroes" (which is indeed charming, and I wish I'd been watching all along). But instead, I think I may go to bed with a DVD.

So what have I accomplished, here? Oh, that's right. Nothing. But the beer makes me feel better about it.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

My Neighbors Sing Karaoke

Every Sunday night there are showtunes. It's okay, though, because they are good. Last week was Smoky Joe's Cafe (which I adore). This week it's...something I don't recognize, possibly because my hearing sucks so bad. But that's good, because I'm less tempted to sing. I've had to give up singing now that I no longer have a car. I believe it's listed as a crime against humanity for me to sing if I'm not alone in a car with the windows rolled up.

It beats the rat in the wall, I can tell you that much. Oh, did I not mention him? Yeah. "Welcome to New York. Here's a rat to keep you company. He loves you and he's nocturnal. Yes, you might wish he were a man, but he's not. He's a rat. Because if we were giving out men, everyone would move here. Well, everyone but heterosexual men. So, really, it would be just like it is now except you'd have a man instead of a rat. Whoopsie daisy. Enjoy your rat." On the bright side, the rat was in the wall rather than in my apartment. And on the brightest possible side, he escaped somewhere upstairs and was apparently apprehended without incident. Well, without any incident that involved me. I'm thinkin' my super doesn't see it that way, but he still has eight fingers and two thumbs. I didn't want to inquire further than a general tally of digits because I might squeal like a big old fraidy cat, thus risking being laughed out of town for not being able to impersonate a city dweller.

I also didn't ask what happened to the rat. I trust my super, and I prefer not to know. Maybe he went to live on a farm. Or maybe it's a little rat angel I hear singing show tunes on Sundays. RIP, little rat. Oh, and welcome to New York.

Things don't work...

and I'm going back to bed.

I ordered some stuff from today, mostly because they promised me 20% off one item (and also because they had zinc oxide sunscreen, which I've been having trouble finding here, since the Brooklyn Target frequently has whole empty shelves where the mob has picked them clean--people, this is not the way Target looks in a civilized society). After ten minutes of trial and error, I finally figured out where they wanted me to put their 20% off code. But they didn't apply it to anything in my cart, not even to my $1.47 sunscreen. Bastards.

So I thought I might do some laundry. Hell no. Yesterday the dryer took $2 and totally failed to dry my clothes. I don't mean it tried and failed. I mean it took the coins, and then when the little coin slot is supposed to pop back out, signaling that you have successfully paid the laundry troll and may now dry your clothes, it never came back out. This morning, the same thing happened to the washer. Fine. Who cares, anyway? I sure don't. Who needs clean clothes? Thank God I washed my major loads yesterday (and put them both in the one half-assed dryer that didn't steal my money). I guess I'll be doing some hand washing today to ensure I have hose to wear this week. Oh, and underwear might be a problem. DAMN it. Those laundry trolls owe me $4 and clean underwear.

Now I'm trying to watch Heroes on Approximately 80,000 people have recommended it to me, and so far I am charmed by the storyline. Or as charmed as I can be, given that will only show me the first 4/5ths of any given episode. Yeah, the 5th part just never comes up after the ad. So then at the beginning of the next episode, I get some huge-ass revelation during the "previously, on `Heroes'" segment. Pissants.

Screw the internet and screw laundry. I'm going back to bed with a nice low-tech book. They work with surprising regularity--I have not had to call tech support on them once.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

The Dryer is a Thug

A thug, I tell ya!

I knew when I moved to Brooklyn that I would end up paying an inordinate amount for laundry. I accept that I have to pay $2 to wash and $2 to dry my clothes. Whatever. Fine.

But when the dryer steals my $2 and doesn't want to dry my clothes, now it's highway robbery.

I'm sure the super will be sympathetic, and I'm reasonably sure he's empowered to give me my $2 in quarters. But right now I'm just sad. Because there are only two dryers down there, and now my clothes are going to take twice as long to dry. Good thing I got two rolls of quarters this morning. It's gonna be a loooooong night.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Why I Adore Accountants

One of the regrets I had about leaving my last job was that I thought I wouldn't be working with finance geeks anymore. And to a certain extent, that's true. Where I work now it's much more centered on accounting, which means I have to learn a whole bunch of stuff about ticking and tying and the general ledger, and for once in my life no one gives a rat's ass about strategic reporting. But there's a lot of overlap between the finance geeks and the accounting geeks, and I'm learning to love the accounting geeks almost as much as I loved their finance counterparts.

There is a ruler on every desk, which appeals to my obsessive-compulsive nature (when I underlined my books in college, I liked to use a ruler, and that's just how crazy I am). There are pencil sharpeners everywhere, because you can give an accountant Excel, and he will love it, but it's a rare accountant who doesn't sometimes find himself with a printout wanting to check things off with a sharp pencil.

The way they show affection is wonderful, too--they give you tax advice, or find you a spreadsheet. They understand that if they learn something it will make me really happy, and they trip over themselves like big puppies showing off what they find out. It's so gratifying to teach people who are eager to learn and curious about their work tools. (Not that there aren't a few subscribers to the "I am a passive learner. Now you will fill my head with knowledge." school of thought, too--but I don't think you ever get away from that.)

And there is no one like an accountant to appreciate the glory of a really tiny risk. I think this is my favorite thing of all. The risk inherent in very small decisions--what to have for lunch, how you assemble your flat-pack furniture, whether you're going somewhere now or later--is not likely to be lost on an accountant. And since the risk of every small decision is automatically magnified in my head (sometimes more so than the large decisions), I find this utterly disarming. I know they're not rock stars. But I think they might be more fun to work with.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Gordon'll Be Beeping Mad

I kind of enjoy the F-Word. Gordon Ramsay is entertaining, and he's obviously been working on being a charming loser (don't worry--he's not quite a success story yet). Every week there's a challenge where some brave person goes head-to-head with Ramsay in a taste test. The challenger chooses the recipe, and Gordon loses nearly every time (desserts seem to be a particular bete noir). But I suspect that this will challenge his precarious aplomb.

On the one hand, Gordon seems to make it his personal mission to piss off everyone on earth at least once. And PETA are an easy target. Still, it's a little ironic that PETA is on his case, given that a consistent theme on the F-Word is Gordon's desire to teach his children where meat comes from. During season one Gordon and his family cared for turkeys destined for the dinner table. Season two featured pigs. I'm not saying PETA should be happy with the outcome. Those kids are born meat-eaters--we didn't see a tear during the seamless turkey transition from pet to food. And admittedly, minions probably care for the animals off-camera (I'm imagining a hapless apprentice mucking out the pigsty for six weeks because he undercooked a piece of chicken). But you'd think they'd find something worth praising in the effort. It's not one most meat-eaters would make (myself included--and not just because I don't have the cash or the minions).

PETA may start a trend of doorstep deliveries for Gordon. Imagine what Gordon's wife is enduring--maybe someone can chuck a truckload of Valium on his doorstep and ask him to either take it himself or pass it along--either way is sure to improve her standard of living. I mean, we all knew she was probably some kind of crazy angel, but I think someone may want to pull her aside and explain that she really won't be getting a medal for all this. Come to think of it, if there's a society for the prevention of cruelty to TV viewers, maybe they could drop a ton of wife-beaters on his doorstep or something. Someone has got to stop that man from taking off his shirt on camera.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Chain Letters That Burn My Cookies

Every year I get some version of this dumbass chain letter (this year's urges Americans not to buy gas on May 15th). I guess if Americans like anything better than complaining, it's an ineffective display of power. "Hey, gang, let's all buy gas on Monday instead of Tuesday." Yes, the world trembles before us--we managed to avoid buying gas for 24 hours. This strategy is the equivalent of saying that I'm saving hot water by not running the kitchen sink--and then going and taking a long, hot shower.

I honestly think people continue to send me the e-mail because they enjoy watching me go out and find the article on the web that says it's a bunch of horse manure. Well, here's your damn link. And I'm just going to say:
  • I'm not going to buy gas tomorrow, because I no longer own a car.
  • Even when I did own a car, the odds are good that tomorrow would not have been the one day a month that I needed to buy it gas.
  • If it were the one day I needed to buy gas, I would buy it, because not buying gas tomorrow is silly.
  • I promise to walk to and from work tomorrow, and to do whatever else I can to reduce my energy usage for a whole 24 hours. Personally, I think that would be a way cooler chain e-mail (and it's still more fun than hardship--there are precious few things it hurts to give up for 24 hours, and almost all of them are more fun by candlelight).
  • If cheap gas is a priority for you, may I suggest scenic Venezuela (a bonus: I bet they have some big ol' spiders there, too). Less than 25 cents a gallon, baby.
  • If you want to feel better about what you pay for gas without doing anything, maybe this will help: in England you'd be paying between $6.50 and $8.50 a gallon.

Chicken-Eating Spiders...No, Really

I'm sure no one remembers this post. The memory of the dinner (or, more accurately, the dinner conversation) is burned on my brain in letters of fire, because this was the first time I met someone who had personally seen huge-ass spiders in their natural habitat. So whereas before, my knowledge was theoretical, nature-channel knowledge, now it was urban legend knowledge--the spiders had happened to a friend of mine when he was visiting a foreign country. And I knew another friend whose childhood vacation home was infested with big roaming spiders she could hear walking on their hardwood floors. The spiders were closing in.

At the time I comforted myself by joking with my girlfriends about how the spiders might eat chickens. Oh, how we laughed. What a funny image. We laughed until we cried.

Well, the spiders in Peru actually do eat chickens. I can hear the spider saying, "Who's laughing now, girls?"

The spiders, they scare me. Excuse me, I have to go rent Arachnophobia.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Tech Writing for Dummies

Everyone who's ever written instructions knows it's not as easy as it sounds. It's like that exercise you may have done in grade school where you write instructions for making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, and then the teacher takes your instructions and shows how they actually tell you to spread the peanut butter on the bread--before you take the bread out of the bag. When you know what you're doing, it can be easy to miss a step--which is why IT folks just love to give their directions to the new guy and then stand behind him with a clipboard. There's no better way to catch your mistakes.

Of course in a case like this, that's not the strategy I'd employ. The state of Tennessee apparently had a manual for lethal injection that was the front runner for "worst instruction manual ever." Tennessee's governor has been forced to pull the offending instructions and stay executions while they're rewritten.
Tennessee's rescinded manual appeared to confuse lethal injection with electrocution. For example, it called for an inmate's head to be shaved, and for officials to have a fire extinguisher, electrode gel, an emergency generator and an electrician present.
Let that be a lesson to you, kids. Copying and pasting can save you time, but that last edit is of vital importance.

We've all heard that careless talk costs lives, but apparently now what we said while assembling that furniture from Ikea is actually true. Badly written instructions really are cruel and unusual punishment.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

I want my TV

No, not my M-TV, just my TV. And my sofa, and all my other belongings. They're all back in Arizona until this stuff with my old townhouse gets worked out. To recap, the situation is this:
  1. I'm not moving my stuff until the townhouse sells, because homes sell better with stuff in them (especially when they have a big purple wall).
  2. My townhouse hasn't sold, even though I have an enthusiastic buyer, because a structural engineer decided, at the last minute, that the garage was about to fall down.
  3. The garage will cost $15k to fix, and at the moment there's polite but painstaking work being done to find out whose responsibility that is (not the buyer's--maybe mine, maybe the HOA's, or maybe it belongs to the inspector who told me the house was perfectly fine when I bought it only a couple of years ago--or maybe to the insurance company of any of those potentially responsible parties).
  4. We're now going to have to pay summer rates to the movers in Phoenix. Not that you should care, but it makes me a teeny bit more bitter.
I've been watching TV on my computer (most networks make the programs I want to watch conveniently available online, which is nice). This is fine insofar as it goes, although "Lost" has taken a turn lately where I'm constantly missing the frame-by-frame function of my Tivo. But what I really miss is the ceremonial aspect of watching television.

I don't worship TV, but I am a creature of habit. I like stretching out on the sofa and browsing the Tivo. I like Sundays--I prepare for them all week by having my Tivo find horror movies that I can watch while I do laundry and clean. Then when I'm done I pause an old movie while I make popovers, eating the popovers with butter and cheese in front of the last few minutes of the film. (Yes, really. An ideal Sunday double-header would be something like "Halloween" and "Woman of the Year," only with movies I hadn't seen before.)

I like my ceremonies, and I was quite aware of them before I moved. I think I've done pretty well for a couple of months without them. And it's not just the TV that's missing. It's the sofa (I wish I had a comfy place to read, too) and the popover pans and a knife that will cut cheese (although my friend recently sent me the knife, which was nice). I'm ready for this bit to be over. I'm ready to clean and decorate my apartment, to lie on the sofa waiting for my laundry, and to feel at home.

Bad Timing

Ewan McGregor as Iago. Chiwetel Ejiofor as Othello. (I don't know this chickie playing Desdemona, but I hate her on principle.) At one of my favorite London theaters, the Donmar Warehouse. And I was planning to go to London soon, too.

The problem? Doesn't open until December 4. People, you are KILLING ME. I was planning a walking tour of the Thames Path, and I don't fancy doing that in December. I know English weather is mild, but December seems like a bit of a stretch. What to do....

Friday, May 11, 2007

This can't happen fast enough

Not content with terrorizing citizens via reality television, the creator of Big Brother has just bought Hammer Horror. This is the ultimate horror history acquisition--worlds better than having, say, Steve McQueen's jacket from "The Blob" (although that would be really cool). And unlike slacker Charles Saatchi (who did apparently license a boatload of DVD's, and let no one suggest that I'm not appropriately grateful), the new owners intend to put the movies on the big screen. Which makes me almost as happy as if they gave me Steve McQueen's jacket.

I would happily buy an economy-sized bucket of popcorn and plop myself down for a double feature of the Hammer Horror version of "The Mummy" and the 1999 version (which I think is swell, partly because it knows where it comes from). Modern films could learn a lot from these old school British thrillers. I recently had the honor of seeing "Black Christmas" and although I'm generally prejudiced in favor of any film protested by the Catholic church ("Dogma" is a case in point), honestly, what was the point? Dissolute teens die horribly (I'm shocked, shocked I tell you) and the villain (it would be a spoiler, but honestly, you can't spoil something that starts out rotten) has quite the penchant for eating eyeballs--and that may be the least disgusting thing I can say about the film. (If you do have the poor judgment to rent it, tell me if you can spot the shout-out to Richard Roeper, who really hated this skating movie.)

It made me long for the good old days, when a killer didn't need a whole raft of childhood traumas or a gross eyeball-eating gimmick to be scary. Give me good old Michael from Halloween any day. What's Michael's issue? Who the hell cares? The franchise's designated explainer (a psychologist, no less) assures us that he's just plain evil. Good enough for me. He's strong, he's silent, and he doesn't stop. That gives me chills. The eyeball-eating creature in the attic has me working out the production's budget for marshmallow eyes in my head and checking my watch.

So bring on the Hammer Horror classics. My popcorn and I are waiting.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

What are they filming on State Street?

And why, God, why did it not result in my having a meet-cute with Edward Norton?

Seriously. I'm about the most distracted person on earth these days (yeah, remember when I was riding in the elevator with Annie Leibovitz?), and yesterday, after far too little sleep, I walked straight onto a location shot. Fortunately, they weren't filming at the time, which is good, because I have seen a director while he's burning film, and it would have given new meaning to the term "location shot."

You may not think I'm a complete idiot yet. Let me assure you that I am. Have you ever seen a film location? They are not hard to spot. All I can say is that the general activity and crap everywhere looked just like everyplace else you're trying to walk here. All that was around was a bunch of craft service trucks, a whole lotta crew in black t-shirts, and a lot of orange cones. If you avoid orange cones while you're walking in New York you will NEVER get where you are going. And as for big noisy trucks and dudes wearing black t-shirts, well, I have to say, they didn't strike me as remarkable, because you can throw a stone anywhere here and you'll hit one or the other. In fact, the remarkable thing would be finding a stone.

So it wasn't until I was in the middle of the whole affair that I realized I didn't belong there. Believe me, they were as surprised as I was. Particularly when I looked up and immediately registered, "oh, film set" and just walked off to the other side of the street without any interest in what they were doing. I love movies. Love 'em. But I have learned several things about the industry, and when I'm confronted with a filming situation, my first instinct is to get the hell away from it as fast as humanly possible--not because it isn't magic, but because if you don't belong there, you are In The Way. If I weren't agnostic, I would also say a prayer, because based on what I've seen and heard, there's no good reason there aren't more crew deaths on movie sets. It is a miracle that so many movies wrap without a fatality, and I don't want some poor guy in a black t-shirt to take me out on his way down as he falls off the top of a truck.

I daresay they were entertained by my cluelessness, especially since I was wearing a particularly fetching Ugly Betty ensemble yesterday. I was wearing a green skirt, a fugly brown wool sweater, and super ugly $8 shoes. Actually, I think Betty dresses better than I was dressed on my way home yesterday. (The sweater is the "sweater of last resort" you keep in your desk, but apparently New Yorkers are so addicted to air conditioning that they flip it on the first time they see the sun and don't turn it off again until someone can't make it into work because of all the snow. By the time I left work I was convinced I would never be warm again and actually wore the damn thing home. The green skirt is lovely in the right context, but the fugly brown sweater made it look hickish and homely. I'm not even going to defend the shoes. They were comfortable, and I'm not from around here. Mea culpa.)

Anyway, I ran into them again tonight, and this time I was properly attired (i.e., I was able to pass as a normal person). Naturally they had the street cordoned off like a crime scene, but they needn't have worried--I was looking out for them this time. Also had an eye out for Edward Norton, but, ya know, if he didn't show when I was kitted out in my hick-from-the-sticks finery, he's not showing up at all. Men have a knack for bad timing, and I'm sure he's no exception.

You know you're an IT nerd when...

you watch "House" and think, "wow, must be nice for the ER to have such an effective escalation path."