Monday, October 5, 2015

Monday Links

Here, read some stuff that I read.

Does Borat hold up on rewatch? Apparently, it does.

T'was ballpoint pens that killed cursive, not computers. 

If Stephen Colbert Were Your Dad

Stop doing stupid shit on Facebook in the name of raising cancer awareness. we're all aware of cancer. And posting nonsense on Facebook does nothing to help people with cancer. No, starting a conversation about cancer when someone bitches at you for participating in a stupid Facebook game does not help anyone with cancer. And since these idiotic games include making people post pregnancy announcements, it's pretty fucking insulting to infertile people. No, you're not just anything. You're being an ass.

Ahem. And, as I mentioned on FB the other day, posting pictures of pink ribbons doesn't help either. It can even be hurtful to all the cancer patients, survivors and loved ones you know who just want to stop being aware of cancer for a few minutes.

The cutest ghost story ever

Wednesday, September 30, 2015


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?