Thursday, April 28, 2011

My Hypocritical List.

    Truth is, as hard as I try not to be, I'm a hypocrite.  Of all my character flaws, of which there are many, this is one I really try to fight.  When I pontificate about being a better person, I generally start with trying to not be hypocritical.  But it's a tough standard to keep up and when faced with the dilemma between the principle and the behavior, I tend to just lean into the behavior and compromise my principles. 
     The hypocritical list:
  • I hate talking about the weather, but I usually end up talking about the weather all the time.
  • People shouldn't stand in front of the doors on the Metro, except  I can do it because I understand how to do it right.
  • Reading is fundamental, but I don't read as much as I say I should.
  • Tardiness is unacceptable, unless I'm late and then there was probably a good excuse. 
  • People should clean up after themselves, unless I forget to wash a dish or don't want to pick up.
  • Going to the grocery store in pajamas is weird, except for when I always wear my pajamas to go grocery shopping.
  • I hate the phrase "to tell the truth," but to be honest, I use it all the time.
  • I hate when people pepper their speech with the word like, except I do it, like, at least once a day.
  • It drives me nuts when people talk in questions, but I do it when trying to make a joke.  "Did you remember to mail your rent?  Yes?"
  • Your rent should never be late, except when I mail the rent late because stamps are difficult to come by.
  • I bitch about the intrusiveness of Facebook, but not only do I not delete my profile, I leave my pictures up and update my status if I had a great meal.
  • I argue that brevity is the key to conversation, yet I send three page emails.
  • My mother's super short emails drive me nuts, but if I got a three page email from my mother, I would lose my shit.
  • I insist I can't afford new clothes, but I just bought a new TV, a few DVD collections, and improv classes, all while spending every weekend in New York City. 
  • I complain about the prevalence of fast food, but I still pay $8 for a burrito about twice a week.  
  • Corporations are ruining the country, except for the ones I go to because local businesses in cities I'm not familiar with scare me.
  • I hate when people complain about everything, except ugh, isn't everything just the worst?  Gross.  
  • I don't like spicy things but I insist on coating my buffalo wings in as much sauce as possible and then bitching about how I hate spicy things.  
  • I like my coffee black; I'm not picky unless you're making my coffee in which case just move out of the way and let me do it because it'll never be right.
  • I'm not a picky eater except that I don't like condiments or fancy things or Mediterranean food or Indian food or Greek food all that much and only some Thai food.  Also, I like anything on my pizza, except pepperoni.  Or pineapple.  And light on the onions.  And no basil or basil-based products or white sauce.  
That's not really an exhaustive list either.  Apparently I am a huge hypocrite.  I try to keep it under check for the really big things.  For example, I don't throw buckets of paint at people wearing furs and leather coats while I enjoy my giant bloody steak.  But the small ones creep in.  Perhaps it's because sometimes life gets too daunting and going to the trouble of putting on clothes to go to the grocery store and reading entire books seems like too much.  To tell the truth, I like, don't really know.   I sure as hell can't afford to pay someone to tell me either. 

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

My Trouble With Words

     I have trouble with words sometimes.  When trying to describe something, words just won't come out.  I flail my hands around in an attempt to spit the word out.  It's not because I don't know what I'm talking about, it's just because the word isn't right there.  I think more conceptually.  I think in shapes and abstract ideas and it takes me a little longer to translate those abstract things into words. 
     One of the best examples is from a few years ago.  There's a decent amount of back story, but I'm going to try to just give the bare bones of it.  A friend of mine had applied for a job and interviewed with my boss.  After the interview I asked my boss about the whole ordeal.  She told me that it had gone well and she passed the application on to The Steaming Kettle.  The Steaming Kettle was a location I wasn't familiar with but from the tone in her voice, I should have been.  When she said the name of it, it conjured an image in my mind.
     Later that day, or the next day, my friend asked me if I knew anything.  Yes!  I do!  "She really likes you and passed your info on to another store.  Uh, the smoking cauldron I think she said."  The exact details of the rest of that conversation are a little hazy, but I know we were in the pool at the time, and I almost drowned from laughing so damn hard.  My friend was pretty sure I was mistaken.
     A day or two after that my friend confirmed she received a phone call- from The Steaming Kettle.  "That's pretty much the same thing." I said.  We never let it go.  We used to refer to it as The Smoking Cauldron all the time.  I tried to explain what happened in my head.  My boss said the words steaming kettle.  I pictured what a steaming kettle might look like.  My image of a steaming kettle was slightly askew.  When asked to recall what my boss said, I conjured up the steaming kettle image and then tried to name it.  I named it a smoking cauldron.  It made sense to me. 
     Sometimes people really think I don't know what I'm saying, or what I'm talking about.  I need to practice being able to get to words faster, especially if I want to go anywhere in improv.  I tend to have a go-to of potatoes, because even though the picture in my head is of an old woman stirring a cabbage-based Irish stew, all that comes out is "POTATOES!"  Great.  My scene partners are a little fed up with potato scenes. 
     Here's another example of the searching-for-the-word phenomenon.  I was in line for tickets to the Top of the Rock Observation Deck.  I got to the front of the line and approach the counter:
How can I help you?
I'd like two tickets for the tour please.
What tour is that?
Nope.  I did not mean tour.  Uh, the top.  The observation deck. 
The Top of the Rock?
Yes please.  
The lovely woman behind the counter thought I was a moron.  To make matters worse, there are actually various tours you can take of Rockefeller Center.  I almost ended up on a three-hour (I don't know how long it is) Art Decco tour of Rockefeller Center. 
     Perhaps I should invest in flash cards.  I'm not going to change my way of thinking, it has come in handy when tackling calculus and rocket scientry.  But I would like to combat that glazed over look in my eyes when asked to describe that thing on pipes that holds them together and kind of looks like a donut.  Yes, a flange.  Exactly. 

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Because Misery Loves Company

     It's the impetus behind complaining and the concept of "this is gross, smell it."  Misery loves company, that is why I am going to share my horrible oatmeal experience with you. 
     A few days ago I discussed how much I regretted buying sugar free oatmeal.  It is, indeed, gross.  I didn't want to be wasteful though so I started just mixing in a packet of regular sugar with it.  This made it palatable.   Last Wednesday or Thursday sometime I bought a small container of milk (a quart I think) so that I could enjoy Honey Nut Cheerios for breakfast.   It happened to be whole milk.  This isn't my milk of choice, but I was purchasing milk at CVS and their selection was lacking and I didn't have the time or desire to huff it over to the grocery store an entire Metro stop over. 
      It was a little later than I normally eat, but the hunger pangs were kicking in so I decided to bust out the oatmeal.  I grabbed the packet of instant oatmeal and my microwave pyrex container I use for breakfast every day.  Considering myself to be quite genius for this, I put the oatmeal in and mix in a packet of regular Dominos sugar.  Then I add a little bit of water and  decide mixing in some whole milk would make it great.  I open the fridge, grab the milk, uncap it, and pour.  Glump.  Glump.  Oh god.  I stop pouring and look in the milk container and it was basically a gel now.  The expiration date is April 25th and apparently that is a hard-fucking-expiration date.   I scrape the milk curds out of the top of the oatmeal, not sure I got it all, and then add more water.  Too much water.
     Sixty seconds later the mixture in the microwave had slightly congealed, but it was clearly too liquidy.   Luckily, I thought, I had another packet of oatmeal in my drawer.  I slowly mixed it in and eventually added the whole packet to get it to the correct thick consistency I like my oatmeal to be.  Too much oatmeal.  It looked like this:
The oatmeal was so thick, the spoon could stand straight up.  I took a few bites and was overcome with the fact that 1. I did not add more sugar when I added more oatmeal and 2. the taste of sour milk is very overpowering.  Also, the whole thing smells bad.
      I'm really looking forward to lunch.  I'm sure nothing can go wrong with left over rice and salmon.

Monday, April 25, 2011

My Favorite Part of Holidays

     The only part of Easter I'm willing to observe is the after-Easter candy sales.  Everything pastel and bunny shaped will be two-for-one at the local Rite Aid, and I'm going to stuff my candy drawer with enough chocolate to choke Jesus.  (Jesus is my building's maintenance man.)
     I'll try to stock up on enough peanut butter M&M's to get me through until the next major candy holiday.  Unfortunately,  that's Halloween, so it's not very realistic.  Hopefully there'll be red, white, & blue M&M's for the Fourth of July.  As a side note, I like to holiday peanut butter M&M's a little more than the regular peanut butter M&M's because, in my experience, they have a more consistent shape.  I don't know why this is, and I may not want to know, but there seems to be a process when making the specked "looks like robin eggs" peanut butter M&M's that forces them into a mold and they come out perfectly shaped.  The non-holiday ones are more randomly shaped.  It's fine, they still taste right, but aesthetically, I like the consistency of the holiday themed ones.
     Somehow I missed Jelly Beans this year.  I'm one of those freaks who really likes black jelly beans.  Really.  I love them.  I used to pick those out of the dish when I was a kid.  My mom used to make these Easter dessert things out of shredded wheat, chocolate, and jelly beans that were supposed to look like birds' nests with eggs in them, and I would go through and take all the black eggs off.  My second favorite was purple and I firmly stand by the opinion that they taste like purple.
     Happy Candy Sale Day!

Friday, April 22, 2011

East-what? Please Pass the Champagne.

     I've been trying to learn new words.  I miss the organic way I would stumble upon them in school, and it's been a bit of a struggle for me to really incorporate the words from my Vocabulary Builder into my everyday speech.  There are two words that were in yesterday's lesson that I'm hoping I'll be able to use very soon: bacchanalian and dionysian.  According to my Vocabulary Builder, the have the same meaning: frenzied or orgiastic.  (I would also like to start using the word orgiastic.)
     I have a pretty good weekend planned and I imagine being able to describe it in these terms.
Here's the itinerary for the weekend in New York City.  I think you'll find it's very bacchanalian.
One may want to point out that having an itinerary wouldn't be inherently bacchanalian, but to that I say nay.  You can plan for frenzied and orgiastic.  Having a plan keeps you from sitting inside all day staring at the walls and recreating the scene from the Jungle Book with the vultures.
We have two options: we can go shopping on 5th Ave and catch a show later.  Or we can follow this dionysian plan. 
See, it totally makes sense.
What's this blacked out part at the end of the schedule?
That's the orgiastic portion of the evening.
So you scheduled an orgy?
Yes.   But I didn't want to use the word in the definition of the word.
Realistically, the weekend won't be completely bacchanalian or dionysian.  I'm getting a little too old for that shit.  But hopefully the bacchanalian plan will produce a weekend that is quasi-orgiastic, thereby deaming it demi-dionysian.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Losing One's Shit

     I am cutting it close to getting today's post up in time.  I cycled through a few ideas hoping to find something that could be mined for a few paragraphs.  Nothing really came to mind.  I have to keep reminding myself what day of the week it is and I considered a post about the days being long but the weeks also being long or some bullshit.
     I am getting increasingly closer to losing my shit each time I ride the Metro.  The escalator situation is out of control.  The announcer woman says clearly "please move to the center of the car" but no one does it.  Hoi polloi insist on strolling as slowly as fucking possible onto the train car increasing the risk of me losing a small body part in the "these doors are not like elevator doors" doors.  Each person thinks the entire Metro system was put in place for them. 
     Let me clarify on the escalator situation being out of control.  All stations in the Metro center have escalators.  Most of them are broken.  I know the old joke- a broken escalator is just stairs.  Wakka wakka wakka.  No.  It is not.  Given the option of stairs, I would take them.  Rarely are there stairs available in the Metro system.
     I get off the Metro every morning at the Navy Yard stop.  To exit the platform there are actually a set of stairs as well as an up direction escalator.  I opt for the stairs.  I began opting for the stairs because standing in line for the escalator is fucking stupid.  Often there is a wee bit of a line for the stairs as well because so many people are exiting at that time, but it tends to be manageable.  Except for when people don't get that the stairs work both ways- up and down.  So when 200 people start going up the stairs, the 3 who need to come down cannot.  Fights break out.
     Then we make it to the turn-style type mechanism we pass through to exit the station.  More lines.  I take a deep breath and count to ten.  Then, THEN, comes the most ridiculous part.  The exit to the street.  Another escalator.  It's an escalator bank actually, there are three of them.  On very rare occasions all three are in operation and during rush hour two go up and one down.  Again I say, this is rare.  Apparently rush hour is also the best possible time to repair an escalator.  For the last week or so there has been one escalator completely out of service and blocked off, one in the down direction, and one just stopped.  It is maddening.  There are several hundred people trying to huff if up an escalator that would be about 4 stories worth of stairs if they were just stairs at the same time.  When you get to the top there are a group of asshats distributing newspapers and a guy whose job is to wear a baseball cap and wave at people leaving the Metro, telling them to "have a nice day."
     It's the kind of thing that makes me almost lose my shit.
     Yesterday on my way home the escalator bank at Dupont Circle was out.  This is not a small or insignificant thing.  If you were to google "Dupont Circle escalators" you would see many news stories about their consistent crappery.  These escalators are pretty fucking serious- they're steep and tall.  I counted once when walking down and it was 120 steps.  I've walked up before but then needed to seek ambulatory care immediately after.  When I approached the broken escalator yesterday (day before, whatevs) I just took an immediate left and went towards the elevator.  Surprise.  There was a line.  (This was not a surprise.)  In the line were a few families, all of whom had strollers and tennis balls.  The escalator is very small, meant for a singular wheelchair and its occupant.  More breathing, more counting to ten.  By the time I made it out of the station, the escalator had started working again.
     It's the kind of thing that makes me almost lose my shit. 

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Buyer's Remorse

     The thing I most often get buyer's remorse over is food.  It's also a ridiculous thing to get buyer's remorse over because I'm going to be able to do it all again about four to five hours later.  I'm not good at ordering food- I am the opposite of Sally.  I spend an inordinate amount of time agonizing over what to get and then when my plate arrives, I'll regret it.  I see what someone else has ordered and think I should have gotten that.  Why didn't I just get that?  Waaaaa.
     This happens a lot when trying new things.  I try to be adventurous, to branch out, but then I end up branching out a little too far and being envious of the chap next to me with the cheese covered burrito.  A wedge salad?  Really?  I guess I can say I've done it, that's something. 
     Sometimes I stick with my old standby because I'm confident I'll like it and I'll still end up regretting it.  Someone near me will have gotten the special and I'll immediately feel the pangs of regret.  Oh the specials.  They're special, so I should get them, just because they're special. 
     Friends have pointed this out to me and I think it annoys them.  Like clockwork when our food is put in front of us I'll stare at their plate and say "Mmm.  I should have ordered that."  Every time.  Now I even do it when we order the same thing to keep the joke *fresh* and *original*. 
     I've even done it at the grocery store.  I'll get home and put my food in the cupboard and just be disappointed in my choices.  Why did I buy sugar free oatmeal?  I regret this decision, but now I'm stuck with it.  Such a large ticket item and I'm stuck with it, at least until the next time I go to the store which will probably be tomorrow because I stand to eat sugar free oatmeal.  It's gross. 

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Anxiety and Me: A List and A Story

anx·i·e·ty  (ng-z-t)n. pl. anx·i·e·ties
    a. A state of uneasiness and apprehension, as about future uncertainties.
    b. A cause of anxiety: For some people, air travel is a real anxiety.
2. Eager, often agitated desire: my anxiety to make a good impression.
I try to contain it, but sometimes I have a lot of anxiety.  A few things that cause me anxiety are:
  • being late
  • being late especially when I can't do anything about it
  • purchasing airline tickets
  • deadlines
  • relationship discord
  • meeting heroes
  • grocery shopping
  • mostly any kind of shopping
  • crowds
  • crowds on public transportation
  • the wait before a concert or other big event
  •  waking up in Philadelphia at 3:30 in the morning when you think you should be in DC at 5:45
This last one caught me by surprise, which I'm pretty sure, based on the definition, is an inherent part of anxiety.
      You know how when you sleep on a bus you wake up every once in a while, look around, don't know where you are or how long you've been asleep, and then go back to sleep?  I was in that state of mind.  I opened my eyes and looked around.  It didn't look familiar at first, but it's possible I hadn't paid attention to the particular stretch we were on in the past.  It became obvious we were exiting a highway.  I didn't know what time it was at all.  And I may not be all that worldly, but I know what Philadelphia looks like, and that's what I saw.  It was dark and I saw Liberty Place One and Liberty Place Two sticking up into the skyline, and the PSFS building and the one with Ben Franklin on top.  "Aww, that's pretty.  I like Philadelphia.  Wait.  Why are we IN Philadelphia?"  Again, I'm not a geographical genius, but I knew we traveled near Philly yet had never been close enough to see the skyline.  And then we were getting off the highway and just driving through it.  I finally saw a giant-ass clock that read 3:30 am. 
     I stayed calm, trying to gage if anyone else was freaking out.  Nobody else seemed to be. I started going through worst case scenarios and contingency plans for getting to DC if for whatever reason this was our last stop.  The bus stopped, a few people got off, and then we kept going.  Oh.  Ok.  Back to sleep then.
     Apparently what happened is that since it I was on the last bus of the night from NYC they combined the Philly and DC buses.  From a business standpoint, it makes sense.  They may or may not have mentioned this before we left- I climbed on the bus and promptly nestled in with my iPod and drifted off to sleep.
      Since making it home safely and continuing the rest of my day, I've been laughing about this all day.  I feel as though the anxiety of waking up in a different city is justified.  Philadelphia is lovely though, and it was not crowded at 3:30 in the morning, so the anxiety was manageable.

Monday, April 18, 2011

I Almost Fell Off the Escalator

Allow me to paint a picture:  Friday is Mary's bagel day.  She loves bagel day, and rightfully so- bagels are awesome.  Mary and I chat frequently, and the topic of our respective lunches comes up often.  Friday afternoon, we had this conversation:

Mary: I'm starving.
  Do I bring a bagel home for lunch?
me: sure!
  that sounds great
Mary: Do I put cream cheese on it? Or make a tuna sandwich with it?
me: ooh. tuna!
Mary: K. It shall be done.
me: awesome
Mary: Do you think cream cheese with tuna on it would work at all?
  The way one would put salmon or whitefish on bagels?
me: yeah, that could be good
Mary: Maybe I'll do that... 
To my delight, Mary reads Oliver daily and she was very aware of my email troubles with my mother.  Based on these two things, I received the following email Friday afternoon:
Dear Nancy,

I'm writing to inform you that tuna and cream cheese do not, in fact, go together as was previously suspected. In fact, they make a terrible mix and I highly recommend you avoid eating them in combination.

Hope your family is well.


Mary H. Alongi
I read it from my phone while traveling on a descending escalator.  I started laughing so hard I nearly tumbled down the escalator.  I would assume fellow Metro passengers thought I was crazy but that feeling is usually mutual anyway.
     There are several points that can be taken from Mary's email.  One of the most obvious may be "Nancy, maybe you're harshing a little too much about your mother's emailing technique."  Sure, maybe.  Because it would have made sense for Mary to write an email in the style of my mother to get the tuna/cream cheese information across.  However, it would not have made me almost fall of an escalator, and where would we be without that gem of a moment.  Also, as follow up, below is the email correspondence between my mother and me from this morning.

From: Nancy Melchert <>
To: Debra Melchert <>
Sent: Mon, April 18, 2011 9:26:45 AM
Subject: Re:

?? :(     

On Mon, Apr 18, 2011 at 9:04 AM, Debra Melchert <> wrote:
snowing here.  1-3 inches expected.  snow brush in the garage
 I ask again, please, can we teach my mother to use email?

P.S.  I feel it should also be mentioned that if I give her an inch, she'll take a mile.  I was expecting another under 140 character oddly punctuated response, and she did not disappoint.  I think she's not fully aware of the reply button, and I received this new email just moments ago: 
heard if you take a travel mug to Starbucks they will fill it with coffee for free - this week only.  is that by you too ?

 I would like to offer the same response: ?? :(     

Friday, April 15, 2011

Who Needs Sleep?

     Turns out, I need sleep.   I don't like to admit it and when I start to overextend myself I assume sleep can be the first thing to go.  I try to live two lives and often there are just not enough hours in the day for that.  This is where the Evie principle comes in, but I have yet to perfect the stoppage of time.
     There are just so many wonderful things that can be done in a day.  There are also just things that need to get done in a day.  My to-do list for today involves going to the gym, writing, and doing laundry.  I'd also like to go to an improv show tonight and I was invited out to Happy Hour with a few friends.  Plus, I found out this morning that today is Record Store Day.  I want to participate in all of those things.  Of course, since it's a Friday, I also need to be at my job. 
     8 hour work day + 1 hour lunch break + 45 minute commute + 1 hour gym session + 1 hour Record Store Day shopping + 3 hour writing/laundry session + 3 hour Happy Hour socializing + 2 hour improv show = 19 hours and 45 minutes.  Oh.  No problem.  There are, after all, 24 hours in a day.  I would still have 4 hours and 15 minutes of free time.  That's good, because I really want to read Bossypants.  Sleep and meals?  No, I'll give those up. 
     I do continue to believe in the powers of coffee.  That definitely helps, at least until I get an ulcer.  And don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining about all of these things there are to do.  It was just a few months ago I was lamenting about being a recluse and not doing a damn thing.  My simple point is that I want to do all of these things.  I attempt to do these things and I sacrifice sleep.  I become reminiscent of college and Navy days when sleep was practically a luxury; our mantra was "sleep when you're dead."  I feel like there was a tag line before that, like "study hard" or "life is short," but what I remember is "sleep when you're dead."
     I was shockingly aware of my alarm clock this morning.  5:15 am.  My first thought was "why is it 5:15?  Why is this going off at 5:15?"  My snooze button has been renamed the you've-got-to-be-kidding-me button.  Its only purpose is to see if I can find it.  I do not wake up when my alarm goes off.  So the answer is, I need sleep.  It's ok, I actually love sleep, so it's not a difficult transition.  I now just have to convince my mind of what my body already knows: sleep is good and you can always do the laundry later. 

Thursday, April 14, 2011

More Committing to the Moment

     I've been working on emotional commitment for a few weeks now.  It has proven to be more difficult that I thought it would.  I spend a lot of time in real life being very meh.
     My throat is a little scratchy today and my voice a bit hoarse because yesterday in improv class I spent 5 minutes just screaming at my scene partner.  It seemed to make sense- he didn't know how to make the god-damn bed.  Who doesn't know how to make the god-damn bed with hospital corners?  A fucking child could do it.  And don't get me started on vacuuming.  The lines need to be straight, like railroad tracks.
     The scene ended and people seemed interested in watching it; it felt real to them and the emotional commitment was there.  A classmate noted "anger seems to come really easily to you."  Anger indeed. 
     I woke up this morning and thought "wouldn't it be great if improv class were first thing in the morning?"  Or if I could even just start the day with an improv exercise.  Perhaps that would improve the day, my general outlook on life, and my willingness to commit to the moment.  At the end of the day I'm a little bit tired and committing to the moment feels like work.  And work elicits anger.  Hence, I play a lot of angry characters. 
     Also, as a side note, there is another Nancy within this specific improv community who is the most overenthusiastic person ever.  She enters rooms doing cheers.  Kudos for her, I suppose.  It was mentioned that my challenge should be to out-enthuse other Nancy.  This has no possibility of ever happening.  If I even attempted it people would think I had a lobotomy.  My general sentiment was that I'm pretty sure she is more enthusiastic about waking up in the morning than I would be about being on the moon.  And I think the moon is pretty awesome. 

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Write What You Know: A List.

According to Mary, you should write what you know.  As a side note, whenever someone says the phrase "what you know" I hear Tom Cruise yelling "Don't tell me what I know and what I don't know.  I know the law."   Of course, I don't know the law, so it doesn't apply to me.  I would probably never write about the law.
What I could write about:
  • the Navy
  • being a sister
  • having a sister
  • having a brother
  • pets
  • parents
  • parent's death
  • old people
  • babies
  • young people
  • nuclear power
  • rocket science
  • space
  • school
  • desperation
  • dreams
  • hopes
  • small apartments
  • large bedrooms
  • rats
  • bicycles
  • ladders
  • swimming
  • gardening
  • tractors
  • tire swings
  • softball
  • anxiety
  • drinking 
  • sleepless nights
  • alarm clocks
  • breaking and entering
  • house fires
  • road trips
  • hunting
  • weapons
  • computers
  • moving vans
  • diabetes
  • cancer
  • G Chat
  • generosity
  • deadlines
  • food service
  • coffee
  • defense contracting
  • appeasing others
  • mothers
  • motherfuckers
  • douchebags 
  • Canada
  • the Midwest
  • the Northeast
  • the Northwest
  • guitars
  • disappointment
  • horror
  • disgust
  • technical reports
  • television
  • 30 Rock
  • the evolution of female characters in media
  • comedy films
  • heart break
  • bulletized lists
That's just to name a few, and that was just off the top of my head.  And I have clearly taken Mary's point and flipped it on its head.  The sentiment of writing what you know is incredibly valid, and the problem with the sentiment is too many people take it at its face value.  That's how we end up with so many stories about struggling writers.  I think it's why Architect is such a popular occupation for a protagonist.  It walks the right line of being vague and specific.  The protagonist does something but it could be anything.
     Anyway, I digress.  Mary's right.  Write what you know.  Also, if you want to write about something and you don't know a lot about it, find out.  It's called research.  If you want to set your story in Houston but you don't know a lot about it, find out; read a book, check out the internet.  Then you'll know.  Then you can write about it.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Parenthood: A Review.

Damn you, Parenthood, for making me feel.  It's a little late in the game to do a review, but I've just been thinking about it so much, I thought it was better late than never.
     Recently a friend of mine who typically doesn't watch television told me she started watching Parenthood.

Oh, I watch one show now.   Parenthood.  I watched about 15 hours of it this weekend.
So you basically just cried all day?
Man oh man, does that show get to me every single time.  It sucked me in the first season.  I was intrigued by its all star cast.  Then I got really into the characters and their lives.  What I love about it is how small and particular it is.  It really is about the drama that occurs in a family.  It explores every moment.  It has taken the time to really develop characters and relationships.  You really kind of want to be in that family even when maybe that family is a little bit fucked up.
     The show wasn't doing great in the ratings department initially, but it has since picked up.  Kudos to the rest of America (or at least those with Neilson boxes) for finally figuring out how great this show is.  Lauren Graham is fantastic and clearly underrated based on her lack of accolades.  She can take you through an entire roller coaster of emotion with just one look.  Also, I think someone just told Mae Whitman to follow Lauren Graham around for a while and try to mimic her mannerisms to really drive home that they're mother and daughter.  It's great.
     Oh Peter Krause.  Oh Dax Shepard and Erika Christensen.  Oh Craig T. Nelson.  Oh kids who aren't Mae Whitman.  Oh guy who plays Joel [Sam Jaeger] and woman who plays Camille [Bonnie Bedelia].  And lady who plays Kristina [Monica Potter].  Why do you make me feel?  (Yes, I should know their names [I looked those up].  I'll get to work on that right away.)  The show is sweet and clearly loves its characters.  Even when they're douchey, it loves them.  They're all complicated characters; there are no tropes.  Also, I would love to live in Crosby's houseboat. 
     Ten pm on a Tuesday is a little past my bedtime, but it's well worth the extra cup of coffee on Wednesday morning to spend the evening with the Bravermans.  If you're not already, watch this show.  If you already are: right?!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Can We Teach My Mother to Use Email

     This is the most recent email I received from my mother:
 Aunt Frieda passed away yesterday 4/10.
That was it.  There was no greeting and no salutation.  There was no other amplifying information.  This is how my mother sends this kind of information.  This is a very typical email for my mother to send.  The structure of it makes me laugh.  Of course this means an email comes in from my mom, I read it, start laughing, and someone nearby says "Nancy, what are you laughing at?" and all I can say is "my mom just sent an email that my Aunt Frieda died."
     It's not funny.  I don't think it's funny that my Aunt Frieda died yesterday.  I do think it's funny that this is how my mother chooses to tell me.  I have to try to be fair to my mother.  She's just not good at emailing.  She doesn't know that that's an odd email.  She thinks it's fine; she finds nothing wrong with it.  Also, I'm not great on the phone; I won't answer during working hours and our lunch hours don't line up well enough to coordinate a phone call. 
     I just wish we could teach my mother how to use email.  One habit I seem to be getting her out of is her inexplicable use of ellipses.  It was an uncomfortable conversation.  Also, full disclosure, she didn't just use ellipses [...], she used as many periods as it took until her brain could start the next sentence, often twelve of them.  I haven't received an ellipses laden email in quite a while, so I claim a small victory.  She's now on to text sized emails.

     There should be a class that teaches her how to send emails.  Somewhere along the way someone has told her brevity is the key.  I don't disagree.  However, they missed that a greeting is also appropriate, and a little bit of lead in can be nice too.  Consider the information you're sending, and consider your audience.  The subject line is a tool, use it.  There is not a character limit in email.  You won't get charged if the email is too long.  You can write more.  That being said, brevity is still nice. 
     I should use this as a teaching moment.  There are two ways to go here.  I can teach by example and reply with a well thought out, composed, and structured response and hope seeing such an email will seep into her subconscious and she'll start to understand email etiquette better.  Or I can teach by responding in a similar manner, hoping that receiving my curt response will cause her to see the errors in her ways.  Something like this perhaps:

Friday, April 8, 2011

Shut It Down.

     I hope that if the government does shut down, President Obama has the fortitude and pop-cultural awareness to just shout "Shut it down!" and then walk out of the White House and head to his Colonial Williamsburg vacation.  The lines between politics are increasingly blurred mostly with help from CNN and their journalist-stand-up-comic team.
     Did you check out that CNN link?  There's a picture of The Three Stooges.  The headline reads "The Fight Just Gets Dumber."  Well sure, CNN, when you put it that way, it does seem to be getting dumber.  We're in a 24-hour news cycle and every angle of the possible shutdown has to be told.
     I caught the end of a news segment yesterday where the reporter was making the point that this is Spring Break (Spring Break!  Woo!) week and there would be many students here to check out pieces of historical interest, but those doors would be closed.  At first I scoffed thinking that was hardly the most important thing about this looming shutdown.  But then I thought about it and how pissed I would be if I was planning a week long vacation to some place and it was just closed.  It would be like Vacation- almost exactly like it.  WallyWorld is closed, except by WallyWorld, we mean the government so no, you can't visit museums or the zoo.
     The radio was full of reminders of the dozens of things that are still available even if the government does shut down.  The Newseum, for example, is not a government funded museum and is fun for all ages.  And there are plenty of private art museums.  My favorite was that you could still look at the monuments.  The elevator that goes to the top of the Washington Monument would be closed, but you can still go to the park and stare at it.  That's good news, they're not going to cover up the monuments.
     Here in the district this very national problem has also taken on a local flavor.  There was a town hall meeting held last night and the news coverage of it really did look like a scene from Parks&Rec.  Except instead of cool calm Leslie Knope fielding the irate townspeople, it was Virginia Congressman Jim Moran yelling back at the people who were yelling at him.  One man asked why Jim Moran was having an Emergency Town Hall meeting instead of being AT congress trying to fix the problem.  It may have been a fair point.  Jim Moran started answering the question and when the man interrupted, Moran laid the smack down.  It was local government.  But it's not.  An interesting dichotomy for the area indeed.
     If the government shuts down there won't be a Cherry Blossom festival.  People won't stand for that.  Recent news states that the Republicans and Democrats can't even agree on what they don't agree on.  I'm going out on a limb here.  Or at least I'm showing a limb I haven't shown before.  A huge part of the discussion is over Planned Parenthood, and therefore abortion.  You tell enough people that they can't watch a Cherry Blossom Festival parade and stare at some pretty pretty trees because the government doesn't want to fund abortion, they'll start pushing girls-in-trouble down the stairs.  Tell you what, I'll pay for your abortions.  First ones free.  Come on!  My friends want to visit the Natural History Museum.
     I don't know any more than anyone else about how the next few hours are going to go. As a matter of fact, this might be completely irrelevant by the time it posts. But if there is a shutdown, I hope they announce it in a manner consistent with this video.


Thursday, April 7, 2011

The Perfect Number of Choices

     As the lunch hour looms I contemplate my choices for food.  There aren't many choices and oh how I wish there were more.  Not too many though, just the perfect number of choices.
     I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that five choices would be perfect.  Right now I'm at three and those three are all very similar.  Five Guys Burgers, Subway, and Cornercopia Deli all serve meat on bread.  I love meat on bread but the lack of variety leaves me cold.  I usually bring my lunch from home but sometimes I'm in the mood to go outside and feel fresh air in my lungs.  Sometimes I want a little something special.  I'd like some variety; I'd like to have sushi on Tuesdays and pizza on Thursdays.  I want more choices.
     Too many choices can be overwhelming though.  I can't remember how many times I've walked in circles in a food court unable to settle on just one thing and then just walked out, stomach still grumbling.  Too many choices leaves me with buyers remorse.  My lunch will be fine, but maybe I should have gotten the Panda Express or something from Chik-Fil-A.  Ahhh!  What have I done?  I've ruined my lunch.  Too many choices stresses me out.
     I live on a block full of restaurants yet I couldn't begin to describe them.  There are too many to choose from so I hide in my house.  That's not completely true- I have been to the carry out pizza place and the discount sushi restaurant.  I recently discovered there's another sushi restaurant only one block farther from that initial one.  I stood at the corner for nearly 30 minutes weighing the pros and cons of trying something only slightly different.  In the end I went for it in an attempt to broaden my horizons, but it was still pretty stressful and I wasn't confident I made the right choice. 
     I would like there to be five restaurant choices for lunch near my place of work.  I want a sandwich shop, a pizza place, a sushi bar, a burrito place, and a burger joint.  To me, that's the perfect number of choices. 

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Body of Proof: A Review.

     The new Dana Delaney vehicle where she plays a smart-as-a-whip neurosurgeon turned super medical examiner, solving crimes like no one else in the world can.  It's not my normal cup of tea, so on one hand I wasn't presupposed to the comparisons it was already drawing before it even aired.  On the other hand, well, it's not my cup of tea so it didn't have much of a chance.
     I watched the pilot out of my natural pilot-curiosity.  I watched the second episode because I hate myself, apparently.  I tried to give the gobs and gobs of exposition a pass in the pilot considering the possibility of rewrites and studio interference.  It didn't get any better in the second episode.  I actively wondered if the writers had even been to writer's school.  Or maybe they went to the Nicholas Sparks School of Writing.   It could have been a damn radio show.
     Apparently Dr. Megan Hunt (Delaney) is the most brilliant ME on the face of the earth and her existence renders most other police officers unnecessary.   In the pilot she tells us every-damn-thing there is to know about her: she was a brilliant neurosurgeon (neurosurgeons are rarely not brilliant, I wish they'd quit with the superlative) who put work in front of everything else but then lost it all in a terrible car crash.  She was blind sided when she ran a red light while on the phone with her daughter whose *something* she was missing- a birthday, or a recital, or something else little girls do.  She was explaining about how she's a doctor and she's saving lives.  Smash.  The accident made her hands no worky-worky so she resigned to being a medical examiner.  Also, it was a wake-up call (of course it was) and she finds she prefers the ME job because she can learn more about people from their bodies than they would ever tell her.  Also, she killed a patient.  And she's a bad mother but wants another chance.
     She pretty much just read that out loud to the camera.
     I think the opening line of the show was something like "Oh, Dr. Hunt.  We've heard about you."  Fantastic.  I'm so glad her reputation precedes her.  She walked in and said a bunch of crap that made the detectives look like they were sick the day they taught police work in police school.  But it wasn't clever.  It was as though the detectives were blindfolded and hungry and the ME walked in to feed them and shine light in their eyes.  "Don't believe everything you hear.  The truth is much worse."  There must be a book of cliches the writers are just pulling out of a hat.
     The moment that put me over the edge in episode two was when the medical police investigator (I don't know what this is, but he's the guy who follows Delaney around everywhere and claims he was assigned to her) actually said he was there to help her navigate her way to being a good mother or some crap like that.  It seemed like something that should have been left a writer's note and accidentally got typed into the script.  Don't tell me who your character is, show me by just being that guy.
     Another trope crime/medical drama moment in episode two happens near the end.  People are standing around talking about something and the word tears comes up.  Hunt says "tears.  Of course" and walks out of the room.  Cut to everyone in the room as she tells everyone the whole damn story and how she solved the crime and found the killer, someone nobody suspected, by comparing cells left by tears.  Then we end the episode with some bit of personal growth between her and her daughter.  Then I threw up.
     I would like to give the show a little bit of credit for making the cases a little bit interesting.  Or course, it's only episode two and I imagine the cases are just going to get weirder and weirder so they can keep topping each other.  Plus to make the episode last 44 minutes there has to be plenty of misdirection which often results in a surprise dues ex machina type confession.  It's just not my cup of tea.
     Body of Proof is poorly written poorly executed trope of a medical-crime drama.  It'll probably get five seasons at least.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

A Hint of Summer

     Yesterday in the district it was 83 degrees.  I didn't know what to do with myself.  I had stopped to buy shoes on my way home and had to ditch my hoodie while in the store.  I was tempted to wear the new shoes home, but the salesman cautioned against it because if I wore them outside, I couldn't return them. 
     When I got home I immediately took off my stuffy work clothes and put on my weekender gear, including flip flops.  If there were ever a time to wear flip flops, now was it.  I cinched up the trash bag and went outside.  It was glorious.  I plopped the trash bag into the trash can and then just stood on the stoop for a while.  I partly wanted to go for a walk but I hadn't grabbed my keys to take the trash out so there would be extra steps.  Neighbors a few doors down had taken full advantage and had dinner and martinis on their little patio area.  A man walked by and handed me a take out menu.
     I went back inside and it was refreshing.  I had been outside just long enough to get warm and the house was still full of cool air.  It would have been the perfect day to open the windows except I still have plastic on the windows and because of all the work I did putting it up, I wasn't ready to give in and rip it down yet.  Plus, maybe it'll keep the cool air in during the summer.  Or create a greenhouse effect.  I want to wait and find out. 
     Since I had just purchased new shoes I made the sound financial decision to stay in for dinner.  I was a little bit jealous of the neighbors with the tiny patio area but I wasn't willing to try to eat my chicken and rice outside.  I just kept going in and out about every 20 minutes.  I'd stand on the stoop until someone walked by and then I'd walk back in.  I'd acclimate to the temperature inside, put a food item in the oven or on the stove, and then head back to the stoop. 
     I was embracing the oddly nice day but not quite participating in it.  I kept my flip flops on to help drive it home.  After the sun went down I stayed indoors.  All night the news reports said "It was unusually warm today, but don't get used to it."  Ok weatherman, I won't get used to unusual weather.  Whatever.  It's kind of obvious that it's not going to keep being 83 degrees, but they have to set it up somehow.
     This morning when I woke up it was 42, it was raining a whole bunch, a lot of people were without power, and the low tomorrow is 31.  I'm glad I wore my flip flops while I could.

Monday, April 4, 2011

The Morning, Forty Dollars, and Fuel

     It sucks that it cost Mary $40 for gas this morning. 

   First, it's a bummer to have to get gas in the morning.  If you realized you were low on fuel the night before, you can possibly schedule the time in but that requires a lot of fore thought.  In my experience, I would think about it on the way home and decide to stop in the morning.  But in the morning I would still hit snooze fifteen times and not know why I set the alarm so early.  Then I'd get in the car and see I needed gas.  The other part about fueling up in the morning is if the gas spills, you're stuck with that smell on you all day.  All damn day.  You walk in a room and someone says "do you smell gas?"  You have to explain it's you.  You launch into the entire morning fuel up story.  It's embarrassing.  
     Second, forty dollars is a lot to spend on fuel.  I don't know how big Mary's gas tank is, but I don't think it's a 40 gallon tank.  It's probably a 13 or 14 gallon tank from what I know about her car.  So using my crappy math skills, gas costs about $3.30 per gallon.  (That's assuming starting with a completely empty tank, which she probably didn't do.  So it's more.)  Is that average?  I don't know.  I haven't been driving for the last eight months or so therefore I am completely out of touch with how much gas cost. 
     Mary just confirmed the gas cost $3.99 per gallon which is a decent price for LA.  Another friend paid $4.15 yesterday.  That does seem high.  I remember a few (6) years ago when gas prices were making some pretty serious jumps.  I think it was the first time we ever saw them break $3 per gallon and they crept up towards $4.  Of course now, that seems like nothing, but that's not the point of this story.  At that time I was driving a full size Silverado truck.  I think it had a 25 gallon gas tank and got about 11 miles to the gallon.  I had friends with me when I had to fill up.  I had let it get pretty low so it was nearly a full tank fill up coming in at around $75 or so. 
     "How often do you have to fill up?"
     "Every day or two."
     I was kidding- it was about weekly, but still, it was a lot to fill it up.  At the same time, I grew really tired of the gas price conversation.  The only two things my mom wanted to talk about were the weather and gas prices.  It was maddening.  Gas prices were high everywhere and math never changed so the "it's $X amount per gallon and I have a Y gallon sized tank, so it cost $XY to fill up" conversations were just awful.
     I digress, this isn't about me, it's about Mary and the $40.  Apparently because of recent global events, gas prices have gone up again, kind of sharply.  So I can understanding needing to complain about the $40 when last week it was only $20 or $30.  On the other hand, I have no idea how much Mary normally pays for gas.  You know what?  Paying for gas just sucks.  Especially in the morning.

     It sucks that Mary had to pay $40 for gas this morning.  

Friday, April 1, 2011

I Didn't Write a Post Today

     April Fool's! 

   When I was a kid, I used April Fool's as the day to just tell a bunch of lies.  My mom would ask something pretty innocuous,  I would give some bullshit answer and then yell "April Fool's!"  I thought it was hilarious.  Since I was the youngest of three, I wasn't good at pulling pranks but I was often the target.  This wasn't necessarily exclusive to April 1st. 
    As Mary could tell you I like the pranks that come with April Fool's but I do not like to be scared.  I don't like it if you wait in the shower until I come in and then jump out at me yelling "boo!"  That will make me scream and punch and possibly wet myself.  And then I will become very angry.  That's not a good April Fool's.  However, maybe you replace my Cheerios with Legos so when I pour my cereal building blocks come out.  Haha!  Good times!  Hopefully my Cheerios still exist somewhere. 
     I also prefer nondestructive pranks, just because I like to be good natured about them.  One year in a class room environment I was working in, we replaced the coffee carafe and all coffee related objects with goldfish.  The first person in was supposed to made coffee, but they couldn't because there was a goldfish swimming in the bowl!  Really, it was just an inconvenience, but someone got a pet out of it.
   When we were brainstorming ideas someone suggested removing the inside of the door handles.  We figured that might be a fire hazard.  While in the Navy I was able to pull off the ol' cellophane over the glass trick.  In case you don't know, you pull cellophane really tightly over a glass and trim the edges.  Done correctly you can't see it's there so then when someone tries to pour something in the glass it goes all over.   We used the same principle on the XO's toilet.  He retaliated by covering ours in aluminum foil.  Good times.