Saturday, December 13, 2008

Kate is Betty Freakin Crocker

If ever you are trying to flour a baking pan and it doesn't seem to be working out, ask yourself this question:

"Am I using flour? Or am I maybe using confectioner sugar?"

Once you conclude that you are, in fact, using sugar to flour the pan, ask yourself if you're qualified to be using knives and appliances. This is why I don't usually try to bake early in the morning.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Kate Misses Yale; Cooking Ensues

Recently, I've found myself experiencing the pangs of Yale withdrawal. They started in the early fall when I realized that our neighborhood reminds me of Orange Street. (Yes, it's true, I was nostalgic for the grad school ghetto. I definitely felt a little twinge of sadness when I looked up 19th Street and saw the Hilton looming instead of East Rock.) They intensified when the leaves started to change and the air turned crisp.

But tonight, I reached a new low. And it hit me in the most surprising of places: the produce aisle of Soviet Safeway. It was there, standing in front of the vegetables waiting to be inspired, that I realized I would basically kill a man for a taste of the organic Indian-spiced cauliflower they used to have in the Davenport dining hall.

"Kate," you say, "you miss dining hall food? Have you discussed this with someone? Perhaps a mental health professional?"

I know, and I promise I haven't lost my mind. But seriously, that cauliflower was amazing. So I turned away from the anemic green beans and the squash that looked like it had fallen off the struggle bus. I grabbed some cauliflower and--after a detour for some curry-- headed home to reincarnate that delicious, delicious dish.

Mine turned out a little different from the Dport version, mostly because I used vastly less oil than is included in the original. But it was pretty good, so here is a vague guide. Really, these directions are probably not at all helpful, since I didn't measure anything except the oil, but you'll get the idea.

Curry Cauliflower, as inspired by Yale University Dining Services. (Really, stop laughing.)

1 head of cauliflower
1/2 tsp extra virgin olive oil (or really whatever oil you want, I suppose)
curry powder to taste
garlic powder to taste
onion powder to taste
salt to taste

Cut the cauliflower florets (technically, they're not actually florets, but whatever) off the head into large-bite-sized pieces. In a large skillet, heat the oil. Sprinkle curry, garlic, and onion powders into the oil; they will sizzle and brown. Immediately add the floret pieces and cook over medium-high heat for about 7 minutes, stirring often and adding additional curry, onion, garlic, and salt. (Do what looks good to you; I went with a light, even dusting of onion and garlic, a heavier coat of curry, and a pinch of salt.) After about 7 minutes--at which point the cauliflower should be a little bit browned but still pretty firm on the inside--transfer the cauliflower to a vegetable steamer. Steam for 8 to 10 minutes or until the cauliflower is as soft as you like it.

Serving suggestions: if, after finishing your cauliflower, you can get Billy to come sing his song or Joanne to compliment you on your hair...well, now I'm all nostalgic again.

Adventures in Christmas Spirit

There's nothing quite like the D.C. Metro, especially when its riders are dressed unusually. Tonight, Marissa and I were on our way home from a Christmas party, and--as luck would have it-- so were three Santas, two of whom followed us onto the train.

Given that my last Santa encounter involved bumming some Jack Daniels off Bad Santa at a Halloween party, I was pretty confident that Santas leaving Adams Morgan at 11:45 on a Saturday night would prove entertaining.

They nodded at us solemnly. "Merry Christmas."

"So, I have to ask," said Marissa. "Do you rent the Santa suit, or is this something you own?"

"Oh, you definitely need to own," said the more Santa-shaped of the two.

"Yeah," I said. "It seems like a good investment."

"Well, maybe, " said cute Santa, as he pulled a chunk of white faux fur from the trim on the jacket. "I don't really know how much is going to be left next year."

"Hmm, you appear to be molting." I know, I'm astute.

"Well," he replied, "the word 'molting' suggests that it might grow back."

At this point, it was time for Marissa and me to disembark--which was good, since the other Santa was starting to explain that a lot of the, um, fur loss was from the crotch region of his costume--but we nevertheless found it hilarious that we had encountered a.) multiple Santas and b.) a Santa who would challenge me on my diction. Merry Christmas indeed.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Today in Mixed Metaphors

Yes, it has been a big day in figurative language. And yes, I am a nerd for enjoying this stuff.

First, Hillary Clinton said that electing Republicans to fix the damage of the last eight years of government is like electing "the iceberg to save the Titanic." I thought that was pretty funny, especially since Titanic was on Friday night and I happened to watch the 45 minutes when the iceberg shows the Titanic who's boss.

But then, on came Rachel Maddow, my new favorite political commentator (exclusive of Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert). I watched most of her show tonight, and I am a huge fan. That said, one of her rhetorical flourishes struggled a little bit. That would be the one about "deference has a place in journalism as much as vertigo has a place in trapeze." Ummm... really? Granted, now the only substitutes I can conjure are terrible and based in diagnoses (as much as dyslexia has a place in a spelling bee? as much as anorexia has a place in a competitive eating event?), but I'm just me, whereas she has a staff.

That said, I am willing to forgive this analogous stumble in light of a few things. Saying that church and state are like peanut butter and chocolate, except that they are two good things that don't go together? I like it. But the icing on the cake (since frosting is also a good thing, perhaps in this case comparable to judicial review, in that frosting goes better with chocolate than with church) was definitely the title of the I-hope-recurring segment with Pat Buchanan. And yes, I-hope-recurring pretty much solely for the purpose of repeating the title...

"It's Pat!"

YES. Rachel Maddow, if you can get a Saturday Night Live reference into every show, you'll be able to phase out that pop culture minute. And given that this is election season (really?), it shouldn't be long before you work in "I'm good enough, I'm smart enough, and--gosh darn it-- people like me!"

Monday, September 1, 2008

Overheard at Eastern Market

Or rather, addressed directly to me at Eastern Market:

"Were you in the Olympics?"

HA. I love it. I don't even care if the guy who said it was making fun of me for wearing gym shorts and a sweaty--and screaming orange-- tank top. Best, most hilarious comment ever.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

The Complete Summer of Kate (Abridged)

Well, it seems that once again time has slipped away from me, and I have found myself-- the prodigal blogger-- back at the keyboard repentant for my negligence. And so, to fill in the blanks a bit and give a sense of what was going on every time I thought about posting and concluded I didn't have enough to say, I submit the following:

The List of Stuff That Occurred (or Will Occur) This Summer (Post Early July) That Kate Thinks Was/Is/Will Be Cool

*I bought amazing new furniture at Eastern Market. It is this mirror-shelf-drawer thing that is hanging on the wall between my closets. It is old-looking, and I had to glue one of the drawer pulls back on, and it isn't really white. And I kind of wanted to die on the Metro on the way home with it (loud, crowded car full of tourists plus malfunction of the train in front of us equals unhappy Kate), but then some girl in Metro Center asked me about my mirror thingy and complimented me on finding such an awesome piece.

*I got a new computer! Hooray MacBook!

*I helped design the cake for my Grammy's 88th birthday party. It was themed after one of the staple foods of my childhood, mocha chip ice cream from Shady Glen. Chocolate chip cake with mocha frosting. Amazing. The only way it would have been better would have been with a large scoop of mocha chip on top.

* I went sailing with my dad for the first time in a long time. It was the first time he had taken the boat-- which is named Anyway-- out all summer. I sometimes forget that Old Saybrook is really pretty, and seeing it from the water is a good reminder.

*I bought peaches from Eastern Market and blackberries from the Dupont Circle farmer's market. The peaches I devoured (another one will meet its end tomorrow); the blackberries I made into blackberry crisp.

*I went kayaking at the beach. The only minor problem was that I pulled up at the wrong spot in the creek when I returned, which meant shlogging through the marsh a touch to get the kayak out of the water. There is marsh grass permanently embedded in one of my Rainbows, which I rather enjoy.

*I'm going kayaking again tomorrow at Thompson Boat Center with my department!

*I went on an expedition to Old Town Alexandria and went to this awesome boutique, Treat, where I found an amazing dress.

*I witnessed two arrests... neither of which was of me. Gotta look on the bright side.

*I arm wrestled a roller derby girl at a literary magazine issue release party. I lost, but not in a completely embarrassing way (I held my own for a while... or at least I didn't drop immediately). I also learned that foot positioning, leverage, and mental preparation are integral to successful arm wrestling.

*There is a great little band that plays at the south entrance of the Dupont Metro at least one night a week, so I hear them on my walk home. I think this is great.

*Some random guy on the street said 'bonjour' to me, and when I responded in kind he tried to start a conversation in French. Unfortunately, I was in a hurry, so he didn't really get past 'ça va?'

*I started church shopping. Some people seem unfamiliar with this concept-- I try various Episcopal churches until I find one I really like. In the course of shopping, I ran into someone from my church at home!

*My grammy, upon hearing that my ridiculous, bright orange toenails were the result of a pedicure, called me a "rich bitch." It was accompanied by a [non-lewd] hand gesture. It was one of the funniest things I have ever seen and heard.

*I got another pedicure, this time sponsored by my department (woohoo for team outings!) and my toenails are now lime green. They are sweet. Somewhere, my mother is shaking her head and asking herself what compels me to do these things.

*I went to karaoke and performed "Hit Me With Your Best Shot." This is not especially unusual for me. I was, however, stone cold sober at the time. That is somewhat unusual, given the general tone of most of my karaoke outings.

*My mom got me a mango pitter as a housewarming gift. It works like an apple corer, but the center blades are shaped like a mango pit. It works alarmingly well.

*I am going to a wedding this weekend. This is my first non-family wedding ever. I don't even know the people, which means I will be a great wingman (my purpose at this event) because I will throw my "date" at any girl who walks by with the reckless abandon of someone who knows no one.

*We shotgunned on the fire escape. Not once, but twice in one day. It is possible that one or both of those instances was a mistake, but we had to christen the new place. Besides, it would have been a little out of our way to go shotgun in the Dean's courtyard.

*I got the coolest bag ever. It is giant and made of recycled sails.

*I joined a book club. And I finished the book in time and made mango salsa (see mango pitter), thereby ensuring that I would not be that awkward, quiet kid in section. This book club is great.

*I have continued my habit of showing my love by baking. The problem with this habit is that I typically plan these displays of affection somewhat haphazardly. As a result, I am now an expert at walking (and riding the bus) around DC wearing a sundress and oven mitts as I try not to burn myself on the 350˚F baking dishes I routinely tote around the city.

*Wine game in our apartment. Another one of those "good idea? or great idea?" situations in which the real answer might be "bad idea."

*I resolved to post more consistently!

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Home Invasion

You know that you really live in a place when you have to do all those things that people do in their homes. Last night, this involved laundry. Tonight, this involved fighting off an intruder. Yes, that's right. Tonight, I single-handedly-- well with the assistance of a cup and some newspaper-- trapped and banished the largest bug I have ever seen in real life.

It all started typically enough. Windows open, sitting in a big comfy chair, wasting time on the internet instead of unpacking my shoes... yes, there are enough of them that they constitute a category of items to unpack. Suddenly, drawn by the lure of the compact fluorescent lightbulbs in the ceiling fan, in charged the culprit. Imagine if baby turtles could fly. That would approximate this thing. You can understand my horror.

But I was fascinated as I watched it hone in on its beacon-- the bright, white light of the fan-- only to be smacked off course repeatedly by the rotating blades. Finally, disoriented to the point of doing the flying equivalent of a drunk stagger, it made its way toward my chair. I jumped up and proceeded to engage in an intensive bug-hunt, as it had fallen out of my view. I located it climbing up the very chair from which I had leaped, and in a fit of resourcefulness and humanity, I trapped it under a cup to let it outside. Yes, I probably gave that thing a heart attack, thereby negating the benevolence of my release plan. And yes, I decided on this course of action mostly because of my concern I couldn't kill it on the first try and my hesitance to squash bug goo into our pretty chairs. But overall, I think I took the high road.

Also, I am never opening that window again, since the bug is deranged and spent the next 10 minutes trying to break through the glass to get back to the light. At least not without a screen that is rated for UFO-sided insects.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Street Soccer

This morning I finally stopped for a minute to talk to the guy who hangs out at the Georgetown end of the M Street bridge. He was reading the Post Express, and when I asked him if there was any good news, he told me about the street soccer tournament in D.C. this weekend. As he put it, "It's interesting, because it gives homeless people an opportunity to represent themselves athletically."

As it turns out, it is even more interesting than that. The tournament this weekend (which is at 11th and H Streets NW, if you're around and interested) is the qualifying tournament for the U.S. team in the Homeless World Cup. Teams from around the world are traveling to Melbourne in December to play for the world title. The stories on the website are really compelling, and it seems like a cool cause, so I would encourage you to read about it.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Miss You Love

No, this post is not about my pining after anyone. Pine? Me? Oh please. But this post is about my missing various stuff. And what is any blog without the odd Daniel Johns shoutout?

Anyway, we're moving soon. Half of the contents of the apartment are already in storage (big ups to Rockville), which makes the living room look a little awkward-- four dining chairs with no dining room table, one lonely armchair in front of the coffee table and TV, an unopened jug of Carlo Rossi atop an empty bookshelf. Like I said, awkward.

The impending move has made me think about some of the things I'm going to miss about this place. I have also made note of a number of things I won't miss, but hey, no need to be too negative.

Miss: Looking out the window at the Lincoln Memorial. And the Jefferson Memorial. And the Washington Monument, the Capitol, the Smithsonian, Memorial Bridge, the Potomac, the Kennedy Center, and Roosevelt Island. Also, on the rare occasion that the Nats score a home run, the fireworks at the new ballpark. Fortunately, the Nats suck, so I won't really miss that many fireworks.

Miss: Our semi-functional elevator system. It's always an exciting adventure-- wondering how long it will take to get to the lobby, wondering if the elevator will stop at the lobby, wondering if the doors will open when it stops at whatever floor it damn well pleases. It might seem off that I will miss this death trap, but I bet I will as I drag my laundry down three flights of stairs. Fortunately, I don't do laundry very often.

Won't miss: Our water "quality." I'd rather not elaborate.

Won't miss: The Rosslyn Metro station. I hate that frickin escalator. Not that the Dupont escalator is that much shorter, but still. I'm also not a fan of the various chunks of concrete that are missing and the general inability of the ceiling tiles to keep water from cascading down onto the platform. When you're that far underground, you like to think that the infrastructure around you isn't literally crumbling.

Miss: The ladies who work at the front desk, especially Rhonda who always says hi to me and Janea who gave me free Nats tickets one time.

Miss: The hilarious people who live in our building. Notable personalities include the old guy who wears his Royals hat constantly whom I tried to convince to go vote in the primaries and the lady in the elevator the other day who looked at my legs, cautioned me to wear sunscreen, and told me about having carcinomas removed from her nose.

Won't miss: The creepy people in our building. There are sort of a lot of them. Many can be found smoking outside the entrance at all hours of the day and night.

Miss: Walking home across the Key Bridge, especially when it's high tide. (Yes, the Potomac is tidal as far up as D.C.; you can tell because at high tide it's pretty and at low tide there are visible tires and other detritus.) And especially on weekend nights in the summer, when people are out and you just see the running lights on all the boats.

Miss: Walking/running past my favorite view of D.C. I am telling you here and now that there is no better view of Washington than the one you get standing in the Iwo Jima Memorial park in Rosslyn, on the part of the path just to the left of the Netherlands Carrillon. If you ever want to see this, I will happily take you on a field trip.

Won't miss: The weird smell that has recently developed near the CVS on Lynn Street. Seriously. It started as a decaying garbage smell. Then we enjoyed a brief (day-long) scent of overtaxed septic system. For the past two days, it has smelled of something I can only define as drying seaweed mixed with mussels that were used for crab bait and were subsequently left to bake in the sun. And people wonder why I refuse to eat mussels...

Won't miss: State- (Commonwealth?)-run package stores. I have never even been in one, but they just freak me out in theory.

Miss: Subterranean Safeway. Most of the time their produce is not bad, which means that all of the time it is better than the one zucchini and three oranges in Soviet Safeway. Also, checkout guys are awesome, especially the one who always asks "How are you, beautiful?" and the one with the Snidely Whiplash mustache who told me they charge extra to fill reusable Trader Joe's bags.

Won't miss: Various emergency vehicles and big rigs on VA-110. They are actually louder than most of the planes landing at National, which I generally don't notice anymore.

Miss: The homeless guy I pass on the way to work. He hangs out at the Georgetown end of the M Street bridge over Rock Creek Parkway. Well, I think he's homeless, because he usually has a cup for donations, but maybe he's just trying to pick up a little extra cash on the side. I have never stopped to talk to him, because I am always tearing down the street trying to be less late, but I feel bad about this. If no one else is talking to him we exchange pleasantries-- he usually goes with, "Good morning, dear." Most of the time, though, I get no love because he's chatting up someone. Seriously, I have heard him talking politics (which is honestly not that surprising for a homeless guy in D.C.), but more often he is reading his original poetry. I have overheard bits and pieces, and what I've heard is good.

Won't miss: Our dysfunctional refrigerator. It is more accurately described as a freezer-- anything uncovered placed higher than the bottom shelf is liable to be covered in ice within an hour of entering said fridge.

All that said, I'm sure life in the new 'hood will be sure of its own quirks, both good and... entertaining. Sure, entertaining, that's it.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Kate Salutes Awesomeness

I just wanted to give a quick shout-out. I have been known to watch some TV in my time, and I have definitely watched some really bad TV--The X-Effect much?

But tonight, lacking anything more interesting, I watched a couple minutes of Denise Richards: It's Complicated. I was prepared to be really embarrassed about it, because to be honest I don't really care whether her assistant or her assistant's assistant is lying about something asinine. However, in what was probably a one-time-only event, Denise decided to build something. A playhouse for her daughters, in fact. Again, I was skeptical, especially when she started saying, "What are all these thiiings? You brought it without instructions?"

I mean, in her defense, I too have been charged with building "just four walls and a ceiling," and that process became the most grueling two months of my life, so I sympathize. I mean, full-scale Weimar Berlin apartment versus pink playhouse; to be honest, the playhouse sounds pretty easy after that. Nevertheless, I had my concerns about watching some blonde flailing around trying to understand the purpose of washers and nuts.

Fears allayed. Once she realized she needed a drill, Denise went on a fieldtrip to her friendly neighborhood hardware store and bought herself a DeWalt cordless drill-- with the help of the female clerk, I might add. After that it was smooth sailing, and if I were little again, I would think it was a pretty awesome playhouse. As it stands, I think it's pretty awesome that a mom built her daughters' playhouse on national TV.

And maybe next time we can step up for some real lumber and a saw too.

The Actual End of the Hunt

So we officially have an apartment. Well, actually we have two apartments. Three if you count the one where I'm sitting presently. But this one goes away soon, and before then one of us is going to have to break the bad news to Charlemagne... which leaves us with one delightful abode in Dupont!

The process for finding this was teamwork at its finest. Thanks to my neurosis, Marissa's Blackberry, the Metro's failure to function, and our cab driver's failure to--well, to function, really--we found our apartment while trapped in traffic on Friday morning. It's a good thing, because we had to do something to distract me from my plan to hijack the cab.

In any case, the moral of the story is that everything works out for the best. Well, okay, two bathrooms would make this apartment 'the best,' but as is it's still pretty great. But fortune favors the doggedly persistent. And those willing to walk up three floors.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Signs You Have Been Apartment Hunting Too Long

So I have not shared as much of our apartment hunting adventure as I had originally intended, mostly because it has been so miserable that I couldn't bring myself to write about it in any kind of funny, non-Eeyore-meets-mental-patient kind of way. It's a good thing the quest is over, because apparently it has begun to take its psychological toll. The following is a real interaction that occurred this morning when Marissa and I went to submit applications for what is likely to become our new home (since I will actually need some kind of prescription anti-anxiety medication if we search any longer):

Marissa: Now, are we under any obligation once we submit this application?
Charmain, our leasing agent friend: No, nothing happens until you actually sign the lease and accept the keys.
Marissa: Okay, so we're not legally bound to take the apartment.
[Charmain looks at us suspiciously.]
Marissa: I mean, if anything happens--
Kate: --like if one of us gets hit by a truck.

Whaaaaaa? Where did that come from? A truck? That's the reason we wouldn't take the apartment? I mean, excepting a case in which we found a better apartment which won't happen because we're done looking and which we clearly couldn't tell Charmain... but a truck? Really?

I need a beer.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

You Know It's Summer in DC When...'s hot enough at 7:30 p.m. to make you decide not to walk home.
...the Metro is delayed. are trapped on the Metro with interns. This is almost enough to make you decide to walk home anyway.

Yes, it's that time again. Tuesday night, I had my first drive-by sloot-ing of the summer. As we sat in Farragut West, I overheard the following:

"You don't have an ID?"
"No... well, if I wear a lowcut shirt they'll let me in."

Happy summer everyone.

Monday, June 2, 2008

I Love D.C.

I had a very D.C. weekend, and it made me remember how much I love living here. Friday after work, I went on a Trader Joe's mission and--after wandering the wine section for about 15 minutes--cobbled together a Trader Joe's picnic. Like any good ex-girl scout, I was prepared--in this case with a corkscrew--as was my co-picnicker. Joined by another friend, we headed over to the jazz concert in the sculpture garden.

It was awesome. The jazz was good, the grass was springy, the weather was perfect, and the park police turned a blind eye to the dubious beverages being enjoyed by literally everyone there. And when I say 'everyone'-- there were so many people. It was almost a little challenging to find a spot to set up camp. But mostly it was really cool that so many people--mostly young people-- turn out on a Friday after work to sit in a park and listen to jazz.

Saturday-- well, Saturday was less integral to the whole 'amazing D.C. weekend' scheme. That said, seeing the Sex and the City movie in the vaguely bombed out-looking theatre in Union Station was pretty classic. Once we realized that everyone else around was talking to the characters on the screen-- "Oh no he di'int!"--we joined in the Greek chorus, balancing out the "Awwwww!"s with our "Ugh, you have got to be kidding me"s. I mean, hurling cynical comments at the screen during a romantic comedy? That's pretty D.C. And then I went home and counted the Ick-ness of the movie with four episodes of West Wing.

Today was my first trip to Eastern Market in waaaay too long. Ever the multitasker, I decided to pair my deep and abiding love of the market with my grudging persistence in apartment hunting and go to an open house on Capitol Hill. I decided that I hadn't been outside enough recently and set out to walk to the apartment and Eastern Market. Not only was it a very promising apartment, but it was a lovely day at the market as well. I bought two birthday presents. I got mango sorbet. I made friends with Caitlin who makes awesome book purses and who--after calling me crazy and telling me I should take the Metro home-- bestowed upon me some of her sunscreen. I resisted the urge to buy completely extraneous kitchenware from the Polish pottery guy, though next time I will not be so strong.

On my way home-- no, I did not listen to Caitlin; I wanted to take pictures of D.C. from my favorite vantage point, the base of the Netherlands Carillon, so I decided to walk-- I took a mini-detour to avoid the ostensibly crazy guy who started talking to me on Independence Avenue and wandered upon this awesome exhibit at the Botanic Garden. In addition to the awesome globes, they also have two wind turbines, which as I science nerd I found to be really cool. Definitely go check it out if you have a chance, even if you're not a nerd.

All in all, a very good weekend indeed. Now if only I could bring myself to do my ironing, I would be a completely productive citizen. Maybe next weekend.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Spotted on the Key Bridge

The cherry blossoms all finished falling about two months ago, but I am still clinging to spring. My mission to walk to work as much as possible is still in full swing... sorry, I just got distracted by all the inadvertent rhyming. I apologize, but I think I'm just going to leave it since it happened organically.

Anyway, I still walk to work. It is the best decision I consistently make between Monday and Friday. There is nothing like meandering over the Key Bridge and looking out at the crew shells and the Kennedy Center in the morning sun. To be fair, my trip to work is nothing like that-- it's more like careening along at a power-walking pace and trying to avoid death by bicyclist. But the part about the crew shells and the Kennedy Center is true. It makes me want to skip out on work and go rent a kayak.

As it turns out, maybe some people indulge a similar seafaring urge. Most mornings on the bridge I pass these two guys walking into Rosslyn from Georgetown. I have started calling them Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum in my mind, extra emphasis on the Tweed part. Seriously, if it were ever slightly chilly, I am sure they would both be wearing tweed jackets. Given that it's pretty mild, they stick with the pastel Polo-khakis-boat shoes look. I have never seen them wearing matching shirts, but I am waiting for the day. My favorite part though is that--in addition to the Sperry's--one of them has croakies on his sunglasses at all times.

Now, I am paranoid about lots of things including somehow losing my grip on something and watching it plummet into the Potomac. As a result, no mugger will ever be able to steal my bag on that bridge, because I clutch it with a death grip at all times. But despite my own neurosis, I find it really hard to believe that this guy's sunglasses are really at risk. Does he think it's going to get so windy that he is going to need the croakies to keep the glasses on his head? Or around his neck, as it were?

No. He is really just that fratastic. And he probably wants us all to wonder if he is in fact going out for a sail after work-- which is legit, because if he were, I would totally support the croakies. But until that day, I will continue to believe that Tweedle Dum (you knew he would have to be 'Dum, right?) is the post college analog to that kid in middle school whose parents made him wear his retainer case on a lanyard so he wouldn't lose it.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Adventures in Real Estate: Prologue

My lovely roommate and I have been apartment hunting. This never goes especially well for us, but it usually involves a good story or two. At the very least, we meet some interesting characters. Over the next few weeks, I plan to recount some of our stories thus far-- we've made friends-- and what are sure to be ridiculous tales as we approach the end of our lease on June 30.

For now though, a retelling of some of last summer's travails in apartment hunting. It's good to understand exactly how simultaneously high and low our standards are-- seriously, you have to be pretty bizarre to impress us at this point.

Looking forward to sharing the post-game report for the 2008 season,

June 24, 2007

A few weeks ago I did something funny to my right foot. When the pain refused to go away for good, I went to a podiatrist, feeling like a huge wuss who was whining about a little throb, but it turned out I had actually hurt myself. I have a stress fracture (right foot, third metatarsal, for all our premed friends). Fortunately I caught it before I ran on it enough to make an actual break, but unfortunately I'm not allowed to run for a month.

What do you do when you can't run? I drive 7 hours and then walk 5 miles a day for two days (yeah, my foot is not so happy with me right now). After my 8:00 doctor appointment Wednesday, I got in my car, picked up Marissa, and we trekked down to D.C. to apartment hunt. Immediately upon arrival, we met up with Strand and went to a Nats-Tigers game (go Tigers), and the next morning we embarked on what we termed "guerrilla real estate"-- wandering around Dupont, Logan Circle, Foggy Bottom, Mass Ave., and Rosslyn (VA) calling anyone advertising vacancies. Picture me dragging my clubfoot, because I was wearing one Rainbow flipflop and my velcro surgical sandal. I looked like a preppy cripple-- people offered me their seats on the Metro, I looked that gimpy.

We also got in touch with a realtor, and embarked upon what I called "Will Rogers Follies". The realtor's name was Will Rogers-- seriously, I can't make this stuff up. Will Rogers showed us two properties. About five blocks away from the first one, Marissa and I broke into a rendition of "In the Ghetto". But then Will Rogers drove us to apartment number 2. The address was 2907 18th Street. I thought to myself, "Wait a minute... that's the bar strip in Adams Morgan. This can't end well." Will Rogers wandered up and down the wrong street for a while ("Can either of you see the lockbox?" he said, at the door of what turned out to be 2907 Ontario Road), but then he found 18th. Sure enough, we were two doors down from Brass Monkey, Spaghetti Garden, Nolan's, and the infamous Dan's Cafe, which I frequently describe as the greatest, most terrifying, broke-down dive bar ever (we think the bartenders are homeless, no lie). Marissa and I realized we could not possibly live here and remain gainfully employed, explaining to our parents, "No, you don't understand. We had never been there sober before. I have been the loud, drunk girl on that street, and if I lived there I would come outside at 3 a.m. and kill me."

After taking our leave of Will Rogers, we looked at a few more apartments before we faced the choice between taking a nap in our hotel and buying a bucket of beers at Front Page. In a totally uncharacteristic move, we chose to crash-- I blame my third metatarsal. We rallied to go to dinner and drinking with my uncle and then met Strand for another beer in the hotel bar. Again, I blame my cloven hoof for our inability to drag ourselves to Georgetown for $2 Coronas. Not varsity behavior, but I think a real sports injury might qualify me for the drinking DL if the bar is over a mile away.

Long story short, Marissa and I got pretty frustrated, especially after seeing a beautiful building that turned out to be on the edge of a seedy neighborhood and experiencing kind of a general lack of 2 bedroom apartments for less than $300000000 and our firstborns. We have not given up hope, but we have also not yet signed a lease. Of course we will keep you updated. We deeply believe that the right apartment will come along and we will know it when we see it. It had better, because we are planning a sweet housewarming party, and we need a place to have it.

Monday, April 21, 2008

These Flipflops Are Made for Walkin...

Last week I did an experiment. I decided to walk to and from work for an entire week to see how it affected me. And the result is this: best decision ever. Granted, I picked a particularly balmy week, but it was great. I arrived at work happy, rather than surly about that family that couldn't get out of my way when I needed to exit the train. I didn't have to confront my persistent fear of careening down the escalator to my demise. In the afternoon, I was a little irked by slow-walkers on M Street, but it was no worse than my disdain for people standing on the left-hand side of the escalator at Foggy Bottom. (Seriously, escalumps take note: I am boring holes in the back of your immobile head with my eyes.) And I would rather walk over the Key Bridge than up the Rosslyn escalator any day.

Plus, I saved almost $20 in fares-- and I didn't even blow it by stopping to shop on my way home. Awesome, right?

The one problem I failed to anticipate, however, was re-entry. Friday evening I went to a friend's party and I took the train for the first time in five days-- I didn't really have a choice if I wanted to arrive before midnight. I did not think it would require an adjustment, but wow. I was a little shaky as I tore--carefully-- down the moving stairs of doom. Granted I was carrying a Pyrex dish of clam dip and repeated reliving the great pie catastrophe of 2007 in my mind (remember, I always thought I would wipe out on the Metro, not 10 feet outside of my building). But still, I was not as sure of my step as usual. And your first ride in a week is not really the time to have a brake-happy driver. By the time I got to Metro Center, I needed some Tums and a glass of flat ginger ale.

Nevertheless, despite the bumpy (literally) re-adjustment, I am pretty excited to begin yet another Metro-free work week. But let's see how I do as the weather makes its transition from balmy to disgusting, with the occasional crappy day thrown in to test my mettle.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Kate Gets Annoyed by Direct to Consumer Drug Advertising

In case you haven’t watched primetime network news recently, there are three things for sale in America: cars (to burn the fossil fuel Americans are not supposed to use), investments (to build the nest eggs Americans are presently without), and drugs (you thought I was going to throw in another parenthetical here, didn’t you? I am a sly one).

There are few things I love as much as direct-to-consumer (DTC) drug advertising. And by love, I mean ‘respond to with some form of dyspepsia.’ But I bet if I could just make it through the ads, they would sell me something to cure that gurgly feeling I get from seeing an older couple dance in their kitchen after Mr. Whoever pops a Cialis. Eww.

But what makes me even gurglier deep in the depths of my stomach (I think my spleen may be involved too—something about rage) is that fact that, somewhere, there is some man who now wants to go see his doctor and ask if there is a little blue pill that is right for him. And it’s not just that I’m grossed out by erectile dysfunction drugs. It’s that I can hum the Vytorin song in my head. I know that Lyrica might relieve my fibromyalgia symptoms.

As I have mentioned before, our whole medical system is based on an imbalance of information. We go to doctors because we don’t know how to fix ourselves and they do. But that is changing—kind of. Between WebMD and the Merck Manual online, we can diagnose ourselves… right? Okay, maybe we play into our own hypochondria and exaggerate our symptoms. But really, we don’t even really need doctors, do we? Heck, I can navigate a drop-down menu as well as some guy who went to med school—and my wireless costs a lot less than those four years of his life he’ll never get back.

So we have diagnosed ourselves. The next step is obviously to analyze the armamentarium and decide if Lipitor is right for us. (Incidentally, if you are making this particular decision, you are one of about 12 people left in your time zone who are not already on Lipitor. Public health experts actually joke about putting it in the water.) So now the drug companies tell us—the self-diagnosing, prescription-demanding public—what to ask for when we see our doctor. And since our doctors are running late and our appointments are short, they don’t always have the time—or make the time—to do a comparison of brands or recommend (gasp!) generics. Instead they write the prescriptions for the name brand drugs of our choosing.

You want numbers? Here are numbers. Percent of patients who have seen a DTC ad: 86. Percent of patients of asked their doctor about a drug they saw in an ad: 35. The kicker: of patients who went to the doctor specifically to ask about a drug, percent of patients who walked out with their prescription of choice: 75. And we wonder why the drug companies are spending more on marketing than on research and development.

So here are my problems with DTC advertising.

First, it plays on people’s fears and hypochondria to get them to buy a product. I just find that kind of wrong. Furthermore, they play on people’s fears while downplaying the risks and side-effects of these substances. Except for that one psoriasis drug. I can’t remember the name, but I saw an ad for it yesterday, and death was very clearly stated as a potential side effect. I thought that was pretty ballsy. Although if I remember death but not the name, I guess it wasn’t a very good ad.

Second, we live in a world in which “first do no harm” can sometimes mean prescribing a drug if it won’t hurt the patient and it will make him or her go away. As a result, DTC advertising is potentially causing overuse, driving our growing national health expenditure (NHE) higher and higher. Moreover, it takes less time to write a script than to develop an exercise plan with a patient, and the availability of drugs can compromise our message about the importance of preventative measures and health preservation.

Finally, DTC advertising is not about pharmaceuticals. It is about branding. And as long as we keep buying in to the shiny packaging and the funny ads, it’s going to be difficult to reduce our exploding NHE through the use of generic drugs.

*Kate does not endorse any of the drugs named in this post. She just happens to concede that their brainwashing tactics are impressive.


It seems I missed a whole month. Working on it. I promise.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Quarterlife: Worst Show Ever

So, on our first night back after our sojourn through the desert of cablelessness, my roommate and I watched the beginning of the new series Quarterlife. I continued watching it, because I cannot look away from a trainwreck. The characters are self-absorbed, emo, hipster, alcoholic, and sex-obsessed. Basically, throw in a Starbucks cup and you will have a picture of the stereotype of young Americans.

Two things made this show especially terrible. The first is the casting of Scott M. Foster. I would like to qualify this statement by saying that I am kind of in love with him. But if his presence on this series means the ABCFamily's Greek is canceled, then I cannot abide his judgment in roles. (NB: According to his bio, Greek is still in production, but I am worried.)

The other problem-- which I only witnessed because I was foolish enough to watch until the end-- was BAD KARAOKE. Clearly, the writers of this series have not read my guide to karaoke. The venue was bad, the song was too slow, the girl who was singing--badly-- was crying and having some kind of epiphany onstage. All bad artistic choices. Throw in a guy trying to sing Tracy Chapman with a beer in his hand, and you would have the perfect storm of karaoke doom.

Anyway, I am glad my cable is back, but it was sad to realize that nothing good was on tonight. Gossip Girl, come back to me! You know I love you.

Brief Diatribe Against Comcast

Hello! I have missed you. I've been meaning to post for some time now, but I have been cut off from the outside world. What is this, you ask? This, my friends, is the work of Comcast. I posted last on February 12. On February 13, I came home from work and found myself without cable, internet, or phone service. Yes, my roommate and I have a home phone; deal with it.

Today is February 26. I think they are coming to fix it tonight.

Seriously? Seriously. This is after two failed attempts to wait for repair people-- one of which involved some kind of traffic accident; the other I believe to have involved the Bermuda Triangle, since the guy who was "5 to 10 minutes" away from our apartment vanished.

Anyway, I've been fuming. And drinking a lot of chai at Murky Coffee in Clarendon, which I have discovered is delightfully walkable from my apartment-- good news when 60 percent of the Metro lines are delayed and I need to go somewhere with wireless to work. And listening to a lot of old school Third Eye Blind, also the influence of Murky.

Before I go (I am at work, after all), a brief highlight from this weekend. Walking almost all the way home from Adams Morgan (really, I walked to Dupont, where the wait was so long I continued on to Foggy Bottom), I overheard the following conversation:

Guy: What's your name again?
Girl: What's your name?
Guy: Ummm... do you want to come over and... um, hang out?
Girl: Umm, yeah... we could, um... have a drink.
Guy: Yeah... or, uh... listen to music.

Oh, innuendo. How I love you.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

You Can Take the Girl Out of Connecticut...

...but you can't take the healthy fear of death by catastrophic ice-induced fall out of the girl.

Yes, it's true. Just because I'm from the North doesn't mean I go frolicking about in the ice--as I reminded myself tonight.

Having promised caramel brownies to my office for tomorrow, I set out for a trek to Subterranean Safeway after my gym session for the evening. Bear in mind that the reason I had to go tonight was because it was way too inhospitable outside for me to go yesterday. It was cold. Not precipitating, not glacial. Too cold.

So tonight, once I no longer had a choice in the matter, I made my way up the hill that is Wilson Boulevard to Safeway. There was only one really treacherous part-- one semi-icy intersection. Not bad. When I found out that my Safeway does not sell the caramels I needed for my brownies, I came up with Plan B-- go to CVS on my way home. It closes at 10. I left Safeway at 9:20. Fine, right?

Wrong. Not fine.

(To cut the suspense, I will tell you here that I made it to CVS in time to buy a ridiculous quantity of Werther's caramels. I wanted a stiff drink by the time I got there, but I made it.)

Anyway, back to my death march. Actually, no. March suggests that I stepped with some kind of deliberate motion. Which I did until I really got going down hill and the sidewalk really got frozen.

You know that feeling in the pit of your stomach when you take a step and that foot is suddenly not bearing any weight or making contact with the ground? I hate that feeling.

Which is why I decided to walk on the very edge of the road. I waited until the light had changed to stop the flow of traffic and prayed the tiny strip of shoulder that became my trail to safety was not also frozen. Because wiping out alone on the sidewalk is bad. But wiping out in the company of an SUV on the road is worse.

I made it to the next block relatively unscathed. Sweet. Right? Wrong. Bridge. By which I mean sheet of ice.

Remember, I had a backpack and another bag full of groceries. There was not a lot of potential for me to regain my balance if I lost it, which seemed increasingly likely the longer I stood on the one unfrozen square foot of sidewalk on this block. And remember too, I am still going downhill.

At this point, I decided that I had several options:

a.) Cry. Specifically, stand in one place and cry until my tears melted some of the ice in my path. I had already considered this once.
b.) Save myself the inevitable fall by sitting down and sliding on my butt to the end of the ice, which was probably 50 yards away. I'm not kidding; I had already considered this once as well.
c.) Hail a cab to take me half a block to CVS. Hubris prevented this. Also the disturbing lack of cabs. But then again, that meant there were fewer vehicles to run me over when I wiped out and tumbled ass over bandbox into the road.
d.) Sally forth.

And sally I did. Or, more accurately, I skated in my running shoes down the sidewalk, with the aid of the guard rail of the overpass and several newspaper boxes. Seriously, I have never been so grateful for The Onion or those stupid real estate guides. Were it not for that strategically placed bank of newspaper dispensers, I would have been on my butt sobbing in the path of a Ford Explorer.

Lesson: Never put off until tomorrow what you can do today. Because tomorrow there will be freezing rain, and you will have to walk--downhill-- through it to get home.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Kate's Guide to Karaoke

Saturday was my birthday. It was also Groundhog Day, but somehow I am a huge failure and have yet to find out whether or not he saw his shadow. Not that it matters, since it was 71 here today-- wtf, mate? Really, whether Phil said so or not, spring has sprung, even it's taking a kind-of hiatus this weekend.

But back to birthday. It was a great night. Why? Because it included a trip to Café Japone in Dupont for some sweet, sweet karaoke. Having gone on several karaoke excursions in the recent past, I hereby offer some musings on the rules of the road-- as I see them-- for a successful night of karaoke.

1. Bigger is not better. For example, Café Japone is a pretty small restaurant, which means there are fewer [presumably drunk] people to mock or attack you. It's also set up like a restuarant, so not everyone is watching the performer. Places that are bigger or more presentational can get a little terrifying, especially under hostile conditions.

2. Don't go to Peyote in Adams Morgan ever. It's in Adams Morgan so everyone is a belligerent, wasted 20-year-old (I am McSurly?). Also, the DJ makes you tip if you ever want to hear your song and one of his microphones--the one he hands to you, conveniently-- doesn't work. No lie. It was the best "Hey Jealousy" I've ever done, and only I heard the first half of it because I was singing into a dead mike.

1. Get to a mental and emotional place in which you can enjoy making a spectacle of yourself or watching others make spectacles of themselves. If this preparatory process requires alcohol, so be it. Performers be warned-- this does not give you license to be in the bathroom when your song comes up on the queue.

2. Strike a balance between respectful and judgy. Once, a guy yelled at my extremely talented, classically trained friend that he was bad. Like, to my friend's face, while my friend was singing. That was cruel and inappropriate. On the other hand, some terrible girls once stole the mike from us when they forfeited their song by being too drunk to realize it was their turn. We sat calmly at our table and commented to each other about how awful they were. And how vaguely anorexic. The suggestion, "Eat a powerbar" might or might not have been uttered at some point. But the moral of the story is that we let those pathetic diva-wannabes finish their destruction of a perfectly good song. Even though it was "Sweet Caroline" and it hurt us.

2a. If you are better than someone, you are allowed to judge.

2b. If it is your birthday, you have free range to judge everyone else, including other people with the same birthday.

2c. If on your birthday, some guys who are really awful get up and try to sing your song, you are within your rights to tell them to stop and then reclaim the mike by force if they persist. Seriously, I don't think they had ever even heard "Wild Night" before.

Song selection
This is obviously the most important choice you will make. More important than Sapporo or Sapporo Light. More important than sake bomb or don't sake bomb. This is huge and it will make or break you. With that in mind, a little guidance for the misguided:

1. Pick a song you know. Please. It's funny to watch people who can't sing but love a song and go balls-out. It's painful to watch people trying desperately to keep up with the words or blatantly guess at the melody. Helpful example: unless you are a complete and utter badass, never pick
"End of the World as We Know It," by R.E.M.
"One Week," by Bare Naked Ladies
Anything by Busta Rhymes

2. It doesn't matter how good a song is; if it isn't at least kind of up-tempo, it won't work. There are obvious exceptions to this rule ("Total Eclipse of the Heart," much?), but by and large it is an effective weeding tool. I am not giving examples. Figure it out.

3. Don't pick songs that are more than five minutes long. Really, it's just rude.

4. Don't pick songs with melancholy lyrics unless they are vastly outweighed by a kickass tempo and over half the people in the bar knowing the chorus. Mostly, this rule is dedicated to the guys Saturday night who tried to sing "Talking About a Revolution," by Tracy Chapman. Great song. I really like that song. But it was a bad decision. I'm sorry, but if it's 11:30 on a Saturday night and I am being peer pressured into another sake bomb-- I've lost count; don't ask--and you have been hogging the mike all night, i really do not want you to sing at me about people standing in the welfare lines. And singing badly, I might add. It was kind of funny, and every girl at my table was singing to try to drown you out, but mostly we were all silently asking wtf.

5. I know you're young and drunk and you only really know the words to about four good songs, but try to save the standards for later in the night. No one is ready for "Don't Stop Believin" at 9:30. Not even you. We use that to close down bars.

And with that, a brief sampling of successful karaoke tunes. I recommend the 80's, the 90's, boy bands, and the so-bad-they're-good:

Don't Stop Believin, Journey (please wait until the end of the night, at least after 11.)
Sweet Caroline, Neil Diamond (so good, so good, so good)
Livin on a Prayer, Bon Jovi (again, patience please)
Hit Me With Your Best Shot, Pat Benatar (BIG winner)
Hey Jealousy, Gin Blossoms (brilliant)
Follow You Down, Gin Blossoms (you will be pleasantly surprised how many people know the chorus; obviously they should know it because it's amazing, but you'll still be surprised.)
Candy, Mandy Moore (awful, and therefore perfect)
That's the Way It Is, Celine Dion (the Vegas show might be closed, but the music lives on; a very popular selection at the gay bar)
Red Neck Woman, Gretchen Wilson (a well-timed country song can be very effective, by which I mean hilarious)

Saturday, February 2, 2008

All Roads Lead to [a Pseudo-]Toad's

I love U Street. I love concerts at the mainstage at the Black Cat. I love that the doorman at Cafe St. Ex calls me Shorty because I am as tall as he is. But just when you think you've found a place where people vaguely resembling grown-ups (i.e., people I aspire to be) go to drink, you find yourself in the midst of another Toad's.

I have been cataloging the existence of pseudo-Toad's long before I ventured to the legendary Spoad's one fateful week in May 2007. As a member of that most-reviled breed of human-- the D.C. summer intern-- I spent many a night reveling in the sketch that befell my favorite Red Sox bar every Saturday at 11:00. Who knew that once all the guys in jerseys cleared out, all the guys in striped shirts would move in for the kill? But alas, part of the charm was lost when I returned only to realize that D.C. interns had been replaced by Georgetown students and that I was now the sketchy older chick. No way that is okay.

So I moved on. P.S., baseball season, please begin again so I can go back to Rhino. I miss it. One night, Laura and I wandered into The Front Page. We were after a cheap bourbon and ginger, but soon we heard the thumping of a bass line and the words "in da club." Could it be? Our Thursday 5:30 source of buckets of beer loosening its Vineyard Vines tie and getting low? Apparently.

But sadly, we were not quite pastel-clad enough. And I love a pastel, so that is saying something. Don't these people realize that the sketchy dance party is the raison d'être of Forever 21? They are putting an entire industry-- the cheap, hoochie "clothes" industry, I know, but still-- out of business.

So when Marie suggested the Bliss dance party at the backstage at the Black Cat last weekend, I was full of guarded optimism. Okay, that's a lie. I was pretty sure it wouldn't be very good. Or it would be fine, but not like Toad Sweet Toad.

It was amazing. There was a stage. Nay, there were multiple stages. Obviously, we picked the highest and most prominent and charged up to our pedestal of dancing glory. And the DJ was playing songs directly from his iTunes. How great is that? There were girls with Coach bags wearing $11.99 tops rife with oversized sequins. They played "Call on Me." It was perfect.

And-- clinching backstage's place as the premier pseudo-Toad's-- vaguely skeezy guys befriended us, securing our place as not the sketchiest people there. A good night indeed.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

The Zamboni's Fall from Grace

This week, I felt a stir deep inside me that has long been dormant. But as I laced my skates at the rink in the National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden and penguin-walked toward the ice, I remembered one of my most persistent, if sometimes obscured, desires:

I think it would be sweet to drive a zamboni. Seriously. How awesome is the zamboni? And how cool would it be to drive it? Maybe not as a career, but clearly it's one of those things to check off of a To Do list.

But my faith in the zamboni was shaken this week, when I Googled this seemingly fine machine-- the granddaddy of all ice resurfacers-- and found the website It is unassuming enough, touting the legacy of Frank Zamboni and his eponymous invention, and there is a kids section of the website with zamboni games.

I am easily entertained, so I clicked on what appeared to be the coolest game. It turned out to be a picture of a zamboni sliding back and forth across some ice. Not so interactive, nor, dare I say, gamelike. But whatever. So I decided to try the checkers game.

What a sham!! The game actually prevented me from making legal moves! I cannot explain how irrationally upset this made me. The zamboni is a pure, noble machine, smoothing the way for all who wish to traipse across the ice. Or who get paid to barrel across the ice and pin an Eastern European ex-pat against the boards and knock out his teeth, as I saw at the Caps game tonight (not the teeth, just the potential for teeth). And yet, at the Verizon Center the zamboni is now one more lumbering advertisement for Bud Light-- like a blimp, but lower and slower--and on it sucks the innocent joy from a simple game of checkers against an automated "partner." So sad.

On a more exciting note, the Caps game tonight was awesome. It had been a long, dark time in my life since my hockey spectator days ended with the demise of the Hartford Whalers (damn you, Carolina Hurricanes... damn you...), so I was glad to return to the rink. Well, a rink.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Kate and Electronics-- A Winning Combination

As you might recall, my hairdryer tried to kill me in November. I have since deemed it the winning appliance in the 2007 edition of Kate Versus Technology. It narrowly edged out the microwave in our apartment, which steadfastly refuses to let me cook anything on less than 100% power, and every printer on the sixth floor of my office, which steadfastly refuse to function correctly in general. But as much as I curse the useless "power level" button and enraging bond paper debacles, they never tried to inflict bodily harm. Most of all, they were never on fire.
Which is why I am a little nervous that we already have a contender in the running for Kate Versus Technology 2008. No, it's not Hairfryer's successor. So far, the little red ConAir that could is on my side.

I have long had digital camera issues. One was stolen from Sigma Chi. Another gradually gave up on life, vanquishing its preview screen to comatose blackness-- only to suddenly revive itself at Viva's one night! Seriously, I have no idea what happened; I think it might be possessed. And another had a bitter falling out with its dock-port-thingy, leaving me to feed it non-rechargeable batteries. But never before has the battery charger turned on me.

So last night, as I set about charging batteries to prepare for ice skating photo ops and perhaps a moment with the Stephen Colbert portrait in the National Portrait Gallery, I plugged the charger into the wall. Upside down, but whatever; I do it now and again. I folded a sweatshirt, looked toward the charger-- and saw something smoke-like wafting out of the charger.

A brief moment of panic ensued, obviously, as I pulled the adapter off of the wall, held it in my hands (it wasn't hot), and hoped it wouldn't burst into flames or explode all over me. Against my better judgment I held it closer to my nose to try to detect smoke. I didn't. Nope, it smelled like ammonia, not smoke.

Where should I put it? In the bathroom? Fewer flammable things... but potential electrical fire plus water equals bad decision. Seriously, a fire I can't extinguish with water? That is terrifying. But anyway. On the balcony? Nothing really flammable out there... maybe I should just throw it off the balcony? Eh, probably a less good decision.

In the end it was fine. I brought it to a different outlet, plugged it tentatively into the wall, and waited for the building to implode or for toxic fumes to overtake me. But for reigniting (ha) my fear of electrical fires and briefly emitting some weird ammonia-esque chemical, I nominate you, battery charger. I'll be watching.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Missed Opportunities

There is this restaurant near our apartment. Tom Sarris' Orleans House. Marissa and I have made a running joke of this place. There is always a line outside at 4:00. The parking lot is packed by 5:45. There are stained glass windows and a generalized attempt at architecture that evokes the feeling of "My daddy, the Colonel." It is bizarre and we are fascinated by it.

We decided at some point that we must eat there. We also guessed that this experience would be even better were we slightly drunk. This suspicion was confirmed on New Year's Eve. I had never before seen a person under the age of 50 walk into or out of the Orleans House. But as I made my way to the Metro, a pack of 12 or so 20-somethings entered the restaurant. Well-- 10 of them entered; the other 2 had to wait outside until they consumed the contents of their red solo cups.

But apparently our dreams of drunkenly grazing the apparently renown salad bar will never come true. The Orleans House closed on Tuesday, taking with it the caravan of Lincolns and Oldsmobiles I dodged each night as I crossed the lot on my way home. Just goes to show that even absurd opportunities only last so long before the government forecloses on some property and you find yourself on the corner of North Lynn and Wilson with an empty solo cup in your hand and nowhere to go.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Kate Spews Bile

I remember a conversation, shortly before I began this blog, between my friend Marie and me. I told her I was worried I wouldn't have enough things about which to write, and she--wisely-- replied, "Oh, just wait until something really enrages you. Then you'll have something to write."

Well, friends, the time is now. I am enraged. And a little drunk. But mostly enraged. Before I begin, I would like to give a shout-out to the director of my department at work, without whom I would not have seen an article about rollergirls (I am seriously considering joining a league) and thus without whom we would not have had a discussion about aggressive women at work today.

NB: I sincerely apologize for any obscenities I spew in the course of this rant, but I promise they are long overdue.

Background: I had a great night. I went to firmwide happy hour. I went to a jazz concert with friends. I went to a bar I like with those friends and more. I had conversations with at least three guys at said bar (Cafe St. Ex., btw), one of whom happened to be beautiful and a law student who had played lacrosse at Princeton. Seriously, I was not complaining, until cute P'ton lax guy started talking to two girls who seemed neither cute nor smart. But overall, it was still a good night, right?

By this time it was about 2 a.m., and I wanted to head home, so I went to the Metro, where another guy struck up a conversation. Again, lovely. And then I switched Metro lines at L'Enfant Plaza.

Can I just note, briefly, that I really don't like L'Enfant Plaza? Seriously, once I rode in a green line car with "BLOODS" graffiti-ed on the Metro map, I knew I should start transferring at Gallery Place, even if it meant an extra transfer at Metro Center. Oh well.

So I'm on the platform, and there is some really loud guy, and his friends. Maybe they are "friends." Unclear. But he is going on and on about something or another for the 8 minutes I must wait with him for my train.

"Oh, she's so fat. [words, words, words] ...she's ugly. [words, words, words] ...ugh, she's such a bitch."

At some point, a train arrives, and we all embark on our journey to NoVa. He continues talking about how fat and unattractive and terrible most people in his life are-- especially these girls, apparently.

I am fuming. I am sitting directly in front of this terrible, obnoxious kid, and I kind of want to turn and slap him and yell at him, but I have to time it right. I have always dreamed about this type of thing, but today Meghan told me she could see me being a rollergirl, and the aggression is out in full force.

The train begins pulling into the Rosslyn station.

KATE: [turns halfway around to almost face the little douchebag]: Since it seems everyone you know is ugly, fat, or bitchy, I just want you to know that you're intolerable and a douchebag."

DOUCHEBAG: [as KATE stands and waits for the doors of the train to open]: Yeah? Well, why don't you go home alone and watch some Life... uhh"
KATE: [done with him] Oh, wah, wah, wah. [Exits train]

That little shit will probably never read this, and-- if he does-- he will have no grounds to sue me (it sounded like he was in law school) because I do not name him. But I offer the following complaints:

1. He clearly assumed I was going home alone because I was not with a guy. There are moments I wish I was a lesbian, if for no other reason then to call somebody out for theoretically discriminating against me.

2.If you're going to use television to attempt to insult me, learn your frickin channels. It's called Lifetime, not "Life, uh..."

3. How dare you assume that because I am alone on the Metro means I am going home to an empty apartment. I was out with work friends; screw you, douchebag. Moreover, maybe I have a long-distance boyfriend. Or one who has a cold. Or whatever.

4. HOW DARE YOU PRESUME I WON'T BEAT THE SHIT OUT OF YOU? As noted above: seriously, I could strangle this kid. Moreover, I could knee him in the balls so hard that he would not be able to drag himself onto the last train bound for Vienna or Franconia-Springfield. I mean it. I generally avoid confrontation, so if I have the balls to say something to someone on the Metro, I have the balls to stand behind it. And also, I was at least a foot taller than he.

5. HOW DARE YOU INSINUATE THAT I AM NOT A COMPLETE PERSON BECAUSE YOU THINK I DON'T HAVE A BOYFRIEND? I realize that I'm not in the kitchen baking you cookies and that scares you, but get real.

The worst part is, of course, the mots d'escalier part. It's French for "stair words," meaning the things you should have said before you left that you think of on your way down the stairs. I had a couple, most notably accusing him of being a huge sexist.

But anyway. Tell me what you think about gender roles. Or just plan to join me on the Metro for an afternoon, trying to find this kid and scream at him until he can't remember what happened.

Monday, January 7, 2008

When I Grow Up, I Want to Be Ina Garten

A few weeks ago at work we talked about the answer to the question, "What's your dream job?" I, of course, said that I wanted to fix American health care, probably by being an important advisor to a similarly important person.

"Seriously?" one of my pod-mates asked me. "What do you actually think would be fun?"

"I mean, once I do that, I want to be a Food Network chef."

This sounded a little more reasonable to everyone, especially once we considered how I could go from a cooking show to cookbooks to a travel or entertaining show. Really, the possibilities are endless. But is it really possible to go from policy to cooking shows?

Yes. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Ina Garten. She went from writing nuclear energy policy for Ford and Carter to owning a specialty food store in the Hamptons, writing a cookbook, and starring on one of my favorite shows, Barefoot Contessa.

How did she get her start on her second career? Throwing parties in Washington. Granted, she and her husband had a rather swanky place in the Dupont/Kalorama area, but my roommate and I have a fabulous view only about five minutes from the Metro.

And this past weekend we threw a pretty successful Twelfth Night party. One of the signatures of the night was the big pot of wassail, which involved two six-packs of Newcastle, half a dozen apples, more sugar than I care to recall, and my creative interpretation of two different wassail recipes-- which I finally combined in about 20 minutes with my hair still slightly damp and my outfit covered by a Lucy Ricardo-esque, ladybug-print apron. Not to mention the Twelfth Night cake. Seriously, if we could keep 20-some-odd 20-somethings happy on a Saturday night without the benefit of a keg or organized drinking games, then I think I am on my way to fabulous dinner parties.

Lest we forget, I am still basically a college student playing house and dress-up-- though apparently my pretending to be a grown-up is more convincing than I thought. Once the wassail was mixed and the Twelfth Night cake was cut, I got down to one of my pieces of business for the night:

"Hey Strand, come on. Are we shotgunning or not?"

As my friend and I stepped out to the balcony and began carving strategically placed holes in our cans of beer, a party guest turned to my roommate:

"She is the last person I would have expected to go shotgun a beer. She baked, she made wassail, and she's wearing pearls. She's like Martha Stewart."


NB: Beginning this week (meaning yesterday), I am a contributor for an exciting, new blog called Last Stop in the District. I will be writing a weekly column-- published on Mondays--on health, science, and policy, though not always at the same time. Just a heads-up. It's not that I've become completely fluffy, but my writing will be a little compartmentalized from here on out, as the topical stuff moves to LSITD. The hilarity will continue to ensue, and when I get particularly enraged about something health-y, I will let you know in whatever forum I find most appropriate to vent my rage. But please support the new site, and make sure you check out all the other awesome contributors as well!

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Happy New Year

In the category of science you can use, I give you Science Times on the effects of alcohol. Having just summoned the power of alcohol leggings on Monday night, it's always fun to learn about another way in which alcohol messed with the nervous system. Not that I wanted to trek from Petworth to Wonderland Ballroom without the benefit of my booze coat. It was New Year's Eve, after all.

By the way, Wonderland-- despite its packed bar, crush of revelers on the dance floor, and creepy guys on the stage dancing with us-- was a supremely hilarious place to ring in the new year. In my neverending pursuit of dive bar perfection, I hold a special place in my heart for any bar that salutes the ball drop with a Champagne of Beers toast. Not only that, it was so crowded outside that we couldn't shove through to the gate. Clearly, the only solution was to climb through the bushes and across the neighbors' lawn.