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.