Saturday, December 19, 2009

Kate's Open Letter to... Many People

To my mother, who is probably reading this: At this writing, I am in my apartment, wearing sweatpants, and watching the West Wing episode when it's snowing and the Whiffenpoofs are at the White House and Dulles and National are closed and Josh realizes that he's in love with Donna and the Whiffenpoofs sing O Holy Night. Also, my shoes are drying out-- it looks like the two coats of waterproofing chemicals were a good investment.

To the awesome bellman at the Willard who tried so hard to find us a cab: You are, indeed, awesome. Your heating lamps are awesome, too.

To the cabbie who pulled up to the Willard and then sped away when we explained where we wanted to go: Are. You. Serious. Really, are you serious? To recap, a cabbie pulled up to the Willard and asked where we wanted to go. We said Dupont and Adams Morgan. He responded, "Up? I can't go uphill." Seriously? You drive a Crown Vic. I have seen these cars before. Driving around Connecticut. Frequently uphill, sometimes in snow-- occasionally both at the same time. Imagine.

To all the other cabbies who passed us and did not stop: I do not fully understand your business model, as it seems to involve passing hoards of partygoers wandering through downtown at midnight in the snow. P.S., about half of them were wearing very tall, very unwieldy shoes and inadequate clothing. We really wanted to get in a cab. I would have paid a lot of money to ride in a cab.

To the girls at the Willard who were considering getting a room at the Willard instead of braving the Metro: In what way did that seem like a good idea? Because getting a cab will be so much easier once a foot of snow has fallen? Because your feet will be warmer when your four-inch heels magically turn into snow boots? Furthermore, I particularly liked your logic to explain why it was unreasonable to walk four blocks to McPherson Square: "I'm sorry, but I'm a woman, and it is midnight, and I am not walking to the Metro alone. I do not want to get raped." Honestly, it is snowing. Vigorously. So much so that even cab drivers in their cabs don't want to be outside. All the rapists have taken shelter. It is probably the safest night of the year to wander the streets, unless your concern is wiping out and breaking your leg.

To the guys we passed somewhere around 14th and New York Ave., who decided to grace us with a little Tim McGraw serenade, specifically the miniskirt line from "Bbq Stain": Thank you; I'm glad you liked my dress. I wish I had been as drunk as you were; I probably wouldn't have minded the cold as much. On a related note, my feet were freezing-- why could they still feel pain?

To the people of the fair District of Columbia: I will see you when the snow melts and you all return to normal. Or, you know, what passes for normal here.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Kate Attempts to Grow Things

Steps to becoming a vigilante gardener:

1. Identify abandoned reality TV house.

2. Look for signs of an herb garden producers probably planted thinking the cast would care about sustainability. Preferably on public property, i.e., the sidewalk. See anything you think you might not kill if you transplanted it to a pot in your kitchen?

3. Double check that you're not going to uproot a perfectly good plant only to slaughter it brutally in captivity.
3a. Hmm, Wikipedia says that rosemary does well in drought conditions. The top of my refrigerator gets very little rain, so this is excellent news.

4. Liberate your target plant from its sidewalk home. Preferably under cover of darkness, even if it is on public property.
4a. You probably shouldn't remove the all the rosemary--that's a little greedy. And, furthermore, you're going to feel like an asshole if you kill all of it in one fell swoop. You have to pace yourself.
4b. You probably didn't plan this exercise very carefully, so chances are you lack an appropriate vehicle in which to transport your rosemary plant to its new home. Fortunately, since you're not a greedy asshole, you can carry it in one hand.

5. Pot your exciting new plant. You might have an enormous bag of potting soil living on your fire escape, an artifact of your last foray into the wonderful world of herb gardens. Seriously-- you might have carried a 20-pound bag of potting soil four blocks from Garden District and up two flights of stairs, because you might struggle with gardening, but you try hard and you appreciate economies of scale.
5a. You might also have some concerns about that potting soil and blame it for the stunted growth and eventual death of your basil plant. Maybe. I'm just saying. If that's the case, maybe you pick up a fistful of dirt from the garden in front of your building.

6. Enjoy your new plant. Remember not to over-water it, in the manner you over-water the Christmas cactus you keep at your desk hoping to reenact Little Shop of Horrors.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Kate Misses New England

Things that have made me miss New England lately:

1. Fall weather. It has become fall in DC. Well, not this week; this week was July part deux. But the weeks before and after Labor Day were perfection. The air was cool and mercifully dry-- the type of weather people describe as crisp. I don't really like the word crisp. I don't know why; maybe it's because my brain defaults to my cooking definition of crisp: adj., a polite euphemism for burned. But I digress. The beautiful weather--the clear, energizing air and the bright but not-hot sun--caused me pangs of Yale withdrawal, characterized primarily by regret that I was walking to work instead of WLH or the tailgate fields.

2. Friendly people from Connecticut. No, I'm not kidding. Everyone hears all the time about Southern Hospitality and blah blah blah. Whatever. Speaking fewer words per minute than I can type doesn't make you friendly; it makes you inefficient. You want friendly? Try wearing your high school gym shirt from a small town in Connecticut-- which I do a lot, apparently, based on the number of times I've been stopped by people asking about my shirt. Which is three times in four weeks, to be precise.

"Old Saybrook?! Old Saybrook, Connecticut?"
"We live in Old Lyme!" "I have a house in Groton-Long Point!" "We just moved to Baltimore from Hamden!"

Seriously. Delightful, lovely people. "Are you in school? You went to Yale? Good for you! When was the last time you went home?"

3. The countdown to the postseason. There are few things I miss about New England the way I miss NESN, mostly because I mix my longing for Remy and Orsillo-- hell, even Orsillo and Eck-- with scorn for all those who try to take their place in my life. At least on Fox and ESPN, I can put the game on mute. On TBS, mute isn't enough, thanks to that clown Craig Sager and his nauseating and misguided jacket-tie-pocket square combos. And, more to the point, I don't want to have to mute the inanity of the guy who dresses like my 6th grade French teacher. I want good commentary. I want Don to gravely but sympathetically give it to me straight when Melky freakin Cabrera adopts a new offensive strategy such as lining the ball straight into poor Jon Lester.

However, deficient Red Sox coverage aside, I admit that DC Sox fans are a devoted bunch who sometimes manifest their fandom in enjoyable ways on par with New England. I have encountered many people who give shout-outs to others sporting Red Sox paraphernalia. I usually refrain from indulging this urge, but today on the way home from Safeway, I couldn't help myself.

"I'm sorry-- is your dog wearing a Sox jersey?"
"Well, I mean, we're playing the Yankees tonight."
"Oh, I understand. It's a big weekend."

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The Five People You Avoid at the Pool

For about two months now, I have been swimming in the pool at the Y. I mostly go in the morning before work, and it's funny--by which I mean a little creepy--how you get to know the other regulars. There's the really nice woman who always asks if it's okay if she joins your lane. There's the guy who looks like a guy from college, to the point that I do a double-take-- hey, we're talking about 6:15 on a Tuesday; I'm impressed my hallucinations are limited to false doppelganger sightings. And there's the lady who is always in one of the slow lanes, just chillin and doing the sidestroke, sometimes with a kick board. She's great.

[By the way, if you want to minimize your chances of being in a lane that resembles the aquatic equivalent of the Beltway at rush hour, pick the slow lane. Seriously, this works. A few people use the slow lane because they are honest with themselves, but most people are way too proud to self-select whether they should be there or not. But not you. You are ruled by logic, not some misguided sense of self worth derived from holding your own in the 'medium' lane.]

But not everyone at the pool is great. And I say this not to be a bad person but, rather, as one who understands that my life can serve as a warning to others. Therefore, I give to you The Five People You Should Avoid at the Pool.

Some people who use flippers are fairly skilled in their use-- you know, they keep their kick mostly under water. As a result, they create a constant wake, which kind of sucks. But not as much as people who don't know how to use flippers. These people create splashing reminiscent of the more violent scenes in "Jaws." Overall, they are not so conducive to your ability to breathe.

Red. Flag. If someone needs a friend, it means he or she is either
a. not that interested in swimming and thus planning to stand awkwardly in the shallow end chatting
b. worried about drowning. And possibly being lost at sea. In the pool.

I know several triathletes, and they are all delightful people, so don't get me wrong. All I'm saying is that I'd rather not share a lane with someone who is checking their split times and thus refuses to start their next lap until the second hand is on the 60 (you might think they're staring at you, but actually they're staring over your shoulder at the giant clock on the wall). Also, the triathletes sometimes have conferences at the shallow end, which is a little awkward. Yeah, the awesome swimmers are having a meeting. No, you're not invited.

Again, please do not misunderstand. But there are a few wiry old guys who have, over time, developed interesting adaptations of the traditional swimming strokes. They tend to resemble the motions of a drowning interpretive dancer. And the rest of the wiry old guys have old man strength, and nothing ruins my day like getting lapped by a 70-year-old.

I think this speaks for itself. Especially in combination with flippers.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Kate Stops Being Polite

This is bad. This is very, very bad.

This is hilarious.

On the bright side, maybe they'll get kidnapped by the Scientologists?

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Not Well Played, NYT

Monday night (probably Tuesday in the print version), the New York Times reported on a federal judge's decision that the FDA acted improperly in setting an 18-and-over age restriction on the over-the-counter availability of Plan B.

Sidebar: Woohoo! Now, science people, don't freak out. I still feel sort of queasy about non-scientist judges making rulings about science. However, this decision was not actually about science; it was about government officials using politics to game the approval process. So I can celebrate the reproductive rights moment without feeling awkward. Besides, if Susan Wood-- who resigned from the FDA because of this issue-- is happy, I'm happy.

So if I'm glowing from women's collective win, why am I pissed at the New York Times? It's because I'm one of those masochists who reads the reader comments. What's worse, I'm that girl who reads the comments and then tries to figure out how the editors chose their "Editors' Selections." Allegedly, the rationale is as follows:

"NYTimes editors aim to highlight the most interesting and thoughtful comments that represent a range of views."

Okay, fine. I even acknowledge upfront that they are inevitably going to pick some comments with which I disagree. No problem. Of course they were going to highlight a comment from someone who thinks Plan B is going to be the end of western civilization. I was ready for that. Hell, that's why I clicked on the comments page in the first place.

However, I have a major problem with tagging as "interesting and thoughtful" a comment that includes factual errors. I'm looking at you, Comment #10:

"For those of us, who respect the sanctity of life and believe a soul is imputed to a human being at conception, this is yet another travesty in a series of tragedies." The poster goes on to condemn "support for Licentious behavior" (bonus point for vocab, deduction for random mid-sentence capitalization), liberal politicians, and people creating baby mama drama (not in those words).

Fine. If the NYT editors think it looks magnanimous to give a shout-out to conservative reader, whatever. My problem is one of the following:

a. Comment #10 guy doesn't know how Plan B works.
b. Comment #10 guy doesn't know how conception works (less likely, not out of the question).
c. Both a. and b.
d.-f. Repeat a.-c., but replace "Comment #10 guy" with "NYT staffer moderating comment board."

In case I have confused anyone, here is my problem in a less passive-aggressive format. From the Plan B website: "Plan B® works like a birth control pill to prevent pregnancy mainly by stopping the release of an egg from the ovary." If you read the pamphlet (linked above), you'll see that they allow that it is possible that Plan B also prevents fertilization and implantation. However, in the intended, proven function of the drug (the no egg part), conception is not in the picture. So if you're going to rail against something using only "life begins at conception" and your self-righteous recollections of a bygone time when dirty liberals weren't running the show, please direct your comments elsewhere.

Furthermore, NYT, please step up your game. Misconceptions (ha.) about the function of a pharmaceutical product couched in pro-life rhetoric hardly qualify as "thoughtful."

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Kate Experiments with Clothing... Again

As a loyal viewer of What Not to Wear and a true life victim of my own fashion choices, I am a believer in the power of clothes.

Now, I love the Hartford Whalers. I don't care that they are no longer an NHL team. It's irrelevant. You are probably wondering what this has to do with clothes. Well, I recently decided I needed a Whalers shirt that is not the sweat-stained, paint-splattered, hole-under-the-left-arm "Top 10 Things to Love about the Hartford Whalers" shirt I got when I was 10 years old and now wear to the gym. I still love this shirt and will continue to wear it until it is no longer a shirt (my friend Becca once said, "pants are pants until they fall down"; I think a similar axiom probably applies to upper-body garments). But sometimes you want to show your love without the constant fear of people stopping you on the street to say, "Look into bleach."

So I found myself a new shirt. It is great. It is simple-- heather grey, just the logo on the front. I cut off the collar, as I am wont to do, and now it is perfect. The only problem is that when you work in an office and spend the majority of your weekend hours in your pajamas or your aforementioned sweaty, painty Whalers shirt, you don't have so many opportunities to wear your awesome new shirt. You can't necessarily wear it to go out on Saturday night--it's pretty hipster to wear the tee shirt of your now-defunct NHL team (though massively cooler than wearing the tee shirt of the band you're going to see-- don't be that guy). Which is why it was so convenient that I went to a party in Columbia Heights Saturday night. If you can't dress up as a hipster to go to Columbia Heights, then I don't know when you can. Okay, when you go to H Street, but I digress.

I should also note that this Whalers-centric outfit was a pretty daring (read: dubious) choice. Marissa almost talked me out of it, and were I a more reasonable person she would have succeeded. But as I said, I will only be young enough to make egregious fashion mistakes--like a Whalers shirt with a frilly, borderline-too-short skirt and heels--once, and I have to get them all out of my system now in case I am ever famous enough to get called out for these choices in a public forum. Plus, I know how I react when I see people who identify themselves as Whalers fans, and I sort of wanted to see what would happen.

What happened: people love the Whalers love. More importantly, the Whalers shirt lends itself to a conversation a little more than, say, the plaid skirt and draws comments from specific types of people:

a. Guys from Canada ("Well, you like the Whalers, so I respect you.")
b. Guys from New York/New England ("Are you from Hartford?" "No!" "Oh, okay.")
c. Guys from North Carolina ("[slurred, drunken teasing about the Carolina Hurricanes]")

Lesson: The Whalers shirt is always the right decision. I would never encourage anyone to pretend to be a Whalers fan. I get very upset by disingenuous wearers of Whalers gear-- really, ask the guy who was sporting a vintage-esque Whalers shirt last time I was in Front Page. When someone asks you about your shirt, the answer is never, "Oh, I don't even like them. I'm from L.A."

But if you can hum the Brass Bonanza, you should know that proclaiming your pride in your now-lost NHL team can have positive results. And if you happen to encounter a Captain No-Fun who leans over and says, "You do know the Whalers are no longer a team, right?" you can just smile and say, "They live on in my heart."

This will keep you from saying what you're really thinking (well, also thinking): "If you can't say anything nice, stop looking at my boobs."

Friday, March 20, 2009

Kate Gets Domestic, or The Importance of Power Tools in Decorating

I decided a few weeks ago to take today and Monday off. I have been avoiding a lot of chores and errands, using excuses like, "But I don't want to spend a quarter of my weekend ironing." Yes. I actually avoid ironing with such skill that the "to be ironed" section of my closet merits designation as a large-scale project/federal disaster area. But when your weekend is twice as long as usual, there is no excuse. That said, I couldn't face my wrinkly shirts on the first day of Kate's Big Productive Weekend, so I opted for domestic project number two:

Do something with the big, awesome map I bought at Eastern Market IN DECEMBER that is still sitting on the floor next to the TV.

Long ago, when I was foraging for Christmas presents, I visited the map man at Eastern Market, who happened to have these sweet city planning maps of D.C., including one with our apartment. Unfortunately, it is big and an odd size, and I have been too lazy/cheap/unmotivated to get it matted and framed. I decided I could get a shelf at Target and stand the map up on the shelf. I know this sounds weird, but I promise it sort of works in person.

With this plan, I commenced avoiding a Target field trip, until I realized that this long weekend would give me the perfect opportunity to go, with the added bonus of missing the masses that descend upon Target on the real weekend. This is how I ended up in our apartment this afternoon with my delightful shelf, puzzling over the instructions for mounting it on a wall.

Brief time-out: bear in mind that I picked "Project Interior Decorating" instead of "Project Actually Have Clothes to Wear to Work Again" mostly because of the equipment involved. DeWalt drill = way cooler than miscellaneous iron. Before I even went to Target, I unpacked my drill and started charging one of the batteries. I was excited.

Then I came home with my overpriced chunk of particle board and was a little sad to see that the instructions called for a screwdriver. Just a regular old screwdriver without any voltage. I consoled myself with the sweet drywall anchors and the fact that with their hanging hardware, it seemed like I had a shot at making the shelf level on the first try. And if you know me, you know that whatever I build/assemble will probably end up level(ish) but that it might take four or five extra holes in a wall and at least that many expletives.

As it turns out, the hanging hardware provided with the shelf was a complete farce.

We will overlook the drywall anchors that were totally useless, because it's possible that I shouldn't have even tried to use them on our walls; whatever. I abandoned those and decided to screw the bracket on which I was to hang the shelf into the wall. DeWalt to the rescue! Pre-drilling was the only way those screws were going to go into the wall; I seriously hope no poor schmuck tried to use a screwdriver and elbow grease.

So the bracket was on the wall, and it was shockingly level, considering that there were only three new holes in the wall and all of them were in use. Now to slide the hardware on the shelf onto the wall bracket, and...

...and why is the shelf still in my hands instead of on the wall? Shit.

Now, I have no misconceptions about my strength as a scholar of physics. But even I have a vague understanding of gravity and force and vectors-- concepts that seem to have eluded the person who designed this misnomer-ed "hanging hardware."

Nor do I presume to be a scholar of the law, but I have some idea of what liability is and of the fact that you probably have some if the shelf you put on the wall over your couch falls off the wall and onto the person sitting on your couch.

However, I can definitely, authoritatively tell you a thing or two about shoddy construction. And I know that in the absence of inherent structural integrity, you can just keep adding shit until all the ancillary pieces you throw into the mix hold your original thing together.

It is with this philosophy in mind that I embarked on a field trip to the hardware store, where I acquired a variety of festive metal brackets in a delightful brass finish. And after much pre-drilling and second-guessing about whether two brackets would be enough (answer: when you're as paranoid as I am, two is not enough-- two on the bottom and two smaller brackets on the top is closer without looking like you're completely psychotic), I am pleased to report that the shelf has been on the wall and the map has been on the shelf for six hours now. It is shockingly level, at least in the plane that mattered to me. And it has yet to fall on anyone's head.

Although if I have to fix the shelf, maybe I can put off ironing a little longer.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

"I didn't go to medical school for nothing," or "I'm not a cheerleader for a brandname drug, but I play one on TV."

I have railed against DTC pharmaceutical advertising for a while, as you probably know if you have ever watched prime time TV with me. But even as I find myself skeezed out by the bathtub people in the Cialis commercials, few of these ads bother me as much as birth control ads do.

Now, don't get me wrong. On principle, I think that if you're going to urge American men to Viva Viagra (okay, those ads bother me as much as birth control ads), someone had better be standing by to assure American women that they won't have to spend the rest of their lives barefoot and pregnant. I just happen to think that someone should be a doctor; call me crazy, I guess. But then again, maybe this is what the women's movement was all about-- equal rights, equal pay, equal airtime?

I digress. Given that I probably can't take down the entire DTC advertising structure all by myself today, I will temporarily allow that pharmaceutical advertising on TV is our reality. This assumption provides me a clever little segue into my actual point-- the degree to which birth control ads are or are not based in reality. First, let's remind ourselves about some terminology we take for granted-- birth control. The name suggests that the purpose is to control births, i.e., keep the user from getting prego. Simple enough. As a directly related effect, it also happens to regulate the menstrual cycle, which one probably expects when one ingests a very specific hormone regimen. But again, that's just related to the main issue-- birth control.

So why isn't this the focus of any advertising for the Pill? Wait a minute, did you see how I switched it up there? I didn't call it birth control; I called it the Pill. Because that's how it's advertised. We're not even supposed to remember that the point is contraception, as this video does a great job highlighting. We're supposed to think of the Pill as the silver bullet to make our skin better and mitigate our PMS surliness and give us the freedom to release balloons from the sunroof of a VW bug while driving in circles and listening to The Veronicas. Why is that, by the way? Is it some leftover relic of the Comstock Law? Is it because we're afraid of offending those morally opposed to contraception? Is it because, secretly, even the producers of birth control want us to be barefoot and pregnant? (Okay, that last one is pretty conspiracy theory-esque, but ask yourself how many major pharmaceutical companies are run by women. Furthermore, don't you sometimes wonder if it would be easier to meet and marry Mr. Right if you weren't a zit-covered, homicidal maniac? Yes, you.)

Anyway, this is all a very roundabout way of saying that when I saw the first ad correcting all the previous Yaz ads (you can read about it here) I was pretty pleased. First of all, that obnoxious woman "who didn't go to medical school for nothing" (as if anyone with an MD calls it "medical school" in conversation) comes right out and says that Yaz is birth control. Second of all, she clarifies the on-label uses and doesn't hype the off-label benefits. I have a lot of ambivalence about off-label uses of drugs in general, but I'm willing to let it slide a little bit with birth control because it's relatively inexpensive (cough, don't use Yaz, use a generic, cough). Still, the whole reason I find off-label use of anything conscionable is because it typically happens with a doctor's recommendation and oversight. Therefore, while I have a big problem with people with high cholesterol marching to their doctors and demanding Vytorin (sorry, I find their ads really visually clever), I have a bigger problem with women with pimples marching to their doctors and demanding hormones. Because we all know that Proactiv is the country's number one skin care solution. Trust us; we're Jessica Simpson and Alyssa Milano.

Finally, the Times article suggests that asking Bayer to pay $20 million to air the corrective ads amounts to a slap on the wrist in the world of DTC advertising. Agreed. But the average person who sees one of those ads probably isn't going to say to herself, "Hmm, I wonder how much that set them back... oh wait, drop in the bucket." Rather, I think she's going to say, "Hmm, it kind of sounds like they kind of lied to me." And if the new Yaz ads can do anything to undermine the credibility of DTC advertising overall, that's worth more than $20 million in my book.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Even Better than the Nurses

We all know I have some strong feelings on the topic of karaoke, but even I have not taken it to the point of physical violence. Apparently, I have more restraint than some.

Two of Kate's Great Loves Converge

Health care and karaoke-- in the form of a discussion of good karaoke songs for women with medium to low ranges (read: me)... on a nursing forum.

My favorite suggestion is from the contributor who suggests "getting a little loaded and singing Willie Nelson songs."

Friday, January 16, 2009

Update: Wishlist Bag-- What a Cold, Strange Trip It Has Been

So, Operations never wrote back to me about the demise of my bag in the plastic clutches of the ice cube maker, but that doesn't mean they did not respond. Today I peeked into the freezer, hoping that this might be the day that my manual dexterity and new biceps/triceps exercise would lead me to victory over my bag's frigid captor. Tragically, however, as I opened the freezer door and dodged the frozen pizza falling toward me, I realized that my bag was no longer a hostage-- it was a kidnapping victim. Yes, I checked behind the boxes of burritos and under that depressing popsicle from the ice cube tray. No sign of a struggle-- no scratches on the ice maker. A sad day indeed.

Or is it?

You see, in researching my initial post about my faithful little bag, I visited the ever-so-cloying Wishlist website, and I decided to have a look around. You can imagine what happened next. I mean, who am I to say no to a half-price Herve Chapelier bag and free shipping? It's an excellent deal on a fairly demure bag that is a good size for the days when I don't need to drag around a tote that is approximately the look and dimension of a spinnaker with handles. And besides, it's not terry cloth or the color of bubblegum. Sounds like a solid investment.

And as I walked back up to my office this morning, carrying the box containing my bag (I presumed), a thought dawned on me:

"I wonder if they gave me a new free Wishlist bag..."

So imagine my glee when there, under my delightfully tasteful and useful canvas tote, was the most godawful, heinous, garbage-bag-meets-gym-bag-hybrid-looking thing I have ever seen-- with Wishlist emblazoned in curly, pink script on each side.

It is seriously one of the trashiest things I have ever encountered in real life. I laughed when I saw it; it's that bad. But it zips closed and the handles are the right length-- i.e., they are short enough that they would never cause me to drag my zucchini on the ground or inadvertently feed it to a major appliance. So I sort of love it.

The universe is right again.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Kate's Friends Also Struggle

The following conversation happened between 11:20 and 11:25 p.m. Before I begin, I should note that the other party involved in this exchange has demonstrated his culinary talents many times before. That is not to say, however, that he doesn’t struggle every now and again. Not unlike some blog authors who drop pies and feed their grocery bags to ice cube makers (it’s still in there).

The premise: Strand and his friend are making dinner tonight. This is not unusual.

Strand: Um, do you have Cajun seasoning?
Me: Uhh, no… Why what are you trying to make?
Strand: What about onion powder?
Me: Oh, yeah, of course.
Strand: Garlic powder?
Me: Yes. I have onion powder. I have garlic powder. I have curry. I have coriander. I have pretty much any spice you would want. Everything except turmeric. I don’t have turmeric. Do you want me to bring paprika?
Strand: Maybe. Sure. Do you have chili powder?
Me: Everything except turmeric and chili powder.
Strand: Yeah, that’s okay; we’ll get it at Whole Foods. Next question: how do you bake with strawberries?
Me: [pausing to ask silently, “wtf?”] Uh, well, that might depend on what you want to do with them. What does the recipe say?
Strand: [avoiding the question] Like, if I’m using fresh strawberries, do I want them to be ripe?
Me: Oh. Yeah. But check the recipe, because you might need to macerate them a little first.
Strand: [pause] Did you just say a dirty word?
Me: Macerate? Mix them with some sugar and maybe a little hot water? To break them down?
Strand: Ohhhhh. Hmmm, macerate. Okay. [pause] What does rhubarb look like?
Me: [I offered to bake; why did they say no?] Umm… imagine big, magenta celery. Why? [I know why. This is not good.]
Strand: Magenta celery, okay. Would they have it at Whole Foods?
Me: Definitely… in several months.
Strand: Oh. Hmm. Okay.
Me: Are you sure you don’t want me to bring anything?
Strand: Just onion powder and garlic powder.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Freezer Watch-- Update: 10:57 a.m., January 14

Operations has not responded to my email. At all. Not even, "You've got to be kidding."

My bag is quite cold.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Freezer Watch-- Update: 10:08 a.m.

After pacing the hall for a few minutes, I was finally able to have the pantry to myself, but I was still unable to execute Operation Extrication. And I still don't understand how that thing works-- I thought I knew which way the cloth was wrapped around the little plastic thingies (I'm very technical), but I was only able to pull about half an inch of fabric out of the jaws of death.

Given that I don't want anyone to walk in there and see me with both my arms completely inside the freezer, defrosting their vegetarian burritos, it's time to ask for help.

TO: Operations
SUBJECT: 9th floor pantry freezer


In the pantry on the 9th floor (next to the women's bathroom), someone put a canvas bag of groceries in the freezer, and now part of the bag is wrapped around/inside the ice maker. Is there any chance it would be possible to remove the bag, hopefully intact?

Thanks, and apologies for the bizarre request.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Kate Fails at Transporting Foodstuffs. Again.

At this point, you might or might not know that I occasionally fall victim to unfortunate situations involving baked goods. Today, I inadvertently expanded my repertoire to include unprepared produce.

Okay, to allay your suspense, this isn't really about the death of a piece of produce. There is no honeydew melon splattered on a sidewalk, no chalk outline of a pineapple. All my Trader Joe's bounty is intact, with the exception of the mango I devoured earlier, which was intact until I deliberately disemboweled it. No, this is about my bag.

I have this bag. It is a stupid little canvas bag from Wishlist in New Haven. In case you are not familiar with Wishlist, you should know that the majority of its shoppers are Uggs-and-Juicy-wearing 15-year-olds. In case you don't know me very well, I will note that I am neither Uggs-wearing nor Juicy-wearing nor 15 years old. That said, every once in a while, in a fit of dubious judgment, I used to buy something at Wishlist, including an overpriced teeshirt for my sister for her birthday. My sister is neither Juicy-wearing nor 15 years old, though she finally caved and joined the Ugg'ed masses. She claims it was in the interest of warmth.

Anyway, the moral of the story is that I should not like this bag. It is from a store that causes me embarrassment when I admit to shopping there. The handles are kind of awkwardly too long, so it drags on the ground if it's not over my shoulder. It has a silver peace sign on one side and 'Wishlist' in curly script in hot pink on the other side. It is an affront to me and everything for which I stand (which is not to say that I don't stand for peace, but you get the idea).

Which is why it makes no sense that I am so attached to this bag. Except that it is the perfect size for two boxes of Kashi, six apricots, and a pound of zucchini. And it was free, which means that I can take it places that I don't want to take my bags that I really love. And it's shockingly durable, having survived a department booze cruise (after which I thought I had lost it; my coworkers can tell you how upset I was-- though mostly because it held my Mount Gay hat) and a downpour that turned it green, thanks to a file folder inside.

Which is why I was a little stunned after work, when I went to pull The Little Beige Bag That Could out of the freezer in the 9th floor pantry, where it was keeping my three bags of cranberries safe (I love cranberries even more than this stupid bag). The thing to know about this freezer is that it is essentially a microcosm of the frozen food section of Trader Joe's, so there isn't much open space.

Given this circumstance, you can understand why I put my cranberries right next to the out-of-commission ice cube maker. And you can probably also understand my surprise when I realized that the ice cube maker had begun to ingest my bag.

Seriously, no one has taken an ice cube out of that freezer in at least two years, I'm guessing. In the little ice cube tray beneath the mechanism is a lone, leftover popsicle from an event about five months ago. I was convinced that ice cube maker was just decorative. Apparently, I was mistaken. I don't know exactly how that thing works, but it had that piece of canvas in its plastic jaw, and it was not letting go.

So you might be wondering what happened to my bag and its contents. I extricated the cranberries and went to work on the bag. But once it occurred to me to close the pantry door to muffle the sound of shattering plastic and pull as hard as I could--ice cube maker be damned--I decided that 5:30 on a Monday was possibly the worst time imaginable to attempt freezer surgery (the other contender being 5:30 on a Friday). So the bag is still in the ice cube maker, and I am going to have an interesting email to write to the operations staff tomorrow morning.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Kate Rails Against Pop Culture

So yesterday I bought a new song on iTunes. I was looking for something in the category of good music to play at the gym, and there, at the top of the most purchased songs list, was "Just Dance" by Lady GaGa. Now, right there we have some red flags. Lady GaGa? Seriously? Wtf kind of name is that? Furthermore, I suspected that this song was the one that came on the radio about once every fifteen minutes when I was home and that I immediately switched stations to avoid.

But the 30-second sample on iTunes was so catchy-- lots of profound lyrics like "just dance" and "spin that record, babe" and the ever-popular "daa daa doo doo." And I started speculating about the reason for the exhortation to "just dance." I decided that it was something girl power-y. Yeah, sure. I can do triceps dips to that. Click! Song bought. Excellent.

It was at this point that I listened to the first verse.

Holy shit.

Here are the highlights, along with my comments in parentheses.

I've had a little bit too much (well, okay)
...Can't find a drink, oh man (ah, the cruel irony of being too wasted to obtain additional booze)
Where are my keys? I lost my phone (umm... little bit too much?)
I love this record, baby, but I can't see straight anymore (ibid)
What's the name of this club? I can't remember, but it's all right

So, we are maybe a minute into the song and we have a girl who is blackout and can't find her stuff. Call me crazy, but that's bad. Especially when you consider that the solution to this situation is not call it a night and pound some water. Nope. What does our heroine decide to do? Just dance! Because apparently she got trashed on Red Bull and vodka.

In general, I am not particularly offended by glamorizations of drinking. I mean, last night was New Year's Eve; obviously I spent part of the night sitting around drinking champagne. But promoting--nay, celebrating-- the practice of getting wasted to the point of being unable to function is not okay for several reasons. There are the obvious health implications. And there are the nearly-as-obvious safety implications of young women getting out-of-control trashed. Nor can we ignore the extent to which drunk people think they're very talented dancers and the toll that belief takes on all of us. Moral of the story: we are reminded, once again, that pop stars are probably not the models for our behavior.

And, yes, I continue to listen to that song at the gym. It's just so frickin catchy. I am appropriately ashamed.