fauxklore: (Default)
It’s been a while since I’ve done this, but I happened to get a Hammacher Schlemmer catalogue in the mail not long ago, so I might as well mock some products. I should note that there are things in the catalogue I would actually consider ordering. I could, for example, use new pillows, but they offer so many choices that I have decision paralysis. I am also tempted by the World Championship Bagpipes, because I already own an accordion and a didgeridoo and adding bagpipes would make me the worst neighbor ever and allow me to avenge myself against the neighbor whose dog barked for 40+ hours straight during the wind storm. But I have other things (mostly travel) I would rather spend $1700 on.

The Hypnotic Jellyfish Aquarium: I would love to have a jellyfish aquarium. I’d probably even be willing to spend 90 dollars on one. But I don’t want one with synthetic jellyfish. Give me real jellyfish or don’t bother.

The Circulation-Enhancing Vibrating Shoes: For 200 bucks you can get shoes that vibrate, presumably to massage your feet. It takes 40 minutes to charge them, using a USB cable, and that powers each shoe for up to 23 hours. What I don’t understand is whether that is 40 minutes total to charge or 40 minutes for each shoe.

The Year of Your Birth Folding Knife: This is a folding knife which Is personalized with one’s initials and a Lincoln penny for the year of one’s birth. If you are going to spend nearly a hundred dollars on a knife, you should probably choose one that isn’t so completely hideous. Here’s a hint – you can probably glue a penny onto a decent knife for a lot less. Incidentally, if you would prefer to have a money clip for the year of your birth instead, it comes with a half dollar, not a mere penny.

The Fresh Almond Milk Maker: It not only makes almond milk, but also nut butters! So does any decent blender. You could even buy a food processor for less than a quarter of what this costs. (Personally, I am perfectly happy to buy almond milk at Trader Joe’s.)

Assorted Star Wars Tsotchkes: I am not a big Star Wars fan, so I am not qualified to comment on these. But is there really a demand for a Yoda lamp? Or a coffee press in the shape of R2-D2? An assemble-your-own wooden R2-D2? Why?

The Quinoa and Rice Cooker: Because, of course, your current rice cooker just can’t also make quinoa. Me, I use a saucepan.

The Hide-N-Seek Panda: The idea is that you hide this toy in your house and your kids look for it. What amuses me is that it hints at is location "with an authentic-sounding panda call." I don’t know about you, but I have absolutely no idea what a panda call sounds like. Now, if they made a hide-and-seek indri (a particularly cute but noisy type of lemur), we could talk.

The Chainmail Sharkproof Suit: This costs $7500 and comes with "special conditions and guarantee limitations." Now, the need for a stainless steel dive suit is somewhat specialized, so I can’t really balk at the price. But if you need something like this, don’t you want it to have some very strong guarantees?
fauxklore: (storyteller doll)
Celebrity Death Watch: Candida Royalle was a porn star. Jack Larson played Jimmy Olsen in the 1950’s Superman television series and later became a playwright. Moses Malone was a basketball player. Max Beauvoir was a biochemist who became a high-ranking Voudou priest in Haiti. Herschel Silverman was a beat poet. Jackie Collins wrote trashy novels, the most successful of which was Hollywood Wives. Daniel Thompson invented the bagel machine, leading to the proliferation of the bland, soft, bagel-shaped rolls which destroy the name of that noble treat. Robert Simon founded Reston, Virginia, a planned community where I have been known to spend time (some of which is mentioned below.)

Two pitchers the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League died on the same date, September 13th. Jane Jacobs played almost all of her career for Racine, while and Emma Bergmann moved around teams a bit more, but most notably pitched no-hitter for Muskegon in 1947.

Unetaneh Tokef 1: I should have mentioned an insight I had on Rosh Hashanah. I usually think of Unetaneh Tokef (the most dramatic prayer in the High Holiday services) in terms of the physical fate of people, i.e. "who will die by fire and who by water" and so on. But it does also refer to psychological states. "Who will be serene and who will be tormented" is another aspect of the possibilities for the year. I’m not sure why I never noticed that before, but I find it oddly reassuring at a time when so many people I know are dealing with various types of mental struggles (their own and other people's).

Unetaneh Tokef 2: I keep playing with science fiction and fantasy ideas for people’s fates. Stuff like "who by aliens and who by dragon’s fire." I am sure somebody must have written this poem already.

New Story: In retrospect, signing up for a show without actually having a story on the theme may not have been a great idea. The show in question was a Better Said Than Done benefit for the Nature House in Reston. I figured I could come up with something on "Where There’s Smoke, There’s Fire," in the course of several weeks. Well, I did, but it was somewhat pointless and not as funny as most of my stories. More significantly, I was stressing out over it and tweaking things until the last minute. Overall, it went okay, but it wasn’t as much fun as it should have been. On the other hand, it was a good challenge.

Pricy Beer: I had dinner with flyertalk friends at Fireworks Pizza last night. I continue to find their beer list intimidating. They have something called Tart of Darkness which goes for $44 for a 25 ounce bottle. I went for the Evil Twin Imperial Doughnut Break at $10.75 for a 10 ounce draft. Which is still more than my pizza (the tartufo, which is mushroomy goodness) cost. The beer was interesting, with almond and coffee flavors and a very slight sweetness. I would drink it again.

Presidential Candidates: Oy.

Who Buys This Shit?: There is someone on Etsy selling glitter pills that are supposed to turn your poop all sparkly. This cannot be healthy for either you or your plumbing.

Other Stuff: Knitting group was Sunday, also in Reston, and was (as always) fun. My calendar is a complete mess, but I need to find time to schedule a couple of other things. My house is also a mess and I need time to work on that, too. Plus ca change …
fauxklore: (storyteller doll)
Celebrity Death Watch: Yvonne Craig was an actress, most famous for playing Batgirl. Melody Patterson played Wrangler Jane on F Troop.

The death I most want to note is that of Merl Reagle. He was the first crossword constructor who I was ever aware of as a constructor. His penchant for puns and wordplay made his puzzles immediately recognizable – and infinitely more pleasurable than the earlier style which relied entirely on knowledge of obscure words. It’s hard to imagine what Sundays will be like without Merl’s puzzle in the Washington Post magazine section.

Del Campo: I went out to a restaurant week dinner with flyertalk folks at Del Campo. Organizing the reservation was annoying, because people drop out last minute and we went from 6 people to 10 to 8 to 6 – and then one didn’t show up. I do understand people having to travel last minute, but I really hate no shows.

Anyway, the deal is a three course dinner for $35. The restaurant had a reasonable menu – 3 choices each for appetizer and main, 2 for dessert. The mushroom empanadas were good, but didn’t blow me away. For the main, I got the short rib, which also came with chorizo and a marrow bone, as well as a surprisingly bland potato puree, with its only sign of the promised jalapenos in its color. The meat was quite tasty, however, and was the highlight of the meal. I chose the carrot cake for dessert and it was okay, but not nearly as good as my own. I also got a cocktail called a gin joint, which had grilled grapefruit juice and smoked simple syrup (as well as more normal things, like gin). It was interesting enough, but a bit sweeter than I would have preferred. Overall, I’d give the place a B to B+. I’ll also note that the service was very good, but it was awfully noisy so I felt like we were shouting at one another all evening.

Stoshvzihl Rrwvhuw: I happened to read a science fiction short story recently, which reminded me of why I don’t read a lot of certain types of science fiction. Namely, there is actually nothing wrong with a character being named Tim or Mary or the like. And, if you are going to invent some alien species, you are actually allowed to use a normal combination of vowels and consonants in its name.

When I Rule the World: There should be sensors at the entrance to metro stations which detect excessive fragrance and soak the offender with water and (unscented) soap.

Also, people should not be allowed to chew juicy fruit gum in the office.

The Height of Absurdity: I thought that the toaster I saw in the Hammacher Schlemmer catalog which imprints your toast with a selfie was going to win this category. But I was in Bed Bath & Beyond recently (a store which I have deeply mixed feelings about, primarily because of its missing commas) and I saw a device intended to cook ramen noodles in half the time. In much of the world, that dish is known as "two minute noodles." Are people really that bloody impatient?
fauxklore: (storyteller doll)
Goals: I normally do a quarterly wrap-up of progress on my goals for the year. But I have done next to nothing in that direction over the past 3 months. I even fell behind on keeping track of spending in April and May, though I got back on track in June. And I knitted almost all of another big afghan square (the ones that count as 4).

Most of that lack of progress has been due to a certain general malaise, largely out of feeling overwhelmed with dealing with the estate stuff. Oddly, the past week has suddenly been better, largely out of having figured out where I can out stacks of books so they are out of my way but I can still get to them to go through them. And that realization has me filled with energy, which I’ve put to use the past couple of days trying to catch up on household paperwork.

So things are getting better and will get done.

Celebrity Death Watch: Patrick Macnee played Mr. Steed on The Avengers. Sir Nicholas Winton organized the rescue of a large number of Jewish children from Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia.

Sleep and Weather: There were severe storms here last night. My neighborhood was spared the worst of them, but I know there was still plenty of wind and rain, based on the wet, leaf and petal covered pavement this morning. Normally, that sort of thing wakes me up and I complain about feeling like I am trying to sleep inside a shower.

What is weird is that I did wake up a couple of times last night, but was completely unaware of this storm until this morning.

Product Mockery: There is always the Hammacher Schlemmer catalogue to provide amusement should all else fail. The most recent one includes the following gems:

  • Fish Catching RC Boat: So suppose you want to go fishing. But you don’t want to actually sit in a boat or stand on the shore or hold a fishing pole or anything like that. This lets you hold the controllers for a radio-controlled boat that does the fishing automatically for you. That sounds like all the boredom of waiting for fish to bite with none of the challenges or pleasures of actually fighting for a fish.

  • Automatic Tile Shuffling Mahjong Table: Because shuffling the tiles with your hands takes too long. At least your $1700 (plus $350 for shipping since it weighs 200 pounds) does get you a set of mah jong tiles included.

  • Identity Theft Thwarting Aluminum Wallet: The idea here is to block RFID chips. Except that credit cards don’t have RFID chips. And there is nothing that actually stops a thief from stealing the whole bloody wallet.

  • Front and Rear Roadtrip Recorder: I know people who are obsessed enough with photographic evidence of their lives that I can imagine them wanting this. But it only keeps about 90 minutes of video. I don’t know about you, but my roadtrips tend to be longer than that. (I do realize this could be useful for documenting accidents. So my mockery is a bit mixed. But, still …)

  • 12 MPH Cooler: This is, basically, a riding cooler. I’m not imagining that – the picture shows a guy straddling it and steering. Apparently, pulling a wheeled cooler is not sufficiently low effort. It has a 320 pound riding capacity, but it isn’t clear if you have to subtract off the weight of the beer or soda from that.

  • Transparent Canoe Kayak: Because … no, I cannot for the life of me imagine why one might want a transparent canoe kayak.

fauxklore: (storyteller doll)
I have at least 2 more genealogy updates to do, but let’s catch up on other stuff first.

Celebrity Death Watch: Viktor Legostayev was the chief designer at Energiya, the Russian spacecraft company. Anita Ekberg was an actress. Dallas Taylor played drums with Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. Abdullah was the king of Saudi Arabia. Colleen McCullough wrote The Thorn Birds. Rod McKuen wrote poetry and song lyrics. Suzette Haden Elgin wrote The Gentle Art of Verbal Self-Defense, as well as a lot of science fiction. Ernie Banks was "Mr. Cub," a ballplayer known as much for his attitude ("Let’s play two!") as for his hall-of-fame caliber playing. Incidentally, I can’t help but be amused that he had twin sons.

The person I want to particularly highlight is Bernice Gordon, who constructed hundreds of crossword puzzles over 60+ years, dying yesterday at age 101. Her puzzles were clever and often innovative. I particularly enjoyed her last collaboration with David Steinberg. He was 16 years old and she was 100 at the time, which is further proof that puzzles really are for all ages.

Who Needs SkyMall When There is Still Hammacher Schlemmer?: Most of you know by now that the SkyMall catalogue, prime source of product mockery when flying, is no more. But, fear not. I still get the Hammacher Schlemmer catalogue, so product mockery lives! The most recent edition offers cashmere lounge pants – only $179.95 and only in charcoal grey for men and light grey for women. Er, no. Cashmere belongs in scarves or maybe sweaters or, if you are part of the 1%, coats. Or, or course, on goats.

Then there are the "taste-enhancing forks." Apparently the fork has diffuser paper, so you can have a drop of aromatic oil waft its scent to your nose while eating. Because, you know, real food doesn’t have enough scent of its own. They suggest that "pairing a drop of chocolate with a mouthful of strawberry intensifies their taste." I don’t know about you, but I don’t generally eat strawberries with a fork and I don't think their flavor needs to be enhanced. And the 60 bucks this costs can buy at least a couple of months’ worth of good chocolate. The kit includes not only the forks and droppers and diffuser papers but also "a multi-sensory evening program." Any associated aromatherapy does not, apparently, enhance the ability to write coherent advertising copy.

Finally, there is "the wireless speaker water bottle." I have horrible thoughts about this catching on and what torture it would enable people at work to inflict on me. I have woken up in the morning with many a strange desire, but never once have I thought that I need to listen to music via my water bottle.

First Flight: If you’ve ever had the pleasure to take a flight piloted by Captain Denny Flanagan, you will understand why he’s a great advertisement for the best of United Airlines. It was worth taking the train up to NY to fly from JFK to LAX with Captain Denny, followed by an ops tour and lunch. There were a dozen of us who did the flight and maybe a dozen or so locals who joined us for the rest. The ops tour included going out on the ramp to look at planes, going through the ops center, and various gate activities. For example, I got to make an announcement of a flight delay. What was interesting about that is how scripted the whole thing is. That is, the gate agents don’t really get to ad lib at all.

After lunch (at The Daily Grill, which is okay, but pricy for what it is), I was able to get together with a couple of friends in LA, which included petting yarn, drinking tea, and having interesting conversations.

Good Advertising For Your Employer: For my overnight at JFK, I stayed at the Hampton Inn. That isn’t exciting, but it’s a brand I find to be reasonably consistent and reliable at a fair price point. I mention it because the shuttle driver was another person who reflected well on his employer, enthusiastically repeating why he thought they were the best. You don’t see that attitude a lot nowadays, so it is worth noting when you do.

Restaurant Week Dinner: Our latest local flyertalk get-together was a restaurant week dinner at 701. They did an excellent job. For one thing, they had several choices for each course – and no upcharges. For another, everything I had was quite good. I want to particularly note the pear crisp, because it’s the sort of dessert I really should make and never think of. It was perfect winter food.

Amazing Art: Before that dinner, I had a little time to kill and dropped in at the National Portrait Gallery / Smithsonian American Art Museum. One of the current exhibits is of works by photorealist painter Richard Estes and it completely blew me away. In short, I found it nearly impossible to believe that these were paintings and not photographs. I may go back when I have more time and look more deeply.

TESS: My local alumni club had a talk Wednesday night on the Transient Exoplanet Survey Satellite, which is a proposed NASA mission to look for earth-like planets. This included dinner at Maggiano’s, home of vast quantities of mediocre Italian food. The talk was reasonably interesting. The orbital injection is complicated and looks risky to me. I thought the coolest part was a representation of certain signal features that enables separating out stars by their sizes by converting data to sound.
fauxklore: (storyteller doll)
I asked my mother what she wants for her upcoming 80th birthday (in January). Her reply was "to be left alone." (Hint: that is not what she is going to get.)

What I want right now is to be sitting in my rocking chair, listening to Mussorgsky, and petting a cat. Not that I have a cat, but I do have a rocking chair and lots of recordings. Why Mussorgsky? Because I got obsessed the other night with the question of whether or not Kiev actually has a great gate. It turns out that the answer is, alas, no. The picture at the exhibition had to do with a proposed monument that was never built. It is still a great piece of music and, in my opinion, better in the original rougher piano version than it was before Ravel orchestrated it.

What I don’t want are any of the following items, all of which may be found in the current Hammacher Schlemmer catalogue:

Flameless marshmallow roaster: This entirely defeats the purpose of roasting marshmallows, which is the danger of setting something on fire while creating a layer of charcoal to eat. We run the risk of raising a generation that will be helpless when all the power fails and they need to cook over open fires.

1959 Corvette billiards game: It’s not that there is necessarily anything wrong with a billiards table that resembles a classic car. But for $25K, you could buy an actual low-end car and an actual normal billiards table. In fact, for $25K, I might be willing to turn Neptune (my beloved Saturn, which is old enough to vote) into a billiards table. Hmm, no, actually I wouldn’t.

Gὃmbὃc: This is advertised as being "the world’s only self-righting object." That is, one has the opportunity to pay 500 bucks for something that can’t be knocked over. To be fair, that price does include a dust-free case.

Talking Plush Darth Vader: I can almost understand the talking plush Yoda. But why would one invite evil into one’s home?

Talk-back Mimicking Tomcat: Speaking of inviting evil into one’s home, this is a plushie with a tape recorder and a high pitched voice. In short, it is the gift you buy children if you hate their parents.
fauxklore: (storyteller doll)
I haven't done any product mockery in a while. But I have been saving clippings for that purpose and clearing them out will sort of count as house cleaning, right?

I have no right to criticize Smithfield Spirals since I don't eat ham, but why would a meat product come in caramel apple and pecan praline flavors?

I also have never had a dog, so really have no clue as to whether this makes sense, but I thought dogs are carnivores. So shouldn't dog snacks taste of meat, not of yams or PBJ? And what is the difference between the "yam" and "yam good" flavors?

Then there are scents for air freshener. I thought that opening a window was the way to freshen the air, but I do understand that isn't really a viable option if you live in, say, New Jersey. But do you really want your home to smell of creme brulee, chocolate covered cherries, or red velvet cake unless you have prepared one of those items and, therefore, have the end product available to eat? I, for one, am not about to start eating Renuzit.
fauxklore: (Default)
Between Pesach and tax season I am behind on everything. So this is another of those catch-all bits of rambling.

First, there are several celebrity deaths to note. Earl Scruggs was a bluegrass musician. Thomas Kinkade was a commercial artist. Mike Wallace had a huge influence on the nature of television journalism. Adrienne Rich was a feminist poet. And Reed Whittemore was one of my favorite modern poets, whose work was filled with grace and wit. If you are not familiar with his work, let me offer this short example.

I also want to note that my first boss at the Circle-A Ranch passed away recently. Wayne retired and moved to Oregon back in the 1990’s and I had a few years in line management as his replacement. That gave me the opportunity to try out management in a safe environment and was a good way to find out it was not really what I wanted to do.

While I am on death and news, Bingu wa Mutharika, the president of Malawi died recently. The interesting thing there is that the Vice President, Joyce Banda, is now the second woman to become a head of state in Africa, after Ellen Johnson SIrleaf of Liberia. In other African news, the coup in Mali looks to be heating up, so it looks like having gone to the Festival Au Desert last year was good timing on my part.

Among the things I never got around to writing about were several receptions, three of them MIT related. A dinner at the Embassy of New Zealand provided an opportunity to see some interesting architecture, with a roof shaped to resemble the hull of a ship. That was enhanced by my conversation over dinner with an architecture professor and critic. A few nights after that, I was at an event with departing MIT President Susan Hockfield. The most interesting part of her remarks had to do with the cost of an education. My alma mater has made real strides in financial aid and she said the average debt of graduating seniors is just $14,000, which I find quite remarkable. The final MIT related reception I went to was the annual one for summer interns. I brought along a friend who works at NASA and has potential openings. It is always good to see the enthusiasm of students and to reconnect with fellow alumni. The non-MIT event I went to was a friend’s promotion ceremony. Aside from the usual military ceremony, which I always enjoy, the setting was particularly interesting. Roosevelt Hall, the site of the National War College, is a spectacular Beaux Arts building overlooking the Potomac, with a particularly dramatic rotunda. We got there early so had time to look around at the display cases, which included several having to do with General Colin Powell, including his diplomas. And the honoree was someone who particularly deserved his promotion, making the whole thing a lovely occasion.

The only other significant thing I did recently without having written about it was go to the most recent Pro Musica Hebraica concert, which involved Marc-Andre Hamelin playing works by Chopin and Alkan. Chopin was not, of course, Jewish, but Alkan was and the link was their friendship, based on both of them being outsiders in Paris. It was an excellent evening of solo piano. The highlight was definitely Alkan’s four-movement "Symphony for Solo Piano." However, I will note that, if one had not been told that the composer was an Orthodox Jew, there is nothing in the music itself that would suggest that.

The other main thing I failed to write about was doing the Month of Letters project, which involved writing a letter every day in February (except Sundays and postal holidays, i.e. President’s Day). That let me get a few things I’d been meaning to send to people on their way, as well as using some of my vast supply of note cards. I am, alas, now behind in answering letters (and emails) that I got in return.

Finally, the clippings file offered up a couple of amusing advertisements. One is for a razor that "hydrates your skin like no other razor." Personally, I’ve always found that drinking water and using lotion were more effective ways to hydrate my skin than shaving my legs is ever likely to be. The other is for a cheese and breadcrumb mix. Because, you know, it is just too hard to sprinkle cheese and breadcrumbs separately on the top of a casserole.
fauxklore: (baseball)
First, I did get around to uploading photos of the Dupont Circle Valentine's Day yarn bombing.

About the only significant thing I did the week before leaving was go out to dinner with the D.C. flyertalk crowd. Well, actually, there was someone visiting from northern California, but I see her on the East Coast all the time. There was one new person and I hope we didn't scare him too badly. We ate at BTS, by the way, which is a trendy burger joint in Foggy Bottom. I thought it was quite good and they have an excellent beer menu, including Big Daddy IPA. But the conversation is really the point and that was, of course, excellent.

I can get a piece of paper off my desk if I mention that my immediate reaction to seeing a "kangaroo wallet" in a catalogue was to speculate about what kangaroos have that they can't just carry loose in their pockets.

As for celebrity death watch, I can't say much for either Andrew Breitbart or James Q. Wilson other than that the latter was at least a more thoughtful and more civil Conservative pundit. But I can recycle a pun for Davy Jones and sing, "I'm a bereaver."

I have a couple of non-celebrity deaths to cope with, too - a friend's husband and a colleague. There is also the imminent demise of Melody Records in Dupont Circle, a place that has been way more responsible for exercising my credit card than I care to admit.

In more positive news, Fenway Park has been declared a National Historic Site! Yay! I should also mention the retirements of Tim Wakefield and of Jason Varitek. Tek, in particular, was one of my favorites for many years, probably because he played his entire major league career for the Red Sox. I wish him (and Wake) well for the future.

Speaking of baseball, I now have a ticket to a game at the new ballpark in Miami. No, I'm not obsessive, no, not at all.

Finally, I read today that the Grim Reaper walks at 2.4 miles per hour. (Before you ask, I've already forgotten where I read it, but if you insist I will claim it was an actual scientific reference.) I hope that is referring to flat terrain only.
fauxklore: (Default)
I've had a productive day of shredding old files and somewhat clearing off my desk. I haven't started on the desk drawer, however. Nor have I found either of the two things I was looking for, both of which I was sure were on the desk. I believe I have to brave the box of shame to locate them. (For the uninitiated, the box of shame is a box in which I toss non-urgent mail. Things all too often marinate in there until they become urgent, alas.)

In the course of this fit of organizational mania, I ran across the collection of items from the Hammacher Schlemmer catalogue that I clipped for purposes of mockery. To whit:

  1. The Fingerprint Recognizing Espresso Machine. For a mere $3200, you scan your fingerprint and he machine remembers how you like your coffee. It can store up to six fingerprints and drink profiles in its database. I will stick to the aluminum drip pot I bought in Vietnam for well under a buck, thank you.

  2. The Constellation Projecting Turtle Night Light. I admit I sleep well under starry skies, but I always assumed that was because sleeping under the stars meant sleeping outside, ideally in a nice dark desert. And I am not sure why I would want anything in the shape of a turtle somewhere in my bedroom. (Nothing against turtles.) To be fair, there is also a ladybug option. I don't think a foot-long ladybug proecting green stars on the ceiling would help me sleep, however.

  3. The Lady's Washable Cashmere Activewear Set. Okay, it is washable, but cashmere sweats are just wrong. At least it isn't pink. (It comes in a choice of grey or black.)

  4. The Only Scootercase. A suitcase with a built-in scooter. Because oblivious people who roll their roll-aboards over my feet aren't enough of a menace at the airport.

  5. The Personal Soup Chef. This automatically chops vegetables and simmers broth to make homemade soup. In other words, it's a heated blender. It is, apparently, just too much trouble to cook things and put them in a blender.

And, yes, I am well aware that I own things other people would mock.
fauxklore: (Default)
I've been up to lots of things, but writing here has not been one of them. However, today I revised my master list of things to do (an elaborate affair involving graph paper, categories and pens in multiple colors) and writing an entry here will let me cross off something. (Of course, I remembered something else I need to add, so it's not a lot of progress, but still ...)

Celebrity Death Watch: Obviously, the big recent celebrity death was Osama bin Laden. I'll admit to being glad, but I'm also uncomfortable with extrajudicial killing. And I have definite mixed feelings about the burial at sea. Overall, I'd have preferred a trial, execution, and unmarked grave, but we could have done a lot worse. The thing I am puzzled about is why some people said that the affair made them proud to be American. What was uniquely American about the whole thing?

I'll also repeat that I consider terrorism to be like a hydra. Cutting off the head doesn't kill the creature.

Other deaths are ones I am considerably sadder about. Two involved Broadway luminaries. Marian Mercer was an actress who won a Tony for Promises, Promises. And Arthur Laurents wrote the book of West Side Story. But the most significant was in the realm of science. Jerry Lettvin was a true original, one of the best known people on campus in my days at MIT. He was a colorful character and a great inspiration to many students. I didn't know him well, but I felt richer for having known him at all.

Dear U.S. Airways: Days start at midnight. If I am searching for a flight on June 27th at 12:40 a.m., please don't second guess me and show me a flight on June 28th. I did not catch this until after I clicked "buy." Fortunately, I called immediately and could, therefore, cancel since the ticket price on the right day was not worth taking a redeye for.

Product Mockery: While grocery shopping the other day, I saw bags of pre-peeled, hard boiled eggs. I despair for my people.

Tall Tale Contest: I drove to Roanoke on Saturday for the 2nd Annual Virginia Tall Tales Competition. There were nine contestants. Mac Swift won, with an excellent piece (which I had heard him tell before) about his uncle's desire for a flat farm. 11-year-old Olivia Merryman came in second with a piece involving how video games saved her life. Linda Goodman was third with an unusual encounter on a dark road (and an atrocious pun). And Anthony Burcher got the audience choice award with his spooneristic version of the Tower of Babel. For those who care, I told "Why I'm Not a Millionaire." It was all a lot of fun. The evening show had Bil Lep headlining, along with music by Ryan and Paul Little. Much to my relief, the Littles turned out to play jazz and not country music, which is always a risk in that part of the state. Overall, a great day.

Roanoke Walk: Since it is such a long drive (about 4 hours), I stayed overnight in Roanoke and did a volksmarch in the morning. The route went through downtown Roanoke (a bit depressed, but the market square has some life still), the Old Southwest historic district, and greenways along the Roanoke River. It was pleasant enough, though not as exciting as it might be. Still, I appreciated the exercise before the schlep home.

And now I can go and work on some of the other 50+ items on my to-do list.
fauxklore: (Default)
I hate to come home to my place being a complete mess, so I tend to do a certain amount of scurrying around and tidying up before going on vacation. In this particular case, I was clipping coupons that have been sitting on the sofa for a few weeks. (Which is a chore I always intend to do right when I am reading the Sunday newspaper, but rarely get around to before said coupons expire.)

And there is a coupon for a new variety of Eight O'Clock called "Metabolism Boost." The gimmick is that this coffee is infused with antioxidants from green tea.

I don't drink commercial coffee, being the unrepentant coffee snob I am, so it is probably not fair for me to comment. But I do want to point out that coffee is higher in antioxidants than green tea.
fauxklore: (Default)
I've got a list of things to do the length of my arm and writing about some of these things will help me cross off part of it.

Baseball: It ain't over till it's over. It ain't over till it's over. It ain't over till it's over. If I say it enough times, maybe I'll believe it.

Fashion: The latest L.L. Bean catalog offers a cashmere hoodie. This is just wrong.

Cars: I read a description of the Fisker Karma hybrid luxury sedan. The detail that I consider over the top is that the wood trim is claimed to be made exclusively from "trees that died from natural causes."

More products that make no sense:There is something being marketed called Devotion Vodka. Its claim to fame is that it contains protein powder. Does anyone actually believe this makes it healthier? I'll stick to a good rum, personally.

Defunct product that made no sense: While cleaning out a recipe folder, I found a "Ragu Rewards" brochure from 2000. One product offered (for just 10 UPCs plus $3.95 postage and handling) was a "children's mess kit." This included one sectioned plate, 4 tumblers, 3 bowls, 3 snack cups, lids, plus a fork and spoon, all in a drawstring travel bag. Exactly how many children was this intended to be used for?

Signs, signs, everywhere a sign:A couple of weeks ago, the Washington Post had a story about the Typo Eradication Advancement League. This appears to be a two-man operation, devoted to correcting spelling and grammar on signs. The odd part is that the story was in the travel section. Anyway, these guys are doing a good thing and it seems they have a book and a web site.

Customer service: It does not give me great confidence in a telephone company when two out of three calls to their customer service department get disconnected in the middle. It took some doing, since the person who was supposed to reschedule an appointment just canceled it instead. He also gave me a ticket number that was completely useless, as it can't be used to look up the status of a repair or even to talk to another customer service person. But I did finally get a technician out here. I have functioning phone service again! And, even better, I no longer have an intermittent hum on the line. It seems that the technician who installed my FIOS back when I moved here (nearly 3 years ago) never disconnected the copper wire.

Travel There is a company doing zeppelin tours in California. I have definitely got to do this.
fauxklore: (Default)
I have continued glancing through old cookbooks, getting ready for putting them in the box to go out. So here are a couple of other dubious delights from The Blender Way to Better Cooking from 1965.

Company Chicken Soup is basically canned cream of chicken soup with almonds blended in. Add some parsley, chives, and tarragon and a bit more cream and voila! Such elegance. Were I to serve chicken soup to company, I'd probably start with a chicken, but what do I know?

The salad section is possibly the most bizarre, as evidenced by Sour Cream Lettuce. I'm not sure why one would use a blender to chop lettuce, but following that with frying the lettuce in butter is even more bizarre. This one gets a dressing of (hot) chicken broth with a bit of lemon juice, thickened with bread crumbs, and mixed with sour cream. It's all topped with buttered bread crumbs.

And then there are the molded salads, like the Golden Glow Salad, which is basically orange jello with pineapple, carrots, and cheddar cheese. The blender comes in as one cannot apparently dissolve jello in hot water effectively without one.

I'll note that you can also turn any dish into its Mexican equivalent merely by adding a teaspoon of chili powder. Hmmm, Mexican Golden Glow Salad anyone?

Not that our modern food world is exactly free of oddities either, given the existence of extra fiber pop tarts.
fauxklore: (Default)
Sexist Children's Books: I forgot to mention the children's books I saw at the check-out at Wegman's not long ago. They caught my eye because they were cute, shaped like people. But then I noticed that the "Astronaut," "Race Car Driver," "Firefighter," and "Police Officer" were boys. The two with girl's figures for the covers were "Princess" and "Fairy." I suppose it is possible for a girl to grow up to be a princess by marrying well, but it's hardly likely. I don't know any girls who grew up to be fairies. (I do know a few boys who did, but that's another matter). Grrr.

Where I Live: I was getting off the metro at Vienna last Friday night when a guy with an Italian accent asked me "is this the end of the line?" When I said, "yes," he asked, "is there any nightlife here?" I'm sure he did not understand why I thought the notion of nightlife in Vienna was so funny. (We do have the wonderful Jammin' Java, but this is basically quiet suburbia.)

Travel Notes: I had a quick business trip to Los Angeles, flying out Thursday morning, having two meetings on Thursday afternoon (one of which I set up as a target of opportunity) and flying back yesterday. I took advantage of that to go to Community Storytellers on Thursday night. The group is a lot smaller than it used to be, but it was still nice to see the people who were there. I was particularly pleased that Kane was there as it's been years since I've seen him.

I should note that I see more movies on airplanes than anywhere else. Going to L.A., the movie was "Julie and Julia," which I really enjoyed. Coming back, I tried to watch "Cold Souls," but I was too tired and drifted off, so I don't know if Paul Giamatti ever got his soul back from the Russian smuggling ring.

I'll also mention my fondness for the SkyMall catalog, which allows me to entertain myself by mocking our consumer culture. Does anybody ever actually buy, say, spring loaded walking shoes? or a Lord of the Rings chess set? More to the point, does anybody actually pick up the overpriced airphone and buy such stuff from the confines of a 757?

Should anybody want to buy me something ridiculous, by the way, I wouldn't mind owning (but wouldn't spend my own money on) the irrational numbers wall clock. No, come to think of it, the joke would pall after about pi minutes.
fauxklore: (Default)
The latest issue of The American Wanderer has an advertisement for an amusing product. Namely, the Petometer. This is a pedometer for pets.

What made me laugh is that it is "for cats and dogs." Dogs are not uncommon on Volksmarch events, but I have never seen anybody walk with a cat.
fauxklore: (Default)
I am slowly making my way through the mail that accumulated during my vacation. I decided that I would try not to just stash the junk mail in the Box of Shame. Instead, I am actually looking through things like mail order catalogues relatively promptly.

Which means that I am, once again, puzzled by the existence of various products. The source of my greatest puzzlement at the moment is Smith & Hawken. This is a company that sells what are, nominally, garden products. In practice, that means they mostly sell metal trellises and wooden outdoor furniture sets. I think they used to sell some practical odds and ends like plastic clogs, but there is no sign of that in this catalogue.

I can't comprehend what sort of person would buy a $6000 gas grill. No, wait, I can. I imagine that, were he still alive, my father might well go for such a thing, given the competitive barbecuing that the Weber oven inspired in him. Male gadget syndrome can be a serious condition.

But what on earth would make anybody buy an outdoor television? If you are outdoors, watch the bloody outdoors.


Feb. 8th, 2009 08:01 pm
fauxklore: (Default)
1) I wanted to note that Milton Parker, founder of the Carnegie Deli, passed away last week. While there are other delis I prefer, his was certainly famous and influential. This is also an excuse for me to link to the excellent blog, Save the Deli, which is devoted to Jewish delicatessens.

Save the Deli is also where I found a link to Old Jews Telling Jokes. The jokes are all worthy of my family - that is, corny and off-color. Needless to say, I'm still chuckling.

2) The NOAA N-prime satellite launched successfully on Friday. This is significant since that's the satellite that had a famous, um, mishap back in 2003.

Apparently, the new setup in the integration facility will make a satellite fall on the person who forgets the bolts.

3) I was over in Bed Bath & Beyond the other day and saw a set of Passover finger puppets. Ah, Moses and Aaron, you think? No, these are 10 plagues finger puppets. While I suppose that it does solve the problem of trying to explain to children just what murrain is, I really have a hard time figuring out who would buy these. Okay, I admit I was tempted out of the sheer oddity of the concept. But, really, is there an actual market for this?

4) While I'm on the subject of strange products, why would anybody buy gingerbread pop tarts with an image of a gingerbread man traced onto the frosting? Come to think of it, why would one buy gingerbread pop tarts at all?

5) My mysterious notes to myself all too often include a telephone number without any indication of whose number it is. I may have topped that, however. Any idea why I wrote down "March 3rd" without anything else next to it?
fauxklore: (Default)
... but if you were going to spend 5 million dollars on diamonds (1500 carats worth of diamonds and rubies), wouldn't you actually want somebody to see them without your having to walk around undressed to do so?

As opposed to the 2008 Black Diamond Fantasy Miracle Bra in the Victoria's Secret catalogue.

I think I will continue to wear my precious gems on my fingers as G-d and nature intended.
fauxklore: (baseball)
I have, of course, been going around in complete zombie mode all day since I stayed up to the bitter end of the Red Sox game last night. Well, it wasn't all that bitter an end, since the Angels couldn't manage the suicide squeeze. Seeing a professional ball player miss a bunt is definitely odd.

I get a few nights to recuperate before the next round of post-season sleep deprivation.

In other sports related news, I got an advertising circular in the mail today from Papa John's trumpeting their "2008 Redskins Limited Edition Box." You get a large pizza with up to 5 toppings for $15 and this special commemorative box. Now, admittedly I can't remember the last time I've ordered a pizza at home, but don't pizza boxes get a bit greasy and grubby inside? Maybe it's just because I have no interest at all in football, but I can't quite see this as a collector's item.


fauxklore: (Default)

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