Thursday, November 30, 2006

Sandra Lee is Food's Natural Enemy

I know in the past I have expressed hatred for a certain Food TV biddy but Rachael is not the most evil force in the culinary world – that title belongs to one Mrs Sandra Lee. Officially Sandra specializes in creating “short cuts” for busy women (Sandra lives in some patriarchal wonderland where men don’t even know what a kitchen is) who want to serve “gourmet” meals to their WASP-y friends. In reality she specializes in offending the taste buds of everyone in America while feeding her alcoholism. Sandra’s shows usually center on some inane party theme -- she’s always having the “girls” over for cosmo night or her niece and nephew over for a slumber party. Every episode includes at least one cocktail recipe (Beer-garitas anyone?) and ends with a “tablescape” (like landscape but for the table! Best ever: the NASCAR themed “Racetrack Tailgate” tablescape that included CAR ENGINE PARTS as decoration -- if only I could find a picture.). Someone at Food TV needs to step in and discourage Sandra from cultural themes before they become the Abercrombie of the broadcast world. Which brings us to tonight’s challenge.

The best (where best = most offensive) Sandra Lee episode ever is the Holiday Show where Sandra makes a Christmas Crescent Cake, a Classic Holiday Wreath, Sugar Plum Pops and, in a nod to her African American sisters, a Kwanzaa Celebration Cake. Like all of Sandra’s shows the entire episode is an exercise in surreal hilarity but it’s the Kwanzaa cake that makes you Tivo the repeat and force everyone you know to watch as Sandra Lee turns a pile of processed food into the most offensive creation since Nazi lamshades.

On a whim one night last week Gillian and I decided that we must “bake” this cake and share the experience with you, our dear readers. Shockingly no cocktails were involved in this decision making process (we will not repeat that mistake).

Kwanzaa Celebration Cake

Recipe courtesy "Sandra Lee Semi-Homemade Desserts", Miramax Books, 2003.

1 (10 to 12-ounce) purchased angel food cake
1 container (16 ounce) vanilla frosting
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 (21-ounce) container apple filling or topping
1 (1.7-ounce) package corn nuts
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds, toasted
1/2 cup popped popcorn

Special Equipment:
Kwanzaa candles

Using a serrated knife, cut cake horizontally into 2 layers. Place bottom cake layer, cut side up, on a serving platter. Mix frosting, cocoa powder, vanilla, and cinnamon in large bowl until combined. Spread about 1/4 of the frosting over top of cake layer on platter. Top with second cake layer, cut side down. Spread remaining frosting evenly over top and sides of cake to coat completely. Spoon apple pie filling into hole in center of cake. Place candles atop cake. Sprinkle top of cake with some corn nuts, pumpkin seeds, and popcorn. Sprinkle remaining corn nuts and pumpkin seeds around base of cake.

Things that are wrong with this recipe:

  1. The obvious: corn nuts? WTF? Seriously. WTF? Even better: on the show she keeps calling these acorns.
  2. Why did she go to so much effort to make the cake brown? I have a sneaking suspicion that Sandra thought “well, people who celebrate Kwanzaa are brown, they probably like brown things!” I’m surprised she didn’t incorporate watermelon and fried chicken into the cake.
  3. Anyone who has seen Sandra’s show knows she’s obsessed with filling the hole in store bought angel food cakes. This seems to suggest some sexual frustration on Sandra’s part.

Gillian and I completed our challenge tonight but I’m holding off on the official blow by blow until she has emailed me photographic evidence. I will, however, say this: crunching into a corn nut when your mind is thinking “cake” will trigger the gag and giggle reflexes simultaneously.

Update: Read about the horror in detail here.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

This is important even if it has all been said before

in reference to this insanity.

Amy: my god. this is the third day, nearly in a row of Britney Spears getting out of a car and showing off her naughty bits to the world
Bri: i know!
Amy: I mean, it's getting so commonplace, I'm not even INTERESTED anymore!
Bri: their outfits (esp Brit's) are so so wrong
Amy: they are so strange!
Bri: i know, i mean -- don't tell anyone this -- but I would probably wear one of your fish nets if I had a few drinks.
Amy: and that's fine. but we're not famous
Bri: and my boobs would totally be CLOTHED
Amy: and YES
Bri: and i don't have BABIES (i totally intend to be fishnet free post babies) (maybe...)
Amy: well, i don't want to make any crazy promises like that, but I mean really, wear a shirt Brit.
Bri: I think she thinks she *IS* wearing a shirt
Amy: she also thought marrying kfed was a good idea. Brit is not known for her thinking skills.
Bri: but she's divorcing him! I had hope!
Amy: yeah, that hope lasted the two point five seconds it took her to hook up with the city of lights over there.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Why Organic?

I am constantly unable to decide if I should be buying organic food.

I buy organic milk mainly because here in New York it’s hard to find milk from hormone free cows unless you buy organic. I don’t like the cows who are making my milk to be given hormones mostly because I saw the documentary “The Corporation” and they had this awful scene full of cows with udders ripping off because they had been over producing milk after being given growth hormone and it doesn’t seem fair to do that to a cow just so milk can be a few cents cheaper. I also get a little concerned that those hormones could somehow get into my body and cause some sort of problem but I don’t know if this is scientifically possible so it’s probably not fair to base my decision to spend $2 extra on every half gallon of milk on this idea.

This is my main concern about buying organic: I often feel like I’m being asked to pay a lot more for groceries for dubious reasons. It seems highly possible that organic food is healthier or somehow better but I’ve yet to find any conclusive proof of this and I hate to think that I’m being scammed. I also hate to think that I’m being reduced to superstition and paranoia when making my food choices. So much of what I read in favor of buying organic seems to use scare tactics to sell the products and too often the scary bits don’t seem to have any hard facts supporting them.

I do no doubt that agriculture companies are using way way way too many pesticides. This excess bothers me, I’m not categorically against the idea of pesticides – farmers shouldn’t lose their entire crop to bugs (mom, I totally support your never-ending war against the evil squash bug, go ahead and spray them) but I’d like them to use as little chemical assistance as possible just in case it turns out 20 years down the line that the chemicals cause horrible diseases. It certainly seems likely that some remnant of these pesticides could remain on or get into my food and since no one knows for sure if this is happening and what it might be causing I’d like to see a little restraint.

Part of the problem here is that I don’t know which media source to trust. You’d like to think one could trust the FDA – it is their job to regulate the food supply but given the power of lobbies these days all government agencies seem suspect of bowing down to large corporations. I’ve read conflicting reports in most of the mainstream press (the New York Times, Time Magazine, etc). Media directed at the choir (“Organic Style," Organic Consumer) is obviously totally in support of buying organic. Finding a reliable media source on any “controversial” topic is ridiculously difficult these days (I bemoan this fact every time election season rolls around). I google things like “evidence of pesticides in food” and “evidence that pesticide residue causes harm” and nothing seems both conclusive and trustworthy so I close my browser and walk away no more or less sure of what should go into my mouth.

For me, these are two reasons I might buy organic:

  1. Organic food is healthier/nonorganic food might kill you
  2. Organic food is sold by companies that care about things like the environment and animal rights and workers rights

I’ve spent most of this post unable to come to any conclusion of #1 so let’s discuss #2. I care a lot about #2, probably more than I care about the health issue mostly because I’m pretty damn sure that ConAgra and its ilk are violating #2 on purpose every single day and don’t see any reason to stop. At least when it comes to health I believe that everyone wants to produce healthy food (there’s just genuine disagreement about what healthy is), but it doesn’t seem like most agriculture companies care much about protecting the environment and animals and employees. It is not the job of the organic food movement to police any of these things and I should not count on them to do so. Unfortunately, this does not seem to be anyone’s job. In the past I’ve often figured that since organic companies were smaller and left leaning they would be more likely to care about producing a morally clean product but now that the big food companies have entered the organic market this is no longer a safe bet (if it ever was).

I would like to believe that the food I buy is safe and healthy (ok, except for the Ben and Jerry’s…) and that the people and animals who helped get this food to me were not unnecessarily harmed in the process. This seems like a reasonable request but even as the organic movement gains more traction I do not feel any more confident that the food supply is closer to what I want. Today I read an article on the movement to certify organic fish. The only way to do this is to certify fish farms which are generally bad for the environment and which usually produce inferior tasting fish. Is it progress to formally validate fish farms? The only food I eat these days with total confidence comes from my parent’s garden – they live 3000 miles away so relying on them to feed me is probably not a great plan. I try to do things like join the local CSA hoping that if I meet the farmer he’ll want to do nice things for me like put the least amount of pesticides necessary on my veggies. I also hope that giving my money directly to him allows him to live a comfortable life and pay whatever help he hires a reasonable wage and stay out from under the rule of big unfriendly produce conglomerates. I have no idea if my CSA membership is actually getting me a better product.

I don’t feel like I have the option of an educated choice. Eating should not be this difficult.

Monday, November 27, 2006


Reading "My Life as a Dog" in the Times has me yearning for a canine companion. I've always said that I would not force a dog to live a city life (even if the article makes it sound vaguely do-able). Having grown up in the country with floppy eared doddering Labradors who loved nothing more than a three mile leash-free walk I don't have the heart to pen a dog up in an apartment for 8+ hours a day. In my fantasy move back to California life I have a dog – probably a lab but maybe a beagle -- and we go on long walks on the beach.

My family's current lab is a tiny black girl named Annie (well technically she's named Anise because after Sage(brush) and Aspen we got into a habit of naming dogs after plants but we call her Annie -- or Ann-dog when we're feeling silly). That’s me and her on the left both of us being out-cuted by the waterfall. I think my love for this dog (and probably human love for dogs in general) is partially wrapped up in how big her love is for the world. When I visit my parents Annie greets me in the driveway and her whole body shakes with joy. Simply saying the word walk gets her so riled up that she has to be immediately let outside to dancing in circles. If I could embrace life as unquestioningly as Annie does perhaps I too would be over come with happiness. Perhaps I wouldn't be lonely for a canine friend because I would have leapt upon and slobbered on every possible friend to come within 50 feet of me (everyone likes a little slobber, right?).

A friend of mine once came home with me during college break and after spending a week with my family said to me, “Do you realize that your family not only talks to your dog but *FOR* your dog?” It’s true – we included Aspen and now Annie in most family discussions.

Mom: How was everyone’s day?

Brianna: Blah. programmers. blah. Annie how was your day?

Kurt: Annie says that she went on TWO walks today and saw an owl out in the field so the day was pretty damn splendid.

Two walks an owl AND a field? I’m not sure blathering on about software development and a few glasses of wine can hope to compete.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Home Brew

This weekend I used this recipe to make my own ginger ale. I’ve wanted to try making soda for a long time and while the main obsession in the past was root beer ginger ale won out for the first experiment because it can be made from ingredients available at the corner market.

Making the soda was really easy – the only challenging step is peeling and grating a bunch of ginger root. I thought this would be the perfect test for my microplane but next time I think I’ll go back to a regular grater. I’ve happily used the microplane to shred small amounts of ginger in the past but halfway through my processing job for the soda the tines were caked with ginger fibers and I had to pause and clean the thing (not an easy task – ginger could probably compete with hemp for sturdiest fiber). The soda was supposed to sit in a warm sport until the bottle got hard which was supposed to take 24-48 hours but after only 14 hours my soda bottle felt rock hard (dirty!). Because the recipe warned that leaving the soda out for too long could lead to an explosion (dirtier!) I loosen the cap and let off a little of the head (…I really thought this would be a G rated entry) and let it sit for another 15 hours.

As fun as the soda making process was the truly important thing is taste. Typically I’m unimpressed with most commercial ginger ale – it’s ok but it’s never very gingery. I’ve had some of the premium ginger ale that’s on the market and while it’s always impressed me I find it hard to justify paying $2/bottle for what is essentially sugar water (I imagine the cost will be even harder to justify in the future now that I know how cheap ginger ale ingredients are). For the purposes of this taste test I used your standard Canada Dry ginger ale. I’m testing the store and home varieties plain and with some bourbon.

Ginger Ale – Straight Up.

Canada Dry

Smell: vaguely gingery in a ginger snap way

Mouth Feel: lightly bubbly

Taste: sweet, not particularly gingery

Final: The Canadian’s in the audience should demand that this product be renamed

Brianna’s Home Brew

Smell: sharp ginger, a little bit malty (from the yeast?)

Mouth Feel: tingly (not a lot of bubble)

Taste: light, not too sweet, could be spicier

Final: Yum… but not yumtastic.

While my Home made brew is infinitely better than the corner market swill I’m still not thrilled with it. I’d like my version to be spicier but I’m not entirely sure how to get there – I don’t think more ginger alone will do it. Some recipes use ginger simple syrup instead of sugar and raw ginger which might help since the ginger flavor might be more infused but shouldn’t heat bring down the spice? I also wonder if using the microplane to gate the ginger was a mistake. The pieces of ginger were very small which meant I could avoid straining the soda but I lost a fair bit of ginger juice in the process. I’d also like it to pack more bubbles – something I might get with fresher yeast (the yeast I used was at least a year old).

Jim and Ginger

(yes, I know it’s usually Jack and Ginger but Ginger’s a slut and I like Jim better)

Canada Dry

Mmmm bourbon. I don’t often (ok, ever…) drink bourbon straight but it can’t taste much different than this. The sugar (ok, corn syrup) probably provides a nice mask for the alcohol but it doesn’t add much in terms of flavor.

Brianna’s Home Brew

Mmm punchy! Strangely enough the soda seems much spicier when mixed with the bourbon – possibly this is the bourbon’s own spice coming through but I have to believe that the ginger ale is highlighting it. This drink is MUCH superior to the Canadian variety and I think this will fast become my ginger ale consumption weapon of choice (but it won’t beat out the bourbon consumption weapon of choice.. mmmm mint juleps).

I hope to experiment further with ginger ale and soda in general. Any tips on upping the spice are much appreciated and if anyone knows of a brewing supply store that sells root beer extract (preferably in NYC) OR (even better) a source for winter green so I can make the soda from scratch please let me know.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Random Recomends #2

This American Life, A Little Bit of Knowledge

I could just write a general recommendation for This American Life but I’ve instead managed to pinpoint my favorite episode – If you don’t like this you probably won’t like the rest of them. Also, if you don’t like this you are a heartless beast who most likely already works for the devil. The episode starts out with a few stories about people being disillusioned of their misconceptions -- in that spirit I offer a misconception of my own.

Shockingly the “Mule Capital of the World” does not have tons of Jews but I did go to elementary school with a few Jehovah’s Witnesses and I knew they had to go to church on Saturday and didn’t celebrate the same holidays as my family and well… Jehovah and Jewish both start with the letter “J” so I concluded that “Jehovah’s Witness” was just another word for Jewish. I made this inference sometime in late elementary school and didn’t give the issue much more thought until 9th or 10th grade when I suddenly realized how wrong I was. Luckily I rethought my religious assessment before making any horribly embarrassing statements but the people in this episode of TAL are not so lucky.

The closing story is by Dan Savage of Savage Love fame and is the most hilarious and touching story every told about gay marriage. I’ve listened to it at least 4 times and I still get all teared up.

TAL just started pod casting – subscribe here and each week’s episode will automatically appear on your ipod every Monday morning.

Queen Bee Poppy Trucker Bag

A few months ago I spent way too much time searching for the perfect laptop bag. I had been living with a large Dickies bag that, after a couple of years of use was falling apart and I wanted to replace it with something original. I found this bag via Buy Olympia (a great site with tons of unique handcrafted products) and I love it. It got a nick in the vinyl after only a week of ownership so I was worried that it wouldn’t hold up well but after about 6 months of use that’s still the bag’s only blemish. I did see another girl on the subway with the red version so I’m not the only girl in New York City with a Queen Bee original but I’ll survive.


Joe borrowed this DS game to me and I’ve been playing it way too much. I always know when I’m playing a game too much because just as I start to fall asleep I begin to see the game in my mind and I can’t make the imagery stop and it keeps me awake. A number of years ago when I was playing a lot of Black and White I remember driving through the mountains from my house in San Francisco to Reno Nevada and thinking, “wow, there are a lot of trees here, if my villagers had this kind of forest they could build me an amazing alter.” Luckily it’s not that bad with Meteos.

I can’t believe puzzle games can still be new it seems like we should have come to the end of interesting options. Meteos is vaguely Tetris like in that blocks drop from the sky and you have clear them, you do this by moving blocks up and down to create color groups. This game uses the stylus which I had found hard to use in the past but it doesn’t bother me so much in this game. You’re only making small movements with the stylus so I think it’s slightly less taxing on my wrist than other games. I do find that moving blocks near the edge of the screen can be challenging but overall the stylus play works well. The game has lots customization options allowing you to vary game play a fair bit which makes for a lot of replayability.

Victoria's Secret Pink/Extreme Low Rise Underwear

I kind of hate Victoria’s Secret. They don’t make bras in my size and much of their merchandise seems ridiculously overpriced. That said I love these, and not only because they make me all hard core and extreme (seriously companies stop labeling everything on your shelves "extreme" the word has lost its cool).

I tend to wear most of my pants on my hips which leads to more exposed underwear than I’m comfortable with. These panties sit comfortably below my pant line which is nice but it does mean that the public at large is missing out on how adorable they are. I love how brightly colored and happy the patterns are, though I could do without the constant branding. Mom, if you’re picking up stocking stuffers go for the polka dots, stars and guitars. The panties come in a number styles -- I like the boy briefs and the hipsters the best.

This recommendation should back up point ten on yesterday's post.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Hi, have you met me? I’m amazing.

Being single bothers me to no end. Most of my friends are happily coupled (and have been for YEARS) and the fact that I haven’t met someone and been able to make it work constantly leaves me feeling like a failure. I realized this week that I am horribly embarrassed that I still have to date. Forcing myself to get out there and meet people and try to like them and look pretty and be nice and not feel bad if I’m not into him or he’s not into me is the most high stress depressing activity that I know of. To make matters worse I’m horribly confused as to how this reality happened to me. Even at my most pessimistic I did not think I would be almost 29 and single. I thought I would grow out of my awkward stage or meet a guy who got how my quirkiness was awesome, not weird (ok, a little weird, but in a good way). But here I am. It’s especially shocking because (excuse my ego for the rest of this post….) I’m a great catch.

The side benefits of dating (not to mention sticking with) me are so numerous that I can’t believe this blog can contain them. I write this not because I think I am flawless but because I truly am baffled and also because that state of being often makes me forget how together I really am and that’s a bad thing.

I sometimes find myself wanting to go up to men and say the following:

Excuse me but I noticed you’re not flirting with me/asking me out/committing to our relationship and I just wanted to let you know that this is a HUGE mistake on your part. Perhaps you are not aware of how awesome I am, I supposed that’s understandable, it’s not always obvious, but please, allow me to highlight a few of the reasons why I am the best you could ever do:

  1. I bake cookies all of the time for no reason and I would totally give you some! Not only that but I like to make dinner – not just canned soup that I added some seasoning to but full meals! I make my own tomato sauce (when I’m not stealing my mother’s canned sauce) and I freeze chicken stock. And (except for the cookies) almost everything I make is healthy! If you dated me you would probably lose weight and live longer.
  2. I come with an amazing set of friends who, if we were together, would totally be your friends. We do fun stuff all of the time and we’re all really funny. People love us and they would probably love you if you were somehow associated with us.
  3. You could one day become part of my family where almost no one is crazy, in fact the whole lot of them are fun to be around and rarely if ever nag/pressure/act like jerks. If things go really well my brother will fix your car and my uncle will plan your finical future and my mom will give you free medical advice. Mom also sends me homemade jam and apple sauce and when I go home they give me free frozen fish I would share this bounty with you because I am also not at all selfish.
  4. I’m ridiculously responsible and not in debt (save a small student loan). I have been saving money for a house. I pay all of my bills on time. My credit score is astronomical. I have TWO retirement plans.
  5. I’m not crazy. So many people are insane (unfortunately I have to admit that this category seems to be full of more females than males – thanks patriarchal society!). I don’t read other people’s email. I don’t expect my boyfriends to pamper me (except when it comes to killing huge bugs). I don’t need constant attention or reassurance. I don’t mind if you have friends who are girls. I am really reasonable.
  6. I have a pretty cool job. It’s not as cool as making video games but someday I may even go back to that. I have a lot of responsibility and people like me and trust me – I almost always deliver projects on time, on budget and with happy customers and team members (I am also fairly certain that I could apply these principles to our relationship).
  7. I could help you dress better. I like to shop for other people and I’ve noticed that most men (especially most geeky men – the best kind of men) are not living up to their fashion potential. Don’t worry, I’m also really cheap so we’ll be getting your new wardrobe on sale so you won’t be poor.
  8. Parents love me (Clearly parents are WAY smarter than boys.). They ask me to come back and visit, they are sad when their sons break up with me.
  9. I’m totally guy friendly. I used to program. I like video games. I enjoy going to baseball games. Modest Mouse has grown on me even though they’re pretty hard rock-y. It takes me like 20 minutes to get ready in the morning.
  10. I’m hot. And I like sex. And I wear cute underwear almost all of the time.

Thursday, November 23, 2006


When Courtney was here a couple of weeks ago I spent much time roaming around the city watching her line up photos using her very serious looking camera. I sometimes like to think that I have some photo taking ability but seeing a real photographer in action and now seeing a few of the photos teaches me that I am only a lucky beneficiary of the digital camera age. I'm asking for a new camera for Christmas and I hope to spend some time while at my parent's house taking a few pictures around town and they'll probably look just fine -- but they won't complete with the art Courtney has created.

This was taken from my roof! it turns out that if I lived one story up I'd have an amazing view I should consider relocating next summer when the lack of walls should be less of a concern. This shot frames the city beneath the Hells Gate Bridge, the Chrysler building appears on the left just outside of the foilage and the Empire State building to its right. The slanty lipstick-like building on the right is the Citigroup Center.
Courtney's visit afforded me the opportunity to walk across the Brooklyn Bridge for the first time. I think even I could have taken a beautiful picture of this bridge -- it's so statuesque and gorgeous that I doubt it can be ruined. Bridges amaze me -- I can never quiet believe that humans can build such things.

This is clearly the best picture ever taken by any foreign tourist as it serves as a metaphor for all that is American. These Barbi's in fur coats appear in the window of a fur store on Houston. There is one African American Barbi and the last doll holds a mini American flag -- This land truly was made for you and me. While taking this pictures a woman in leather shoes walked by and yelled at us, "That store is EVIL!!!" We nodded and pointed out that we were not buying furs and were in fact kind of mocking the place by photographing their ridiculous window display but she could not be comforted and continued her unspecific "Fur is bad" diatribe. I have to admit that I don't really understand why people get so rilled up about fur and yet not about leather or the meat industry both of which also kill animals somewhat cruelly and unnecessarily. It always seems to come down to cows being less cute.

Courtney has promised to send me a few signed copies of her favorite New York shots and hopefully this will inspire me to stop being so cheap and actually make a trip to the frame shop, then I can finally get rid of the cliche vintage posters that have hung above my couch for 6 years.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

On Being a Girl in the Big Bad World of Software

A few years ago when I was still living in San Francisco and still billing myself as a programmer I went on the best interview ever. I have chosen not to name the company in this post because I love nerds and have no desire to embarrass them on this very popular blog but I am not so nice as to refuse to identify them verbally – so if you really care, ask me.

I was only at the interview for 10 minutes before it became clear that the decision to interview me went something like this:

Dork #1 (making announcement over office intercom): Dudes! CODE PINK!!! I just got a resume for that open programmer position and I think it might be from a girl!

(Dorks 2-6 rush to the desk of Dork #1)

Dork #1 (pointing to computer screen): See? “Brianna” that ends in an “A” and in our culture ending a name in an “A” almost always indicates that the person totally will have boobs someday OR might already have boobs right this very moment!

Dork #4 (in a badly affected English accent): By George I think he’s right!

Dork #5 (in an electronic voice): female programmer… does not compute.

Dork #1: Dudes. I don’t want to get over excited here but…. she might have other friends who are also girls.

Dork #2: CALL HER!

I do not recall noticing heavy breath during my brief phone screen for this job so I commend the boys for learning how to mute their phones.

Dressing for programmer interviews on the west coast as a girl is a challenge – if you’re a boy you can wear khakis and a dress shirt but there is really no flattering equivalent for females. You cannot wear a suit because the people who interview you will be wearing flip flops and that kind of huge disparity between the dress level of interviewer and interviewee can only lead to bad things. For this interview I choose to wear a burgundy tank dress with a white button down underneath (yeah, it probably is as bad as it sounds). I arrived at the interview site and was greeted by five very eager young men. I was not asked any programming questions. I was instead engaged in the following conversations:

Conversation 1

Dork #6 (arriving late to meeting wearing jeans with a 6inch rip at the left knee, a black thermal shirt and (I am not kidding) a bike chain with a clothes pin attached to it as a necklace): Hey, I’m [Dork #6]

Female Dork (aka me): Hi, it’s nice to meet you

Dork #6: Is this how you’d typically dress for work?

Bri: Well you seem to have a rather casual atmosphere so probably not.

Dork #6: Like that would you normally wear?

Bri: ummm jeans? And a shirt…

Conversation 2

Dork #1: Do you drink?

Bri: ummm occasionally

Dork #1: Ok, let me be more specific – If we were making margaritas in the office would you have one?

Bri: Yeah

Dork #2: Let’s say that we were going out to a bar after work – would you come with us?

Bri: Sure

Dork #3: Do you like E?

Bri: ummmm…. I don’t really do any drugs so….

Dorks 1,2,3,5,6: hahahahahaha

Dork #3: [Dork #4] likes going to raves, he was hoping you’d go with him sometime.

Shockingly I did not get this job – I do not know if I should blame my conservative dress (Thanks Laura Ashley!) or my lack of experience with recreational drugs. Perhaps upper management stepped in and rejected me in an effort to avoid the sexual harassment lawsuit that was sure to result from letting a girl into the shire.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Mmmmm Vitamins!

This June I joined a CSA. For those of you unfamiliar with the CSA model (and too lazy to click on that link…) the basic idea is you give a farmer a large-ish chunk of money (in my case $200 to Hells Gate CSA) at the beginning of the growing season and you get a share of whatever is ready for harvest each week until the season ends.

Some CSAs are year long affairs but my last veggie share arrived today (sweet potatoes, turnips, red turnips, rutabagas, tat soi, rosemary and beets!). While I’ll be glad to be rid of the pressure to get home every Tuesday by 7:00pm to pick up the veggies I’m really going to miss the surprises. Every week since June it has felt like I got presents on Tuesday evenings – edible presents!

I’m pretty vegetable savvy having grown up with a huge garden and a mother with a sense of growing and cooking adventure but the CSA was able to surprise even me. I had never had Tat soi before. It seems like a cross between baby bok choy and spinach – tonight I just sautéed it in a bit of olive oil with garlic and cherry tomatoes and it was a great side dish to go with grilled salmon with a brown sugar rub. Some CSAs offer fish and meat but my wild salmon was thanks to Mom and Dad’s Alaskan fishing trip (the grill marks were thanks to George Foreman who (shockingly) still does fish steaks better than the cast iron pan).

The whole CSA experience has been great -- a few of the many enjoyable benefits of CSA life:

  1. Reduce your trips to the evil enterprises passing as supermarkets in this city (Key Food and Trader Fair I am talking to you.)
  2. Feel slightly superior to your less organized neighbors who still have to buy produce at said evil enterprises
  3. Enjoy forced veggie consumption (since throwing them away would cause soul crushing remorse (shout out to Mom for instilling such profound food wasting guilt))
  4. Relish fresher, tastier, more varied, healthier, cheaper produce!

You can find your local CSA here.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Bow Chicka Bow Wow

My married friends seem to think it would be awesome if I took my new singlehood as an opportunity to live out their fantasies. While out one night they choose to create this list.

In the interest of getting the most possible points I’m going to have to sleep with Gillian (it should be noted that I think Gillian undersold herself – with a little hair gel she could totally be a metrosexual) – hopefully her husband will understand. In retrospect I feel this might be a set up – Gillian pushes the list idea and then it just so happens that the result of the list means she gets some awesome Brianna lovin’? Curiouser and Curiouser.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Random Wants

A few things that I have been searching for in vain -- if you have a source please pass it on.

Nonpoisonous Bug Spray

Back in California bugs had the good sense not to grow too big. It’s not smart for bugs to be overly ambitious since it just leads to people wanting to kill them more. Here in New York we have water beetles and they are evil. In an effort to be environmentally aware I bought some nature friendly bug spray made from mint extract (see left) but when I spray it at a water beetle he laughs and laughs and totally does not die. (other methods that do not result in dead water beetles: jumping on the couch and whimpering, spraying them with hairspray). Since I cannot be expected to live with the vile creatures I would like to find a bug spray that will kill them but will not make me think “wow, I totally have lung cancer.”

Convertible Gloves/Mittens

A couple of years ago at the Union Square Holiday market Amy and I bought matching pairs of mittens like the ones they are now selling at JCrew. I LOVED mine. My fingers stayed toasty all winter and I didn’t have to fumble with my keys. Unfortunately mittens have about a two year shelf life and mine are now falling apart. I would jump on this offering from JCrew except I’m not sure I’m willing to spend $28 for mittens I paid $10 for 2 years ago. Being cheap is constantly forcing me to suffer.

Bubble Bath that Bubbles

I love baths (often in the winter they’re the only way I can get warm) but I feel like a bath is rather boring without bubbles. Unfortunately all adult bubble bath (aka bubble bath that does not smell like bubblegum) seems to have very little bubble staying power. I want bubbles that stick around for a while after the facet has been turned off.

Revisable Belt

I bought a reversible belt (black to brown) at Mervyns (West coast only department store – think JC Penny) last Christmas and I loved it, however it is now falling apart and I can’t find a decent replacement. The one pictured at right is available at SAKS for $125 – obviously I’m never going to be able to justify that price so I’m belt-less.

Acceptable Air Freshener

My apartment has the vague smell of mold, especially in the entry way. I’m constantly paranoid that people come to visit and think I have lax cleaning requirements and while I totally *DO* slack off on cleaning the smell of mold is not something I can fix even under a strict cleansing regime. I have bought air freshener but most of the time it just turns the smell from mold to chemicals which I hardly feel is an improvement. I have heard that Method has a decent air freshener (pictured and amusingly categorized on their website under "aircare" as if that's a thing) and I generally like the smell of their products but I’ve yet to make it out to a Target to buy one.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Tic Tic Tic....

I will be 29 in less than 2 months. Over the last year I have suddenly become aware of my age and I feel old-ish for the first time. I realize that 29 (not to mention 28) is not really old but it is not really young either. Young is something I have been all of my life. While I’ve always naively thought that I would grow into middle-age and crone-hood happily knowing that any gray hair or wrinkles would have been hard won and certainly not worthy of shame I am feeling increasingly anxious about getting old.

I find myself searching for wrinkles (I have a few on my forehead) and wondering if it’s still ok to wear pigtails. But mostly I am afraid that I have not prepared properly for the life that I had always envisioned. I don’t own a house – I live in a place that makes the idea of owning seem impossible. I don’t have a husband. I am very afraid that I will hit 35 or 40 and look back and realize I missed my chance to have children. Or that 70 or 80 will roll around and I will feel that I didn’t spend my time wisely. I do not know what I should be doing to ensure that the future me is happy with the past I created for her but it seems like I have to figure this out immediately. I wish that I had a pause button for life.

Perhaps my awareness of my age has been triggered by the illnesses that have plagued friends over the past few years. I am in the midst of a bit of a medical scare myself – most likely (90% likely to be exact) I will be fine but on Tuesday I have to go in for a test that has a scary word attached to it and I am feeling very mortal.

Friday, November 17, 2006

It's Coming

Soon it will snow. This occurred to me while riding the train on a rainy day last week and suddenly I had butterflies in my stomach. Snow makes me ridiculously happy.

Despite growing up in California I did not experience a snow free childhood. This may shock my east coast readers but California has mountains (in fact it has the biggest mountain in the lower 48) and mountains have snow (that’s last January at my parent’s house on the left). So my fascination with snow cannot be pinned on a childhood of deprivation.

I spent 4 years at college in western New York where the snow falls freely from October to April and (much to the annoyance of my housemates) I still could not get enough. College snow was the best as the campus was surrounded by huge expanses of unused semi-wild land where snow was never shoveled resulting in drifts with buried trees and never-ending expanses of white.

People complain a lot about New York City snow – it gets dirty too quickly, it gets everything wet and muddy. All of these things are true but the city still looks beautiful under a new blanket even if the look doesn’t last. I spent my first winter in New York photographing every snow storm on my camera phone so the gallery is full of dark grainy shots of white. My main complaint about snow in New York is that the city is super quick to hall it all away. During the next snowstorm I need to motivate myself to truck out to time square at night when it’s quiet and covered in white. I once saw a picture of Time Square at 4am at the end of a huge snow storm before the plows had come and it looked like a wonderland – this is especially surprising since I usually think Time Square looks like hell.

I don’t understand how people can hate snow. When it snows I feel like magic is happening.

I used to joke that the perfect weather pattern would be 85 degrees and sunny from the ides of March until October first followed immediately by a huge snow storm every 5 days (replenishing the clean whiteness) until the next March 15th rolls around at which point the snow would instantly disappear and the cycle would begin anew. I can now admit that this scenario would leave me missing fall (and with the city currently looking so pretty in it’s splendid reds and oranges I have to admit that fall is worth experiencing) and the occasional cool spring day but I just know that winter alone will never bring me enough snow.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Another Bedtime Ritual

The Prayer

Now I lay me down to sleep

I pray the Lord my soul to keep

And if I die before I wake

I pray the Lord my soul to take

God bless:

My family

My relatives

My friends

And myself

My famiy’s house

My relatives’ houses

My friends’ houses

And my house

My family’s pets

My relatives’ pets

My friends’ pets

And my pets

God keep me and every one and thing I’ve asked you to bless (unless it’s a house) with a house or an apartment to live in (houses for large families or small families that have people visit fairly often, apartment for small families that do not have people visit very often)

God keep me and every one and thing I’ve asked you to bless (unless it’s a house)in good health, with good food to eat and happy.


The Amendments

  1. Always say a special prayer for people who are traveling, make sure to bless their initial trip AND their return to ensure that they get home safely
  2. Always say a special prayer for people who have some sort of medical aliment.
  3. If you feel lost or stressed it is ok to ask God to help you find the right path or make the right decision provided you do not violate Rule 3.

The Rules

  1. If you don’t remember saying the prayer God will not count it.
  2. It is best if you visualize the things you are praying for, this ensures you are actively involved in the prayer not just reciting it from memory
  3. It is not ok to ask for selfish things like money or a new toy or a boyfriend, if you do this God will likely trick you by fulfilling your wish in a way you did not intend ( much like all wish granters God is kind of a dick in that way).

Like most American Christian children I have said a version of this prayer before bed for as long as I can remember. I imagine most other kids stopped after the rhyming part. This version has stuck around virtually unchanged since sometime in late elementary school. Clearly I have never trusted god. While writing out these words that have existed for so long only in my head I especially enjoyed the absurdity of when I explain to God just who deserves to live in a house. Knowing myself as I do I am mostly surprised that I did not quantify what constitutes a large family and frequent guests – those are just the kind of mushy words that can get you into trouble with a capricious deity.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

In a New York Week

Having a visitor is a good excuse to get to know your city – especially if you’ve been rather slack about turning your life into the adventure you’d like it to be. The arrival of my Australian friend Courtney led to much Gotham exploring during the past week. I hope that after she leave I’ll continue to venture out to the kind of activities that make living in New York an experience that future Brianna will look back on in jealousy (making my middle aged self jealous is the best thing about being young). A few reviews of events attended this week:

Wednesday 11/8: Death Cab for Cutie Concert

As every teenaged boy knows music makes girls drop their knickers by transforming the unattractive (slightly pudgy, balding, middle aged) into sex gods. Like most easily led indie hipster babes I would happily offer myself up on the alter of Death Cab.

The concert was wonderful. Even though neither of my favorite tunes (“Why You’d Want to Live Here” and “Styrofoam Plates”) were played they did do amazing renditions of “We Laugh Indoors” and “Title and Registration” both of which always leave me feeling a bit gooey inside. The concert was further helped by how happy the band was about the preceding days election results (“It may be a rainy day in New York but it’s the sunniest day in America in 2 years!”). I was also entranced by the lighting effects (something that I usually can’t be bothered to notice) which caused the scruffy hole-filled scrim behind the band to sometimes appear to be a building or a cliff.

A couple of notes on the sociology of concerts (aka Call me when the Kids Get Off of my Lawn, I’m Sick of Waiting).

1. Apparently if you are under 25 and at a concert there is a law that you must take at least one cell phone picture every 2 minutes. Because I am old I do not know what the young’ins are doing with these pictures but if someone sent me 75 blurry shot of some band taken from roughly 100 meters away I’d likely remove them from my myspace friend list.

2. There were 3 youngish (22?) people sitting in front of us (and might I just say “Thanks god for concerts with seats!”) – 2 girls and a boy who appear to have been involved in a very progressive threesome-type relationship. The all looked rather wholesome so perhaps this is a sister-wife situation rather than a young and experimenting thing. Either way I felt very out of it.

Sunday 11/12: Amateur Female Jello Wrestling

This is the kind of event that makes you really happy to live in New York City – other places may be able to offer to great bands and good theatre but where else can you see costumed young women roll around in jello for only $3 (well, $3 if you’re a woman the pricing was amusingly sex segregated -- $3/women, $7/men with women, $13/men alone). Ok, maybe they offer this kind of prime entertainment at some of your seedier strip joints but this event also offered live bands and a distinct lack of leering old men. I also imagine that at an actual strip club it would be difficult to maintain the façade of superior ironic amusement in the goings on and without that none of the attendees would be able to go on living.

As amazing as this event sounded on paper it kind of flopped in practice. The jello offering was rather pathetic – instead of the foot of lime green goo I was picturing women romping around in we got about 3 inches colorless, sugarless gelatin. Flavorless Jello makes for flavorless wrestling. The wrestlers also seemed oddly pathetic in their attempts to be tough, funny and sexy at the same time – I suspect they were shooting for a dominatrix vibe but it all came out as trying too hard. Like with the WWF (not that I would know, seriously, I have NEVER been on a long boring date to Disney on Ice with a man who was weirdly obsessed with wrestling. Certainly not. I am *WAY* too cool for that) the wrestling was (understandably) choreographed and the girls were not very good at covering – there was a lot of apologizing for accidentally knocking an opponent down and no mystery as to who would win each match. Ultimately we bowed out at half time.

Tuesday 11/14 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee

My international visitor demanding a trip to Broadway and while I had hoped for Avenue Q tickets TKTS forsook me. As a lover of Spellbound (and really any documentary about geeks) I figured 25APCSB was a good alternative (though there were no songs about porn so clearly it was a step down from the puppets).

With the exception of Phantom which I saw at 14 and thus have nostalgic ties to I honestly don’t like musicals that much. They often seem forced and overly serious. I’ve seen Sweet Charity and Beauty and the Beast on Broadway and felt fairly blah about both. Time magazine has an article last week about how the new crop of Broadway shows (Grey Gardens, Spring Awakening, etc) were moving away from the Disney model and if these new offerings are anywhere near as good as 25APCSB I could not be more thrilled.

25APCSB is running in a very small theatre which as been convincingly decorated as a school gymnasium (complete with sport championship banners and cliché team work propaganda (ever notice how there’s no I in team? Shocking, I know.)). The ensemble cast does an amazingly convincing job of turning 30 year old starving actors into adorably quirky elementary students.

The stand out of the show was my soon to be husband Barrett Foa who played Leaf Coneybear. Some might say that finding a grown man playing a 10 year old attractive might be a sign of certain Mark Foley-like tendencies but I assure you that Mr. Foa is a big boy who will come to love my dirty dirty instant messages. (I did just look at his website and it turns out that he might like messages from one of Mark’s pages more than those from me but certainly I can change him!).

A few up coming NYC events that I’d love to attend (anyone game?):

Buffy Sing-A-Long – There's a rumor that this show will be revived in December and one Ms. Gillian has already promised to attend with me and even dangled to possibility of dressing up – I will be holding her to all promises. All geeks are welcome to join us.

Avenue Q – I’m probably way too cheap to spend $100 on tickets for this but I could be convinced to throw in for discount tickets if anyone is interested.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

How Do You Sleep at Night?

I often have a hard time falling asleep in bed (I have mastered falling asleep on the couch in front of incredibly trashy TV programs about midgets and playboy bunnies.). Lying in bed leads to thinking and thinking leads to obsessing and obsessing leads to being up awake at 2am. So I often play mind games with myself in an effort to get to sleep more quickly.

The ABC game is the sleeping pill I employ most often. The game is a variation on a drinking game that I used to play as a child. (Yes, as a child, when, on camping trips, friends and I used to play drinking games using spicy V8 – a punishment much more evil than alcohol.) The game is quite simple: you pick a theme and work through the alphabet thinking of items within the theme. The key is to pick a theme that is easy enough that you can think of an item for each letter fairly quickly but difficult enough to require your mind’s complete attention. Since I’m my only judge for this game I have to enforce some pretty strict rules (ah yes, because where would my life be if I didn’t enforce a million rules upon myself everyday even when I’m lying in bed?). I only have about 3 seconds to think of an answer and the answer has to fit the category without any qualifiers – if the theme is color “light blue” cannot be counted for L. If I can’t think of an item I score one point – the idea is to get to Z with as few points as possible.

After years of playing this game every night before bed I’m fast running out of themes. I’ve done colors, types of liquor, types of flowers, capital cities, types of cars, clothing designers, fruits, etc… You would be wise to never challenge me to a game of Scattergories.

Rather that think about how this need to lull myself to sleep may be a reflection on my mental state I’d really like to find a good replacement for the ABC game. I occasionally play a different game where I try to make myself name all of the people on of my high school classes, ideally in the proper desk order. This is less fun, I only remember the order for a few classes and the names are ridiculously easy since I spent 12 year in school with most of the same people. Sometimes I try to make words out of the letter in a phrase but it’s too difficult to keep the letters straight without a piece of paper. I’ve also tried the game where you name a title (of a song, movie, book, etc) and then the second title must start with the last word in the first title and the third title with the last word in the second and so on. I find that thinking of titles requires me to think just hard enough that I cannot fall asleep. And so I have more and more nights where I quickly traverse the alphabet in vegetables/birds/mountain ranges and (having mastered the category) am still left lying awake with my thoughts.

I’d love to be the type of person who could meditate but clearing my mind of thoughts is like trying to scrape all of the gum from New York City sidewalks. Tricking myself into sleep has been pretty reliable even if it never results in a feeling of transcendence -- I’d probably take a good wet dream over transcendence anyway.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Ready for Adulthood

I just took New York Magazine's Choose Your Own Adventure Cost of Living Calculator and I must say that I am on the path towards being a cheap middle aged woman.

The quiz doesn't offer an option for living somewhere on the central California coast so I improvised and set myself up somewhere in the suburbs with 2 preschool aged children and a small starter home. Thinking about what I want in 10 years I discovered that it comes down to family and netflix much more than fashion and big nights out. I'm still rather shocked at my results.

That's post tax dollars so I do have a long ways to go towards this goal but I figure if I can con some boy into sharing in my plan it's totally do-able. As someone who often feels that the goal of homeownership is well out of her grasp I thank New York magazine for this good news (even if I still suspect that they are lying to me).

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Future Speak

A few weeks ago I found out that this boy on whom I have a bit of a crush has “a girlfriend from California.” I was a bit sad to find this out until Amy, the queen of delusional optimism, came up with this idea:

“Bri, maybe he’s talking future speak -- *maybe* you’re his girlfriend from California!”

We discussed how this could be a bit unsettling since any boy afflicted with future speak would likely start discussing your children well before the second date and be on to grandparenthood after a few months. All of this seems like it would get annoying rather quickly but I like a challenge (Seriously, call me, I’m super hot and I’ll ignore your psychotic tendencies!).

In truth I’m the one diagnosed with future speak. I tend to get so caught up with my ideas for the future that I’m unable to properly enjoy the present. I love having events to look forward to so much that I often enjoy planning more than execution. Planning for a vacation starts months in advance with obsessive highlighting of the Lonely Planet guide. First dates are preceded by days of wardrobe planning and primping. Saturdays are anticipated from Sunday onward. And once the vacation, suitor or weekend arrives it rarely lives up to the plan I’ve laid out in my mind. I worry that too much planning has sacrificed many wonderful trips, boys and Sunday afternoons.

Lately, thoughts of moving back to California have made it hard to enjoy New York. I’m not unhappy here and I’m not even sure that I’d be happier in California. New York is a place that people dream about living and here I have a good group of friends and a job I enjoy (not to mention a crush who right now may be picking out our matching gravestones). But I know that I don’t want to live in New York forever. I feel slightly crushed by the number of people around me. I feel trapped without any access to nature. I hate the little grocery stores. I miss having a car. I long for a feeling of community. None of these things bother me on a day to day basis and I know that staying here for another year or so would probably be a good idea career-wise. I would like to be able to look at my time in New York as temporary and therefore enjoy it all the more but instead I find myself feeling like effort spent on a life in New York is wasted. I am paranoid about getting too attached to friends or looking too far into the future of my career because I’m going to leave eventually. And when I do leave (for pastures that may or may not be greener despite certainly having more greenery) I may have to look back on my time here and acknowledge that looking too far forward ruined what should have been an exciting couple of years.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Home -- If They'll Have You

Since the democrats did so well in Tuesday’s election I need not flee for the great white north just yet however – I TOTALLY COULD. I just took the Canadian citizen test online and rocked it (80%) – conversely I forced my Australian friend Courtney to take the US Citizen test and she scored a pathetic 50%. Foreigner are stupid.

Some highlights from each test:

O Canada

List three ways in which you can protect the environment.
a. Work near where you live, drive to work, take a taxi.
b. Use unleaded gas, drive a small car, travel by yourself.
c. Compost and recycle, conserve energy and water, walk or join a car pool.
d. Pour solvents down storm drains, leave taps running, leave lights on.

My god you people are a bunch of tree hugging freaks (good thing I rather like tree hugging freaks).

American the Beautiful

Who helped the Pilgrims in America?

Christopher Columbus

The American Indians

Southern plantation owners

Courtney thought the answer was Columbus. I don’t think she knows what pilgrims are and I just asked her if she knew who Columbus was, “I dunno, he sailed around and stuff.” (To her credit when given a few minutes to contemplate she did eventually figure out that he discovered America).

We spent a lot of time looking for the Australian citizenship quiz but it turns out they don’t have one so we had to settle for this history quiz which I rocked with 10/14 and Courtney totally bombed with 7/14. They’re now considering kicking her out of her home country. She thinks England has no standards whatsoever so she can just stay there.

I wanted to put one of the questions from the AU history quiz here but none of them are funny – they all make the Australians sound like racist pricks. We found this easier (and less dickish!) quiz which offers the following bit of knowledge.

Advance Australia Fair

What does the Australian slang word 'chook' refer to?

A lizard
A chicken
A girl
A car

If this question were asked about America I assure you the answer would be dirty.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Colon Cancer is The Shit

In 2005 my best friend Amy was diagnosed with colon cancer. A year ago today they cut a big hole in her abdomen, took out most of her colon and sewed her up. She doesn't have cancer anymore.

Last Sunday I was suffering from a bit of blogger’s-block and Amy suggested I write a post about how awesome she is – I doubt this is what she had in mind.

Amy told me about her cancer on the day of the Coney Island Mermaid Parade and I honestly thought she was kidding. Who gets colon cancer at 27? (Girls with very unfriendly genes.) She spent the summer and fall in chemo and radiation. Last September while visiting my parents, two of my mother's friends (both nurses) told me that they were really sorry to hear about Amy and that it was horrible for anyone to have such a grim diagnosis at such a young age. Even though Amy was really sick I hadn't considered the possibility that she wouldn't get better until they both looked at me like my friend was dying. When I got home from this trip she was the sickest I'd seen her, she wasn't able to keep food down and had gotten terribly thin and I was suddenly very afraid of losing her.

While Amy was sick we joked around a lot about her cancer (“Oh no Amy can’t pick up her crap because she has cancer – and she’s lazy.”). I know Amy didn’t want to turn into Cancer Girl (able to stop bullets with her mighty tumor!) who everyone was nice to simply because she was sick (I imagine she would have less issue with the transformation if it came with super powers). As much as I believe that humor is often the best way to deal with the challenges life chooses to carpet bomb us with I worry that I used humor to avoid talking about my feelings. I often feel like expressing my feelings is a burden on other people and Amy certainly didn’t need any extra burdens. So I don't think I ever told her how scared I was.

Suddenly last winter my life seemed charmed, Amy got better, things were going great at work, I was mooney over a boy. I felt like God had given me a reward for that awful summer and fall. I think Amy has had a charmed year as well – she certainly deserves it more than me. She and Joe had the best wedding ever (they should start a business called “Planning a Kick Ass Shindig”), they honeymooned in Italy (thanks for the earrings!) and are once again house shopping (they’re like real adults). Tonight they’re having an Amy is Cancer Free Party. Amy – you are awesome, I’m glad you’re not dead.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

I Think My Dad Might Be a Republican

My father is upset that Nancy Pelosi will be the Speaker of the House. In the past few years he and I have grown further and further apart politically and it scares me. When I talk politics with Dad I often come away feeling sad about the prospects for the future of the country. If the two of us can’t agree what hope is there for people who don’t even know each other? I don’t just love my father, I respect him. I often find myself wishing I could be more like him, he is logical, reliable, smart, charming, and confident. He is also turning into a republican and I constantly feel like I have to defend him (or lie about his political leanings…). I find myself telling friends that he’s really smart and a great person who loves puppies and children and totally does not want to make rules about your sexuality or kill all the Arabs. I’m shocked that such a great guy could vote for people that seem so misguided (I’m working really hard at not calling them evil since I want to seem reasonable…). I’m fairly certain that dad used to be a dirty liberal – he certainly dressed like one – and I’m not sure what brought about his swing to the right.

The truly baffling thing is that Dad doesn’t seem very conservative. He’s pro choice and pro separation of church and state. He’s not at all religious and he’s not a rich guy. He cooks dinner at least half of the time and recently baked an apple pie (see? TOTALLY not evil!). (Aside: so it’s possible there are great guys out there who are Republicans. This probably means I’m just destined to meet one, fall in love and end up having these same arguments for the rest of my life. Damn you fate.) I think he’s even a bit of an environmentalist (Hi Dad! I’ll pause here while you try to stop laughing…). He has a deep love for the country. My parents own land in a remote area of the Sierra Nevada Mountains which they run off to at any opportunity. He spends two weeks in Alaska each year and always comes back in awe of the wilderness. His weekends are full of hikes and horseback rides and fishing trips. He lives closer to the land than anyone else I know. He doesn’t want any of these places to disappear.

The things that anger me most about the Republican Party are not typically issues that my father agrees with the republicans on – he just doesn’t really care about them. I am angry because I do not think the government should tell me who to love or when to have a baby or who my god should be. I am angry because I do not think the government should hide or lie about scientific facts in an effort to promote Christianity. I am angry because I do not think the richest 1% of Americans deserve a tax break.

Dad seems to easily fixate on one issue. In 2000 he voted for Bush because he was afraid that if Gore was elected he would no longer be allowed to drive through the national forest to access the land he owns in the mountains. I don’t know if this was likely to happen but it seems silly that this was his primary concern. He thinks Pelosi will outlaw all guns. I don’t know much about her gun voting record but I’m generally in favor of handgun controls and waiting periods and fewer guns in general. I don’t know why this bothers Dad so much – he hunts but he doesn’t own a hand gun and I can’t think of any instances of deer hunting gun shortages that would require he get a new gun RIGHT NOW.

Today my side gets to win (Eat it Dad!) which makes me happy but I’d be happier if it didn’t feel like we are all engaged in some sort of values civil war. I try to remind myself that not everyone who disagrees with me is wrong, on the good days Dad serves as a proof of this. I am trying very hard to put a positive spin on the ending of this post but it is very difficult. I am not able to reconcile my respect for my father with his ambivalence toward so many issues that matter to me. I don’t think everything about the current republican party is evil but I do think much of it’s current agenda is trying to mandate personal choices and force religion on people and I strongly believe that this is wrong.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Local Language

We've all had the "pop vs. soda" and "car-a-mel vs. car-mel" debates (hopefully bringing up such controversial topics will not result in a tremendous flame war in the comments section of this post). Americans are fiercely devoted to their geographic idiosyncrasies. Soon consuming the same media and moving around will homogenize our accents and we’ll all sound the same. I grew up in California where everyone already has the generic TV non-accent. I thought I’d never have the pleasure of sounding different, however, it turns out that many of the words and phrases that I grew up with were geographically specific (often the geography was so specific as to be restricted to the confines of my parent’s house). All communities, cliques and families speak their own language and there are few things more revealing about a group of people than their words. When we invent language we capture ideas not previously deemed important enough to warrant their own word. These are the concepts that my family and childhood friends saw fit to name.

Fish Bite: term used to describe when a person's underwear rides up into the crack of their butt. The term is essentially a synonym for "wedgie" you can "have a fish bite" or, if you are a bully, "give someone a fish bite." According to my friend Elizabeth you can also shorten the term to "fish." A fish bite can only be rectified by "going fishing" for your underwear

Fishmas Eve: The evening of the last Friday in April (the last Saturday in April being Fishmas itself). This holiday celebrates the opening of fishing season traditions include: digging for worms, making sandwiches to take out on the boat and singing Fishmas carols like "Velveeta Catches Fishies" which is sung to the tune of "Hello Mudda, Hello Faddah" or (as I identified the tune in grade 3) "Velveeta vs. Cheddar." (if only I could remember the words…) I think my dad invented this holiday, he certainly wrote the lyrics to the carols.

Poop on a Stick: What my father claimed we were having for dinner on 250/365 nights each year (on the other 115 nights "grasshopper pie" would be served.).

Underdutchies: underwear for the under five crowd. Another Horst Klemm original (thanks Dad!).

Wish on a Hay Truck: When a hay truck passes your car on the highway you make a wish, the wish will only come true if you never look at the hay truck again. This usually requires that the wisher not look behind the vehicle for about 3 minutes. When the wisher is also the driver the lives of all passengers are put at risk, it is possible that the wishes of most teenaged drivers are not worth risking death but it's also possible that life would not be living if Rick did not try to kiss me (never happened, surprised I survived the extremely dry spell that was high school). All normal wishing rules also apply (no telling other people your wish, no wishing for more wishes, etc).

Monday, November 06, 2006

How not to do Web 2.0 (aka Windows Live Mail Beta* Sucks)

A few weeks ago, in my rush of excitement about web 2.0, I signed up for the upgrade from hotmail to Windows Live Mail. Today I’d like to thank Microsoft for proving that not all web 2.0 application are amazing, someone had to burst the bubble and you guys really stepped up to the plate, that takes cojones.

At work we have tons of permanent open developer positions (send me your resumes, I could use the referral bonus) so I know finding talented geeks is not easy but I have to believe it is somewhat easier if you’re backed by a big name and big bucks. So please explain to me why Microsoft can’t get someone to build them a decent web mail system. It has gotten to the point that I find myself considering giving Microsoft pity points for *trying* to get up to speed on web 2.0 but honestly should we be handing out gimmies to a company with a global annual revenue of US$44.28 billion and 71,553 employees?

Microsoft has had 2 years to cheat off of gmail and their new mail offering is still abysmal. The update seems to consist mostly of design changes that don’t improve my user experience. A lot of effort was put into making the web site look vaguely like Microsoft Outlook, they stole all of the icons and most of the functionality which would be impressive if anyone was using Outlook out of choice instead of because their company mandates it. I can also choose from a myriad of ugly color schemes should I feel the need to permanently damage my eyes. A couple of other egregious design flaws:

  1. The system logs me out at least once a day forcing me to sign back in. The “sign back in” link spawns a new window. I just looked for a way to change this and after 5 minutes looking for a “Settings” option found that I can change the way my mail is laid out (ugly, uglier or ugliest) but cannot ask it to load links in the parent window.
  2. I have to use the light version of Windows Live Mail when I’m at home because the regular version won't ever load. My network has no trouble supporting other applications (gmail works fine, I’ll just use gmail).

As someone who works in software development I’m fairly certain that should anyone at Microsoft ever read this post (as soon as this blog gets really famous and people start caring what I think – rough guess: Thursday) I’ll be dismissed as an end user who is too stupid to use their product. Fine. I’ll be over on gmail if you realize that if no one looks at your huge ads you won’t make any money.

At college graduation (6 years ago! Dear god I think the stress of typing that statement may serve as a catalyst to trigger early onset senility) I remember joking with friends that if you didn’t know someone's email address was probably a good guess. Today all of these email accounts are being used as spam filters.

In conclusion: Microsoft, thanks for updating my spam filter, it’s marginally better than the spam filtering you were offering in the past but still so ridiculously bad that I will never use it for real email. Congratz, you have raised the bar from lame to pathetic.

* caveat: it’s a Beta… maybe the real version will be awesome….