Saturday, June 30, 2007

Crack is Whack

How do you know when its time to check into rehab? I mean, outside of a court order or an intervention hosted by Courtney Love, when does a sane person look at their life and say, yes, I have a problem? I only ask because I think I may have a teeny little problem.

I helped my friend Camie move today, and after all of her truckload(s) of junk had been safely deposited in her new apartment and I'd eaten my fill of McDonalds I made to leave. Ever the smartass, Camie said, "Yes, because you've probably got reading to do." And we all had a good laugh and I gave her the finger.

For your information, I only had three things to do today, and reading wasn't necessarily included. 1) I needed to help Camie move. (Successfully completed). 2) I desperately needed to go to the grocery store. All I have left in my house to eat is some leftover water crackers, and if I didn't go to the store today it would be water crackers all weekend long. 3)And since the gym is right next door to the grocery store it only makes sense to go to the gym too. All pretty normal Saturday activities, and all completely do-able.

But here's where my fatal mistake came in. When I got home from Camie's I decided I'd pour myself a big glass of water to rehydrate (moving in June is sweaty work) and while I'm doing that, why not do a bit of reading? It's probably no surprise to anyone that I never made it to the grocery store let alone the gym. It's also probably no surprise that I never even made it off of the couch. Instead I ate those crackers and finished off a book. A book that I'd started last night. A book that I'd started after finishing another book earlier in the evening. Two books. Two days.

I should probably have realized that it was possible that I might have a problem a few weeks ago when I was traveling to Phoenix. I started a book just before boarding in Washington, and by the time I landed in Minneapolis for my connection I was deeply immersed. I stumbled up the jetway, (trying to simultaneously read and walk) and out to the monitors. I was pretty bleary-eyed and thought that it said "Phoenix G9". So off I went to G9, where I plunked myself down to keep reading; nevermind that the gate information at G9 said Atlanta. I figured they were just running late, and my flight to Phoenix would be coming right up. So I resumed reading. And I kept on reading, and kept on reading, and kept on reading. Finally it occurred to me that my layover was really only supposed to be 25 minutes or something, and since I'd been sitting there for about an hour maybe I should check that they didn't change the gate. Turns out that I shouldn't have been waiting at gate G9 at all, I should have been at G19. And no, they didn't change it, I should have always been at gate G19. But I was too interested in getting back to my book to bother focusing my eyes when checking the monitor. By the time I arrived gasping at G19, the gate agent took one look at me and before I could even squeak out a word said with mixture of disdain and exasperation, "Gretchen Hanson? It's long gone. You're not getting out of here until tomorrow." And he grinned an evil grin.

The saddest part of this story is that I then proceeded to the nearest La Quinta Inn, where I was secretly glad (despite not having any toothpaste or clean underwear) to have some peace and quite to finish my book.

Is that rock bottom? Is missing a flight or dooming yourself to a weekend of eating crackers because you're too busy reading a sign that things have gone too far? That perhaps this isn't a healthy hobby any longer?

I sort of wish I was addicted to something that gave some clearer warning signs. Like if I were lohaning all over the place or drinking rubbing alcohol. At least then people would look at me and say, "Dude, lay off the smack! You've got a problem. Here's a nice brochure we think you should read." No one is ever going to haul me into an intervention for hanging outside of a Borders waiting for it to open. (Unless I'm rifling through the trash or something. But I think that's a different issue). People aren't going to look at my bloodshot eyes and whisper to each other, "Poor thing, obviously too much Dickens. Doesn't she realize she's killing herself with that stuff?" Nor do they say, "Reading? That's a disgusting habit." It just doesn't happen.

And that's the problem, essentially it's not a morally crippling addiction. It's not like I'm slipping Gothic novels to kids on the playground. Or hanging outside the library trying to score some free books. (Although, I guess now that I think about it I did go to that miserable library conference for the sole purpose of getting free books.) But, like all addictions, it appears to be getting in the way of normal activity. There's no chance that I'll give up reading cold turkey (since technically that's called illiteracy), but I need to find a pastime that will help dilute the reading time to a normal level.

So here it is, my cry for help. I need a new hobby. If you've got hobby suggestions ... let me hear them. And just so you know, I can't garden because I live in a balcony-less apartment; Cooking's out too; I'm a little worried about photography because I'll feel like a voyeur/tourist; I'm pretty uncoordinated so dancing or sports isn't a good option; and I'm not very crafty. About the only thing I've been able to come up with is getting a job that requires me to work 80+ hours a week, and I'm not sure I'm prepared to do that. You see my predicament. Help? Please??

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Book Club a Chez Moi


Fresh Strawberries
White Stilton with Lemon Peel cheese
Wensleydale with Cranberries cheese
Swedish Meatballs
Sparkling Conversation

Fortunately, no one bothered to read the book.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

One good thing

By all rights, I should be completely disgusted by the media coverage of Paris Hilton's release from jail. And I am. Of course I am. ..... But then I found out that Michael Moore got bumped from Larry King Live to make way for Paris.

And that made me smile.

I don't like muckrakers (which is the category I firmly place Michael Moore into). I work very hard to make sure that I don't get riled up about things that I neither know anything about or can do anything about. So to have him cheated out of some portion of his LKL slot by such a patently ridiculous interviewee makes up, in a very pleasing way, for the minutes of my life he stole while ranting during his Academy Award acceptance speech in 2003. You take some of my minutes, my man Larry will take some of yours. HA! Maybe karma works after all.

Monday, June 25, 2007

The Librarians are Coming! The Librarians are Coming!

The American Library Association held it's Annual Conference in Washington, DC this weekend. As a card-carrying librarian I had to make an appearance. But I went kicking and screaming all the way.

My first conference was mildly exciting as I ran around to every booth picking up worthless swag. But now the magic is gone. I've got as many crappy pens, obnoxious flashing buttons, and unidentifiable plastic bobbles as one girl can really handle. These days less is definitely more.

As I drove past the Convention Center, I saw my first pack waddling across the crosswalk and into the building, "Look kids! Librarians in the wild!"

Spotting Librarians outside of their native habitat is pretty simple, especially when you know what you're looking for. Notice the extra-extra-EXTRA large bags. This is indicative of The Librarian. Generally it has a decorative cat motif on it, but really the size is the main give away. If you want to avoid being mistaken for a librarian (as I do) you should never have a bag that is larger than your ass.

Another classic indicator: The Rolley Bag. Akin to the extra-extra-EXTRA large bag, the rolley bag serves the dual purpose of providing more room for all of the excessive amounts of crap they pick up, and to avoid having to actually bear the weight of all of that crap.

This librarian is also exhibiting two other traits: A matchy-matchy outfit (notice trimming on pants and jacket match) and SENSIBLE SHOES! Never leave home without them, as she would say!

These two specimens are of the Funky Fresh variety of Librarian. Funky Fresh librarians can be tricky because their somewhat normal sense of style keeps them from looking too far out of place. But if you look closely there is a sure indicator: The Funky Librarian Glasses. Funky glasses, and ideally a funky glasses chain, are essential. No librarian should be with out them.

Here is your classic Librarian out on the town. Notice the matchy-matchy outfit? (Extra marks for finding sensible lime green shoes!) Her extra-extra-EXTRA large bag is hidden on the other side of her - but believe me, it's bulging with swag. Sporty hair scrunchy, perusing the conference guide - this Librarian is putting the Rarin back into librarianship! But watch out - looks like her wrist has had a nasty sprain. Most likely from over-firm stamping of due dates.

Ideally I would have skipped the conference all together. But since it was in town I felt compelled to make an appearance. Consequently, I did everything in my power to make sure that even though I was in the same place, and technically speaking I am a librarian, it should be abundantly clear that These Are Not My People.

Friday, June 22, 2007

MINI(ature) Love

I've been commuting all week to a Product Manager Training Seminar in Reston, Virginia. MapQuest and I agree that it should only take about 35 minutes to go from my house in Silver Spring to the seminar hotel in Reston. Not too bad. Of course, that only applies to the morning commute, the return trip, on the other hand is a disaster. That half-hour trip goes a lot slower when your car doesn't get out of first gear.

At about the point where my road rage was really starting to percolate, I encountered my arch nemesis the DC Taxi driver. I won't digress into a scathing discourse on why taxis are the bane of my existence -- but in case you didn't get the Taxi Manifesto in which it states that the laws of the land do not apply to taxis, let me do my bit to help the revolution by letting you know that any taxi, at any time, can do whatever the hell it wants, without respect to any of the other cars or pedestrians within a five mile radius. I don't want you accidentally thinking that these fellows are outside the bounds of proper driving etiquette. Hah! The very idea!

Anyway, two hours into my drive this jackass taxi decided it was a perfect time to cut across four lanes of traffic in order to make a left turn. While he was blocking all of us, a little red MINI snuck out from a side street and got in front of me. I got pimped! and I hate getting pimped. It was only The Code of the MINI that kept me from being truly incensed.

The Code of the MINI is one of my favorite things about owning a MINI. Owning a MINI is like being in a secret society, such as the Skull and Bones (but without the naked butt paddling or the political intrigue). MINI owners are encouraged to always wave or smile knowingly at each other in passing. We've all promised to never eat at chain restaurants, to call driving "motoring", and name our first child Cooper. It's impossible to hate another MINI owner.

And so, I pulled up next to the red MINI and gave him a look that said, "You're a cheeky fellow! Good thing The Code has protected you. Now, let's see what features you have on your car." MINIs are the only cars I know anything about, so I feel very manly when I can look at one and say, "I can't be-lieve you chose those rims! Those were the worst ones!" or "Interesting use of the luggage rack, my friend!"

While I was checking out his car (Chili Red, white top, no bonnet stripes - poor choice there) I noticed that the driver was a bit of a dish. Lanky, sandy blond hair, glasses, driving a MINI - just my type. Hmmmm.....

Would Chili Red/No Bonnet Stripes like British Racing Green/White Bonnet Stripes? If they got married, with their red and green MINIs parked outside of their swanky townhouse, would the neighbors call them The MINIs, instead of The Johnsons? Would their curio cabinets be full of model MINIs and English car memorabilia? When the first child came, would he in fact be named Cooper? And more importantly, as more children came, whose car would go from MINI to Minivan? Gulp. Certainly not British Racing Green/White Bonnet Stripes.

How could Chili Red/No Bonnet Stripes even think of asking British Racing Green/White Bonnet Stripes to sacrifice herself so completely when everything she ever does is for the sake of this family? If he thinks that she's going to be seen driving around town in a minivan, well he's got another thing coming Mister! Besides, if one of our cars has to go - it will be yours, Mr. NO Bonnet Stripes!

At this point Chili Red/No Bonnet Stripes escapes by turning left abruptly.

British Racing Green/White Bonnet Stripes rolls her eyes and mutters, "It's a damn good thing you're covered by The Code and I can't hate you." And motors off to finish the last leg of one hellishly long and emotionally charged commute home.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

The Product Management Training Follies

"You know who calls Technical Support? Power users and losers."

"In the word 'users' the L is silent."

"Your opinion, while interesting, is irrelevant."

My instructor/stand-up comedian will be down at the Improv later this week if you're after more.

The Perfect Man. (Revised)

The other week I had to teach a lesson on Journaling to my Young Women. Now, I'm a very accomplished journalist having kept one since I was 14, so I was very excited to impart my wisdom on this topic. I pulled out every journal I had lurking around and took a long and leisurely stroll down memory lane. To my surprise/delight/embarrassment, tucked into the back of my mission journal (a particularly action packed volume what with violent mood swings and all) I found a list labeled: "The Perfect Man!"

And here it is, for your amusement: The Perfect Man!
  • The Givens (aka a Returned Missionary)
  • Successful
  • Smart - really smart - book and street
  • Funny - witty, clever
  • Creative
  • Self-motivated
  • Good style
  • Great with children/teens
  • Romantic
  • Loves me sooooo much
  • Tells me how much he loves me
  • Good health - good looking
  • Traveled
  • A good people person
  • Comfortable at a rock concert or the opera
  • Simple pleasures - but with style
My favorite companion Mary Kay and I came up with Perfect Man list more or less together, and I think we were both planning on marrying a J Crew ad. And actually, not to be conceited in light of the J Crew comment, this list is pretty much a list of my traits (except for maybe the "great" with children part. That should probably read "will tolerate and might even like children/teens"). After all, I do love myself "sooooo much" and I tell myself so frequently.

Fortunately, I'm scads wiser now thanks to ten years of countless dates and one TOOL of a would-be fiance. One or two dates with a clown (costume included) will teach you pretty quickly that it doesn't do any good to have a checklist of features in mind. Believe me, he'll only disappoint - how could he not? So in my aged wisdom I've changed my tack a bit and am abandoning the feature list and focusing on these carefully selected baseline requirements:

The Perfect Man (revised)
  1. Heterosexual.
  2. Enough initiative to ask me out.
  3. Can initiate and carry on their fair share of conversations
  4. Conversation topics range outside of X-Box scores/maneuvers or Body Mass Index percentiles
  5. Doesn't tuck his shirt into his underwear
If he can manage to bring ALL of these things to the table and we're attracted to each other, well then, can perfection be far off?

Monday, June 18, 2007

57 Channels and Nothing On

Last summer I started an experiment in which I would not watch television on weeknights. In an effort to be more productive in the evening I set my VCR and wouldn't even turn the TV on when I came home from work. Then I'd watch my shows en masse on Sunday afternoon. After the initial withdrawal wore off, I found I quite liked this plan! I had more productive evenings, I got to watch my shows without commercials (saving scads of time), and I had something to look forward to doing during the TV wasteland known as Sunday afternoon. So, I've kept the habit up (for the most part).

One side effect of this practice is that I haven't seen many, if any, of the shows that are not on my regular recording schedule. Which is why I find it remarkable that tonight as I was flipping channels until the Dateline interview with William and Harry started, I stopped to watch a few minutes of "How I Met Your Mother" -- a show that I watch, um, never -- only to find that it's an episode I've somehow seen before! I have no idea how this happens. First, I have no idea when I could have possibly seen this the first time around. Second, what are the odds of seeing the only episode I've ever seen of this show twice? If I'm that lucky perhaps I should be spending more time in Atlantic City. I do love a little Keno in the afternoon.

Despite being contrary to all logic and reason - this phenom seems to happen ALL. THE. TIME. With 15 or so episodes to choose reruns from, I invariably end up seeing the same one multiple times. It's incredibly annoying. All I want is some fresh re-runs, people! Is that too much to ask?

(On a side note, I just finished watching the Dateline interview with Princes William and Harry and can I just take a minute to say "Goodbye Wills ... HELLOOO HARRY!" When did Young Harry become WAY (and I mean WA-AY) finer than his brother? We always knew he was "the fun one" but holy crumpets! I'm agog!)

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Read! Lest I'm Forced to Gouge Out My Eyes

I care about what I wear. It's the one thing that can really make or break an otherwise average day. I know its shallow, and it's not everybody's thing, but I like it. And because I like it, I expect that other people will just give clothing (theirs and mine) a nominal amount of attention. After all, I have to give some attention to things that other people like that I don't particularly care for, such as politics and anything created by Micheal Moore. It seems only fair to tolerate other people's interests and give them the respect they deserve. But as I go about my business around the town, there are times when I seriously have to question what some people consider a "nominal amount of attention".

For example, yesterday I went to Wendy's for dinner. While I was standing in line debating between my two regular choices, #1 Single Classic with Cheese combo or #7 Spicy Chicken Sandwich combo, a teenage boy came up to give some money to his friend, who was in front of me, so his friend would buy him another junior bacon cheeseburger.

Mr. Jr. Bacon Cheeseburger had on a bright blue/pink/purple tie dye shirt, orange/green plaid golf shorts and a dirty gray baseball cap cocked wildly askew. I was so distracted by the rest of this ensemble that I couldn't tell you what kind of footwear he had going on, but whatever it was it certainly didn't do anything to help the train wreck happening above the ankles, and therefore must have only been playing a supporting role in making it worse.

So horrific was his outfit that I seriously (and I'm not lying about this) thought he must be mentally retarded. My "sympathetic smile" was all ready to go as I listened in to see if I could tell just how retarded he was by his speech. That sympathetic smile was wiped clean off my face and replaced with a scowl of incredulity when it became clear that this boy WAS NOT mentally challenged! He was just blatantly disregarding the most basic rules of going out into public.

Just so there isn't any more confusion on this point, and in case you have been living without sight or mirrors for your entire life and are therefore not aware, THESE are the most basic rules for going out into public:
  1. Stick to one dominant pattern. Tie dye and plaid are clearly 2 dominant patterns and should not be worn together.
  2. Colors should be complimentary to each other.
  3. Unless your name is Joseph and you have a Coat of Many Colors, you should not be wearing more than 5 colors at once.
  4. Your clothing should at NO TIME be mistaken for undergarments. Yeah, I'm talking to you, lady that was wearing what I thought was denim underwear.
  5. Unless you really have given up the will to live, NEVER wear elastic-bottomed sweatpants publicly. This is the International Sign of Having Given Up the Will to Live, and it will be assumed that you are on your way to a suspension bridge or gun shop, and police officers and helicopters will try to talk you out of it via megaphone.
  6. ONLY if you are Heidi Klum, Candace Bushnell, or Sara Jessica Parker can you wear whatever you want and it will be called couture. If you are none of these people, follow the rules above and avoid anything that has been Bedazzled.
Learn it. Live it. Don't make me say it again.

If I can learn to tolerate mind numbingly boring discussions about copyright law, or stuffed animals in the back window of otherwise perfectly innocent cars, or pet insurance, well then, YOU, can learn to tolerate looking at your clothes before putting them onto your body and walking through your front door.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Condimentially Speaking ...

I had a little snafu with my condiments this weekend. I really like to have hot dogs on occasion, especially when the weather is warm. I suppose it reminds me of baseball games and hot afternoons walking around DC. So I went to the grocery store and bought the dogs. When I got home I realized that I'd forgotten the buns and that I was also out of relish.

So I went back to the grocery store. But can you believe it - there wasn't a single jar of relish to be found in the entire store! I was shocked! After 20 minutes of moving ketchup bottles aside to see if they concealed relish somewhere in there I picked out some buns and headed home -- sans relish and tres annoyed.

Relish or not, I started making my hot dogs. I put the dogs in to cook while I prepared my bun with the condiments. Mayonnaise? Check. Ketchup? Check. Mustard? Check - sort of. My bottle of mustard was still sealed shut and I absently tried to peel off the plastic seal. It wasn't very easy, so I had to give the bottle a little more attention. I noticed that the seal was a little dingy. What kind of mustard has a dingy safety seal? Looking at the label I noted that this was Smiths brand mustard. Smiths? Smiths is a grocery store in Utah. As far as I know, there are no Smiths grocery stores anywhere within 2000 miles of me. That could mean only one thing: I had purchased the mustard while I still lived in Utah.

I haven't lived in Utah for SEVEN YEARS! This bottle of mustard has traveled with me through no less than 5 moves. It made it in the initial cross-country move when everything I owned in the world was crammed into a Volkswagen Jetta. It's followed me through two counties and five different apartments. Somehow it made it into boxes during the frenzied Thanksgiving Day escape from seriously crazy roommates that left me living in a basement for 3 weeks. It's been there throughout graduate school, traumatic relationships, and my days as an international jet setter. This isn't just mustard! This could very well be the longest relationship I've ever had!

There's no expiration date (it was probably packaged before the FDA required silly things like expiration dates) so technically I could still eat this mustard, I suppose. But at this point that seems like a bad idea. It's clearly moved out of "condiment" category into the "keepsake" category and I'm not sure what I should do with it. Should I put it in the box that has my High School Letter and debate club medals? Most likely, it will sit on my counter until I regretfully chuck it into the garbage. I'm not sure what having 7+ year mustard says about a person, but it certainly illustrates that I should be careful about what I buy because I'll likely keep it around longer than I plan.

Suffice it to say, what was meant to just be lunch turned into an unexpected time capsule which taught me - well, I don't know what about myself - other than that I really prefer my hot dogs to have relish and mustard.

Early Onset Alzheimers

I find it funny that there are things I forget about myself. For example, I regularly tell people that I don't have any allergies. When in fact I am allergic to kiwi fruit. If I eat one, my ears and back of my throat itch uncontrollably and sometimes my gums bleed, which I'm assuming means that I'm allergic. I haven't been officially diagnosed or anything - but it seems like a no-brainer. (I remembered this rather violently this weekend when I thought it would be fun to eat a kiwi.)

I also forget that I have scoliosis. On those forms that ask for your medical conditions I blithely write down "none" all the while forgetting that I do have one, even if it's such a mild case that it takes a team of nurses staring cockeyed saying, "Hmmm. What do you think, Ethel? It does look a little bit curved." This was extremely traumatizing for me as a pre-teen since it involved me without my shirt on in front of the PE teacher and school nurse. No wonder I've blocked it.

I also forget my blood type. Actually I'm not sure if I ever knew it. I should put this on my list of things to find out.

Sheesh! If I ever get married I supposed I'll have to cut my husband some slack if he can't remember things about me because apparently *I* can't remember things about me. And I'm supposed to be the expert!

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Siskel & Gretchen Present

When heading out to the theater this summer you'll be tempted to make time for the bawdy comedies, and the epic blockbusters, and even the animated ogres, but if you really want to make your $9.50 go the distance then there's really only one reasonable choice: Once a musical unlike any musical you've ever seen before. Truly, one of the most remarkable pieces of film-making I think I've ever seen. If you don't see it, well, you're really doing yourself a disservice. That's all I can say.

Go. See. It.
(you can thank me later)

As a side note, let's all hope that this little baby gets picked up by a distributor, so we don't have to waste 3 hours watching Pirates of the Caribbean.