Thursday, November 29, 2007

I picture them skipping

I just got a call from Rob who told me that he would not be home after work because he and Chat are going shopping. Because there is a sale. And Rob has this coat that he likes to visit at a store which shall remain unnamed. It’s so cute how Chat and Rob are a) the same person and b) girls.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Who is this Jesus McPherson?

In 2003, the Center for Democracy & Technology did a study to determine the source of Internet spam. I discovered the results of their study today because I am irritated at the amount of spam I receive and I would like to know what I did to deserve it. I had 500 spam emails waiting for me after the Thanksgiving holiday. Yes, they were caught in a spam folder, but I still had to delete them and make sure nothing legitimate got stuck in the folder. So I’m looking for someone to blame. Should it be, for example, my family members who send me those ridiculous forwards? Should it be my company for posting my email address on our websites? Should I blame the government, just because? Or should I blame the individual spammers, like today’s Jesus McPherson, who said he was a nice girl, just a little bit bored, and wanted to know if I was interested in chatting?
To summarize the findings of the study group, it turns out I should blame both myself and my company. Which is kind of a bummer, as I was really gunning for Jesus. It turns out that the addresses that receive the most spam are the ones that are posted on websites or in newsgroups. Ok, this is not entirely surprising, but what is one to do? The CDT suggests having your address listed as todd.blankenship at gmail dot com. Of course, you should only do this if your name is Todd Blankenship. Otherwise, it’s confusing.
The other major cause of spam receipt is filling out online forms and including your email address. Basically, don’t do that. Or, if you just can’t resist taking online quizzes and playing games, create an email address specifically for that use and deal with the fact that it is going to get spammed like crazy.
Wikipedia (Source of all Truths) reports that spam messages currently comprise an estimated 70-95% of all the email in the world and that spam cost businesses in the US more than $13 billion this year. I believe this because Jesus McPherson is only one of the many nice girls who want to chat with me on a daily basis. Jesus, if you’re reading this, let’s talk around 3pm. That’s usually when I hit my wall and need a pick-me-up.

Also from Wikipedia:
It is widely believed the term spam is derived from the 1970 Monty Python SPAM sketch, set in a cafe where nearly every item on the menu includes SPAM luncheon meat. As the server recites the SPAM-filled menu, a chorus of Viking patrons drowns out all conversations with a song repeating "SPAM, SPAM, SPAM, SPAM... lovely SPAM, wonderful SPAM", hence "SPAMming" the dialogue.

If this is true, it’s just fabulous information.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

This is your brain on politics

When I first read (I think in The New Yorker) that Barack Obama had admitted to smoking pot, I was highly (get it?) amused. I loved the response he gave when asked if he inhaled. “Isn’t that the point?” So now, of course, it’s being covered like it was this enormous political gaffe, like he'd better worry about how all the voters (many of whom have probably had their own brushes with questionable activity in their youth and beyond) will react. This is shocking, I know, but it seems that as a nation, we are not really into knowing the truth.

Let me set the scene:
Obama was asked by a high school audience if he had ever used drugs.
"There were times when I got into drinking, experimenting with drugs. There was a stretch of time where I did not really apply myself," Obama said.
He went on to say he realized that his choices were not the right ones for the life he wanted to lead, that he had made mistakes.

This is somehow worse than Clinton basically lying about inhaling? (I mean, come on. You didn’t inhale? Really? Then you weren’t doing it right, dude. Or…you’re lying.) And George W. Bush of all people refused to discuss his cocaine addiction for fear that kids would think it was cool (what?? more likely, this was based on fear that he never would have been elected. But do not get me started on that.) So, what I’m hearing is that as a presidential candidate, it’s fine to have had a drug problem as long as you don’t talk about it, but experimenting with drugs and admitting that it was a bad choice to a group of kids who is asking you an honest question? Huge deal. We’re not stupid, media. Clinton inhaled (Hillary probably did, too), Bush is just a gigantic ball of nose candy, and Obama smoked some pot. I’m not saying it’s a positive thing that our possible future leaders have used drugs. But let’s be realistic here. These are people we’re talking about, and they had experiences. Are they defined solely by those experiences? Are they marred for life because of them? More to the point, are they incapable of leading our country because they have, in the past, imbibed or inhaled? Let’s try to stick to the issues, please.

By the way, the award for best line in the CNN article goes to: Mitt Romney.

"I think in order to leave the best possible example for our kids, we're probably wisest not to talk about our own indiscretions in great detail," Romney said.

Ooooh. What do you think he did?

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Reflections on Thanksgiving

Rob and I spent the Thanksgiving holiday in Chicago. We arrived early Wednesday morning and left early today. 4 days. It doesn't seem like much, but it turns out it is exactly the right amount of time for habits to change and for people who typically eat healthy foods like fruit and vegetables to begin craving other foods. Like lard.
Minus one cousin, my entire extended family of 40 people was at my aunt and uncle's house for Thanksgiving dinner. Actually, 5 of them only made it for dessert, but really, what's the difference? 16 prison inmates could have showed up and no one would have noticed, as long as they brought a sweet potato dish.
The meal was, in fact, delicious, and it was great to see everyone. My lovable uncle Frank regaled us with his thoughts on such topics as the movie Ocean's Thirteen ("I hated it"), my impending wedding ("The more I have to spend to travel, the smaller your gift will be"), and my grandparents' new dog ("I hate it.")
Thanksgiving is really an excellent holiday. The food alone is worth the traveling, but it's my friends and family who are at the very top of the list of what I am thankful for in life. Would the holiday have been as special, for example, without three turkeys, massive mounds of mashed potatoes, my great grandma's recipe for giblet dressing, corn casserole, 2 kinds of sweet potatoes, cranberries, rutabaga, and multiple pumpkin pies? Maybe. But it definitely wouldn't have been the same if my grandpa, who turned 83 on Thanksgiving, hadn't passed his driver's test the day before, announcing to a room full of people that he had fallen in love with the "cute young girl" at the DMV.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Deepish Thought Tuesday

Contrary to popular belief, the cutest animal isn't the puppy, the kitten, or even the bunny.

It's the chinchilla riding on the puggle.

Monday, November 19, 2007

A concert on Monday night

We went to Radio City Music Hall tonight. It was one of those nights when you realize, hmm, it's Monday, someone remind me why we are going to a concert when it seems like such a good idea to open a bottle of wine and put on pajamas? But it was a good show. Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth opened up for Bright Eyes. Honestly, Thurston's set was cacophony punctuated by moments of melody. But I really liked the Bright Eyes set. The lead singer, Conor Oberst, is extremely self important, but also so talented that for a couple of hours you can overlook the ego. Plus, when there are groups of girls screaming your name at the top of their lungs, I imagine it might be hard to remember you are just a regular person. But, hey. Why not try?
He opened the first few songs with short explanations. "This one is about young love" or "This one is about purgatory." But after a while, he just resorted to statements such as, "This one's like [palm-up hand gesture making a curve over his head]."
Watching the band, Rob leaned over and asked me what instrument one of the guys was playing. "It's a banjo," I whispered.
"No," he said. "I'm pretty sure it's a mandarin."
"Really? A mandarin?"
"A mandarin is an orange. I think you mean mandolin."
Hysterical laughter, the kind that bothers the people around you.
Rob: "He's playing a mandarin. How does he do that?"

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Home alone

Rob is in California this week for work, which is always fun for me as long as it doesn’t last more than a couple of days. It means that I have total control over the TV and no compromising is necessary. I eat cereal for dinner, leave my things lying around, and generally behave like a 15-year-old who has her own apartment. Ok, I also go to the gym, get to bed early, and eventually clean up after myself, but the point is that I do whatever I feel like. And if I feel like watching The L-Word while eating a candy bar, that is what I do (once.)
HOWEVER. Last night when I got home from yoga, I went to turn the TV on and nothing happened. Normally, there is a little red light when the TV is off and a little green light when it’s on. No lights. Since my electronics/technology IQ is a 7 (out of 3500), I was confused. I walked in circles. I looked at the TV. I looked at the cats. No one knew what to do. I made sure the TV was plugged in. After that, I was pretty much out of ideas. I called Rob.
“Is the TV plugged in?” he asked. Yes. “Then without being there, I don’t know what to tell you.”
So I picked up my book. As someone who reads books all the time, I have no problem spending an evening that way. But let me tell you something. When you really wanted to watch Tell Me You Love Me On Demand while picking the cranberries out of a bag of granola, a book sometimes doesn’t cut it. It was an early night.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Meet the Martins

Last night we returned from a trip to sunny Ft Myers, Florida, where Rob and I introduced our parents to each other for the first time. Rob’s parents live there and my dad was in town for a baseball tournament. I assure you, you haven’t lived until you’ve seen the 60+ set play ball. I don’t know what’s more amusing: the running, the cigarette smoking, or the fact that they all call each other “babe.”* Rob was the official scorekeeper at the first game (it’s so weird that they didn’t ask me) and the coach explained his responsibilities like this “Ok, just start here in this column, babe.” Rob took the job very seriously, and I think this was mostly because it allowed him to walk away from the rest of us and look busy.

The parent meeting went well. Words to describe Rob’s mom: British, fun-loving, sweet, alcohol pusher. Not that anyone else had a problem with this. After all, what do you do in situations like this? Eat and drink. But I think if she had her way, we would have spent Sunday completely wasted on margaritas from a frozen bucket (and some of us might have drowned in the pool.) Also, whenever I said that something in the house was nice, she earnestly told me I could have it.
Words to describe my mom: short, friendly, energetic, grandchildren demander. But she put her demands on hold for a few days and concentrated on arguing with Rob’s stepdad about who was going to sit next to the mixed nuts (they bonded over their portion control issues.) She also made friends with the entire baseball team, “That’s Bill. I call him Billy” and only got yelled at once by the coach for distracting them in the dugout. It was a surprisingly serious tournament.

A high point was the dinner out when everyone went around the table and ordered ice teas and diet cokes. Rob and I didn’t even have to look at each other to know that we needed one entire bottle of wine. To start. My dad’s teammate Greg joined us that evening. Greg is vegan, which doesn’t really work in Ft Myers, but Rob’s mom was very helpful, explaining to him that she doesn’t eat red meat and has never had a problem finding something on the menu. Because that's the same.
All in all, it was a very enjoyable weekend that I don’t think requires any kind of annual tradition. I plan to coast on the memories for years to come.

*In a completely unbiased note, I excuse my dad from this assessment. He ran well and did none of those other things.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

It puts the lotion in the basket

Rob and I met John* for dinner last night. We were talking about how busy things have been and how we hadn’t all seen each other since our Martha’s Vineyard trip. As you may have noticed, we’ve had lots going on during the weekends this Fall and have been semi-neglecting the friends who actually live in town.

“It’s her fault,” Rob said, gesturing to me. I’m sure he followed this line with some ridiculous justification, like how I chain him to the couch on weeknights and force him to watch CSI, so he can’t help it that he’s not available to get together with John.

“It is not my fault,” I said. “And don’t call me her.”

“Sorry,” he replied. “It’s its fault.”

*Damn. I wanted to link to John's Facebook page here, but only people with memberships would be able to see it.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Brad Pitt plus my sister= Bralizabeth

Yes, it’s true. My sister moved to LA less than two months ago, yet has already found herself at a swanky Hollywood premier for Beowulf. I can’t remember if she said she liked the movie, because I was too busy looking at this picture of Brad Pitt with a little newsie hat on and Liz skulking in the background pretending to look normal.
Unless Liz's LA adventures continue in this vein, I can mostly promise that this will not become a celebrity sighting blog.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Vegan birthday

Rob and I went to a vegan restaurant tonight. It's my birthday, which is obviously the only reason he agreed to do this. It's also the reason he brought me my shampoo from the other room when I was already in the shower ("only because it's your birthday," he said, because hello. It was very hard for him to walk 5 feet to grab it for me and I should not expect such special treatment, for example, tomorrow.)
The restaurant, Blossom, is a block away from our apartment--a HUGE selling point considering daylight saving time caused the skies to go dark at something like 5pm, in turn causing me to lose all motivation and energy. I think I might hate daylight saving time. I'm going to give it one week to make sure, but it's not looking good.
Rob started the meal with a salad of tofu and field greens. He is generally suspicious of tofu ever since a bad experience at the gym when he ordered a grilled chicken wrap and got tofu. You know that scene in Big where Tom Hanks tries caviar and then, upon realizing it is disgusting, just kind of lets it fall right out of his mouth? Then you know how Rob reacted to his dangerous brush with the soy product. But he was remarkably tolerant of tonight's tofu. He followed it with a Brazilian dish that included black beans, tempeh, sweet potatoes and lime.
I started with a black eyed pea cake with some awesome aioli sauce and then portobello mushrooms stuffed with walnuts and tofu, apricot couscous, and asparagus. So good. Being vegan would be simple if all restaurants offered such deliciousness. But I'm happy being an occasional vegan diner and chef (aided immensely by books like Veganomicon: The Ultimate Vegan Cookbook.) So the restaurant is recommended and I am a year older. I plan to spend the rest of the evening seeing how many things Rob will fetch for me before he figures out I am abusing his goodwill.

Friday, November 2, 2007

I'm no quitter

This week, I decided not to drink caffeine. Monday and Tuesday I was fine, though a bit sluggish. Wednesday I had a major headache and no attention span. Thursday I was incredibly sleepy and unmotivated. I love coffee. LOVE. The reason I quit for the week is that I’m not sure coffee is doing much for me anymore, other than getting me wired and then causing a crash later. I wondered—just wondered—if it was causing me undue stress and if I would feel calmer and happier if I took some time off. I don’t think coffee is bad for you, though I’ve read conflicting information about that. The authors of the bestselling book Skinny Bitch write:

Think about how widely accepted it has become that people need coffee to wake up. You should not need anything to wake up. If you can’t wake up without it, you are either addicted to caffeine, sleep deprived, or a generally unhealthy slob…it’s not heroin, girls, and you’ll learn to live without it. Caffeine causes headaches, digestive problems, irritation of the stomach and bladder, peptic ulcers, diarrhea, constipation, fatigue, anxiety, and depression. Caffeine raises stress hormone levels, inhibits important enzyme systems that are responsible for cleaning the body, and sensitizes nerve reception sites. One study even links caffeine to an increased susceptibility to diabetes…P.S. it also makes your breath smell like ass.

Ok. It’s clear where they stand on this. The Skinny Bitch authors like to start their day with decaf green tea. But others do not agree. An article on WebMD discusses the benefits of coffee, citing six studies that show that coffee, in fact, lowers your risk of diabetes, Parkinson’s and colon cancer. I admit that I don’t spend a lot of time worrying about my chances of being diagnosed with any of those diseases, but the fact is that people can’t agree on the effects caffeine has on the human body. Weird. Wikipedia (Source of All Truths) states that:

...the mainstream view of medical experts is that drinking three 8-ounce (236 ml) cups of coffee per day (considered average or moderate consumption) does not have significant health risks for adults.

And here’s the thing. After 4 days of no caffeine, I had a cup of coffee this morning. AND I AM SO HAPPY.