December 31, 2010

Another Passing

One of the many cool things the late Dr. Billy Taylor did was coordinate the very first jazz TV series, The Subject Is Jazz.  

Here he is in 1958, looking very young and dapper ...

(Your mind isn't playing tricks on you, that IS Doc Severinsen on trumpet.)

Don't miss this clip from the "Swing" installment, featuring one hell of a band...  Ben Webster on sax, Buck Clayton on trumpet, Mundell Lowe on guitar, Benny Morton on trombone...

2010: The Apocryphal Chinese Curse

I beg your indulgence as I once again fix my gaze upon the Secondmost navel.

Right from the start, 2010 was a year of upheaval.  In the space of two weeks, I went from an apartment-dweller with a remarkably stable job and a borderline long-distance relationship to a homeowner with a live-in partner* and...  well, perhaps you have heard, but it was an interesting year in radioland.
*It just feels squicky to call a grown man my "boyfriend."  The language really needs to catch up to social realities.  Get to it, lexicographers! 

There's no need to revisit the dramas of the past twelve months right now.  The new year stands off in the wings, frantically running lines.  I'm truly looking forward to this next act.

The thing is, I've always had this gnawing doubt.  This probably sounds silly to anyone who didn't know her, but I've always wondered what Grandma would have thought about me as an adult, and I've always felt I fell short.  And this is the first year of my life in which I've felt absolutely sure that she'd be proud of the person I've become.

I do something I believe in; I work with people I love.  That's been true for a long time, lucky me!  But there's something about the crystallizing experience of having had to defend all of that which makes it no longer acceptable to be quiet or meek or accommodating of unreasonable positions.

This is the year when the bushel came off the light for good.  This is the year when I stopped saving the good stuff for a special occasion.  This is the year when I incorporated upheaval into my DNA, thriving on chaos like those Mono Lake bacteria do on arsenic.

I'm pretty sure I finally picked up the Death Stare Of Waspy Disapproval, also.  I'd demonstrate, but it's not the kind of power you fool around with.

Who knows what Me of 12/31/11 will think about all of this?  ("Oh, that post was before everything really went to hell.  Cute!"?)

I have very little certainty about the future, but I have hope.  I have had the gift of having to examine and fight for my values.  I have the best friends, family, and colleagues anyone could ever hope to have.

I anticipate very little boredom this coming year.

December 30, 2010

Under The Sink

Yesterday was the first anniversary of closing on my house...  that means today is the first anniversary of the move.


My dear friend and officemate arrives at the apartment at some ludicrously early hour to help us safely transport the irreplaceable breakables (the cats, the crystal).  The fine folks from Dorr's Moving show up around 7AM. 

Mom stays behind to coordinate movers as I choreograph: the Comcast guy, the locksmith, the carpet cleaner, the mattress deliveries.  

Around 11, I'm puzzled as to why my cell phone is going off with my previous ringtone.  I realize after a few moments that fatigue has left me easily confused, and I am actually hearing a car stereo outside.  But I figure I'm in my kind of neighborhood if I hear "Radio, Radio" coming out of a random car. 

The cats somehow crawl under the bathroom vanity, which has something like 3" of clearance.  They are not built to smoosh, but they manage.  I check on them periodically; their four wide eyes stare at me from the abyss with the kind of sheer horror I haven't seen since retrieving Ian from the recovery area after he was neutered.

To our amazement, we somehow had an entire truckload of stuff in the apartment.  I end up having to call friends to go get the plants and most of my clothes.  

At about 7PM, everything's moved in.  Interestingly Bearded Friend Mike very kindly offers to take us to dinner; sadly, we are too tired to eat.  We collapse around 9.

The next day, The Man Of The House becomes...  The Man Of The House.  Things are pretty quiet for the next week and a half or so.  Then things get interesting.

December 29, 2010

Let Not The Day Go Unmarked

I can hardly believe it, but I closed on Castle Secondmost a year ago today.

I knew it would be an adventure owning the roof over my head--but I'm so very glad I had no idea how roof-centric my year would be.

Also, I pause to pat myself on the back: I'm damn close to being unpacked.

Today In Pure Excellence

I just received a card from an old friend who has as warped a sense of humor as I do.

The printed greeting is:
May the love and blessings of your Confirmation Day follow you your whole life through

It is signed "Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! Lizzie and Greg"

Five Songs: Good Stuff From 2010

Five Songs is an occasional SMLTS feature consisting of thematically-grouped lists of five songs. They're not necessarily the very best or most representative. They're just ones I like and feel like finding an excuse to post. This is not a scientific poll, a critical argument, or anything that takes much work. THIS IS A LAZY STRUCTURAL GIMMICK. Nevertheless, you will probably have your own High Fidelity-style arguments with all of these lists. Go on with your bad self.

First off all, allow me to underline the usual disclaimer:  This is NOT an attempt at a "Five Best Songs Of 2010" list.  If anything, this is something of a Rorschach test.  These are the five songs that popped into my mind first when I thought about what I really enjoyed this year.  Or at least the first five that popped into my head and did, upon fact-checking, turn out to be from 2010 and not late 2009.

Don't read anything into omissions, unless you're the kind of person who gets their jollies from arguing with meaningless lists.  ("I can't BELIEVE she left off Dolly and the Skywalkers' kazoo cover of "Freebird"!  THAT TRACK TAUGHT ME HOW TO FEEEEEEL!!!)

This is merely some stuff that's found a place in my heart and on my iPod; yea, verily, unto my Top 100 Most Played playlist.  These are not in any meaningful order.  It's just a fun little list.  And since I disabled comments before my very first post, I can write this sort of thing without being berated by pissed-off hipsters.  WOOHOO!

1) Achievement In Pop Goodness
The Love Language "Heart To Tell"
Here's a short, acoustic-guitar-propelled, infectious tune with some neat little lyrical twists.  "Some fools rush in/some fools just wait."  (SMLTS will play musical sommelier and recommend pairing this with the Morning Benders' cover of "Fools Rush In."  Your jangle-pop needs will be sated for some time.)

Were "Scrubs" still on the air, this would be all over some heartwarmingly silly montage at the end of the episode.  I like to believe that Rowdy the stuffed dog would somehow have been involved.

2) Achievement In Disheveled Rootsy Mischief
Or: DO Try To Contain Your Surprise, Here Is A Felice Brothers Song
The Felice Brothers "Ahab" (Mix Tape was released in 2010!  HA!)
Part of the charm of these guys is that they always sound slightly tipsy.  So be forewarned that they sound are especially charming here, if you define "charming" as "sounding like Dylan on a minimum of a fifth of Jack."

Also there is yodeling.

Aw, fuck it, let's go with "The Captain's Wife" instead.

3) Continued Achievement In Total Ass-Kicking
Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings "The Game Gets Old"
I Learned The Hard Way was on heavy rotation on my iPod for a good, solid chunk of the Spring.  The songs are all well-written, the Dap-Kings hit that sweet spot where precision and soul dance in harmony, and Sharon Jones has some serious pipes.  I couldn't quite believe that something this solidly entertaining saw release in this post-album age.

I hate to say something as cliched as "It's so hard to pick just one song"...  but...  well, you know.  Here's a quite recent live performance of "The Game Gets Old."

4) Achievement In Freshening-Up The Classics
Catherine Russell "As Long As I Live"
As anyone who listens to my beloved 90.5FM knows, we have been playing the heck out of Inside This Heart Of Mine, and for good reason.
This is another one which is really tough to pull one track from.  Because hers is easily my favorite version of a great standard, I'm giving the nod to "As Long As I Live."  (But "Troubled Waters" is a close, close second.)

5) The SMLTS Song Of The Year: Further Unsurprise
Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band "Ain't Good Enough For You"

Of course, even though it's a tad sketchy popping something in here that's not NEW new, this wasn't released until 2010...  I do so love a good kiss-off song, and this is an FU par excellence.

December 28, 2010

I've Got A Driver And That's A Start

I didn't expect to spend yesterday buying a car.

Contain your anxiety, o drivers of Western Pennsylvania: I am still among the unlicensed.  (HEY, you didn't have to sigh with relief quite that audibly.  Sheesh, you think you know your loyal readership...)  No no no, Little Monster Friend called me around lunchtime wondering if I felt like hitting the after-Christmas sales.  I did.  So we cast off towards the magic land of Pleasant Hills, home to Marts of all kind, K and Wal*.  (And Target, which would throw off my lovely parallel structure.)

LMF has been thinking of trading in his car for a while.  He idly mentioned popping in to a dealership or two to look at possibilities.  Sure, why not?

So, we went to a couple of stores.  I bought snazzy cheap wrapping paper for next Christmas.  Also laundry detergent.  (TANGENT ALERT: Anyone know why it's so touch-and-go finding a place that offers Wisk?  It's like the Amex of household cleansers.)  And as we shopped, plans solidified in LMF's mind.  He bought scratch removers and plastic cleansers and new mats, on the theory that he could bump up the trade-in value of the Monstermobile.

LMF always buys those big coupon books, and I suppose I shouldn't be surprised that he found a car wash coupon.  So we drove to a car wash some distance away.  Gas prices, cost/benefit analysis, grumble grumble.  Anywho, we put the car through the deluxe version of the car wash.  Do you ever wonder what future archaeologists will think of the edifices we leave behind?  I do, often.  Can't imagine what they'll think of drive-through car washes.

We pulled off at the vacuums and attacked the car thoroughly.  About eight years of detritus went into a garbage bag for safekeeping.  For the first time, I noticed how shabby the poor old vehicle had become.  It seems like yesterday that LMF bought the car, used but in great shape.  I thought of a wonderfully colorful professor I had who railed against the dumb slogan "live fast, die young, leave a good-looking corpse."  I can still see him, looming over the classroom like a markedly more mentally-stable Hemingway, slamming the long table with his fist.  "That's bullshit!  Live as much and as well and as long as you can, and leave a body that shows it."

For an inanimate object, that car sure lived.

We ended up at a Ford dealership.  LMF had a few models in mind, and was completely flexible on the color, so long as it wasn't: white, black, red, grey, or "ugly."  I pointed out an attractive deep turquoise.  He liked it.  We both liked the low-key salesman very much, agreeing that it's nice to reward people for not being assholes.  We went for a test drive, and then started the paperwork.

LMF looked up from the credit application.  "Was it this bad getting a mortgage?"  I laughed ruefully--one of the skills I've honed to perfection this year--and assured him that it was much, much worse.  Which made him feel better.

LMF and I spent a good chunk of the evening waiting in the lounge.  We watched TV: people stranded on the coast owing to the blizzard, people shopping, people putting seat cushions out at Heinz Field in preparation for the Winter Classic.  LMF figures they put out the seat cushions so the stands won't look so ugly on television.  I'm not sure he's wrong.

The lounge walls were lined with sales awards from Ford, made to look like gold records.  In order to look more hep, the frames also contained gold-tone CDs and cassettes.  Thus does the American auto industry keep up with the times.

By this time, we were hungry.  I started my day with a cup of black coffee, and had had nothing since.  I thought longingly of the beautiful leftovers in my fridge as I bought a vending machine hot cocoa and a packet of peanuts.

Eventually, we walked into the dark and shuffled all of our stuff from the trunk of the old Monstermobile into the new.  It was exciting: LMF's very first new car!  I took a picture.  I am a dork.

As he drove off into the inky night, fiddling with the dial, scooting cheerfully past anything on Sirius I might actually want to hear, I hoped this would be merely the first of many long-overdue new beginnings to come soon.

As we pulled into a restaurant parking lot, LMF realized he'd left his Lady Gaga CD in the old Monstermobile.  Also, he'd accidentally taken the key to his old car with him.  Same guy, new car.  I take comfort in stability.

December 26, 2010

Spot The Marketing Fail!

Christmas Potpourri

Famiglia Secondmost had a lovely first Christmas.  I made (along with a slew of dirty dishes):

roast turkey
mashed potatoes (real, of course, with cream and butter)
mashed potatoes (real, with chicken stock, for the lactose intolerant Man Of The House)
gravy (real, made with proper turkey drippings)
stuffing (Stove-Top)
stuffing (from The Man Of The House's mother's recipe)
candied kielbasa (also from The Man Of The House's mother's recipe)
curried peaches (sounds weird, but very yummy)
vegetable medley
4-layer chocolate cake (from scratch), filled alternately with marzipan and chocolate-cherry ganache, frosted with boiled icing


I ended up with a bunch of excellent swag (thanks guys, <3  )...  including Judah Friedlander's How To Beat Up Anybody, which had me laughing nigh unto the point of drooling in the aisle at Barnes & Noble.

I also got pirate Shrinky Dinks, which is an eminently appropriate Pastafarian holiday gift.  (Of course, if you see ninja Shrinky Dinks, it'll be the last thing you see.)

By the way, my streak was broken when listening to Kevin Gavin's annual request show on Christmas Eve.  Sure enough, someone asked for "Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer."

On the other hand, lest I be accused of snobbery, I was kinda glad to hear "O Christmouse Tree."  We had that on 45.  No, really.
The Man Of The House had his first encounter with Christmas crackers this year. Surprising...  I mean, here is a holiday tradition that involves minor explosions, and he was totally unaware of it!

I got a little metal puzzle, TMOTH got a giant plastic paper clip, and Mom got...  a pair of tweezers.  Um, whee?
Things that were inarguably better about pre-Elmo Sesame Street:

*endearingly obvious puppetry rather than obnoxious computer animation
*Mr. Hooper (may he rest in peace)
*Oscar was a real GROUCH!

It's A Disturbingly Long, Icky While From May To December

America's creepy uncle, 84-year-old Hugh Hefner, just got engaged to a 24-year-old.

Blue Laws Is On Christmas Break

Your regularly-scheduled sophomoric humor will return next week.

December 22, 2010

Sweet Home Pennsylvania

Yr. Obdt. Svt. is rather fond of various results of the fermentation process.  Yr. Obdt. Svt. probably lives in the wrong state.

You know those wine kiosks that are so exciting because we can actually buy wine in a supermarket?  (Not, of course, in the regular checkout lane.  But in the same building as you buy your food!  FEMINISM!*)  Well, not only is there an extra service charge and a limited selection, they're only open during regular PLCB business hours.  Also, they break a whole lot.

We should not be at all surprised that all of the kiosks will be closed for repairs until "early next year."

*This is a gratuitous 30 Rock reference re: hollow victories.  Related: Buck Henry is still awesome.  That is all.

December 21, 2010

Joys Of Homeownership

I got a Christmas card today from a plumber.  Not surprising; 'tis the season for courtesy calls and cards from vendors and tradesmen of all stripes.

It took me a couple of moments to realize it wasn't even from a plumber I've ever actually hired or contacted in any way.

Never ceases to amaze me how many cold mailings I get simply because I have my name on a deed.

December 20, 2010

A Christmas Gift For You From Duke Ellington

I had this brilliant idea that I was going to make my own Christmas cards this year.  Didn't happen.  But I ran across this while I was looking for quotes to use, and I think it's too nifty to keep to myself.  (Honest!)
How can anyone expect to be understood unless he presents his thoughts with complete honesty? This situation is unfair because it asks too much of the world. In effect, we say, "I don't dare show you what I am because I don't trust you for a minute but please love me anyway because I so need you to. And, of course, if you don't love me anyway, you're a dirty dog, just as I suspected, so I was right in the first place." Yet, every time God's children have thrown away fear in pursuit of honesty-trying to communicate themselves, understood or not, miracles have happened.

Duke Ellington--from the program notes for "A Concert of Sacred Music" (1965)

Not To Jinx It, But I Haven't Heard "Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer" This Year

Yesterday's wild baking frenzy was accompanied by a whole lot of Christmas music, thanks to the magic of iPod speakers.  Allow me to pontificate:

  • My Christmas playlist is pretty extensive at about 350 songs, although I can tell you now that approximately 25% of them are Nat Cole's version of "The Christmas Song."  It must be on every sampler I've ever bought. Must do a duplicate track search sometime. 
  • I'm increasingly annoyed by "The Christmas Waltz," not as a whole, but for one specific lyrical shortcoming:
Santa's on his way,
He's filled his sleigh
With things, things for you and for me

"Things?"  Can we maybe get a bit more specific?  Toys?  Gifts?  Sub-machine guns?

  • DISHONORABLE MENTION: I DO NOT own this, but I heard it A LOT driving around with my buddy Rob on Saturday.  That song about the kid buying shoes for his dead mother.  Gahd.  It's not that it's maudlin--it IS, of course, but I'm rather tolerant of the maudlin-it's that there's no frickin' SONG.  That's unforgiveable.  Also, I'm pretty sure that Jesus isn't supposed to care about your shoes.  ("Welcome to Heaven, my child, where thou shalt dwell at the right hand of my fath--HEY, are those Manolos?") 
  • I really like the Beach Boys' holiday repertoire, although if I'm in a wandering-mind kind of mood, I can't help but imagine how un-merry Christmas with Murry Wilson would have to have been.  Although Christmas ornaments can make extremely festive substitutes for glass eyes!  (Oh COME ON, laugh, it's OK.  Much like it's always acceptable to enjoy watching Nazis get popped at the movies, it's always fine and dandy to belittle Murry Wilson's people skills.) 
  • Similarly, as much as I enjoy A Christmas Gift For You From Phil Spector...  Oh, crazy/brilliant quotient, how you toy with humanity.  Nothing says "Christmas" quite like a version of "Silent Night" interpolated with a monologue by a mentally-unhinged future murderer... 
  • It's still pretty surreal that Yoko Ono's voice is as much a part of Christmas as Burl Ives' or Gene Autry's.

December 19, 2010

LOAD "*",8,1

Aww, YEAH!  I would SO buy this if I thought it was real....

(Almost certainly prank site here; found this via BoingBoing.)

I Did A Little Baking Today

Blue Laws: The SMLTS Sunday Supplement 12/19/10

Blue Laws: The weekly roundup of not-particularly-work-safe things that amuse SMLTS.  Readers who are sensitive to naughty language, double (or indeed single) entendre, and basic bodily functions should not read this post!  Such sensitive souls should be on a crusade to ban "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus," because when you really think that one through, it's rather disturbing, and not because of the inherent duality of SantaDad.  You want to know why, instead of being traumatized, the narrator is oddly gleeful when speculating "what a laugh it would have been if Daddy had only seen Mommy kissing Santa Claus last night"?   It's because children are cold, calculating little giftmongers and the kid is doing the math on the outcome of Mommy running away with Santa.  

Trust me, the little sprite is all, "Well, sucks for Dad... but my Power Ranger needs are going to be met from here on out.  See ya at the North Pole, SUCKAS!  Woohoo!"

Of course...  Santa=Dad; the potential endless supply of toys was merely a mirage; thus do the Gods punish our arrogance.  

Or perhaps--just possibly--we are finding subtext where none exists.  Also, do kids like Power Rangers anymore?  Huh.  What about Etch-A-Sketch?  God, I love Etch-A-Sketch.  So satisfying, scraping away at that silvery powder.  Even if everything ends up looking like monochromatic Mondrian.   

Right, where were we?  Oh, yeah.  Brave souls, let's enjoy some extremely juvenile humor, shall we?  Hmm?

Blue Laws: These colors don't run.  But they just might leak.

December 18, 2010

Random Thoughts On Christmas Food

I didn't set out to make this a tribute to freshly-retired Larry King...  but, yeah, this reads like one of his old columns.  "I don't care what anybody says, I enjoy Brach's nougats..."

Everybody makes those little round butter cookies rolled in powdered sugar.  Everybody calls them something different.  (Our version is called "Mexican Wedding Cookies," though there is absolutely nothing discernibly Mexican or marital about them.)

Some people eat oysters (on purpose!) at Christmas.  I was never big on that whole concept...  and let's just say that I now associate raw oysters with Roger Sterling, a 12-martini lunch, and a malfunctioning elevator.  (SPOILER ALERT: It ended badly.  Especially for the poor girl who got stuck cleaning the carpet.)

Does anything lose its value more quickly than candy canes?  (Maybe bus passes.)  December 25th, they're festive and delightful; December 26, nobody wants anything to do with them.  I always have great intentions of doing something creative with crushed peppermint candy after the holidays, and I never do.

I bought a lovely new pudding mold a few years ago, and have forgotten to make plum pudding every single year since then.

Why don't Reese's peanut butter trees taste as good as Reese's peanut butter eggs?

Human ingenuity knows no bounds when it comes to creating new and unappetizing snack foods to tuck into holiday gift baskets.  Take wasabi-covered dried peas.  Someone actually thought that the best possible use of their time was to spray some flavoring on dried legumes, which, frankly, is not a sign of vigorous mental health.  I fear the day when a packet of BBQ lentils crosses my path.  God help us when one of these guys has a vat of chocolate and a peck of buckwheat hulls at his disposal.

December 16, 2010

Little Full. Lotta Sap.

Yr. Obdt. Svt. had a personal day to use up before Christmas, so I spent today being all seasonal!  The Man Of The House and I went to The Strip and bought a whole load of yummy-smelling dismembered pine...  ninety feet of pine roping, a nice big wreath mit pinecones sans tacky red bow, a candle ring AND a swag.  We are reliably informed that there are still some pines left untouched.  Somewhere.

After we got home from the ritual tree sacrifice, I set off to Bloomfield with Mom.  We usually make the rounds of the shops on Liberty around this time of year.  It's ridiculously festive; the curbs and traffic meters look especially Christmassy, illegally painted as they are in the colors of the Italian flag.  Bloomfield at Christmas is "Silver Bells."  Or at least "Silver Bells" meets The Sopranos.

We acquired a Troy Polamalu Christmas ornament.  The Steeler tree O-line still needs work, but 'twere ever thus.

Oh yes, we have a Steeler tree (dining room).  We also have a small tree in the kitchen (still needs decorated), and of course the big extra-wintry tree in the living room, which Mom spearheaded as an antidote for all those depressingly warm, muddy-brown Christmases we've had in recent years.  (The theme is "Winter Solstice Boogie."  We have the funkiest glittered penguins in town!)

Also, I was informed today that we have a tree in the second floor bathroom.  (SURPRISE!)  This year being what it has been, I should clarify that it's a decorative tree that was placed there on purpose, NOT another reason to call the homeowner's insurance.

Right now, I'm experimenting with gingerbread cupcakes.  Am encouraged so far.  They look good, smell great, need to cool a bit before being frosted.


I can actually feel the dopamine hitting my bloodstream when Muppet Michael Steele is on The Daily Show.

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
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December 15, 2010

Things Modern Science Could Have Learned Simply By Observing A Pledge Drive

It seems that having something sugary with your coffee helps improve concentration.

I'll have coffee and a doughnut for breakfast, dark chocolate and red wine for dinner...  and I will live forever, mentally intact.  L'chaim!

Today In "Oh Hell No"

Michael Vick: I Would Like To Own A Dog Again Someday (USA Today)

Probiotic, Antibiotic, Agnostibiotic...

The FTC has cracked down on Dannon for those Activia ads to the tune of a $21 million fine...  the feds are not down with the claims of increased immunity and such.

If only the Good Taste Police could make Jamie Lee Curtis stop telling us about the state of her bowels...

December 14, 2010

The SMLTS Guide To Malfunctioning Brains

If you've never had a migraine, please take a moment right now to make an offering of thanks to your deity of choice.  Some experiences are every bit as bad as their reputations would lead you to believe, and migraines are definitely high up there on the list of crappy things your body can put you through.

F*(#ing Migraines, How Do They Work?
About 25% of women and 8% of men suffer migrainesLoads of research is being done, not all of it motivated by potential profit, although of course the existence of that huge market certainly motivates the medical-industrial complex.  So, how do migraines work?  The short answer is, nobody really knows, beyond a general consensus that something goes kaflooey in your brain.

Every migraine sufferer ("migraineur") has individual triggers, which can be any combination of (among others) diet, stress, dehydration, altered sleep schedule, exposure to busy visual patterns, changes in barometric pressure, and hormonal shifts.

So, What's A Migraine Like?
It varies from sufferer to sufferer, and from headache to headache.

A mild migraine can be very similar to a bad sinus headache.  In fact, recent research has shown that a large percentage of "sinus headaches" are actually migraines.  And there's nothing to stop you having a sinus headache and a migraine all at once, just to maximize your fun potential.

A severe migraine can present very much like a stroke, causing slurred speech, aphasia, and poor coordination.  Nausea, vomiting, and numbness in the extremities are common.

If you're extra super-duper unlucky, you get what is known as an ocular migraine, or migraine with aura.  That's when you get visual effects so unpleasant that they make you forget the screaming pain you're in.  (I called my migraines "spots" when I was a kid, because the splitting headache and the vomiting weren't nearly as freaky to me as the flashing lights and partial blindness.  No doubt, this contributed to the fact that I wasn't properly diagnosed until I was an adult.)

People do ask me, in all seriousness, why I don't drive.  I don't have much of a sense of direction when I'm healthy, and I can become blind, numb and confused without much warning.  Seems like a no-brainer to me.

There are some pretty decent simulations online of what the visual effects of a migraine aura, or scintillating scotoma, look like.  They're kind of hard to sketch or describe because you can't quite look at them head-on.  And they are, pretty much by definition, your brain screwing with you.

Thing That Will Cause Any Migraine Sufferer To Belt You One
Just As Soon As They're Feeling Better
Helpfully ask if they're allergic to aspirin, or did they forget to take an ibuprofen, etc.  As if, gosh o shorten, the migraineur just darn forgot about aspirin, silly goose.  Seriously.  We are aware of painkillers.  Promise.

A migraine isn't simply a bad headache--it's a deeply-unpleasant neurological event of which the headache itself is only part.  It won't go away with a couple of aspirin.  (Although a couple of aspirin is a good start.  You're probably not taking enough until your ears ring.  No, really.)

What Can You Do About It?
Obviously, A-number-one, anyone suffering migraines should talk to a doctor.  All treatments have benefits and drawbacks.  If dealing with migraines was a simple as popping a pill, everybody would buy that damn pill

As far as managing the condition, the best thing any migraineur can to do is be observant.  Figure out what factors tend to be associated with your migraines.  Do you get them when you've been working odd hours, or skipping meals, or eating a certain food?  Take steps to alleviate the obvious triggers--eat heathy meals on time, get a proper night's sleep, drink plenty of water.  The more you do to mitigate triggers in your daily life, the better you'll be able to handle ones you can't control.  I can't change the barometric pressure, but I can make sure I'm hydrated.

Sometimes caffeine helps.  (I saw an article recently about a Wilco-branded coffee, and my first thought was "Hey, I wonder if famous migraneur Jeff Tweedy self-medicates with his own coffee?"  My second thought was "Wilco coffee?  What the hotel foxtrot?")

There's a fair body of clinical research to support the use of magnesium.  (They even use magnesium sulfate IVs to treat migraines in the emergency room.)  While there is far from universal agreement in the medical community, it's widely believed that regular use of magnesium supplements can help lessen frequency and severity of migraines.    It sure helps me, YMMV. 

So, to my fellow migraineurs: My sympathies.  Everyone who has never had a migraine: Be very grateful.

December 13, 2010

Reason #8,632 Why I Miss Spy: Spy Was Hackerproof...

Well, that security breach at Gawker sure is a mess...

Sure enough, I got my very own email from "The Team At Hint" (who seem thus far to be Good Samaritans):

Even now, I still haven't received an email from Gawker about the hack.  Unbelievable.

So...  here's a quick roundup of what you need to know if you're a registered commenter on Gawker:

*Assume you've been hacked.  If you've used your Gawker password on anything else, even if your user name is different, go change your passwords.  Like, now.  Especially for banking, credit cards, Amazon, iTunes, etc.  

*This applies to Gawker AND all Gawker Media sites (io9, Jezebel, Jalopnik, Kotaku, Deadspin, Gizmodo, Lifehacker... and Fleshbot, for ya wee naughty pikers).

*There's a nice widget on Slate which tells you if your password was among the ones that were decrypted right off the bat.  (Mine wasn't, whew!)  If not, you can enjoy some limited peace of mind...  but consider it your notice that you have a little time to act before your information is misused.  Just because your password hasn't been hacked doesn't mean it won't be.

*Gawker's Q&A thread is here.

*As of right now, you probably can't reset your Gawker password.  Sounds like it'll be an option again around midnight EST.

All this trouble, and I'm not even a starred commenter.  Sigh.

Monday The Thirteenth

  • Maybe I'll stop whining self-righteously about Facebook's casual disregard of user privacy now...  naaah.  (At least Gawker was just stupidly lax rather than intentionally evil.)  

  • Maybe an old standard could use a few updated couplets... Early on ol' Netflix/Had its many critics?  The CEO of Netflix proposed a partnership to Blockbuster over a decade ago, and was literally laughed down. Ho ho ho, who's got the last laugh now?

Smooth Criminal

Blood trail leads to razor blade thief (Post-Gazette)

I Swear I Left The Blog Archive RIGHT THERE!

You'll note that I just tinkered with the layout a bit to try to make SMLTS more readable.  (At least as far as the font and stuff.  The content will continue to be littered with the usual distractions.)

The archive is still up, it's just been moved to the bottom of the page.

December 12, 2010

Blue Laws: The SMLTS Sunday Supplement 12/12/10

Blue Laws: The weekly roundup of not-particularly-work-safe things that amuse SMLTS.  Readers who are sensitive to naughty language, double (or indeed single) entendre, and basic bodily functions should not read this post!  These readers should instead focus on the important things, such as how I TOTALLY GOT CARDED LAST WEEK, WOOHOO!  Everybody else...  Fair warning, we start with a total buzzkill, but then we get right back to our usual disreputable self.   

This week...  how to succeed in business without really having a shred of humanity, the continuing awesomeness of Betty White, and the continuing mystery of how one inexplicably famous person is not only still famous but also endorsing products for actual money.

Santa knows which list Blue Laws goes on this year...  

December 11, 2010

It's The Little Things

I saw these in Wholey's this morning and literally yelped.

In fact, I was so happy to find apple rings again that I feel a bit of a churl noting that this "FARM MADE" product, made "just like Grandma did with the same care and quality, using... the same kitchen recipes that have been handed down for generations," is made with HFCS.

December 10, 2010

If You Really Love Christmas, Come On And Let It Snow

Friday is evidently Anglophilia day at SMLTS...

It's kind of funny in these post-pop-chart days, but it's somewhat of a competition in the UK to have the #1 single at Christmas.  (Those of you who have seen Love, Actually will already be familiar with this odd tradition and also the total awesomeness of Bill Nighy as a washed-up rock star trying to climb his way back into commercial success through means of a truly atrocious single.)

This year, I'm rooting for Cage Against The Machine, which has recorded 4'33".

I'm told this is some sort of protest against X Factor, which is a nice lagniappe.  The sheer conceptual geekiness thrills me to my festive little toes!

On Non-Productive Ways To Register Distress About Tuition Increases

Because I take an interest in security and counterespionage (not only having read some Gavin deBecker but also as the proud owner of all the Emma Peel episodes of The Avengers on DVD), I am totally qualified to contribute my expert opinion on the attack on Prince Charles' car the other day.

This to me is the understatement of the week:

"Former royal protection officer Ken Wharfe told the BBC the royals' 'shiny brown limousine' was 'a challenge' the crowd couldn't resist — and once it became a target, escape was very difficult. ... 'I do think this was the classic example where the Prince of Wales should have been using his armored Bentley — it's far less conspicuous.' "  (via NPR)

Yes, the key word there is ARMORED.  Look, I can well imagine wanting to keep the security precautions to a low roar and all, but seriously.  It absolutely boggles my mind that the heir to the throne was toolin' around in anything that had windows that could shatter.  Especially given the circumstances of the kidnap attempt on Princess Anne in 1974, you would think that securing the car would be priority one for all subsequent royal outings.

While I applaud the desire to avoid overreaction--which I doubt I would display if, in addition to the above, my uncle and his boat had been blown up--I really don't think a (tastefully!) armored car is overdoing it.

Also, the Bentley is a sweet, sweet ride. 

December 9, 2010

Your TV: Not Just A DVD Display Device!

TV GOODNESS (yes, it still happens!):  I'm assuming all my SMLTS peeps are already squeeing--SQUEEING, I say!--in anticipation of the glorious insanity of another Donaghy family Christmas on 30 Rock.  Elaine Stritch and Alan Alda return.  Hey, I've been wondering about Milton's kidney... 

Quick plug for a deserving cause...  If you're the type of person who appreciates snarky but essentially heartfelt blogs which more often than not hide jokes in the tag line, you really would like Community.   Honest.  I know it got off to a rough start, but it's one of the most gleefully surreal, clever, original shows on the teevee these days.  Tonight's Christmas episode was shot in the style of a twisted Rankin-Bass special.  You know you want to see a stop-motion John Oliver puppet.

TV BADNESS:  Aw man, SMLTS nemesis Seth Rogen will be on Mythbusters next week.  Ugh.  Is nothing sacred? 

December 8, 2010

Random Cheery Things

bacon: all other foods :: lightsabers: all fight scenes

Cautiously optimistic over here...


Aretha Franklin has pancreatic cancer.

Icing With A Chance Of Sprinkles

It's kind of funny that a call a day when I don't go to work "a day off."  I'm just now (8:30ish) sitting down!

We finally started decorating...  the tree is up!  (And good!)

This is actually our emergency backup tree.  Last Christmas, we tried to go without a tree because of the move.  This plan was practical, sensible, and therefore totally unsuited to our household.  So we ordered a small, cheap tree, decorated it lightly, and took it down on 12/26.  Christmas really did suck last year, have I mentioned?

Here in my very own home, I truly thought that my drop ceilings would be gone by now.  Like so many projects, that's had to be delayed because of the nasty surprise of the horrible...  drop roof?  Anyway, right now the beautiful 9-1/2' tree is tucked away down in the basement.  (That's one thing I do miss about my old apartment...  Oh, those high, coffered ceilings!  So beautiful, if you ignored the falling plaster.)

Progress was also made on goodies.  Having learned from my sad experience with the new gingerbread recipe (which had the best-tasting dough ever--I don't know how the baked cookies were so bland), I went back to the tried-and-true version.  MUCH better.  I also made sugar cookies.  Groove: Back.

So...  anyway, I was busy all day.  I'm just now checking my email.  A full day of December email, all at one time...  ugh, the ads!  The junk mail!

I know we all buy crap we don't need during the holidays, but geez...

The Official Airline Of Anthrocon!

(This actually refers to Pet Airways.  Lest anyone wonder what sort of listservs I'm on.)

HEY, that's my act, buddy.

December 7, 2010

It Was All Downhill From Dig Dug

Over the course of my childhood, I pumped a lot of quarters into arcade machines.  Pac-Man.  Q-Bert.  Donkey Kong.  My grandma didn't have to worry too much about accumulating a superabundance of change, partially because I enjoyed video games, mainly because I was really terrible at them.

We also had an Atari at home, and some seriously trippy games.  I remember being especially tortured by Berzerk, the one in which you had to avoid being attacked by a big bouncing smiley face called Evil Otto.   There was one called Fast Food, which was an exercise in virtual binge eating.  You controlled a disembodied mouth, and were supposed to eat as much rapidly flying food as possible, except for the purple pickles.

No, really.

The kind of sheer immersive realism that inspired Tron.

People used to look at me like I was suffering from particularly vivid and bizarre delusions when I tried to explain this game.  THANK YOU INTERNET, for backing me up on this one.

Aside from the odd Wii game, I've accepted that my console gaming skills, never much to brag about, are now hopelessly behind the technology.  (Even the games I'm good at hold nasty surprises.  I was actually pretty skilled at virtual bowling, but the weird arm motions left me regretting my round of Wii Sports Injury the next morning.)

So, these days, I pretty much stick to browser games.  They're simple, and you get exactly zero Cool Kid Points for mastering them, but they're fun.  And that's supposedly the point.

In the spirit of the season, here are a couple of fun free games.

Infectonator puts you in the squishy shoes of a zombie horde as you try to infect the entire world.  (It bears mentioning that this is a really poor business plan on the zombies' part, because success means an end to their supply of delicious fresh brains.)  It rocks that faux-eight-bit retro chic...  and there's a special Christmas Edition!

Really more of a puzzle than a game, GROW Ornament gives you six items with which to decorate a tree.  The trick is to get the sequence right--the elements affect each other in different ways, and figuring out the proper order triggers a neat little display.

(There are a number of GROW puzzles, which I can't recommend highly enough.  They're beautifully designed, just bursting with imagination and whimsy.  It's well worth playing around with them for some time before giving up and finding a walkthrough online.  The "wrong" interactions are often as interesting and wondrous as those found on the way to the solution.)

Enjoy...  and let all those hotshot kids with their Wiis and Kinects that you PWN their butts when it comes to tree decorating.  And zombification.

A Brief Observation

You know the beloved holiday special Merry Christmas, Charlie Brown?  You know how the whole thing is about how we shouldn't get bogged down in the commercialization of the holiday?

Here is an example of what we experts like to call "missing the point":

December 6, 2010

Haul Out The Holly

The big tinsel "Bloomfield" signs stretch across Liberty again.

Welcome to bleidmoolb!
I'm ready for all the festivities, for the food, for the goopy sentimentality.  I need to make up for lost time.

You see--if you will permit me to wax eloquent for a moment--Christmas really sucked last year.  Actually, Christmas has sucked for three years running.  Last year, I was merely too busy to relax and celebrate.  The previous two years, I was too busy watching my faith in humanity get crushed to really, y'know, get into the spirit.

Without dwelling on the whys, let's just say that this can be the darkest time of year in more ways than one.  

I love a good, quiet Christmas where the sparkle reflects and amplifies the warmth of fellow-feeling.  But sometimes, there's a touch of desperation strung up with the garland.  There's a feeling of beating back the cold and the dark, of celebration as an act of defiance.  There's a manic streak in "We Need A Little Christmas": Put up the tree before my spirit falls again.

This time last year, I felt so overwhelmed, what with packing like mad and fussing over last-minute mortgage stuff and choreographing mattress deliveries and carpet cleaners.  I was blissfully unaware of a number of situations which were soon to bonk me right in the head.  (I ponder, for a moment, the tantalizing possibility of karmic justice: Could The Universe really be so just as to send harm to the perpetrator threefold?  Oh, Kludge Family, you'd better buckle up!)

But...  anyway...  as awful as the last three Christmases have been in many ways, even in the worst of times I've found great comfort in holiday rituals and traditions.  There's only so upset I can be while, say, driving through Hartwood Acres.  For a moment, there is nothing in the world that can't be expressed in exterior illumination.  For a moment, there is nothing but the sheer wonder of light and color and the snowy Pennsylvania woods.

There's eggnog in the fridge, a chairful of cheerful little cellophane bags of my mom's hardtack ready to bring in for my coworkers, a stack of Christmas DVDs in the living room.  We've been depressingly late putting up the tree, and the gingerbread recipe from the new Joy turned out to be really sucky...  but it's only the 6th.  There will be a shiny tree; there will be good gingerbread.

...It's time we hung some tinsel on that evergreen bough
For I've grown a little leaner
Grown a little colder
Grown a little sadder
Grown a little older

Anyone who has heard me sing will strongly discourage carols at the spinet.

December 5, 2010

Blue Laws: The SMLTS Sunday Supplement 12/5/10

Blue Laws: The weekly roundup of not-particularly-work-safe things that amuse SMLTS.  Readers who are sensitive to naughty language, double (or indeed single) entendre, and basic bodily functions should not read this post!  Those of a more elevated turn of mind can read The Gospel of George and Mark, 1-11.  

This week, Blue Laws is reminded how profoundly the Post-Gazette food section has gone downhill since Suzanne Martinson retired.  

December 4, 2010

Your Weekend Warm Fuzzies

Firefox has a live webcam feed of actual firefox cubs.  (If they're napping when you check in, there's a highlight reel.)

Did you know that the firefox is actually a kind of panda?  It's true! Should you be allergic to cuteness, this webcam may actually cause you to go into anaphylactic shock.  Totally worth it.  Come on, BABY PANDAS.

December 3, 2010

When Nothing Comes Between You And Your Morning Bacon

Someone give me a time machine, a blunt object, and directions to the responsible ad agency.

Loads more retrograde goodness (?) here.

...But I Have This Portrait Up In The Attic That Looks Like Hell

Yr. Obdt. Svt. stopped off at the liquor store on the way home this evening.  (FUN SIDE NOTE: It's literally the most money-losing PLCB store in the entire state.  It's tiny and shabby and has a very limited selection.  However, it's near my bus stop.)

So, I swooped in, picked up a bottle of Chivas, and took it to the counter.

And then, something magical happened.  I got carded.  For real, "I'm not sure you're of age" carded, not "my corporate overlords will can my butt if I don't card everyone including Keith Richards, who frankly has been thrown out of better trees than this place" carded.

She looked at my ID, and back up, and repeated.  "You look...  so babyish," she said.  

I wear hats well, I'll say that.

I thanked her for the best Christmas gift that I'm likely to receive this year.  "Keep looking young," she said.

I love you, liquor store lady.


Muppets Return With Ricky Gervais (CBC)

I Never Loved A Friday Linkdump (The Way I Love This One)

  • I do love me some Ace Of Cakes (and the evil Food Network is taking it awaaaay, sniff, probably to be replaced with Slamma Jamma Cocktail Party Tablescapes With Guy Fieri and Sandra Lee).  So, I was momentarily excited when I saw that Sugarcraft has Duff Goldman cake decorating kits.  They're...  kinda meh.  Not terrible, not great.  Not cheap, not as overpriced as any given Martha-branded item.  Take this information under advisement if you want to make it medium sized, make it somewhat bad, make it something short of awesome.

  • Rob Owen's TV Q&A starts with an actual good question: Why doesn't anyone run Emmett Otter on TV anymore?  (Is it the visible puppet wires?  Because that just makes it cuter.  God, I love Emmett Otter.  Anyone who dislikes Emmett Otter has a dead and slimy soul.)  The same column also includes a lengthy rant from a fellow who believes that "the basic influential propaganda that we see today in all phases of our society" stems from...  wait for it...  Italians.  I appreciate the effort it takes for people to keep their paranoid delusions fresh.

December 2, 2010

Your (Slightly Early) Weekend Kitteh Post

This fellow wants to draw a cat for you, as evidenced by the above song and also the fact that he runs

It gets better!  He was offering a Groupon.

Maybe Google knows what they're getting into after all...

Random Roundup

  • Aretha Franklin is set to undergo some vaguely defined "medical procedure" tomorrow.  Everybody send positive thoughts Detroit-ward.  Let it also be noted that The Queen's publicist is named Tracey Jordan.  We can only hope that the attending physician isn't Dr. Spaceman.

  • Speaking of which...  I feel like I'm in Bizarro World.  Partially because of the Amazing Self-Destrucive House, of course.  More topically, I don't get why almost (but not quite) all of the experts seem to think it's some sort of brilliant move for Google to shell out $5.3 billion for Groupon.  Groupon clearly feeds a hankerin' for a segment of the market, and it certainly has a healthy revenue stream...  but $5.3 billion!?!?!   Exactly how many half-priced Pita Pit sandwiches do they think Americans are likely to buy in the near future?

  • And finally, there's good news about Port Authority funding.  Assuming this reallocation of funds is approved, the draconian cuts slated to take effect in March will be canceled.  You know how it's always a lie when the driver of a packed bus tells you "there's another one right behind me"?  I kind of suspect that the now-annual threat of cutbacks is similar in that it's primarily an expectation-management strategy. 

December 1, 2010

Hail And Farewell

Letters removed from the former RMU building Downtown

The remains of my old office.  RIP, DesPlaces Hall.

Yes, I Half Expected To See My House When I Clicked Through To This Article

Not a great day for Lawrenceville rowhouses...

Rain May Be Culprit In Partial Home Collapse (KDKA)

Lying In Wait

There was, of course, a long list of things the Nazis hated.  It was, of course, a list composed of awesomeness.  Because...  Nazis.  Evil.

Not content to extinguish millions of souls, the Nazis also went after the expression of the soul as embodied by works of art.  Because... Nazis. Evil.  Also tacky.

Even in the darkest period of modern human history, there were decent people.  Someone cared enough about eleven sculptures villified in the "Degenerate Art" show to steal them (back) from the Reichspropagandaministerium.  The works were secretly buried in Berlin, and lay protected by the earth until contruction workers stumbled across them earlier this year.

The sculptures are now on display in Berlin's archaeological museum.

It's often noted that totalitarian regimes seek to control artists as a matter of course.  This goes about as well as one might expect.  So the next step is to quiet the discordant voice by any means necessary.

Art has a way of surviving.

The artistic impulse has a gift for self-preservation that an individual artist is likely to lack. 

Like the human spirit which it comes from and nourishes, art is tough and patient.  Any entity which thinks it has quashed either is going to be on the losing side of history.

The Flying Spaghetti Monster Wept.

1. AND LO, the word went through the land that George and Mark were to return, at the hour of seven and thirty cubits, wielding saws and other such tools, with intention of restoring order to the interior of the Palace in the Land of Secondmost.

2. And thus did the denizens of the Palace retire to their bedchambers at an early hour, for they had to get up really effin' early, thou knowest what I mean, and also they did have a DVR so as to cast their eyes the next day upon the prophets Jon and Stephen.  And mayhap John Hodgman, for that guy killeth the Queen of Secondmost.

3. BUT, she frankly holdeth not her breath; for it is that kind of day.  ANYWHOETH;

4. The King of The Land of Secondmost reclined in the bedchamber, and bequeathed head scrathes and belly rubs upon the stripey and temporarily bald cat, who did purr and also shed on things; for she was not really completely bald, which is a long story; The Queen did check her email WHICH did not please the cat.   Upon the hour of eleven and a quarter shekel-weights, the Queen did abruptly cast her MacBook upon the comforter, FOR she heard the sound of a thousand locusts devouring crops OR AT LEAST a drip of water inside the house.

5. And lo, the paint of the Palace ceiling did bow with water, like a giant lactating demon, raining hellish liquid upon The Queen Mother's art supplies.  The Queen did say some very naughty words; and did move boxes, and The King did with dispatch retrieve a pair of Rubbermaid tubs, which were great and commodious.  The Queen did look for something with which to poke a hole in the paint, for it was well to control the damage, and did finally settle upon a dowel. 

6. AND the hellwater did take an unexpected turn, and did hit the Queen in the face, WHICH caused the King to laugh as do the hyenas of Satan, AND caused The Queen to VERY SERIOUSLY consider banishing The King to the DAMN LOVESEAT for the night.  The King is REAL LUCKY he's cute, is all we sayeth.

7. And they did mop up the water, and did position tubs under the water bubbles, and did move boxes into the Palace corridor WHICH had only just yesterday been freed of the throne. 

8. Dammit.

9. And the King and Queen did retire again; the King did give the Queen a big old hug, WHICH did go a long way towards making up for hurt pride.  The King did start snoring; The Queen did listen for a long time; AND then did have dreams in which there were no leaking roofs; NEITHER had the cat gnawed off her belly fur.

10. And at the hour of seven and three-quarters firkins, George the Palace Carpenter did arrive; and did flip out about the leak; FOR George has not had a callback about a roofing job; for George knoweth his trade.  AND George did inquireth of Mark: "Who was the last guy who worked on that chimney?"  AND Mark did reply, "Old Dave."  And George did smirk, in a manner best described as ruefully, AND did say, "That explains it." 

11. And George did apologize with great fervor, AND did promise to fix the water damage, AND ALSO the roof, which did please The Queen.