February 27, 2011

A Distinguished Visitor Comes To Bloomfield!

Some of us are inclined to find this especially funny, but we can never tell you why.  Sorry.

Coming back from Grove City today, my friend Interestingly Bearded Mike and I saw the Weinermobile, right here in River City!  We got stuck at the traffic light, and both of us went diving for our cameras.  I won, neener neeener.

(I took the liberty of going for some delightfully oversaturated colors in the photo editing process.  If you haven't given Picnik photo editing a whirl yet, I highly recommend it.  It gives you the nice bright colors, greens of summers, etc.)

February 25, 2011

Write On

As I've told several friends lately, the whole resume-honing process is reminding me very much of what it was like writing essays for college applications.  You write and you edit and you polish, and you hope that the right person will read it, find you charming and brilliant, and ask you out for a drink--WAIT!  No.  Ask you for an interview.  Gah.  Some skills, not transferrable to all situations.

By the time I finally sent in my college applications, I had a folder crammed with drafts: an inch-thick, scrawled-upon stack of legal paper.  (I typed the final versions.  On a typewriter.  While my pet triceratops napped at my feet.)  My application to George Washington was accepted, and I was offered a fat scholarship, but I couldn't afford the positively obese student loans.  My early-action application to Harvard was deferred to the main applicant pool (which I'm somewhat ashamed to be proud of all these years later), but I got one of those dreaded thin envelopes come decision day.

I was fortunate enough to be applying to Pitt when they were making a concerted effort to beef up their demographics.  Thanks to my class ranking and my SAT scores, I was good for business.  The application they sent me was, literally, one page--with no essay section.  I easily got in, got a crapload of scholarship money, and never had to take out a serious student loan.  (I took out about $2500 to cover my room and board for the one year I lived on campus.)  Don't imagine for a moment that I don't know how lucky I am.

But here I am again, writing for my life.  What I write probably does matter this time, very much so.  I have those same familiar doubts.  Am I leaving something out?  Should I rephrase this bit?  Explain or ignore?  Have I done enough?  Am I doing too much?

No folders this time, no legal paper...  I tap away at my MacBook (a refurb I bought in 2007; I am hoping it rewards my faith in the resiliency of Apple products until such time as I have secured employment).  I edit.  I think of something that I HAVE to remember to add; I send myself reminder emails.  I am a leader who spearheads and coordinates and [dynamic action word]s.  I'm a product.  I'm my own marketing team.

I don't have that sick feeling of dread I had a month ago.  I don't even feel as nervous as I did when I held that manila folder in my hands all those years ago.  I feel, dare I say, hopeful.  When I think of all the wonderful things that happened because I didn't get into Harvard and because I couldn't afford GWU...  well, failure has been pretty good to me.  I might even give success a whirl, just for variety's sake.

February 24, 2011


Remember how Starbucks had that extra-rich cocoa (the "chantico") which they managed to launch pretty much smack-dab in the middle of all the Atkins madness?  Drinking a chantico was like quaffing from the molten river in the Wonka factory.  It was a glorious fat and sugar bomb, WHICH IS PERFECTLY FINE WHEN AN ADULT EXERCISES SOME MODERATION AND PORTION CONTROL, YOU KILLJOY CSPI ASSES!!!

(I'm not applying for any positions at the Center for Science in the Public Interest.  Can you tell?)

Anyway, neither the chantico nor the low-carb craze were long-lived, but the former's chocolatey glory has been fondly remembered.  Because I knew that cocoa butter was key to the texture, I hadn't even tried to copy this reminder that theobroma cacao means "food of the Gods."  But I saw high-fat cocoa powder in Penzey's last week, and inspiration struck.

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you my ludicrously successful knockoff of the late, lamented chantico.  First attempt!  DAMN, I'm good.


1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup high-fat cocoa powder (I haven't seen this anywhere but Penzey's; I'm sure any brand is OK.)
1/3 cup coffee (hot water would be fine, too)
pinch salt
1 cup heavy cream
1 tsp vanilla

Mix sugar, cocoa, salt and hot water in small saucepan; bring to boil, cook for about two minutes.  Pour in cream, heat until desired serving temperature is reached.  Remove from heat; add vanilla.

Serve in small cups.  You know that line from Steel Magnolias about serving some mess over ice cream to cut the sweetness?  Marshmallows may be added for similar reasons.

February 23, 2011

Per Aspera Ad Astra, Tabula Rasa, Carpe Diem, N'At

Again, many apologies for the light posting.  The drive is over, and I'm more or less back on a normal schedule, but I've been spending much of my downtime working on resumes and such.  (Reading what I've got so far, I'm inclined to hire me...  which I guess is a good sign!)

It's kind of freeing to be in the clean slate phase.  My brain, irrevocably wired to cope with stress through finding apropos song lyrics, offers the observation that freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose. 

The thing is, bugger that, it's starting to sink in that I can actually make money.  I could hire a cleaning lady and tip her well enough to ease my Barbara Ehrenreich-inflected conscience.  I could finally buy a frickin' iPad, just because they're cool.  I'm in distinct danger of being able to buy new clothing at retail and go to shows without having comp tickets.  I COULD PURCHASE AND NEED EVENING CLOTHES.

I don't know if there really is a meaning to everything--I like to think so, but I don't need to think so--but I always liked the Albert Brooks film Defending Your Life.  At least in that universe, the point of it all is losing your fear.  I can embrace that.

February 21, 2011

Everybody Knows That The Groundhog Lied

I know a lot of it had to do with the light holiday traffic, but I'm still amazed at how relatively smooth the commute home was tonight.  All of that thick, slick, heavy wet snow...  just not as much panic leading up to it.

There is probably a metaphor in there.  Feel free to expound upon it.  It's Monday, and I'm not about to work that hard right now.

Anyway,  I was terribly pleased with myself for remembering to go pick up brandy, and really very pleased with the cute St. Bernard joke I was working on, until I got to the State Store of the Damned and realized afresh that it was Presidents' Day, which we celebrate by not doing anything, which frankly seems to me to be a bit of a branding misfire.

So, home!  I clack away at another incarnation of my resume (I have bulleted and narrative and fudge ripple thus far);  Spring seems both far too far away and far too close.  Shoveling has lost its luster.  I seem to be doing an awful lot of it anyway.

February 19, 2011

It's A Wrap

The pledge drive is over...  more than $200,000 was raised in support of DUQ programming for the months ahead.  Thanks to everyone who pledged!

February 16, 2011


Sorry for the light posting, guys...  it is pledge week, after all.  (Jonesing for that Secondmost style?  Comfort yourself with the likelihood that this sort of thing shouldn't be an impediment to your snark-gathering activities in the future.)

February 14, 2011

A Brief Valentine


There's plenty to be cynical about.  (List available on request!)  But not love itself.

Stay mushy.  It'll confuse the heck out of the bastards.

February 11, 2011

Scotch Tape Wishes It Was Duct Tape

I finally broke down today and replaced my Duquesne ID.  I'd snapped the poor thing in half not long after we moved into the old Musicians' Union--I mean, Clement Hall.  The uneven steps caught me by surprise; I broke my fall with my hands, and in turn my hand broke the plastic card against the concrete.

So I did what any self-respecting cheapskate does by reflex: I stuck it together with tape and went about my business.  Worked just fine until today.  The poor old mag strip finally gave up the ghost.  (Thank you, Bob, for swiping me in.)  

Nothing for it, it was replacement day.  I trekked up the hill, all the way to the student union, climbed the stairs, realized that I had just gone to the third floor instead of the second, said something rather obscene under my breath, traumatized a couple of undergrads who clearly weren't expecting the potty mouth on the old lady.

Anyway, I finally found the place.  "I need to replace my ID," I told the girl behind the counter.

"Did you lose the old one, or..."

"No, it's just old and beaten up.  Like me."

The joke appeared to have gone unregistered.  In fairness, this was the first day of the pledge drive, so I was bedraggled after entirely too many consecutive hours of consciousness, but it would have been nice to have a little bit of a polite argument on that one.  Oh well.

I handed her my old card.  "Do you want a new photo, or...?"

"The old one's fine, thanks."  The existing photo was taken during the Clinton Administration, and I'm maybe a little disturbed that they still use anything that outdated for official identification.  But the alternative was to immortalize my first-day-of-pledge face.

Crank up the Dave Matthews Band and take your nail scissors on the plane: According to my ID, it's May 2000 again.

February 8, 2011

A Castle Secondmost Lullaby

Doesn't get much better than this...

And I Thought Caffeinated Hot Sauce Was A Bridge Too Far...

A caffeinated girdle.

I swear this is a real product.  Honest.

The only way this could possibly be funnier is if it was called, like, the iPant.

SERVICEY NOTE:  This is not entirely safe for work (no nudity, but still...  lady dancing in her undies.).

You'll Never Know How Slow The Modems Go

Dear AOL,

First of all, please allow me to offer this extremely overdue thank-you note.  You very generously sent me many lovely free coasters trial CDs back when the world and we were younger.  Although they were only marginally more useless because I didn't own a computer, they were shiny.  So, so shiny.

Anyway, that was sweet, and I wish you well despite never actually having used your services. 

So, I hear things are going pretty well with you?  How's that dial-up business going?  Really?  Forty percent of your revenue?

No, really?   

Look, there's something I need to ask you.  It's not in my nature to be forward about such things--really, I'm quite shy.  In my way.  Anyway, here it is:  I think we could be very happy together.

Sure, it just didn't work out with Time-Warner.  Oh, I know, you've been with that Huffington woman.  She's lovely.  Really.  I'm not going to get between you two crazy kids.  But don't think people don't talk.  Oh yes, AOL, they've seen you give Gawker the eye.  (Ha, see what I did there?  This is the kind of quality content I generate on a daily basis, unless I get really backed up on the laundry.)

AOL, let Second Most Likely to Succeed be your little bit of fluff on the side.  I'll even be happy to stay on as editor, and at a bargain price.  I'd settle for $40,000 and a case of Chivas per annum.  Or $41,000 and I buy my own slosh.  I'm low-maintenance like that.

Like you said, the AOL and HuffPo union was a case of 1+1=11.  I say, let's make it 111.  Actually, what with TechCrunch, let's call it 1111.  Heck, add in Business Insider and then we can do a full hand of tally marks like so: 1111.

Email me, AOL.  You know how to email, don't you?  You just plug in your modem and SQUUUUUUUUEEEEEEEEEEEEEEAAAAAAAAABRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR.

February 7, 2011

...But It Was Still A Great Ad

As compelling as that Chrysler Super Bowl ad was, the tag line rubbed me the wrong way.

"Imported From Detroit."

Yes, it cleverly plays upon our expectations of cachet.  But in an age when we're already so fragmented, it bothers me to treat any part of this country as so other that it's not quite part of the mainland.

Katrina evacuees were not "refugees."  A product of Detroit is not an "import."  

Detroit's story is a fundamentally American story.

"Import," my Rust Belt butt.  Struggle is a domestic product.

February 6, 2011

Because We Need The Eggs

It has been said that politics is the art of the possible.

It has also been said that life is what happens when you're busy making other plans.

These are gentle ways to say that the world has a rather nasty habit of grinding one's dreams and aspirations into a fine powder and sprinkling them across the landscape, before going off to have a nice leisurely lunch and possibly a round of golf.

Of late, I've been thinking a lot about why we still bother to dream.  Why, in situations where malevolent forces seem to have the upper hand, do we value that low-return enterprise known as integrity?  Why love anyone or anything when doing so is an ironclad guarantee of the worst sort of pain?

My response is much like Louis Armstrong's when asked to define jazz: Man, if you have to ask, you'll never know.

February 5, 2011

Drink Up, Yinz...

If you put together Christmas, Mardi Gras in New Orleans, and maybe--maybe--even Groundhog Day in Punxsutawney, you would have something approaching the lead up to the Super Bowl in The Strip.

Mmmm hmmm, I said it.  THE SUPER BOWL.  Forget "The Big Game."  You know how the officials decided there wasn't enough security to get them out of Three Rivers if they didn't let the Immaculate Reception stand?  Yeah.  Any NFL copyright types out in the Strip today would be tied up with gold football-shaped beads and beaten with black-and-gold jester hats.  (Whether they would enjoy it is entirely between them, their God, and their psychotherapists.)

You have to be a special kind of crazy to go to DeLuca's on nearly any Saturday morning; you have to be borderline unstable to try on a morning like this.  Needless to say, we were there by about a quarter after eight.  The line was already back past Native Inka's.  (That's a lot.)  But, dude, BREAKFAST.  The best in town.  Says so right on the awning.

The women behind us in line were having a deep philosophical discussion about "Drink Up, Yinz Bitches."  Is it OK for us to say it, the big "B" word?  (A somewhat tentative "yes," consensus held.)

Inside, a fine collection of fight songs blared from the PA, including a really old incarnation of "Here We Go" which was short a couple of championship rings but comfortingly replete with seriously kludgy buh- buh BUH buhbuh buh bass mediocrity.  I congratulated myself on recognizing the parodies of Lady Gaga and Beyonce.  (This did not magically erase the quiet little gray hairs I'm denying the existence of.)  Much more my speed was "Puhlamalu" (further proof that Muppet references make EVERYTHING better).  I also actually heard "Black and Yellow" for the first time.  (Yes, it's lovely here under my rock.  Thank you for asking.)

Experts agree: Pittsburgh's goin' to the Super Bowl.
By the time we left, the street had turned into a serious party. Happy crowds, loads of street vendors, even a confetti cannon. Of course, every-damn-body was playing "Here We Go," including SMLTS favorite Flute Guy:

Please rise for the National Anthem.

And the prize for excellent excess: The giant ice sculpture of the Lombardi Trophy in Wholey's:
The NFL has fined James Harrison $50,000 because of this ice sculpture.  Because, why not? 

Oh, and in what I hope will be only the first victory of the weekend, I tracked down the Keisel shirt a friend of mine had asked for.  WOOOOOOO, Stillers!

February 3, 2011

The Plague Hits Castle Secondmost

The Man Of The House is home sick again today; Mom's down for the count, too.

Now's my chance to loot their stuff!  WOOOO, all the D&D books and licorice Altoids I want!!!!!

Oh. Damn.

Guess I'll just have to entertain myself by trying not to catch this horrible cold.  Seems I should have gotten sick by now, if I was going to.  Maybe the mild sore throat that came and went a few days ago was a very mild, immunity-giving, incarnation of the disease.  Maybe not.  Maybe, right this second, I am unwittingly America's Next Great Petri Dish.

I like to think that I bought myself some talismanic protection along with the cold medicine and humidifiers in the Great FSA Stockup of 2010.  (I would like to say that the metric ton of Band-Aids so acquired kept me from accidentally injuring myself on a regular basis...  but no such luck.) 

Nothing to do but wait, and hope.

Innovation, Indeed!

                                                   (Pop City)

February 2, 2011

Shades Of Gray

"I'm not sure" vs. "No strong opinion"

Well, I can't wait to see how the democratic process calls this one.

February 1, 2011

Just Talk Talk Talk Talk 'Til You Lose Your Patience

Looking to fill in the dearth of information on the sale of DUQ?  You're in remarkably good company.

There's an informative article in Current (an industry paper) which is well worth a read.

The Prognosticator Of All Prognosticators

Like many Pennsylvanians of German/Irish extraction, I have a great fondness for purely arbitrary superstition.  Our genes have been honed through millenia to get through long, cold winters by giving in to controlled bursts of craziness.  We harass groundhogs because...  well.  It's February.  What else are you going to do? 

A few years ago, I made the pilgrimage to Punxsutawney.  (One of the superpowers you gain from the magical waters maple syrups of Western PA is the ability to spell "Punxsutawney" without needing to look it up.  That and a disproportionate chance of becoming a franchise quarterback.)

If you're going to submit to social pressure, you'll go to Punxsy sometime on February 1.  If you think outside the stump, as do my friend Rob and I, you go sometime in June.

You might argue that it's kind of silly to visit Punxsutawney in June, since you miss watching the groundhog getting pulled out of his stump.  I would argue that it's really not any less rational than watching the groundhog getting pulled out of his stump.

No, go on the off-season.  It's warmer.  You won't get into a fight at the gift shop over the last Bill Murray clock.  You can even go to Gobbler's Knob and make the obvious inappropriate jokes without scarring any tender ears. 

Phil and Phyllis--oh yes, Phil is "married," although I think certain conspiracy theorists could productively turn their energies to demanding documentation of that--don't live in the famous tree stump.  No, no, no.  They summer at the library.  They have a lovely little terrarium, and you can walk in at any time the library is open to watch them.  Because, well, you're in Punxsutawney.  You can't leave town without visiting the groundhogs.  That would be silly.

I would be remiss if I failed to mention that you can watch remarkably complete live coverage of tomorrow's festivities on PCN.  (They're even rerunning it.  Twice.)

You might say I'm silly for planning to watch reruns of live coverage of a weird little quasi-pagan ritual involving a groundhog, a bunch of guys in top hats, and (inevitably) a crowd-participation version of YMCA.

Just...  yeah, whatever.  Pass the groundhog cookies.

Weather (Or Not)

Ah, impending doom!  Hello, my old friend.  Today, you come in the form of freezing rain.

Unless things were truly awful, I really had to come in this morning, at very least to keep up with volunteer stuff.  (The pledge drive is still on, you ask?  Mais oui, mon fromage.)  (That's forrin' for "Damn skippy.")  Fully expecting everything to ice up nearly immediately, I went for the giant fuzzy boots this morning.  And I promptly killed the zipper.  Yay me.

So I am clomping around in the hideous shoes I wear with my ren faire gear.  The tread's good.  Can't say that they radiate teh sexy, but neither would a broken fibula poking out from my tidy fawn-colored slacks.

I salted the walk before I left this morning and am hoping for the best.  Looks like the danger has passed, at least until evening.  We'll see.  I keep peering out the window (not the glass block one, because that gets way too trippy) to see how the morning is coming along.  It's gloomy, but not slippy.  I'll take it.