April 29, 2011


SMLTS: The Royal Liveblog Part 5

PREVIOUSLY: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4

Kate looks lovely; I'm pretty sure William told her as much as she reached the altar.

God love 'er, Kate got his name right.  A little trouble getting the ring on her finger, but overall, hitched without a hitch.

And now...  readings.  We're gonna be here for a while.

SMLTS: The Royal Liveblog Part 4

OBSCENELY EARLIER: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3

And there's the Bentley, containing the heir and the spare and a whole metric ton of gold braid.  William is wearing his red uniform, as a Colonel of the Irish Guards.  (Whew, I'm glad I used Kerrygold butter in the cake!)

The princes have entered the Abbey.

After the service, the bells will peal for three hours, or until the lady in the downstairs apartment files a noise complaint with the police.

The King of Tonga has arrived.  Related: Tonga exists, has a king.

Kate's parents are en route.  Several shuttles packed with lesser royals are leaving Buckingham Palace, which is kind of funny.  Something inherently funny about Princess Michael of Kent in a bus...

And the mother of the bride has arrived.  The ladies are gushing at length about her designer outfit, which just between us chickens looks exactly like an off-the-rack MOB suit.  

Beatrice and Eugenie, unsurprisingly minus mum, en route.  Assorted minor royals are now freed from the Airport Shuttle and are being seated.  And Charles and Camilla are leaving Clarence House... and there's HM Herself, looking chipper in yellow, with Phillip, looking exactly as he always does only in a uniform.

The Queen enters to actual, literal fanfare.  She, The Duke of Edinburgh, and Charles and Camilla mill about in the entrance.

A white blur which we are being informed is Kate has just been seated in the car.  The only thing you can clearly see through the window is her decolletage; the anchor guy has just said something about a limited-but-lovely view.  Anchor guy is sleeping on the couch tonight, I bet.

Back at the Abbey, the flower girls cover their ears against the loud bells.

And here's Kate's big entrance...  

SMLTS: The Royal Liveblog Part 3

EVEN EARLIER: Part 1, Part 2

Confirmed: Kate has nice hair.  She will wear it down, or possibly up.  And there we be a tiara, or flowers, or not.  But it is glossy, upon this the fashionistas agree.

I am seriously digging (ha) the potted trees, and am totally copying the idea next time I rent out the Abbey.

Kate's dress...  what will it be like?  How much air time can they fill talking about it?  Answers: Dunno; quite a bit.

Heh, there's a brass band playing "Get Me To The Church On Time" in Hyde Park.

Another man-on-the-street segment.  They are now talking to three women who are wearing wedding dresses.  This is either whimsical or clinically insane; I'm gonna go with whimsical because I'm coming off a sugar rush from the coffee cake and am thus feeling charitable.

A talking head has, with a straight face, praised the simplicity of the event.

There's the Household Cavalry.  HORSIES!!!

We are now awaiting the emergence of William and Harry.  If they see their shadows, there will be six more weeks of winter.

SMLTS: The Royal Liveblog Part 2

PREVIOUSLY: Part 1 of the SMLTS Royal Wedding semi-liveblog

On second cup of coffee and first serving of delicious homemade coffee cake.  Years of being awake(ish) and (semi)functional for Morning Edition during pledge drives has taught me that food makes a fine if temporary substitute for sleep.

It's evidently 9 AM over there.  Night in Australia.  Four-ish here.  Ugh.

Oh, we are deeply into filler material now.  There's the car that will, eventually, carry Kate to the church.  Perky ladies are discussing fashion.  Back to the Abbey.  Good Lord, all of these jewel-toned dress suits with matching hats...  it looks like Her Majesty has spawned uncontrollably, Tribble-like.

Ah, the Beckhams are here.  Victoria, as always, is bringing the cheer--in fairness, if I hadn't eaten since 1997, I'd look pissed too... but I still wouldn't wear black to a wedding or that stupid hat to any event including my own funeral.  David has some stubble going on.  How are these people fashion icons, again?

Now we're being treated to a taped interview with the Archbishop of Canterbury, who finds the happy couple "sensible."  Evidently, Kate will not be called upon to "obey" in the vows.  I hope said vows will not include any variation upon the phrase "you complete me."

Time has not been kind to Earl Spencer*.  At all.  Sometimes there's a stand-up show on Comedy Central before a show I actually want to see, and there's this one comedian with the Southern accent and the glass of whiskey?  Yeah.
*I vividly remember an American reporter clearly not realizing that "Earl" was a title rather than a first name during Diana's funeral.

David Cameron is a deeply bland man.

If the Twittersphere is to be believed, Beckham is wearing his OBE on the wrong lapel.  Hee.

SMLTS: The Royal Liveblog (or as live as I get at 3 AM...)

I switched on the TV as the presenter was reading off the freshly-issued list of royal titles.  Completely beyond my control, my first thought was "Duke. Duke. Duke.  Duke of Cambridge.  Duke.  Duke. Duke. Duke of Cambridge..."  That's the power of song.  A really good hook can manifest itself into the culture for decades to crop up periodically, unbidden, like some sort of social disease.

Crowd signs: "It Should Have Been Me," "I'll Marry Harry."  Here's mine: "Who The Hell Gets Married This Early, And Don't Try To Tell Me About These Clearly Mythical 'Time Zones'"

Has to be said...  Some of the guests outside Westminster Abbey look like they're entering a Queen Elizabeth lookalike contest at the local pub.    

The talking heads are now congratulating themselves at length for being part of an excellent queueing culture.  Owing to their accents, this observation sounds much more intelligent than it actually is.

Oooh, the doors are open!  Genuinely neat grace note: There are live potted trees in the church, which will be planted at Highgrove.

Anchor dude just offered "a warm welcome" to the Americans watching in the middle of the night.  Yr. Obdt. Svt. and The Queen Mother of Castle Secondmost both waved back.  We are nothing if not friendly, and also convinced through the magic of sleep deprivation that the anchor dude can see us.

There's a lady in an undoubtedly expensive meringue of a hat with three pointy things sticking out the side, which has the unfortunate effect of recalling as her main fashion influence Steve Martin:

"Fearne Cotton" (clearly not her real name) is interviewing some Australian lady on the sidewalk who has thousands of pieces of royal souvenir china.  This is every bit as riveting as it sounds.

Have you ever seen a COMPLETELY DELIBERATE closeup of floor tile on a 42-inch TV?  I have.  This is every bit as riveting as it sounds.

April 28, 2011

Just Yolking

I love small-r-republican government and usually hate weddings...  but I love spectacle for its own sake and, uh, cake.

So not only will I be up at some ungodly hour tomorrow morning to watch Wills and Kate become Man and Tabloid Fodder, I also made a wedding cake.

Now, I have this awesome white cake recipe--it's really just delicious--and I like to make it whenever I have the slightest excuse, such as the marriage of a couple of total strangers removed from me by a continent and several class strata.

But the thing about baking white cake is, you end up with a lot of leftover egg yolks.  And Mlle. Secondmost does not throw away good food.  So I did the only practical thing: I made cookies.  Peanut butter cookies.  But then I still had yolks...  and then I figured, hey!  We'll need breakfast!  (NO, we could not eat the wedding cake for breakfast.  That would be silly!  It is important to preserve some standards of behavior while watching BBC America at 4AM in your jammies.)  (Unless you are the Queen, in which case it's "ONE'S jammies.")

So then I made a coffee cake.

As I looked around the kitchen, strewn as it was with an exciting assortment of cake plates and piles of dirty mixing bowls, I was reminded of Mrs. Bridges' epic dinner preparations for Edward VII.  (This is probably a clue that I watch too much British TV.  That and the whole "getting up in the middle of the night to watch some toothy kid get hitched to a girl who under any other circumstances would be waaaay the hell of his league" thing.)

I really had every intention of relaxing with a good book this afternoon.

April 26, 2011

"Snooki Bunbury" Has A Ring To It...

I'm really bad at vacation days, you know that?  Hacking away at my spec letter/campaign strategy...  doing background research...  I've basically done nothing today except prepare for my second interview.  (I broke up the monotony with laundry, though.  Woo!)

I'm so tired and burnt out that I could just cry.  Maybe, just maybe, it's break time.

Might as well get caught up with the world...  let's see what the Post Gazette has...

So this is what it looks like when the hungry and the hunted explode into rock & roll bands and face off against each other on the street...   Also, DEAR FLYING SPAGHETTI MONSTER, JOHNNY GRUSHECKY IS TWENTY-TWO?!?!?

O-Line's looking weak already.

And, like, Marcellus Shale and stuff.  Phbbbt.  How about Salon?  Royal wedding, someone vastly overestimating how interesting their intimate life is, blah blah....  hey, what's this?

This is simply...  beautiful.  That's what it is.  I think it'll still be funny even when I'm operating at full mental capacity.

You're welcome.

April 25, 2011

Sign Here

Back in the antediluvian days when I was new to radio, I had to learn a new language.  The kind of things I'd written as a college newspaper columnist and an occasional grade Z politico weren't going to fly in the land of nonpartisan journalism.  (I won't say "objective," because I don't think there is such a thing.  You always bring your own perspective into anything you write.  Rather than battle reality, why not embrace it honestly?)

The fundamental message of everything I ever wrote at WDUQ was that we were building something worthwhile.  (It wasn't a difficult argument to make, being true.)  Positive language.  No us-against-the-world stuff.

In advance of my interview, I've been asked to write a direct mail appeal for the organization I may be working for.  And it's going pretty well.  But this is more of an advocacy piece, and I find myself battling the urge to tone things down.

It's profoundly weird seeing my name on a document, even one written on spec, above a different title and different organization.  Who is this suit?  Of course, it's also quite distancing to look at my old Pitt News clippings.  Who is this kid?

If I get this job, it's going to be a fascinating challenge and a professional step up...  but it's also a very real signpost in this journey away from the great formative experience of my life.  I've already been who I wanted to be.  Now I have to be someone I can still be proud of, one way or another.


Half-price Easter can-DEE!
Half-price Easter can-DEE!
/one-woman conga line

Please Locate The Nearest Exit

Between the busy holiday weekend and the job search, I haven't been posting much.  Sorry about that.  It certainly hasn't been for lack of material, but I've frankly been a bit...  drained?  Overwhelmed?  Slightly migrainous, off and on.  Throw in a soupçon of panic and a wee pinch of inertia.  I'm fighting both my desire to completely freak out and my deep, passionate drive to pretend that everything is totally normal. (Northeastern WASP, represent!)

I thought the instinctual duality was "fight or flight," not "wig out or curl up into a small impermeable ball in the manner of an armadillo or one of those icky bugs whose dessicated corpses are always to be found in fluorescent light fixtures."

The good news--great news, really--is that I will have a second phone interview Wednesday evening.  Dear Reader, I'm in very serious danger of being gainfully employed for the foreseeable future.  Messrs. Wells and Fargo, holders of the Secondmost mortgage, will be awaiting the results with interest.

(Speaking of awaiting with interest...  I, again, have no comment about this except to confirm that astute observers will note that it is currently the last week of April.)

I've been, in turns, concentrating on prep work I'm doing for the interview and trying to completely distract myself.  I won't dissolve into a puddle of goo.  I won't be an armadillo, much less a dried-out insect.  I won't do those things mainly because I recognize how tempting it is to do so.  Also, a straitjacket would wrinkle all the lovely interview clothes I've bought lately.

April 23, 2011

Random Pop Culture Detritus: Lazy Easter Weekend Edition

  • Even superheroes are powerless against The Law Of Unintended Consequences.  The The Batman movie is probably going to make Oakland parking even more funtastic than usual.  But it's totally worth it if we can disabuse the nation of the idea that we live in a dark and gritty city by effectively passing for, uh, Gotham*.  *Full disclosure: the content of this joke is effectively stolen from my officemate Mark, who will receive a share of the gross revenue from this post.
  • It sounds like the best potential setup for a day of physical comedy since Abbott and Costello joined the Army....


...but, frankly, as promising as Mr. Bean at a wedding sounds, it might drag on a bit too long and be full of really obvious jokes.  No, I say we start lobbying today for A Blackadder Royal Wedding! YES!!!   Preferably the bitchy Elizabethan incarnation of Blackadder.  But only if he can bring Baldrick, who I'm sure would (SPOILER ALERT) have some sort of cunning plan.

April 21, 2011

The Fork In The Road, The Knife In The Bread

OK, I'm sure the suspense is killing you.  The bread is pretty darn good.  The texture is very similar to sourdough--a thick, chewy crust; pillowy, moist interior.  Despite the fact that it really is a lot more trouble than just kneading the frickin' dough, I think I'll make it again.

My interview with Secure Undisclosed Organization was this evening.  The takeaway lesson?  Phone interviews are just about the most awkward experience you can have with someone you've never slept with.  It's weird waiting for people to join a conference call.  Once you start talking, there's no visual feedback at all.  (Yes, I DO realize that this is an odd thing to be concerned with after having spent my entire adult life working in radio.)

There were three people on my call--all of them very nice, but only Crisp British Lady had a decent connection.  Slightly Muffled Midwestern Lady, not so much.  The less we say about Charlie Brown's Teacher, the better.

I think it went OK.  If so, there'll be another interview next week.  If not...  well, chalk it up to experience!

Bread's Greatest Hits

The no-knead bread is cooling even as we speak.  (Even as I type?  Eh.  You know what I mean.)  Looks pretty good.  Frankly, it's been far fussier than normal bread...  so unless the results are really spectacular, it's back to Craig Claiborne's Cuban bread recipe for me.

April 20, 2011

Uncanny Valley Girls

If the British ever miss their old colony, surely the existence of the Franklin Mint must ease the sting a little.

Kate Middleton is living the dream every little girl holds dear...and every woman remembers with a smile...becoming a Princess. 

For the first time in over 350 years, a non-royal like one of us is beginning that journey for real. Celebrate this moment in history with the finest dolls in the world. Experience the thrill of her engagement by owning one of the most elegant and regal treasures in the world. 

"Elegant" and "regal" are not generally words I associate with 16-inch-tall vinyl objects.  But, hey, maybe it's an Old World thing that we Americans are just not meant to embrace fully, like Marmite and Robbie Williams.

As for the rest of the copy...  in fairness, I do have a great nostalgia for my princess phase.  Although I don't know if the fact that my Barbie dolls operated under a constitutional monarchy* really fits the traditional mold.  And I did dress up as Lady Di for Halloween in 1981.  Pretty sure Her Nibs didn't have to wear a parka over her poofy white dress like I did.

But, yes, the doll!  Yours for a mere $195.00.  Screw those Elvis Costello tickets, baby!  My summer will be incomplete without my very own MiniWaityKatie.

*True, by the way.  It was also basically a matriarchy because Ken was unfit to rule owing to the fact that he had plastic hair and was really boring.  Which sort of foreshadowed the dating mistakes of my twenties.  But I digress.

Home At Last

Vacation days, rumor has it, can be used for things other than job hunting and laundry.  After... uh, well, job hunting and laundry, I had time to putter around in the kitchen today!

And still I rise...
Not only was I the late to Facebook, I'm also the last home cook in the whole wide world to test drive the Bittman no-knead bread recipe.  (You can look at this version if you've hit your limit of 20 free New York Times articles for the month.)  The consensus on The Tubes seems to be that you can use 1/3 teaspoon of active dry yeast instead of instant, so I'm trying that.  Guess we'll find out in 18 hours or so.

I'm generally a black-coffee-and-unsweetened-tea kinda girl--dark and bitter?--but I do like the occasional soda.  (Sigh, "pop."  OK?  Am I NOT an insufferable snob now?  Good.)  Check out this recipe for homemade ginger syrup if you like ginger a WHOLE WHOLE LOT, which I do.  Quite yummy.  I used mineral water, which gave it a nice, refreshing, lightly-carbonated mouthfeel.  (See, NOW I'm an insufferable snob.)

I also descaled my electric teakettle.  Lest you think I've forgotten how to partay.

April 19, 2011

The Space Between The Notes

  • With all the drama in my own life, it's easy to forget that things of true and lasting importance are going on, such as Carrot Top's decision to straighten his hair.  (Yes, Carrot Top is still alive.  And employed.  Not that I'm bitter.)

  • Good thing: The Dr. Horrible sequel is in the works!  And I'm pretty sure Whedon is kidding about the Dr. Horrible and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull thing.  Counterbalance: "My Freeze Ray" is stuck in my head again.    

  • Not satisfied with your $19.99 knockoff of Kate's not-at-all-creepy engagement ring?  Are the tea towels and shortbread tins with Wills' toothy grin somehow leaving a void in your soul?  Well, diiiig this: The Royal By-All-Appearances-Happy Couple rendered in pizza

  • You are a really, really lucky person if you're worried about whether or not your QR codes are sufficiently pretty.  That said, this is kind of cool.

  • Feeling no pain, teetotal style.  (Or get snockered and swear a lot.  Not saying I've field tested this, but then again I don't care to talk much about the kitchen-table spleenectomy.)

April 18, 2011

(Aunt) Jemima, Surrender

Further evidence of the greatness of Spring: Fresh Pennsylvania maple syrup.  Grade B, for there will be no touristy B.S. "light amber" in Castle Secondmost.

Of Superheroes And Superscript

  • Take with the patented SMLTS Cartoonishly Large Grain Of SaltTM: There's an enticing, plausible rumor that the Civic Arena is going to be blown up for The Dark Knight Rises.  C'mon, admit it: That would be frickin' cool.  Now, can we somehow figure out a way to incorporate a Mythbusters episode?

  • Tangentially related: I have just learned the HTML for superscript. 

  • I'm not going to lie...  looking at test scores and historical literacy surveys and such, I sometimes despair of the future.  But these kids have renewed my faith in our nation's youth, and also humanity, until such time as I see another Facebook post written in impenetrable textspeak.

  • Better ≠ perfect.  Because some charming people flagged as offensive the "It Gets Better" clip recently posted by Apple employees, YouTube pulled it (though to their credit, it wasn't down for long).  It should be noted that wow it didn't take long for my faith in humanity to be crushed again.  Awwright, bullies!  You are not only totally kewl, but you have also successfully intimidated all teenagers into heterosexuality.  Woo.

  • Eating Nutella directly from a spoon?  I only do it for medicinal purposes.  See?

    April 17, 2011

    No Offense To The Easter Bunny, Who Is As Fine A Mythical Creature As Ever There Was

    It finally hit me in the last day or two that Easter is next week.  I'm normally way on top of your major baking holidays, but...  well, I've been a mite distracted.

    Even in a normal year, Easter always seems so anticlimactic after the orgiastic celebrations of what we refer to with implied capital letters as The Holidays.  Easter, compared to Christmas?  Bah.  Mere theological significance cannot allow Easter to gain a competitive advantage.  Forget the elaborate feast of Thanksgiving, which all-but-legally requires pumpkin pie and turkey and mashed potatoes and stuffing.  The Easter menu's sole mandatory component is ham, that least fussy of all the roasts.  Everything else is discretionary.  Maybe get some nice asparagus, if you can find it, and it's a damn shame to do anything more elaborate with fresh asparagus than to nuke it for 90 seconds or so.  The only place to really go overboard--and I can always be trusted to find opportunity for excess--is dessert.  Crazily elaborate layer cake, here I come.

    More importantly, we're just barely a week from the holiest day in the Secondmost calendar: The day when all the candy eggs and chocolate bunnies go on sale.  Wheee!!!

    April 15, 2011

    Your Rebecca Black-Free Friday Post (aw dang, I just blew it...)

    It's a beautiful, warm, sunny spring day.  GO OUTSIDE, FOR CRYING OUT LOUD!

    Oh, wait...  You may have a "job," which entails a number of responsibilities including being indoors on A BEAUTIFUL, WARM, SUNNY SPRING DAY.

    (I'm not entirely sure why I'm starting to talk like the Betsey Wright character in Primary Colors.  Sorry.  I'll work on that.) 

    Anyway...  yes, jobs.  Where is that project?  you ask.  PROGRESS IS BE--ahem.  Progress is being made!  I say.

    I'll not name names at this point, but I have a phone interview next Thursday.  Interesting work, worthy cause, and I would be a Development Director.  (That's an important step if I'm going to stay in the fundraising universe.)  For better or for worse, it's a telecommuting gig, which would mean that the cats would be ecstatic but I would have nobody to dump my homemade baked goods on. 

    I have a boatload of resumes circulating, and many of the positions aren't closed yet.  It's torture.  I find myself worrying that I'll accept a position and then get offered one elsewhere that's a better fit.  Then I think about how wonderful it would be to have that problem.  Then I go check to see if the jobs I've applied for are still posted.  Yep.  Man

    But there is time.  The motto of the day: "DON'T PANIC!"

    ...How's this for a segue? You should go read the post called "So Long, And Thanks For All The Fish" on my very-soon-to-be-former-colleague's blog.  For my part, it's been a privilege to spend the last thirteen years working for a hoopy frood who knows where his towel is.  

    April 13, 2011

    Some Marketing Guy's Day Just Got Really Bad

    This is a real, legitimate email from my old home warranty company.

    SPOILER ALERT:  No part of "HBB" stands for "Orville."

    April 11, 2011

    Blow This Town

    I've discovered lately that many people were somehow oblivious to the cheesy wonderment that was the Little House on the Prairie TV series.  It was not, how you say, good.  It was especially dire in the last season or so when pretty much every character saw God, and not in some metaphysical poetical way.

    No, Little House's pleasures were of the satisfyingly silly variety.  Like in the last episode, when the nice prairie folk blew up Walnut Grove.

    You're either nodding frantically and going "I know, right?"...  OR, you're saying: "Huh?"

    No, really.  The setup involved some evil guy from out of town coming in and claiming ownership of everything the hardworking pioneers had labored so lovingly to build.

    This has come up in conversation as of late.

    Anyway, the heartwarmingly rugged denizens of the prairie look at the situation, and they figure, screw this, let's go Mythbusters on this hizzle and bring out the C-4, baby!  (Did you know?  These fine folk not only did their bit for Manifest Destiny, but also originated -izzle talk AND presaged the better class of basic cable shows.)

    It's been a long time since I read the Laura Ingalls Wilder books, so you'll have to pardon me for forgetting if this happened in Farmer Boy or The Long Winter; the point remains, the fine townsfolk blow up everything in town.

    Watching these clips has been so touching that brandy is in very serious danger of shooting out my nose.

    This one comes with special bonus footage of a shorts-clad leg.  It somehow seems right.

    Okaaaay, I'll blow up the hotel...  but I have GOT to go form "A Flock of Seagulls" RIGHT AFTER WE'RE DONE, OK?

    I love the gritty, cinema verite look.  You totally feel Mr. Oleson's deep inner conflict.  Why, oh why, did I not leave Nellie in the building?

    The official story is that Michael Landon wanted to avoid having the sets demolished in the usual way, so he figured out a plot that would allow the characters to put an end to Walnut Grove themselves.  In short, they blew up the buildings on purpose.

    This theory, however, cannot be discounted:

    Still Unanswered: What ARE We Going To Do With Uncle Arthur?

    The first installment of the long-awaited Upstairs, Downstairs sequel aired on Masterpiece last night.  Not bad.  Very pretty.  Overall, I'm happy enough.  I doubt this will have the repeat viewing value of the original, but it is entertaining. 

    As is now legally required of all dramas set in 1930s England, Episode 1 included the obligatory Wallis-Simpson-causes-social-awkwardness plot point.  (Seriously...  this, The King's Speech, Any Human Heart...  Wallis has become, of all things, unfashionable.) 

    They did screw up what to me was the most important architectural detail of the house, namely the wreath in the morning room--apparently, the design team assumed that the original painted version was meant to be molding, when in fact it was supposed to be the kind of decorative fresco one actually would find in a Georgian house.  (I know this because I ordered Inside Updown from Amazon UK, waited something like three weeks for it to arrive, and then read the whole thing in an obsessive little marathon.)

    APROPOS OF NOTHING: Jeebus, Inside Updown is selling for $638.26 USED?  I paid, like, $30.  Should have ordered two.

    REALLY SERIOUSLY APROPOS OF NOTHING: I firmly believe that Hari Kumar is still thirty and gorgeous.  That is all.

    April 10, 2011


    A sea of cars and trucks spread across what is, for Western Pennsylvania, quite flat territory.  The first really nice spring weather had arrived...  the first day you could go out in shirtsleeves and sandals, the first day you could roll down the windows and feel the wind in your face as you drove down the Parkway.

    Rob and I parked far away from the entrance of Trader Jack's, the better to protect his new car from dings.  (It worked.  The door got kind of muddy, though.)  We walked through the gravel parking lot, past the Jersey barriers, negotiating our way through the lines of vehicles attempting to park or/leave.  And the weather was absolutely perfect--just warm enough, and slightly overcast so as to protect our distinctly Celtic complexions from the strange and near-forgotten sun.

    There was the usual array of flea market tat...  knockoffs of designer sunglasses and used purses that have long exceeded their useful life.  The usual oddness of seeing some of your childhood toys (or their identical twins, anyway) on offer for $1.50.  The usual stacks of books, the usual bad '80s costume jewelry, the usual not-up-to-eBay-standards carnival glass.

    (Big find of the day: I scored a big box of proper collector-quality miniature furniture kits for TWENTY BUCKS!   Woo!)

    My erstwhile shopping buddy and I had gone up and down about three rows when he stopped.  "Hey, I need one of those."  He pointed at--hell, what are they called?  Those reels for your garden hose?  Yeah. Whatever they're called.

    The little patch of ground was presided over by a lady who looked a bit lost in the tag sale millieu.  She was probably in her late '50s, heavyset, bad dye job.  Despite the warmth and the decidedly informal surroundings (I felt overdressed in grey slacks and a t-shirt), she was wearing a deeply incongruous blazer.  She looked like she could have been handing you a clipboard loaded with dental insurance forms.  She plainly wished to be elsewhere.

    "How much is this?"  Rob asked, pointing at the--the hose thing.

    "Ten dollars."  Rob started to walk away.  "You can have it for eight."  Rob stopped.

    He stared at it for a moment.  "I'll have to think about it."  The lady nodded, quietly; she knew that in the language of the flea market that almost always means "I do not know how to say 'no' in any other polite way."  Rob does actually mean that when he says it, a good 20% of the time, anyway.

    We walked away.  "Long way back to the car.  I might get it on the way back."

    Trader Jack's is huge.  I don't know exactly how many rusted shovels I saw today, or how much gray-market toothpaste, or how many sparkly Steeler jerseys made in pink and bedazzled to suit the tastes of women who love men who love football but do not themselves know the difference between a field goal and a hat trick.  (Of course, the hat trick is a completely different sport.  Even I know that, and I don't much care for basketball. <---JOKE)

    We did, eventually, wind our way back to the little patch on the end of the third row.  The hose thing was still there.  So was the lady.  So was a man, I assume her husband, who was dressed in the flannels and windbreaker you expect from a flea market guy.  He looked like the kind of 60-ish man who will fall dead one day not far from now, of a surprise coronary that will surprise only himself in a last fleeting flash of angry consciousness.  He was meaty and leathery and flushed and angry purple beneath his white stubble.

    Rob walked up to the hose thing and handed the man a twenty.  "I decided to take this."  The man stared at him a moment.  There was one of those semiverbal, gesture-heavy moments when Rob and the woman sort of explained that they had talked earlier.

    "How much did she tell you?"  The man held the flaccid twenty.

    She cringed visibly as Rob replied "Eight."

    The man handed back the bill.  "Sorry.  Can't do that."

    "That's what she told me," Rob mumbled, tucking the money back in his wallet, instantly wishing he hadn't said it.  The body language was truly something to behold.  This guy was clearly furious.  Over a hose thing.

    Rob and I started back to the car.  We'd walked quite a way down the curved path when a voice called from behind--so far behind that I was at first not sure if it was directed at someone else.  "Hey.  Bud.  Hey, fella.  FELLA!"  Rob turned.

    "She didn't know what she was talking about.  But I can cut you a deal anyway, since she told you that.  I'll take ten."  I suppose the two bucks was enough to make his point about the incomparable awesomeness of his hose thing; I know that the main point was to make sure he screamed that his wife "didn't know what she was talking about" in a public place.

    Rob shook his head.  We walked on.  Rob bought a new hose holder at KMart; it was altogether much nicer.

    Somewhere in the Greater Pittsburgh area tonight, there's an awful little man, probably still in possession of a used garden implement, who was happy to make his wife suffer over a difference of two bucks.  I worry about her.  I hope her undeserved humiliation was the worst that happened to her today.  I have trouble convincing myself that this is likely.

    Sometimes, the flea market seems a bit too cheap.

    April 8, 2011

    On perspective

    Anyone who has an account on Ancestry probably wants to go check their flashing leaves.  The Veterans' Burial Cards are amazing.  If you're looking for information on people who are not within living memory, or who simply didn't want to talk about their war experiences when they were around to ask, this is a reliable way to find out where and when they served.

    It's easy to hit a wall in genealogical research, especially pre-20th century.  I've had very, very little to go on about my family's Civil War service, other than its fact.  There's some murkiness about the details of several siblings from that generation, but at very least, my great-great grandfather David went to war, as did his brothers Charles and Josiah.

    David was the only one who made it home.

    As was so often the case during the Civil War, Josiah died in the hospital, evidently of disease.

    As is so often the case with my people, Charles survived all the terrible battles, but not the war .

    I still don't know exactly what happened to Charles.  A family tree that one of my relatives printed up about twenty years ago had an incredibly vague note that he had died "on his way home from the war."  Thanks to his burial card, I know now that he must have been mustered out with the rest of the 142nd regiment on May 29, 1865.  What happened between May 29 and June 1 to put poor Charles in an early grave?  Don't know.

    Reading about the battles these three men fought in, I have this odd mix of curiosity and pride and relief and guilt.  Guilt, yes.   All of these places that made their mark in history forever in a few terrible, violent days...  Appomattox, Spotsylvania, Gettysburg...  you can't help but think of the men never had the chance to come home, of all the pruned branches of family trees.  I am of David; I could have been of Josiah or Charles, which is to say: I could not have been at all.

    My battles have all been metaphorical.  What a deep and too-easily-forgotten blessing.

    April 7, 2011

    SMLTS Goes Hollywood

    • Interesting piece here on the challenges of covering Kurt Cobain's suicide...  particularly dealing with the eternal question of how much photographic coverage is appropriate.   (I still get pissed off at the crazy-making waste, even though I personally never liked Nirvana.  At least The Bean turned out OK, despite being raised by Courtney Friggin' Love.)  OBLIGATORY MIDLIFE CRISIS MOMENT: That cannot possibly have been seventeen years ago.   

    • On a much lighter note, the resurrected Commodore 64 is actually real, against all odds!  “There are a lot of really young computer users who want to own a retro-looking computer... And of course there are those 30- to 40-year-olds who owned the original Commodore 64 and want the nostalgia of their first machine.”  Crap.  I am the nostalgia market.  If physical media still ruled, there would be K-Tel grunge samplers all over daytime TV.  /old.

                     Today's Great Moment In Copyediting:

    Either Tina Fey is a much, much more neglectful mother than I would suspect, or this is phrased VERY VERY BADLY. (OK! Magazine)

    Oh Sure, NOW You Want My Help, But Do I Ever Get A Christmas Card?

    You know, the people who write spam should really take a crack at churning out cheap romance novels.  The sheer narrative exuberance, freed from any sort of internal logic, is quite touching.  I especially like the preemptive explanations of everything except why her English cousin needs help paying for an emergency hysterectomy in a country that has universal healthcare.


    Hello ,
    How are you doing hope you are keeping fine. Am sorry I didn't inform you on time about my trip to England.. I'm here with my I'll Cousin that She's suffering from a critical uterine fibroid and must undergo a hysterectomy surgery to save her life .I am deeply sorry for not writing or calling you before leaving, The news of her illness arrived to me as an emergency and that she needs family support to keep her going, I hope you understand my plight and pardon me. It as been a very sad and bad moment for me Right now because I got robbed on my way ,My Credit card, cash and other valuables things I have with me got stolen,

    Hysterectomy surgery is very expensive here, So I want to transfer her back home to have the surgery implemented there where my health insurance can cover the cost. Am wondering if you can be of any assistance to me, Please I need you to help me with a soft loan of $2000 to make the necessary arrangement cos i traveled with little money due to the short time I had to prepare for this trip and never expected things to be the way it is right now. I'll surely pay you back once I get back home as soon as possible.I need to get her home ASAP because she is going through a lot of pain at the moment and the doctor have advised that it is necessary that the tumor is operated soon to avoid anything from going wrong. I did not take along my phone. So it is currently switched off as I was unable to roam it with the phone company because of the time frame I had to be here..

    Please i will be waiting to hear back from you soon so that i can email you the details information where the money will be sending to

    Thinking of you,

    April 5, 2011

    (SMLTS)-(Blue Toothpaste Blobs)+(Henna)=This

    I've been carefully rationing Season 4 of Mad Men.  Almost done.  Will then have to start over.

    Anyway, uh... I tell people I don't see it, but I have to agree: Turns out I'm a Joan after all:


    Ms. Secondmost's Neighborhood

    Can you believe that Gertrude Stein could say "there's no there there" about a city that contains Bloomfield?  God love it; its obvious fronts and its TWO excellent Italian groceries and its terrible parking.  It's different now from when I first knew it...  the old abandoned movie theater is now a Starbucks, and the sidewalks just crawl with hipsters when the weather gets nice.  The babushkas have all but died off. West Penn's emergency room is closed.  There are tattoo parlors AND The Sacred Heart Of Jesus store.

    It's changing.  But it's not.  It's a busy little neighborhood full of little stores that serve its residents, whatever demographic they may comprise.  Sometimes, as I roll my little grocery cart up to Shur Save, I see myself doing the same thing in forty years, albeit more slowly.  I look at the other women on the sidewalk; I think of how our black-rimmed glasses will follow us into our old age and how we'll be stuck in our era in a thousand little ways that will be risible to the children of the Beliebers.  We are, I suppose, the Babushkas of The Future.

    It's sometimes a tad claustrophobic, looking at a few blocks and thinking of all the lives that have been neatly contained therein.  It's a little self-contained universe, is Bloomfield, bound by geography and heritage and choice.  Its walls are permeable, such that outsiders like me can come in and dissolve into the protoplasm.

    It's the mulch I dig my toes into when I need to feel rooted.

    Best Forecast Ever

    Turns out that the Ultimate Question is "So, what's the weather going to be like in Pittsburgh on April 5, 2011?"

    Bit of a letdown, really.

    April 3, 2011

    Email Blast

    Have you ever purchased anything, or kept all your money in the bank, or used a credit card?

    These were all mistakes.  Get ready for spam, spam, spam!  Moreover, get ready for lots of legitimate emails warning you of forthcoming spam, spam, spam.  Third-party email marketer Epsilon had a massive data breach, the upshot of which is that the customer names and email addresses of its 2500+ clients are out in the wild, just waiting to carry Viagra ads and fake lottery emails into your charming home.

    What companies are we talking about?   Oh, nobodies.  Kroger, Citibank, Capital One, TiVo, The College Board, New York & Company, Walgreens, JPMorganChase...  and, uh, about 2500 more.

    The good news--and this is HUGE--is that the hacked data doesn't include passwords.  (Disgruntled Gawker commenter says "whew.")

    Unfortunately, because there are names along with those addresses, it should be a fine phishing season. So be extra careful about clicking through emails, even if they're personalized.  That was never a security guarantee--if anything, it probably helped to socialize customers into treating it as such, a vulnerability which could potentially be exploited on a massive scale thanks to the dark arts of social engineering.

    Be careful out there...

    Save A Mandible For Me

    Catch up on assorted trainwrecks, savor the very latest in gourmet dining options, and check in with my two favorite Savages.   SMLTS is partyin' partyin' 'cause it's Sunday, Sunday.

    • Charlie Sheen's standup act was, predictably, disastrous.  "WRIF-FM (101.1) host Drew Lane said if the tour continues like this, Sheen's career will be in jeopardy."  Yes.  The unsuccessful attempt at standup.  That will be the thing that mars Charlie Sheen's otherwise untarnished professional reputation.
    • Adam Savage is clearly one of those people who really should have gobs of money to do impractical things with, because rather than buying a yacht or a Kardashian, he'll soak up free time by making himself an exact replica of the Grail Diary from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.  And he has a friggin' awesome library.  He is living the Geek Dream.  I reject my own reality and substitute Adam Savage's.  
    • The Washington Monthly brings a surprisingly weighty, not particularly prurient, nevertheless really not safe for work article about Dan Savage.  Written by a Lutheran minister (!), lots of good stuff here placing Savage's work within the context of constructing responsible ethics in an age of rapidly shifting sexual mores. 
    • Here's Colbert singing "Friday" on Jimmy Fallon's show.  (I didn't stay up to watch it.  Y'know, gotta be fresh, etc.)  I'm not in the least bit sure that this is any more ludicrous than the original...  but it's certainly a lot more fun.
    (It keeps getting pulled off YouTube. I give up. Just Google it yourself.)

    April 2, 2011


    Before the Internet, there were only so many ways for a curious, uncoordinated country kid to pass the time.  I wrecked, and on occasion successfully rode, my bike.  Related: I found a wide variety of ways to skin my knees.

    I cooked.  I gardened.  I picked huge basketfuls of wild strawberries and made them into jam.  (Sounds poetic, no?  I like to think the fumes from the neighboring Pennsylvania Turnpike added a certain terroir.)

    Mostly, I read.  A lot.  A WHOLE WHOLE lot.

    Sometimes, I gave myself little challenges.

    I memorized the entire Kennedy inaugural address one summer, intending to use it as a declamation piece in Forensics, only to find that my district didn't offer declamation.  The cat was impressed by my rendition, though.  She totally would have committed to a life of public service if there had been a lot of call for mousers in, say, the Peace Corps.

    I memorized the Greek alphabet, for which I give thanks roughly every third time I do the NYT crossword.  Didn't help me much when I tried to learn Greek in college.  I CAN, however, ask if:
    1. this seat is free and
    2. I may have a little tub of ice cream.
    Uhh...  actually, I forgot the word for ice cream.   Here is how you say "I do not speak Greek": Den milao ellenika.

    Somewhere in high school, I learned that the letter delta was used in mathematics and science to notate change.  When I write myself notes, I use it.  Δ.  It's efficient and just a touch mysterious.  

    I'm still pretty easily entertained.

    April 1, 2011

    April Fools Roundup

    "POETRY IN SOME FASHION": Tea hurts when it spurts out of your nose.

    What is this year's "continuation of the ongoing conversation Bruce has been having with his fans throughout his career"?  Backstreets' annual inside joke bacchanalia delivers nonstop laffs if and only if you're the kind of person who takes a day off work because a thirty-two-year-old album has been re-released.  Me, I will be first in line to catch Thom Zimmy's documentary Shut Up, I'm The Fucking Professor.  Winning!

    As always, ThinkGeek has a magnificent selection of faux goods and chattel.  I LOVE the Playmobil Apple Store ("Use your own real iPhone 4 as the screen behind Steve Jobs in the Keynote Theater"...  and the tiny plastic hipsters are so freaking cute!).  Or "don your hazmat suit and respirator and become the god of a tiny, poisonous society" with Arsenic-Based Sea Monkeys.

    Gizmodo offers a fine collection of geek pranks rather than an actual prank article (at least thus far).  Messing with a colleague's autocorrect strikes me as particularly elegant, albeit wrong, unprofessional, harsh, blah blah blah.

    XKCD in 3D.  It took me a moment. 

    BoingBoing is the new NYT

    Via BoingBoing, Comic Sans Pro.  Wait...  incredibly, that's NOT A JOKE.  But go ahead and Google Comic Sans today.  Awesome, right?  Now try Helvetica.  Hee!  (That's right, I'm breaking up the geek humor with FONT humor.  I am just THAT DORKY.)

    And in job search news...  LinkedIn suggests a potential contact: Robin Hood: Activist/ Chief Fundraiser at Nottingham.  Also, Google is hiring autocompleters.