December 30, 2011

Keep Hoping Machine Running

Ladies & Gents, Woody Guthrie's New Year's Resolutions, 1942.

Go find someone named "Pete" and love him.  If he looks at you funny, tell him Woody sent you.
There is no possible way in which this plan can go awry.

On Evolution

From the great Rob Rogers...

(Be sure to watch with sound, OK?)

December 29, 2011

How Little We Know

Here is an actual thing that I wrote on New Year's Eve last year:

"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!"?)"

To which I can only say... cute, huh?

I don't suppose I'm telling tales out of school at this point to acknowledge that I wrote that post fully believing that I was sitting on a wonderful secret. Optimism was high--to the point of near-certainty--that the employee buyout offer for WDUQ was about to be accepted. Little did I imagine that two weeks later, I'd be huddled alone in my living room at 5:30AM, forcing myself to listen to a press conference in which the principals were busily patting themselves on their backs for having authored the doom of the great romantic love of my life.

(Yes, I'm talking about a radio station. You know how good cooks always tell you that the secret ingredient is love? It's true of good radio, too.  And of damn near anything worth taking into your mind or body.)

Yes, 2011 was a hell of a year.  A year of the cliche and the aphorism and the loaded quote...  that which does not kill you makes you stronger...  it is what it is...  they can't take that away from me... oh, and let's not forget a woman is like a tea bag--you never know how strong she is until she gets into hot water.

(Since apparently, my crisis reaction is to get amusingly bitchy, gain admission into an extremely competitive graduate program, and help start a network...  I think I'm quality beverage material.  We're talking Fortnum & Mason Earl Grey.)

But yea, verily, 'twere a crappy twelvemonth.  What kind of a bastard of a year takes jazz off the Pittsburgh airwaves and kills Clarence Clemons?  AND THAT WAS JUST JUNE.  Seriously, 2011, you suck.  Go away.

I wrote something else in that post last year that still holds true--more so now than ever:

"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 anticipate very little boredom this coming year."

Well, folks, I can say with a little more assurance that it's going to be a better year.  You'll be hearing more about that.  For now, let's just say... that which does not kill you makes you stronger.  And it is what it is.

But 2011?


Or, as a more eloquent pen than mine put it...

Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky,
The flying cloud, the frosty light;
The year is dying in the night;
Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.
Ring out the old, ring in the new,
Ring, happy bells, across the snow:
The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true.
Ring out the grief that saps the mind,
For those that here we see no more,
Ring out the feud of rich and poor,
Ring in redress to all mankind.
Ring out a slowly dying cause,
And ancient forms of party strife;
Ring in the nobler modes of life,
With sweeter manners, purer laws.
Ring out the want, the care, the sin,
The faithless coldness of the times;
Ring out, ring out thy mournful rhymes,
But ring the fuller minstrel in.
Ring out false pride in place and blood,
The civic slander and the spite;
Ring in the love of truth and right,
Ring in the common love of good.
Ring out old shapes of foul disease,
Ring out the narrowing lust of gold;
Ring out the thousand wars of old,
Ring in the thousand years of peace.
Ring in the valiant man and free,
The larger heart the kindlier hand;
Ring out the darkness of the land,
Ring in the Christ that is to be. ---Alfred, Lord Tennyson

December 26, 2011

The Secret Ingredient Is...


December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas To All*

*Offer valid for persons of goodwill only.  Overgrown toddlers who enjoy knocking over the other kids' blocks--especially those refusing regular baths--as well as braggarts, self-promoters, and decency-impaired jerks of all stripes can take their choice of any one of this city's fine bridges.

December 22, 2011

Cold Reality

First thing this morning--no, third, after making coffee and feeding the cats--I had the glorious experience of performing triage on a collection of dripping, half-thawed foodstuffs.  Having finally succumbed to peer pressure, the freezer section malfunctioned like everything else in this house.  It's cold, but not freezing.  Merry Christmas, me!

Even as I was mucking out the mess, I couldn't help but think of the ways it could have been worse.  At least it's still chilling, so I could basically treat everything (everything that wasn't leaking or contaminated by chicken juice, anyway) as if it had been thawed in the fridge.  And the chicken was on the next-to-bottom shelf.  And at least I hadn't put very much in the freezer recently.  And it's garbage night.  And the fridge is working fine.  And some investigation online makes it seem likely that the culprit is a relatively inexpensive part.

The holidays, like politics, are an exercise in the art of the possible.  I cleaned up the mess.  The fix will just have to wait until after Christmas... I have less than no desire to chase down freezer parts this weekend.

Heck, I needed to start thawing out stock anyway.

Excellent Job Title

December 21, 2011

Things, Things For You And Me

I think I'm finally done with Christmas shopping.  I tracked down the vital last touch today--chocolate Santas for the stockings.  (Yes, we are--allegedly--grownups in Castle Secondmost.)  I got the brainwave that Oakland drugstores would probably be less picked over than my normal neighborhood haunts, and they were.

Yesterday, I hit the newly edited Macy's, all six open floors of it.  When I was a wee snarkling, it would have been beyond imagination for Horne's and Kaufmann's to be gone...  Saks to be on the way out (if my grandmother were still with us, that news would've killed her)...  Station Square to be a total nonentity as far as retail...  I'm not sure the reduced circumstances of Downtown retail would seem any weirder than our poor track record with sitting mayors and bizarrely uncommon diseases.

To their credit, the Macy's folks have done a good job of populating the remaining space in a pleasing manner.  It makes all the sense in the world to have cookware and furniture and linens on one floor, although this much common sense applied to a retail environment confuses me greatly.  (That said, stumbling across the Christmas ornaments and Santa in the men's department? Yeah, that was comfortingly random.)

In any case, gifts have been obtained...  now I suppose I have to wrap this stuff, too.  Feliz navidad, mañana.

Something That Works As Advertised

I'm not getting paid to say this--though I would happily blog for free cookware, hint hint--but if you do any baking at all, you should immediately obtain a large Doughmakers cookie sheet.  It is miraculous.  Yes, everything bakes evenly, and you can get positively massive amounts of cookies baked at once--but that should be true of any good-quality oversized cookie sheet.  The sheer magic is its pebbled surface, which I can only assume was developed by a team of angels, eccentric physicists, and possibly Hogwarts faculty members.  There's no nonstick coating involved, but nothing sticks!  Nothing!  It's the enchanted fairytale cookie sheet of my dreams.  It is the power-up of the holiday baking season.  It's not even all that horribly expensive.  Love. It.

December 19, 2011

Pass The Courvoisier

Puppet dictator.
I have nothing illuminating to say about the death of Kim Jong Il, because, like most Americans, I figured he could be more or less conflated with the gleefully offensive puppet portrayal of said gen-you-wine crazed megalomaniac in Team America: World Police.

Not a great pic overall, but it has its moments... two, for me:

1). The blockbuster toe-tappin' tune Everyone Has AIDS, which actually made a beloved but occasionally prone to cultish obsession friend shut the hell up about Rent already.  Which was totally worth the price of admission.  ($0, because someone else rented the movie.)

2). Let's say you've rented Team America, and have settled the troops down in your friend's living room to watch the movie.  And let's say your friend's 80-something dad is heading down the stairs.  And let's say your friend REALLY DOES NOT want his dad to see a particular scene, so your friend DIVES for the remote, but your friend is pretty much the opposite of The Electronics Whisperer, so instead of ejecting the DVD, your friend manages to freeze frame?  Can you guess what is the WORST POSSIBLE THING to be on screen at this moment?  Three words: Naked pooping puppets.

Life's Little Instruction Blog


1). Use UPS website to locate nearby dropbox.
2). Feel terribly pleased that there's a dropbox a mere four blocks from your home.
3). Cut out prepaid label.
4). Realize that the packing slip was printed on the back of the label because you, you doofus, printed this stuff out in the computer lab, where everything defaults to duplex.
5). Chuckle at your finals-induced poor planning.  Reprint packing slip.
6). Have sudden realization that it would be a good idea to check whether there's a limitation on package size for dropbox service.
7). Aha!  There is.  Yay you, you clever plan-aheader!
8). Evaluate supply of boxes in home.  Owing to a recentish move and a whole lotta e-commerce, you have a LOT of boxes, even with vigorous culling of the herd.  Surely, one of them must fit the requirements.
9). Realize that the smallest box that will fit the books is one inch bigger than the maximum.
10). Reread the UPS website, which seems really sure that you can get shipping supplies at the dropbox.
11). Figure, hey, it's a lovely morning for a walk!  Set sail for Children's Hospital.
12). It is, indeed, a lovely morning for a walk.
13). Circle entire building, which by the way is really bloody huge, before finding the famous dropbox, which is both dodgy looking and completely bereft of boxes, envelopes, or shipping label holder thingys.
14). You have been eaten by a grue.
15). Return home.  Package books, with packing slip and bubble wrap, in a slightly larger and now really improbably effing heavy box.  Tape securely, hitting that fine balance between "probably OK" and "Wait, I thought the Unabomber was in prison." 
16). Get on bus; take your books back to Oakland again, shake fist at unblinking and uncaring December sky.
17).  Stand in line at UPS store, drop box off with no trouble whatsoever, which is probably what you should have done in the first place, but at least you have had several pleasant walks and some quality iPod time.

December 17, 2011

SMLTS: Now With More Succeediness!

The big paper's gone.  The two little papers are gone.  My first semester of grad school is officially over.  I am roughly 30% of an MPPM.  I feel more mastery already.

Everybody has their own little incentives to spur them along to perform life's tasks.  Me, I set out a pound of butter on the counter to soften up for baking.  It worked!  That, and the profound desire to have nothing hanging over my head.

The irony is, after spending several hours making sugar cookie dough and baking a double batch of gingerbread, I have no cookies to munch on.  I am definitely not up for an icing marathon tonight, let alone rolling and baking the sugar cookies.  (Eat unfrosted gingerbread, you say?  That's crazy talk.)  But tomorrow?  There will be sugar!

December 16, 2011

Limping Toward The Finish Line

It's kind of funny that the paper that I care about the most is the last thing to get written...  that and two short policy memos...  but there you go.  My professor gave us until Sunday night to finish the assignments.  ("I could make it Friday, but then the assumption is that I'll spend my weekend grading your papers."  He shook his head slowly, firmly, solemnly.  The man has his priorities in order.)

I spent the day tapping away at my laptop, fueled by coffee, Count Basie, and Charlie Barnet.  And the paper is actually good, rather than simply (almost) done!  I shall sleep upon my brilliance, give the big paper a good thorough editing tomorrow, force myself to write these bloody memos...  et voila!  I really hope to have all this stuff DONE DONE DONE and out of my hair by this time tomorrow.  Hell, if I keep it up, I might read the Sunday paper on Sunday.  Even the Sunday on which it was published.  Might even...  dare I say it?  I might get to do a crossword!

What am I saying?  I know perfectly well that I'll be wrist-deep in cookie dough at the first available opportunity.  There will be a wild baking frenzy to end all wild baking frenzies.  

But tonight...  there will be some mindless television, frozen coconut shrimp, and no more thinkamyfyin'.

December 15, 2011


Here's a little secret of showmanship: If you find yourself obliged to make an incredibly stupid argument--say, that the city and county should be merged through a twenty-five year process involving three separate wholesale dissolutions of municipal boundaries--start off by (intentionally) making your audience laugh.  They'll catch on to the fact that you're selling a bill of goods almost instantaneously, but they'll feel that you're a lovable rake rather than a weaselly twerp.

I like to think this slide from my debate presentation did the trick for my team.

With Apologies To "Harper's Index"





*OK, it's store credit, but you can buy just about everything short of sexual favors on Amazon and arguably that if you count a wide selection of specialized small appliances.

**Apparently the Pitt bookstore has read it, too.

***As long as I ignore the fact that I now have to lug these bastards home.

December 14, 2011


Owing to the sign for the department across the hall, when you leave the big lecture room in Posvar, you exit the door to History.  No pressure or anything.

Halle-bloody-lujah, I'm done with actual sit-down finals.  Oh, there's still writing to do for one last class, but...  aaaaahhhhh.  It's like sinking into a warm bath of getting my life back.

I think all the stress made me forgot how to write similes.

Anyway, there is light at the end of the tunnel.  I can start to carefully ration myself some time.  There are cookies to be baked and Christmas movies to be watched and, yikes, three weeks of Sunday papers to catch up with.  (Yeah, I know, it's ridiculous.  I like features, not to mention the comics section, so sue me.)

It's been a crazy few months...  and a tough couple of weeks.  But lots has been accomplished.  You could say I'm...

December 11, 2011

The SMLTS Dubious Holiday Gift Guide Part 5: Good Grief, People...

I adore my cats, really I do.  But I also know there's a line between being, you know, a lady with cats and a Cat Lady.

Looking for a "tell" that you may have crossed over?  Do you ever think longingly about how great it would be to have a practical use for all of those hair clumps you've been stockpiling?  Well, unstable pet owner, have I got a solution for your more illusory problems!

Yes, cat fur!  "Why let it languish on furniture and clothes," indeed?  You can make extremely attractive and in no way creepy keepsakes out of your companion's discarded dead tissue, such as an adorable cat-felt caddy for your lithium bottle!

And if your cats are looking at you strangely, it is because they are wondering why you got the opposable thumbs, for crying out loud.

Winner of the 2011 SMLTS "Too Soon?" Award
Moving on now, as seems only right and proper, to accoutrements for a nice stiff drink...  Yes, the "Gin and Titonic" ice cube tray mixes a cheap pun with the delicious evasion of potential trademark infringement issues plus a generous dash of discomfort at making light (and ice cubes) out of mankind's worst maritime disaster.  Let's just agree that any irreverence is directed squarely and solely at a genuinely godawful movie, OK? Pfew! Now I feel so much better for finding the icebergs especially amusing.

And finally... though I already own the best bedroom slippers in the entire world, I have to admit that these come in a very close second:

December 10, 2011

A Christmas Memory

My buddy Rob and I went to the Christmas thingy at Kennywood last night. Loads of fun--they really did a beautiful job lighting the park, and there's a neat train display, and if you buy the travel mug you get free hot cocoa refills all night.  If you're into surreal whimsy--and heck, you're reading this blog, so odds are good that you are--it's hard to beat the experience of riding a carousel in December. (Ever heard an uptempo Wurlitzer version of "Auld Lang Syne?" I'm not entirely sure I did.)

"This is a magical Christmastime stickup!"
So, one of the rides they have running is the train--dressed in regulation Holiday Style with candy-shaped lights and little gingerbread folk.  It's one of those experiences that either leaves you smiling warmly or proves that you have no soul whatsoever.  Seriously, it is just so freaking cute, even if many of the gingerbread persons do appear to be in the process of being relieved of their gingerbread wallets.

Anyway, we're sitting there on the train, listening to the festive holiday soundtrack, and Rob asks, "Who's ever heard this song, anyway?"

"Uh, really?"  It occurs to me at this point that Rob's formative years didn't include watching old Christmas film shorts on WJAC out of Johnstown.  I start to recall memories of the black-and-white stop-motion cartoon with, you know, an anthropomorphic snowflake...  named Suzy?  Yes?

Rob looked at me reeeeaaaaal funny.

He didn't really start giving me the hairy eyeball until I sang a few bars of "Hardrock, Coco, and Joe."

So...  for all y'all who have fond memories of these, and for those of you who may have doubted my sanity in the last twenty-four hours...  Merry Christmas! I swear I was not making this up!

December 9, 2011

THE SMLTS Dubious Holiday Gift Guide the IVth: Or, "Chip" To Its Friends

Do I love Lilly Pulitzer?  Oh my, do I.  Bright, loud, whimsical, impossible-to-ignore...  And I dearly love Christmas ornaments.  But even I am failing to connect with...  what is this anyway?

Biff the Christmas Octopus.  Not much at the Reindeer Games, but he will pwn you at squash.

I could not make this up: This product is called "Hotty Pink Touchy Feely."  It can be yours for $48, which I gather would be more expensive though more controllable than an actual acid trip.

December 6, 2011

You Made One Mistake, Mr. Potter...

Strike the harp and join the...  angry mob.  Merry Christmas, you wonderful old Building and Loan!

How To Keep Your Sanity In Grad School: Finals Edition (Part 2)

My monthly quota of regular, family-friendly words has been seriously depleted in the construction of a near-infinite number (4) of economics papers.  After the jump, several naughty words.  Oh, and don't play the video at work, 'kay?

December 4, 2011

How To Keep Your Sanity In Grad School: Finals Edition (Part 1?)

Here is what is fueling my finals-time survival:

1). Black coffee.  Lots of it.  More than normal.  Fear me.
2). Nerds.  By which I mean the little sugar bombs, for those of you wiseacres about to accuse me of cannibalism.  $1.74 for a big leftover bag from Halloween.  Non-nutritive and thrifty: It's the perfect candy to consume while writing about food deserts!
3). The glorious vision of walking out of Posvar on Tuesday with no more economics assignments in my future, ever ever ever.
4). Inertia.

THE SMLTS Dubious Holiday Gift Guide, Part 3

If you look at this and immediately think of last year's Doctor Who Christmas special, you are my kind of people:

December 2, 2011

Home Stretch

"Actually, that's more votes than this position normally gets."
--my professor, after our debate team got two votes for our city/county consolidation plan


Well, as you have surmised by now, the debate is done with.  I do have to admit that it was a productive learning experience... admittedly, the main lesson was "the position which I am compelled to put forth would really really really never never never work."  Oh, and I actually get physically uncomfortable defending an idea I know to be stupid, which I suppose is a sign of character, but I would have liked it if my conscience could have just crawled under the podium for ten minutes yesterday.

But now, that's over, and it's a full court press to get ready for my econ stuff... the final is Tuesday morning, and four papers are due at that time. (Yes, four papers.  Three of them are short but tricky essays. Unfortunately, I can't bluff my way through any of them with a cheap pun and a Muppet reference.) Everything else from there on is reasonably spaced...  so while I don't exactly get to rest for a while, the truly crazy pace is almost over.  As far as school goes, anyway.

Speaking of Muppets...  even though it cut into my valuable panicking time, I went to see the new movie Wednesday, and it was indeed Muppetational beyond my wildest hopes.  I won't spoil it.  Go!  Indoctrinate your children!  Fail to explain to them why the chickens are so funny!