30 October 2007

In-flight Entertainment

I fly Frontier Airlines to Denver yesterday for business. I am hopeful when I see by the gate that Frontier has a bin of plastic packets with earphones and they are labeled free. I take a pair and head onto the plane. Turns out the earphones are free. The entertainment is not. I can spend $5 to watch reruns of Lucy and the Simpsons or $8 to watch the latest Pirates of the Caribbean movie. Really? Can I?? Only $8 for a system that's going to cut out when we hit an air pocket? What a bargain. I pull my book out and settle in.

To their credit, Frontier Airlines had magazines in their magazines bin. When was the last time you saw magazines on a plane (aside from their own in-flight mag)?

Happily, the flight was what you'd want it to be--safe, smooth, uneventful and on time.

29 October 2007

I Think I'll Start this Post in Paragraph 3

Have you noticed that some books start on page 1 and others start on, oh, say, page 11? Why is that?

Is it some sort of anti-writer's block thing? The author just can't commit to what he fears might not make a fabulous page 1 so he gives himself a running start and broad jumps into what by rights should be mid-chapter pagination thereby avoiding that unsettling page 1 ickiness??

Or has the publisher said "I need 300 pages from you" and the author only has 289 but thinks maybe nobody will notice if he pulls a numbers game?

I don't get it. What other job would allow this type of obvious skimming? None that I can think of. Artsy writers. They're the only ones that get away with this sordid sham.

And why stop there? Why not start on page 437? Or better yet, why not skip a few numbers at the end of every chapter?

It's outrageous. Why isn't Readers Digest writing about this in their "That's Outrageous" section? Enquiring minds want to know.

27 October 2007

Frustrating Feasts (Art? Food? Both? Neither??)

There are many parts of enjoying a restaurant experience beyond the taste of the food: the coziness of the decor, the level of noise, the attentiveness of the waitstaff, the quality of the drinks, and so on. An important aspect is the presentation of the food, or "plating" as the Food Network is irritatingly fond of calling it. That is, arranging the food on the plate in such a way that it has visual appeal versus just slopping something on a plate any which way. It requires some forethought to consider not just a balance of flavors in a dish but also a balance of colors, textures, shapes, and so on. Much like an artist must consider all elements of a composition, so must the chef.

When it's done right, it is a pleasure to both the eyes and the taste buds. But sometimes chefs get carried away with presentation. Salads seem to be a particular struggle for them. It's like at some point as they are putting their menus together they each say, "Well, anybody can put a spinach salad together but if we're going to charge $14 for $3 worth of ingredients we have to find a way to make it memorable!"

A few months ago I ordered a salad and received a tower on a plate. Truly an architectural wonder. But to eat it required destroying it. There was no other way in. As soon as I tried to ease a small piece out of the configuration it fell to pieces like a bad round of Jenga. [Note to self: Is there such a thing as a good round of Jenga??]

Last night I had a very good restaurant meal. But still... I started with an arugula, pear and Parmesan salad. Sounds good, no? You know what I got? 6 1-millimeter thick slices of pear that were cut lengthwise so you got a set of pear profiles--about 3 inches long each--on the base of the plate, all facing clockwise at equal distance around the plate [June Taylor couldn't have arranged it better]; a large mound of lightly dressed arugula; and 1 2-inch by 2-inch finger nail-thin square of top-of-the-line Parmesan cheese centered on top. It was lovely, yes. I could only sit and admire it so long, though, and then I wanted to eat it. But do I want to eat the slice of cheese followed by the mound of arugula followed by the pieces of pear? No! I ordered them as a unit and I WANT THEM MIXED TOGETHER IN PIECES SMALL ENOUGH TO FIT IN MY MOUTH! Is that too much to ask? It's a SALAD fergawdssake. I'll give you the $14 if you'll just TOSS IT!! Presentation be damned!

Want to get wild? Sprinkle a little fresh herb around the edge of the plate for presentation and get over yourselves, chefs of the DC metro area. If I wanted "do it yourself" I'd have stayed home.

25 October 2007

Combining Genius

So Chad Kroeger (lead singer of Nickelback) and Carlos Santana have teamed together and come out with a new song, "Into the Night". It's on Santana's new album, Ultimate Santana, and its incredibly catchy. Please consider giving it a listen as these folks are two people that desperately need a hit. ;) Seriously, though, it's good stuff. You can have a listen at:


22 October 2007

Tidbit (Fifi Trixibelle Geldof)

Okay, you know Bob Geldof from the Boomtown Rats, Band Aid, Live Aid, Live 8, and maybe even from his famous quote "fock the addresses, just give us the fockin money." But did you know his daughters are Fifi Trixibelle Geldof, Peaches Honeyblossom Geldof, Little Pixie Geldof, and, in 2000, Bob became the legal guardian of their half-sister, Heavenly Hiraani Tiger Lily?

Now ya know.

Bonus Tidbit:
Geldof wrote "I Don't Like Mondays" in the aftermath of Brenda Ann Spencer's attempted massacre at an elementary school across the street from her house in San Diego, California, at the beginning of 1979.

19 October 2007

The Lack of Correlation Between Genius and Hygiene

Okay, my sample size was too small to identify a correlation or lack there of but...

Yesterday I am sitting in a meeting listening to a series of briefings. At one point, a particular expert gets up and is interrupted by his boss who congratulates him on his promotion to the highest rank possible without going into a management position. The crowd erupts in applause and there is general agreement that this guy is world-class, tops in his field, mighty dang impressive. He does his presentation and, then, because the next speaker asks him to stay, finds the only available seat: next to me.

The guy smelled. Literally smelled. Enough for me to put my hand up to my nose to try to block the aroma. At one point he stood up for some reason that I can't remember because all I could think was "Foy! This guy smells. Maybe he's leaving!" and then he sat down again and my nose was freshly assaulted. I thought "Maybe he had to run over to the meeting to make it in time because he's so much in demand" but I looked at him and he didn't look sweaty; no pit stains or wrinkles or anything. It was like he just hadn't gotten around to showering for a while. Maybe he was too busy solving the mysteries of the universe. Made me wonder if he always smelled like that and if hygiene was not a requirement for promotion in his field.

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas

I was stopped at a street light last night and I glanced to my right at a Lowe's Hardware Store that was set a ways in from the street because this was a sizable shopping area with a huge lot. Through the glassed-in garden center I could see all the lit up Christmas trees. Yesterday was October 18, fergawdssake. Perhaps they should just leave them up year 'round. If the street light hadn't changed at that point I would have taken a picture.

18 October 2007

Michael Caine/Jude Law: Separated at Birth and A Few Decades Off

Jude Law is starring in a remake of Sleuth after starring in a remake of Alfie, both movies made famous by a young Michael Caine. I got to see the original Sleuth the other night on television and there is an interesting physical similarity between Michael Caine at that time and Jude Law today. Looks aside, Jude Law has a tall order if he hopes to compete with Sir Michael Caine, aka Maurice Micklewhite, in the acting department. But, then, Michael Caine is and has been one of the hardest working actors just in the sheer number of movies in which he's played a part. For Sleuth, Caine is switching to the part opposite Law. Should be interesting to see them side by side.

16 October 2007

White Privilege

I took a class last week and learned things that I should have already known about race, power and privilege and how we have institutionalized racism in this country. It was an uncomfortable class to participate in yet I'm glad I was there. It left me feeling impotent. What could I do to improve things?

One thing I can do is find small ways to share the wealth of knowledge I received last week. So here's a small piece of it...

We did an exercise in class around white privilege. That is the idea that merely by being born white in America a person is granted certain privileges that people of color are not. Think not? See for yourself below. Peggy McIntosh wrote about this years ago and not much has changed.

She writes:

Daily effects of white privilege

I decided to try to work on myself at least by identifying some of the daily effects of white privilege in my life. I have chosen those conditions that I think in my case attach somewhat more to skin-color privilege than to class, religion, ethnic status, or geographic location, though of course all these other factors are intricately intertwined. As far as I can tell, my African American coworkers, friends, and acquaintances with whom I come into daily or frequent contact in this particular time, place and time of work cannot count on most of these conditions.

Now think about each statement and see if it applies to you based on your skin color:

I can if I wish arrange to be in the company of people of my race most of the time.

I can avoid spending time with people whom I was trained to mistrust and who have learned to mistrust my kind or me.

If I should need to move, I can be pretty sure of renting or purchasing housing in an area which I can afford and in which I would want to live.

I can be pretty sure that my neighbors in such a location will be neutral or pleasant to me.

I can go shopping alone most of the time, pretty well assured that I will not be followed or harassed.

I can turn on the television or open to the front page of the paper and see people of my race widely represented.

When I am told about our national heritage or about "civilization," I am shown that people of my color made it what it is.

I can be casual about whether or not to listen to another person's voice in a group in which s/he is the only member of his/her race.

I can go into a music shop and count on finding the music of my race represented, into a supermarket and find the staple foods which fit with my cultural traditions, into a hairdresser's shop and find someone who can cut my hair.

Whether I use checks, credit cards or cash, I can count on my skin color not to work against the appearance of financial reliability.

I can be pretty sure that my children's teachers and employers will tolerate them if they fit school and workplace norms; my chief worries about them do not concern others' attitudes toward their race.

I can swear, or dress in second hand clothes, or not answer letters, without having people attribute these choices to the bad morals, the poverty or the illiteracy of my race.

I am never asked to speak for all the people of my racial group.

I can remain oblivious of the language and customs of persons of color who constitute the world's majority without feeling in my culture any penalty for such oblivion.

I can criticize our government and talk about how much I fear its policies and behavior without being seen as a cultural outsider.

I can be pretty sure that if I ask to talk to the "person in charge", I will be facing a person of my race.

If a traffic cop pulls me over or if the IRS audits my tax return, I can be sure I haven't been singled out because of my race.

I can easily buy posters, post-cards, picture books, greeting cards, dolls, toys and children's magazines featuring people of my race.

I am not made acutely aware that my shape, bearing or body odor will be taken as a reflection on my race.

I can be late to a meeting without having the lateness reflect on my race.

I can be sure that if I need legal or medical help, my race will not work against me.

I can expect figurative language and imagery in all of the arts to testify to experiences of my race.

I can chose blemish cover or bandages in "flesh" color and have them more or less match my skin.

Many more statements and more about this topic can be found at:


15 October 2007

Huh! Willard Luxury Hotel is Wind Powered

The Wind In The Willard -- The Willard InterContinental, Washington's historic luxury hotel, is now powered by 100% wind energy. Pepco Energy Services supplies the 332-room landmark hotel with 100% wind renewable energy credits, making the Willard the first urban luxury hotel in the United States to be fully supported in this sustainable manner.

Electricity produced from renewable resources reduces the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2), a key greenhouse gas. Wind energy is particularly effective in reducing greenhouse gases, because there are no air emissions associated with operating wind generators. The Willard has embarked on a Sustainability program entitled, "Willard InterContinental - The Next 100 Years." The holistic plan is comprised of interwoven sustainable projects designed for a luxurious urban hospitality experience in harmony with social and ecological consciousness. (1401 Pennsylvania Avenue NW; 202.628.9100, 800.827.1747.

14 October 2007

Kafka at Catalyst

We subscribed to Catalyst Theater's season this year for a grand sum of $30 per person for 3 plays. You can't do better than that. Talk about making theater accessible. There's less than 50 seats in the house so every seat is a good one and the experience is certainly intimate and immediate.

Last night we saw the first play, "The Trial" by Franz Kafka. The acting company did a very good job with it and the set design was almost completely done with video on screens, a very interesting approach, which added to the surreal quality of this absurdist tale.

Hilarious and horrifying, The Trial is the tale of Joseph K., a man arrested and put on trial before a mysterious court that never discloses his alleged crime.

Kafka? Not a happy guy. "The Trial" is not a happy tale. If you read the playbill it states that this was an unfinished work that Kafka requested his friend burn upon his death. He trusted the wrong friend. It makes me wonder if Kafka would have ever brought this play to the public and what it would have wound up as if it had been completed under his hands versus having it completed by someone else. Maybe better, maybe worse. We'll never know.

10 October 2007

Chrysalis Festival

We attended the Chrysalis Norton and Bluegrass Festival on Sunday. It was a beeyootiful summer day (yes, I know it's October but that's global warming for you) and the music was good--particularly the bluegrass band they had early on that day. The entrance fee of $20 was a little steep but we did get to try nine wines including a variety of different vintages of the star: Norton. We didn't get to try the Albarino (too much in demand), dang it, but the Viognier was on the tasting list and quite wonderful. I don't think it was $28 worth of wonderful, like they were asking for a bottle, but it was quite good. The cheese (Everona) and the chocolate (Wanders) samples were extraordinarily good and the sourdough baguettes helped round out/soak up ;) the wine experience. And happy people, playful pups, art/craft vendors and rolling hills and it's a recipe for a wonderful afternoon.

09 October 2007

I Don't Wanna Work I Just Want To Bang on the Drum All Day--T. Rundgren

What is better than a day off of work? Nothing. Deeeeeeeeeeelicious.

06 October 2007

Make Mine Indiana Wine?

Elite Travel reports...

Orbitz Reveals Top 10 Fastest-Growing Wine Regions

Food- and wine-related travel is escalating in popularity throughout the United States, and not just in the Napa Valley, according to Orbitz in its latest surprising survey. The company has announced the top 10 fastest-growing wine regions in its recent Index release. The Index includes some unexpected "hot" wine destinations such as the "City of Brotherly Love."

"No matter where you live in the U.S., you're probably not more than a few hours away from a great vacation that pairs a nice hotel with a local vineyard," said Heather Leisman, senior director of merchandising for Orbitz.

Not unexpectedly, California's Napa Valley is still king. But others include: Texas Hill Country; Arkansas Wine Country; Puget Sound, Washington; Columbia Cascades and North Central Washington; Grand River Valley, Ohio; Nashville, Tennessee/Bloomington Area, Indiana; Applegate/Rogue Valley, Oregon; Lake Erie Region, Ohio; Kalamazoo, Michigan.

Orbitz's findings were based on both food and hotels in the area. Some other sometimes surprising findings:

* Philadelphia offers much more than monuments and museums. The city is actually in the vicinity of 18 wineries, six of which make up the Brandywine Valley wine trail, located just 25 minutes away.

* Distinctive wines combined with southern hospitality have vaulted the Texas Hill and Arkansas Wine Countries to the No. 2 and No. 3 spots, respectively, on the Orbitz Insider Index fastest-growing list. And the Pacific Northwest is gaining on California as the place to be when it comes to wine excursions.

* Three of the top 10 fastest-growing regions in the United States are from points of interest in Washington and Oregon. And before snow starts to fall in the Midwest, there are a number of growing wine regions that have given destinations in Ohio, Indiana, Tennessee and Michigan four of the top 10 spots.

* In Mexico, tequila is king, but Sonora is home to half of Mexico's vineyards. The Baja region and Ensenada are also known for their wines – and their food and wine festivals.

* In Canada, the Okanagan region features some of Canada's best scenery and wine.

04 October 2007

White Box Truck

Five years ago, yesterday, marked the beginning of the sniper terror that briefly plagued DC. I raise this not to bring you down (like you need more things bringing you down) but because when I think of this era, I immediately think of white box trucks. They are forever linked in my mind. Early on in the frenzied investigation they saw a white box truck at one of the scenes and speculated that the killer was in a white box truck. So everyone was on alert for white box trucks. The problem was that every other vehicle was, and still is, a white box truck. There were almost as many white box trucks as references to white box trucks in this paragraph.

So, I thought, if you wanted to be as inconspicuous as possible, you couldn't do better for a getaway vehicle than the white box truck. This would be my vehicle of choice if I were the criminal type. And if you wanted to strike fear into the populace, you couldn't do better than point the finger of blame at the white box truck. And I wondered if this had indeed turned out to be the vehicle of the killers, would sales of white box trucks go down? You know, like the decline of naming a child Adolph? Would people sell their white box truck cheap just to be rid of the stigma? Would they paint it school bus yellow to disguise it's horrible crime reference? Would OJ buy one and drive it around?

I could be wrong (who me?) but it seems like this was about the time that fear became a way of life in the US. It was a year after 9/11 and people were trying to right themselves after such devastation and it wasn't enough that the administration was hammering fear messages, it seemed that television news became all about FEAR. If you watch the news now the message is still "BE VERY AFRAID." And if there is no news to point to in order to justify this mandate, they'll create some. You see teasers like "Like licking ice cream? We did, too, until we heard Joe Headshot's special report. The horrible truth about licking ice cream tonight at 11."

Calm down.

Turn your television off.

Lick ice cream.

But watch out for those white box trucks. [Okay, that one was just gratuitous.]

Another Great Find...

As long as you're listening to JoeBob, check out http://marmadukeexplained.blogspot.com/

Excellent community service site.

Make Mine Royal Pine

I am at the gas station yesterday pumping my gas. I look across the island as a driver is getting out of her minivan. She leaves the door open as she begins her transaction. I glance in and notice that there is something hanging from her turn signal lever. I look again. There are at least a dozen little tree air fresheners hanging over her lever.

What happened in that car that she needs that many air fresheners? Cat pee all over it? Diaper explosion? Is she hauling dead bodies around for the fun of it? All those combined? No wonder she left the door open. Ick.

And, really, is there any point in overlaying one strong scent with another strong scent? So you get Strawberry cat urine or Pine dead body aroma. How does that help?!

03 October 2007

JoeBob Says "Check It Out" (Someecards)


Doesn't Everyone Want to Be Immortalized in Wax?

In the creepy and different category...

From About.com:

Madame Tussauds Wax Museum Opens in Washington DC

Madame Tussauds Wax Museum opens in Washington DC on October 5, 2007! The world renowned wax museum features very real looking wax figures of historical icons and modern day celebrities. Don't miss the grand opening special admission price of just $10 on October 5th and 6th...

02 October 2007

Identity Fraud

So I go in to work and I have a message from MCI needing me to call them back in order for them to process my request.

Huh? They must have the wrong number. I ignore the message.

Later I am in the office when they call back.

This is Soandso from MCI and I just need a little bit of information to process your request...

I think you must have the wrong number. I haven't put in any request...

I have an order here for bladeblah.

Not mine.

Well, someone with your name and phone number has put it in on a Bank of America credit card.

How interesting... It wasn't me.

Do you have a Bank of America card?

Let me check. Sure enough, my business credit card is a Bank of America card.

Are the last four digits NNNN?


And so I realize that I have become the latest victim of identity fraud. MCI cancels the order and suggests I get in touch with the credit card company to see if there's any other spurious charges.

I call Bank of America. Turns out whomever is charging to this account is having a grand time in Baton Rouge among other places. They suggested shutting down the card immediately. I agreed. They did. So much for having big fun on the bayou.

I can't wait to see my statement this month. The B of A clerk suggested I look it over pretty carefully to see what I want to dispute. Yuh. Stellar advice.