Monday, December 31, 2007

I just can't let this one go. Avert your eyes if you don't like creepy weird skin rashes in creepy weird places.

The link above to The Smoking Gun is for a feature on women's tats titled "Ladies, show us your tats". (Creative eh?) I guess police departments are starting to document tattoos when they book people. I just have one question. What kind of crack rash is this? Ewww..

picture credit:

To Whom it May Concern:

I would like to point out two things to the people that read this blog.
  1. My site counter just cracked 1K hits since it's inception. While I recognize this is almost nothing compared to a real website, it's me and I'm happy with my silly little site. I think I'll reset the counter - whee!
  2. My blog has a really lame name. (I'm talking about the "MySpace" header thingy..)
I could use some help with #2.

People - please learn to use the comments functionality. Let me allay any fears you may have. It's totally anonymous unless you click on the little thing that says nickname and then you can decide to put your name in or not. You can call yourself whatever you'd like. Just click the little comments button and give me a few good suggestions for a new name. Or perhaps just tell me why you read this stupid thing...maybe it will give me some good ideas.

There will be prizes for most creative name (either for the blog or for comments posting). Here are a few you may not use. Why? Because I said so and it's my contest.

Frito Bandito
Mary Poppins
Bubba Bubba Bubba
Enrico Palazzo

Have a wonderful New Year. My resolution this year is to figure out mobile blogging. Then I can torture you all directly from my blackberry. Won't that be a fun new year? I leave you with a few gems from my Google reader. Please feel free to share your favorites, I'm in desperate need of some new material to read.
("a collection of articles and posts about misandry, womyn, and the fallacies of feminism"- this isn't so much for enjoyment... this guy is pretty much a woman hating A-Hole. I like to picture him as an emasculated loser who plays with his undersized man bits in front of a computer in the basement while his wife screams at him from upstairs. No offense to the bean counters out there, but this douche is an accountant - we all saw that one coming. Did his babysitter torture him as a child? Maybe his chronic halitosis has kept women just out of reach of his squirrelly little paws. Read, learn, fight the man...literally.)

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Please, help me change the channel

In my post holiday couch sitting stupor I have discovered a few scary things on TV. Somehow the digital box has ended up on BBC America and I think it might be stuck. It's a bit like a train wreck, I want to look away but I just keep watching. My latest obsession is a show called "How Clean is your House?". The basic principle is exactly what one might think: people with messy, dirty homes go on the show and end up with clean homes. Two ladies called Kim & Aggie run around to these homes wearing fur trimmed rubber gloves (good thing my mother didn't find those for Christmas...) and they hurl insults at the inhabitants to shame them out of their dirty habits. One of the two, I'm not sure which, frequently tells people that she might be sick. They they take swabs from various places in the house to send out to the lab. Oh yea, and everyone has that teary moment at the end where they talk about what a life changing event the cleaning has been. Also, 75% of these people discuss the sole purpose for doing this is to increase their chances of getting laid.

Here are the highlights...
  • One woman liked to throw her dirty underpants all over the house. As a result her little swabs showed traces of candida all over the house. NASTY. (I'm sure she'll get plenty of tail after national television broadcasts her little yeast problem.)
  • She also had her refrigerator condemned as a biohazard. She was advised that commercial cleaners would never fix what was in there and to just chuck it.
  • There was a gentleman who had resorted to eating biscuits and milk in bed because his kitchen was infested with garbage and flies. (Can someone please tell me what the hell is a biscuit? The only kind I know you can find down south smothered in gravy.)
  • Then there was the guy who was advised to vacuum his mattress monthly to keep the dust mites down. He was also the same guy who had cobwebs all over his walls.
I also learned some cleaning tips from these two crazy women. Shaving foam is a wonderful cleanser for walls. (who knew?) For those stubborn stains in the toilet - grab some sandpaper (btw, if you need sandpaper in your toilet, you'd better check your ass). I also threw up in my mouth a little throughout most of these shows. This was sort of like torture. Please don't tell me about all the bacteria and fungus that live around me, it's like dumping kerosene on a smoldering fire... I think I need to go clean now. With bleach...

Next up was a little gem called "You Are What You Eat". Another self explanatory title. People eat badly then they get religion. There's this crazy little Scottish woman, Gillian McKeith, who takes the fatties, tracks what they stuff in their mouth for a week (with the help of some friends that are tired of their pal being a big 'ole porker), has them take a dump so she can check out their poo (while hurling insults like: "I can smell your bad poo from outside this door", "I'll bet you leave skid marks in the bowl when you take a poo", and my personal favorite, "a good poo should hit the water while it's still coming out of you") and then she buys them a gym membership. She does all this in a very shrill squealing voice. People are also terrified of her as well which is fun because sometimes she makes them cry.
  • One woman broke down in tears when it was explained to her that she was killing her chubby little children with sugar. (duh...) They pulled together how much sugar she was feeding her little rolly polly's in a week - it was so heavy that the kids couldn't even hold the bowls.
  • Then there was a big fatty who liked to eat crisps (Again, a little help here, what is a crisp? Do we have those in this country?) - she cried when she cheated and ate crisps. It was a blubbering mess.
  • The candy lady was especially freakish. She consumed more candy in a week than I've purchased in 10 Halloweens. - 14 Liters of Diet Soda and not a single ounce of water.
  • The guinea pigs in one house ate better than the children

How is it these people are always shocked when someone tells them that it's bad to eat a bunch of crap? Is this revolutionary or are people just stupid?

However the single funniest thing about BBC America is that they run these sort of public service announcement type commercials suggesting you should put on your closed captioning to understand what the hell everyone is saying. This is especially necessary when watching Ramsey's Kitchen Nightmares. My husband has begun running around the house yelling "Bollocks!" in a very strange affected English accent. This is second only to his imitation of the Irish guy at work.

Excuse me now. I'm off, it's time for Coupling....

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

In only 10 short months....

We will be going to the 2008 World Championship Punkin Chunkin. For those of you who may require a bit of explanation, it's basically a bunch of wackadoos with huge cannons and catapults hurling pumpkins thousands of feet for the honor of being the one who threw it the furthest. After several weeks of anticipation, this was the event that my sister and her husband decided that we would attend together as our Christmas gift. I'm really excited as this seems to be a really scary event where I might see some really scary people. I've got money on Hell's Angels having a catapult team.

My husband and I will be taking them to NYC (via Greyhound since it's the only way we could keep it under $30 a person) to a taping of the Conan O'Brien show. After presenting them with this gift I learned that my brother-in-law has a well documented fear of buses. Apparently he's not the only one. I think we'll just dope him up and shove him on the bus. Nothing a bottle of Jack can't fix.

We also received a generous donation to the Human Fund from my parents and (quite possibly the coolest gift ever) a fondue set. My mother also likes to make sure there's some volume under the tree. Christmas, after all, has to look good too. So she's taken to wrapping up useful items for us to open. The highlight: Yellow Latex Cleaning Gloves.

Our gift to her? Money to the Hearing Aid Fund. We've raised $500 so far for my mother's ears. Interest rates on the white envelope in my bedside table are not significant so growth has been slow. If you would like to donate to the Mama J Hearing Aid fund, please send donations to my gmail account via PayPal. No donation is too small and think of the two happy children who will never again have to hear, "What? WHAT? What did you say?" We're hoping that we can talk my father into being our corporate match partner. Sadly, we believe this is unlikely since we suspect he doesn't want her to hear.

Other than the gift giving bonanza, we've been eating like champs. And as a result, here are a few restaurants worth mentioning from the last 2-3 weeks.

The Fountain at The Four Seasons
I always find these types of places to be highly overrated. This one was not. I had the Maine Lobster Tail with chantarelle mushrooms, melted Leek and gnocchi ragout. To quote the annoying Ms. Ray - Delish! Best on someone elses dime, but really worth trying to find someone to take you there. Plus the sommelier has a cute French accent.

Matyson - 37 S 19th Street, Philadelphia, PA (BYO)
I tried this place for lunch and wasn't impressed but went back for dinner anyway. Glad I went back - dinner was fantastic. I can't remember what I ate, probably due to the bottles of wine consumed but I remember it was good.

Tango Bistro - 37 Morris Avenue, Bryn Mawr, PA
Duck Confit Salad that was supremely tasty and a Chilean Sea Bass with a Thai Peanut Sauce and some shredded bok choy and other unidentifiable stuff. The sea bass was perfectly prepared. mmm mmm good.

Osteria - 640 North Broad Street, Philadelphia, PA
I've been trying to go to this place for months and every time I think of it I then forget and when I do remember they can't take us until 10:30 at night. We finally went and it was well worth the wait. R.B. - this is the date spot you were looking for. We tried a bunch of stuff from the menu. A wonderful Duck Liver Pate that just melted in your mouth, Pheasant Salame with Frisee, Walnuts and a Cranberry Jelly, a Vegetable Antipasti and an oven pizza with Ham, Gruyere and Spinach. If it's any indication of how good this place was, the waiter had to practically rip the plate out of my husbands hands...I think he wanted to lick it. A word to the wise - don't get stuck at the table next to the Meat Slicer. Apparently someone thought it a novel idea to have the slicer in the dining room and put a table for two right next to it. We were fortunate enough to not sit at that table, but the people next to us weren't so lucky and clearly didn't appreciate the kitsch.

Hopefully Santa brought you all what you were looking for and if not, Kwanzaa is a good time to find the stuff you wish you got, on sale. Happy Holidays & Habari Gani!

Monday, December 24, 2007

Merry Christmas and all that stuff....

Our Christmas weekend has been fairly eventful thanks to a wedding on Saturday night. Early in the evening I realized that I was going to be our designated driver. My husband started pounding Manhattans like they were going out of style. He attempted to dip one of the bridesmaids. At least she landed on top of him when they hit the ground. He doesn't get that sloshed too often so I don't mind having to pour him into bed and stuff Advil down his throat. Lord knows he's taken care of me when the tables have been turned. It was nice to have something like a wedding to break up the holidays. Took my mind off my unfinished shopping and lack of gift giving ideas.

I started thinking about how much cooler Christmas was when I was younger. People say it's sort of fun again once you have kids. My cousin's wife came to dinner tonight and said to me, "don't do it". I knew exactly what she was talking about. She probably had spent all day trying to get kids, who were all cracked out on Christmas cookies and soda, into nice clothes to shuttle them from house to house visiting family. Watching kids around Santa reminds you a bit of watching junkies. The crazed eyes and jerky movements, they could be easily confused with meth heads.

You try to recall that feeling you had. I remember, but it's impossible to recreate those feelings again.

We watched a Christmas Story about 10,592 times. That movie never gets old. "What does mommy's little piggy do?" Then there's the onslaught of claymation. That stuff is cool. You knew it was getting close to presents from the fat man when the Rudolph claymation came on.

I was always totally psyched by all the Christmas decorations in the house. In my 6 year old brain it was a winter wonderland. I used to love driving around looking at all the houses with lights. (This was pre-lazy man decorating. You couldn't just plug in a giant snow globe and call your house decorated. It involved ladders and lights and at least a few close brushes with death to make your house look good.)

That feeling you would get on Christmas eve, there's nothing like it - all you wanted to do was fall asleep so you could wake up but you were so hopped up on Christmas cookies and soda that falling asleep seemed impossible. The best was sneaking downstairs in the morning to check out the tree just to make sure you actually got gifts. The best gift ever was the Barbie Dream House. It was fully assembled under the tree that morning, I don't think I was ever so excited.

Then there was the post present opening delirium. You couldn't even decide what to play with first. So we would just sit there and organize the loot in a futile attempt to make sense of the mess.

When I got older it was a nice time to see all my friends. When we were in college we would all meet on Christmas eve at my friend's house to help her mom wrap presents. She would bribe us with bottles of champagne and we would hang out for hours.

These days there doesn't seem to be much to say about the holidays. They're a bit of a pain in the rear. Sure it's nice to see friends and family. It's great to have a week off work. But shopping for gifts is tough when everyone in our family is at the point where no one needs anything. I boycotted shopping at the mall a few years ago after an unfortunate incident over a parking space. I took my business online. This has been pretty successful but I got lazy this year and waited too long. Perhaps that's why I'm such a Grinch this year, I spent time in the mall yesterday. It was horrifying. This year my sister and I (and respective spouses) decided that we weren't going to exchange gifts but instead come up with an activity the four of us could do together. The only catch, it has to be something that costs less than $30 per person. Sure, there are plenty of things you can do for $30 bucks but there is some creative competition here so you can't just get movie tickets and call it a day. I won't talk about our gift yet on the off chance that they read this before tomorrow morning.

My mother, the church lady, would argue that Christmas is about celebrating the birth of our Lord, but from where I stand it seems more about eating cookies and tolerating your neighbor's bad taste in lawn ornamentation. This is why I'm a huge fan of Thanksgiving. It's a no-strings-attached holiday - eat some turkey, hang out, fall asleep, life is good. Christmas seems too high stress with little reward. Perhaps that will be my excuse to have a few kids, so I can enjoy the fun Christmas stuff again. Do you think they'll be damaged goods when they realize I gave birth so I could watch Charlie Brown's Christmas again?

I leave you with the Mommom quote of the day...

Dad: Mom, I'm going to paint that cane for you.
(Perhaps you recall my earlier post about the sawed off snow shovel with a rubber stopper on the end that she's using as a cane these days?)
Mommom: No you will not, it's fine the way it is. It's nice now and if you paint it I can't take it to a restaurant anymore.
(Yes, I frequently see people trolling around the Max & Erma's with a sawed off shovel...makes perfect sense.)

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Two Reasons for Me to Visit London

Because she will hate it, I will blog about two of my favorite things in the same post. Forever memorializing this moment. My friend "K" in London and Duran Duran.

First I was very sad when my friend moved to London. She and her husband were the only two people who had stuck it out in Philly with us. Despite the fact that she was a Philly hater, she stayed. Although she openly plotted for years to move, she still stayed. Then in August she made good on her threats. Here's the problem, they were our try out a new restaurant friends, our NYE friends, our get wasted in the same bar over and over again friends, they were the friends that actually took the time to have house parties and introduce all their friends to each other. And sadly, they are now gone. On to bigger and better places and we are left all alone. So to lessen my withdrawal I told her she should start writing a blog so we can hear about all those classic American in London moments.

It's only been 4 months, but she's finally gotten a computer and a high speed connection. So, here it is.

And now, on to my forever undying love of Duran Duran. They are, in a word, my mostest favorite. I love Simon LeBon. I also love New Romantic music. This is the ultimate perfection - like chocolate and milk or champagne and caviar or yogurt and granola (shut up, it's perfect in our house).

Anyway, Duran Duran recently came out with a new album in November and I LOVE IT. Red Carpet Massacre is actually better than Astronaut which was pretty darn good. They did some good collaborations with Justin Timberlake and Timbaland. Updated their sound without losing that distinct - "we like wedge hair cuts, hair gel and androgynous clothing" Duran Duran sound.

Did you know there's a National Duran Duran Appreciation Day? August 10th. Which Nation you ask? I have no idea but I'll celebrate it. They also have a presence in Second Life. While that's really only exciting for second lifers, it's still cool.

I find it interesting that two of my favorite things exist on an island together. Perhaps that alone is worth going to visit. Maybe there's a museum or something. Perhaps I can stalk Simon LeBon's house? Just a thought...

So in summary, read her blog & go out to iTunes and buy the first 4 tracks on the new album.

Friday, December 21, 2007

I hate AT&T with the burning passion of 1,000 Suns and the iPhone should burn in Hell

In 1999 I signed up for wireless service through AT&T Wireless. Pretty much immediately I hated them. The angry screaming blind homeless lady who plays the little flute thingy on 18th and Walnut has more refined people skills than these flaming assholes did. I hated AT&T with the burning passion of 1,000 suns. For those of you who don’t work in the land of telco, here’s a brief summary of my hysteria from 1999 through 2003.

The FCC delayed WLNP several times. Every time the mandate came due all the carriers cried and cried about how tragic and costly it would be and filed for extensions. So for two or three years there was a stay of execution. Sometime in 2001 I started telling their representatives that I was going to leave their god forsaken service and take my number with me. This obviously didn’t phase them, nor did they believe me, “I’m sorry, that’s just not possible.” In retrospect this is humorous because I was most certainly talking to a $10/hr employee. Having run a contact center I can tell you 2 things about that person with absolute certainty.

1. They don’t read FCC filings
2. They don’t give a shit if I leave

So the rantings of the crazy woman fell on deaf ears. The day always comes when we all have it stuck to us and that glorious day came for AT&T when the top 100 MSAs were forced to comply by the FCC. On a side note, there’s one other thing I can tell you about Telcos with absolute certainty – you don’t want to be the first customer to get anything new or do anything new. It won’t work - I promise. There are zero exceptions to this rule. So I sat back and watched all the carriers screw up people’s ports. Phone numbers went flying wildly into the black abyss of NPAC or some other telco backoffice. So I waited until the coast was clear and laughed like a lunatic as I ported out to T Mobile. As a parting gift, the bastards over at AT&T gave me a final F U when they billed me for a whole month when I only spent a few hours into the bill cycle on their network. I was really happy when someone was pissed enough to whack them with a class action law suit for exactly that. I signed up.

So to shorten an already long, and probably boring, bitch session I eventually ended up with Cingular. So we all know what happened there. So here I am full circle - back with AT&T Wireless. But it should be ok right? Cingular bought them, not the other way around.

Fast forward – November 2007. I win an iPhone and give it to my husband. We activate it and those bastards force me to re-up the contract. Then they remove the corporate discount on our account and force me to add a data plan. And when I called, GOOD LORD - you would have thought that it was 1999 again. I swear it was the same woman who laughed at me 8 years ago.

I honestly started out very calm and tried to be nice. That lasted about 30 seconds until this nitwit said she didn’t know anything about a contract renewal on an iPhone. For the love of god woman - more than a million have been sold in the last few months. You would think they would at least be able to answer basic questions. Not a chance. So they blamed this on Apple and transferred me to their tech support. This was going no where fast. Then Apple got all uppity and blamed AT&T.

As consumers you probably understand that there are two reasons wireless companies force you to renew your contract – they’ve either subsidized your phone from the manufacturer or they force you into it when you want a newer/better rate plan. This was neither of those circumstances but what I came to realize is that the retail phone is subsidized by Apple. They’re banking on the fact that you will activate the handset on AT&T’s network. And when you do, they mandate the data plan and then AT&T kicks back a percentage MRC or per phone cut to Apple. That my friends is why they try so gosh darn hard to prevent you from unlocking the phones. They want the kick back. So despite all their “We’re Apple, we’re crunchy, we’re a bunch of do-gooder happy people”, they are fundamentally just as evil as AT&T.

Ain’t nothing in life free. In fact it’s worth about $800. That’s the price difference between the locked and unlocked devices at the current exchange rate overseas. So my loss of choice is worth about $1 per day to Apple. So if you do the math on that and assume that Apple is getting at least that much back from AT&T, and there are at least 1M phones out there, that's like 400M annually just from that initial run of 1M phones (who knows how many were added during the holidays). So while that $1 day won't buy me a coffee (despite what Sally Struthers may suggest to the contrary - what kind of coffee is she drinking anyway?), it buys them a whole lotta coffee. Bastards.

Happy Holidays...I hope everyone gets a stinking iPhone under the tree.

My husband reminded me that he didn't understand half of this post because I did that thing where I talk in acronyms. I've updated the post with few links to helpful sites. And Vanessa, if you want, we can get on a bridge later on and talk about it.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

A Little Hatred & Self Loathing for the Holidays

I'll admit that some days I live under a rock. I try to avoid the local 11 o'clock news since the only thing it typically tells me is how many house fires there were in Fishtown and who shot whom in the Mayfair section of town (exactly where is Mayfair, I don't know. I do know that I don't want to go there...people get shot).

Anyway, lately I've been obsessed with this whole Alycia Lane drama that's been unfolding. I think she's pretty and she always manages to look very serious when she's telling us about those house fires and shootings. She looks good in that "Anchorwoman Red Suit". Did I mention I think she's pretty? Anyway, that about sums up what I know about this woman.

I would have been happy to go on thinking she's pretty and nothing else. However, the media has made this virtually impossible. As a result I have learned the following lessons - In the event that you are an evening news anchor, you should avoid the following behavior...

1. Sending bikini pictures of yourself to married men, or their wives (even when it's by accident)
2. Dating a Morning Show DJ who has stupid looking billboards all up and down I95

3. Cussing at the nice police officers and trying to pull rank by saying you're a reporter (ummm, who would respond to that anyway?)
4. Telling the nice lady police officer that she plays for the pink team
5. Hitting the nice police officer

So now you're saying - how does someone who lives under a rock know about Alycia Lane? Why the Internet of course! I wouldn't have seen it if her picture hadn't popped up on the homepage and I said - ooooo shiny! Pretty! I know her! (does anyone else find it odd that my pretty new lady made national news for something so stupid?) How did this happen?

I'll tell you how - the average American is an ignorant fool. I just pulled up all the major news outlets to see what we're digesting.

NY Times feature article(s): New South Korean President, Bush/CIA Tapes & Sub Prime Mortgage drama at Morgan Stanley

Wall Street Journal feature article(s): More Morgan Stanley, Wed Fed auction & more mortgage related market drama

wait for it....CNN

What in the hell is this? We wonder why we're a stupid society? Who cares about some amputee or people without electricity. Speaking of dumb news. It was also a big news day for offspring in the Spears clan.

Britney's sister is knocked up. How old is she? 12? Anyway, this is like a feeding frenzy. The press is down in some podunk down in Mississippi with a population of just over 1K people on a man hunt for her baby daddy. (by the way I LOVE how the media uses the phrase "baby daddy" like it makes ANY sense at all)

I have a question...are the instructions on the birth control down South written in Chichewa? It's the only way I can figure someone can get knocked up by accident. Maybe they just don't teach that sex-ed class in the actor kid classes?

Who am I to talk, I have no point of comparison because I wasn't doing anything that would have gotten me "in the family way" at 16. I do recall a few years after that and BABY was number one on the list of things to avoid. I wasn't doing anything nearly as cool with my life as she is and I still managed to stave off teen pregnancy. Then again, I wasn't cursed with the Spears gene pool either.

So moving on to the other female in the family, Mama Spears. Probably the most ironic part of this whole pregnant teen drama is that her Mama Spears book on parenting has been delayed indefinitely. Frankly I'm shocked that the Christian publisher is no longer interested in a parenting book by her. The injustice!

I leave us all with the wise words of Chris Rock, "Your job in life is to keep your baby off the pole". Well done.

Mmmbop, ba duba dop, Ba du bop, ba duba dop

So I'm doing my favorite Sunday activity, sitting on the couch. This is the primary reason why I am hesitant to have children...I suspect it may interfere with couch time. It's not just the sitting, you need to watch TV too and more specifically, it has to be bad TV. TLC qualifies or E! or VH1 or my latest obsession, the Biography channel. This is mindless entertainment at its best. This is the reason for this post.

I am watching "Child Stars III: Teen Rockers". Other than the obvious question of "Why on earth would you subject yourself to that?" one has to ask - "Are there really two parts before that, how many teen rockers are there?". So first they profile JoJo whom I will admit to liking quite a bit. I didn't know she was 13 when I heard her music. Seeing her requires a little suspension of disbelief as she's wailing away about some man wronging her but regardless she has a tremendous voice. So I was excited to learn who the next Teen Rocker would be in this fantastic series.

Am I the only person who has never heard of this band Smoosh? Prepubescent sisters from Seattle who have now put out record number 2. One sister plays the drums and the other plays keyboard. They have some hippie crunchy parents and a few siblings and they live in Seattle.

This is when it hits me. We all know at some point we are no longer in the know about certain things. Was I not looking when this happened to me? So I go out to youtube to see what all the fuss is about.

I found the following link. The song isn't too bad if you don't watch. It's a little whinny but makes you think, "oh that's kind of cute". Cute in the way Hanson was cute before they started to like girls.


Ok, so watch them both back to back. Is any else confused about which band is which? If those Smoosh girls called up another sister to play guitar they could be Hanson. Both groups are doing "stuff" they like - the girls play soccer, the guys do the pseudo surfer thing. Then it cuts back to them playing music. Then it cuts to them running around having fun. Based on extensive research (ok, perhaps that's a slight exaggeration) I have decided that Smoosh is some sort of genetic cloning of Hanson gone awry. I've included a diagram to explain how this is possible.

Did anyone else see that cinematic gem called Multiplicity? (Oh yes, I am referencing a Michael Keaton movie.) Well if you happened to see it, then you know that with each cloning something degrades. Ok, not scientific enough for you? How about Dolly the sheep. Wasn't it bad enough she was named after Dolly Parton? Poor thing had to suffer being #2 and then a decidedly undignified ending when she was euthanized for poor health.

I bet you're wondering where this post is going. You're thinking to yourself - she's not really going to suggest that Smoosh should be euthanized is she? No, I'm not that mean. Ok, maybe I am but those pre-teen fans get really angry and I don't need to bring bad hate karma to this poor little blog. You draw your own conclusions. I offer the following evidence below that #2 is never good enough.

(On a side note, I spent quite a bit of my Sunday listening to Mmmbop and giggling to myself. Surprisingly, the older brother got much cuter. I also learned through my extensive research that the Hanson brothers have had enough children between the three of them to start a Partridge Family style act. I'm scared.)

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Theories, Stereotypes and Observations put to the test....ok, not really but play along

Yesterday my partner in crime and I packed up the contents of our double wide and vacated our offices for greener pastures. The moving company forced us to leave early so we went to the bar. The cast of characters from last week's holiday party were partially reprised at our local watering hole.

After several beverages we decided that going to a few gay bars would be a good idea. We eventually landed at the Tavern on Camac. It took me 10 minutes to realize that there are several stereotypes about gay men that seem to hold water. Gay men knows show tunes, Judy Garland songs and Christmas carols. Here I am standing in this piano bar (and I acknowledge that perhaps that has something to do with who was actually in the bar) and these guys are singing along to songs I have never heard. How does that happen? Is it like the twins separated at birth phenomena? I may have been the only one in the bar who could not sing along. (ok, so I'll point out that my friend Rich also couldn't sing along. It pokes holes in my theory so I conveniently left that part of the story out.)

Theory 2 put to the test: If you put a gay man and a high school girl in the same room and see who can create more drama and bitchiness, my money is on the gay man. There was high drama in that bar. Everyone knows everyone elses business. Everyone is also talking about everyone elses front of everyone. That one is a whore, that one is cheating on his partner, I hate that one, etc. I learned my one friend used to date some guy and now he dates another guy and everyone apparently knows them both. I watched some random guy start talking trash on my friend's partner. Then his partner walks out and the guy starts double cheek kissing him and gushing all over him. I haven't seen bald face trash talking like this since 8th grade.

Here's one I didn't know about but I am officially making it Theory 3 - these guys have Spidey ears. They hear everything. It's no secret that I have an ongoing monologue in my head. Sometimes my inside voice comes outside. Most people don't hear me since I'm usually only loud enough to make it to the ears of the person next to me and no further. I've always attributed it to the pitch of my voice. Quite often it has that phone sex operator quality and not screeching wild monkey (yes, that's what most women sound like to me). Well, let me tell you something. When I made fun of the shirt on the guy 15 feet from me, he turned around and actually said "oh no, you didn't". My sense was that he was either non violent or my friend's partner carried more social weight than he did. So I was spared the nasty cat fight over the shiny blue iridescent shirt.

There is one other explanation for this particular episode - I was drunk and didn't know how loud I was. Our house guests last weekend will swear that the girl I was making fun of in the diner heard me. You know what, I hope she did. There's a point in all of our lives when we need to learn that no one wants to see that half masticated pile of french fries in your mouth. Shut it. Chew it. Thank you. I will own that one with pride.

Observation 4 - Not all gay men are hot. Disappointing. When I was single I was convinced that all the hot ones were gay and they were off in a club somewhere appreciating each other's hotness in the absence of females. I am happy to report to the single ladies out there that they've got it just as bad as we do. Yes, there was some dude clearly pumped up on roids dancing with himself in the mirror. Rumor was that he was some kind of porn star. My only concern was his close proximity to my suede bag in the corner because he looked a little lubed up. (I can't imagine suede and lube would be a good combination.) Generally speaking there were a few nice looking guys but many were just average guys of all ages that I would not date, even if I were single and they were straight.

It was indeed a fun night despite the fact that there was a set of awesome 80's songs played exactly at my departure - I might have considered going back but I had been drinking for more than 9 hours - my bed was calling my name. Rich says he's going to take me to Sisters for the Wednesday night drink special - 10 drinks for $10. 10 drinks is exactly what I need on a Wednesday night - especially if I plan to be surrounded by women in flannel. But I hear they have good music and dancing. Let's hope their hearing is poor so I don't have to worry about getting my ass kicked. Something tells me the chick in flannel won't be as forgiving as the dude in the iridescence.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

The Work Holiday Party - The Mother of all CLMs

Ahhhh, the work holiday party. So many possible pitfalls, a veritable cornucopia of potential CLMs. What is a CLM you ask? A Career Limiting Move. It was a favorite acronym at my old firm. There’s far more opportunity at a consulting firm for debauchery – an over abundance of young people, quite a few who are fairly attractive, large expense accounts, lots of alcohol and traveling. It’s a recipe for disaster. I thought moving into industry would provide some protection from the world of CLMs.

And it did, for the most part. However, every year the holidays roll around putting us all into the precarious world of over consumption. Vendor parties, work functions, team dinners, they all magically appear in December.

They Queen Mother of all opportunities for committing grave CLMs is the work holiday party. Here are a few common sense tips I’ve picked up over the years for surviving your holiday party.

  1. Drink, but only until your conversation starts to sound incoherent. We all know that this is impossible. You’re cruising along, chatting everyone up, having a glass of wine, feeling very good about your ability to be social and professional when “BAM!” somehow you’re now on your 5th glass of wine and you realize you have diarrhea of the mouth and the person talking to you looks like they’re in pain.
  2. Say hello to anyone important early….very early. You know you’re going to violate Rule #1 so see the people you’re most likely to commit CLMs in front of early.
  3. Find a spot that no one else is drinking and make it your own. Now that you’ve done your required socialization you should find a place to continue drinking. Please note that the dance floor is off limits. Really, you can’t dance sober and you really can’t dance drunk so just don’t do it.
  4. The spot should be hidden or at least not visible to the people in Rule #2. This should be fairly obvious but you know how that goes. You thought that spot right by the bar was good because it meant easy access to drinks. It’s also everyone elses access to drinks. Not good. Other danger zones? The bathroom (duh…we all have to pee), near the food (ummm, hello. Isn’t that why everyone shows up anyway – free food?) or the dance floor (you shouldn’t be there if you were listening to #3.
  5. Don’t puke at the party. I guess this goes without saying, but if you gotta do it, do it up right. At a certain age, socially appropriate vomiting should be perfected. You spent your twenties hurling with great abandon. Trash can in the middle of the party…why not? The street…outside is good right? In your friend’s car…oh well, you weren’t the first and not likely the last. Post 20’s this experience can be traumatic. But should the need arise, be smart. You’ve had lots of practice so make it perfect.

So of course when my holiday party rolled around I had no choice but to disregard all good sense and get hammered. And I danced. And we hung out right by the bathroom. And we two fisted drinks all night long. And we hit two bars afterward. And I think I may have groped one of my co-workers (I don’t think he or his boyfriend minded so we’re safe). I think there is photographic evidence somewhere of me with someone’s tie in my teeth with my co-worker’s wife doing the same.

Now you’re thinking, “What on earth is wrong with you?”. Shut up, I was not alone. My partner in crime took to dancing on the tables which almost got her thrown out of the bar…twice. My husband was the only one with any good sense. He had to get up for his Step 3 prep class at 5 in the morning so he went home early. We rolled in around 3AM-ish.

I spent the next day making nice with a bottle of Advil, took a nap in the afternoon and then went to bed early. The price you pay for drinking over the age of 30. Perhaps my unrealized dream of running for public office may never happen but at least it was a fun party. Happy Holidays!

Monday, December 3, 2007

I am not alone with the whole Facebook / Kaczynski thing

As I was poking around on the Internet I happened across an article on CNBC about a guy who hates Facebook and started his own mock site in protest called Lonerbook. And guess who the poster child is for Lonerbook? You guessed it - Ted Kaczynski.

Here's his blog post. That Eric Starkman is a funny guy.

Facebook may turn us all into Ted Kaczynski

So I’ve always hated Facebook for it’s complete lack of interesting functionality and an inability to personalize your space. Of course I had a Facebook account but rarely went to the site. I was just so tired of getting the invitations that I finally gave in. (seems to be a theme) I’m not even sure I posted a picture. I was happy to let it sit and collect friends until this latest little item freaked me out . I deactivated my account and I’m now I’m finished with facebook Done and Done.

Then today they were in the news for doing what they said they weren't doing - irreverent data collection. Apparently they weren't entirely truthful about how much data they collect...go figure. It tracks your even when you told them not to. It's like an invisible LoJack on your life.

And if you want to take conspiracy theory to a freaky new level, here's a little history on the evolution of Facebook and some of its policies, compliments of Conspiracy Central.

Perhaps I need to go buy a cabin in the woods and start my manifesto. Maybe my father was right. His sentiment about all these social networking sites (and in the spirit of full disclosure, blogging as well) is that no sane person should be interested in putting themselves out there. I blog because I like to write. I joined MySpace because I found a lot of people with which I lost touch. LinkedIn is good for career networking - right? Am I really insane for doing what all the other kids are doing?

A few years ago I got a job with a bunch of propeller heads. These guys were hardcore, I built a mainframe in my basement, geeks. I learned alot in those three years. It's amazing how much information is out there on a person. The more "stuff" you do, the more I can dig around in your business. It's not even about "doing stuff online". It's other people you do stuff with, other organizations, mistakes by your phone company, public records. And we're all compulsively shredding our credit card statements into a festive confetti mix while the rest of our lives hang out like laundry flapping in the breeze.

In five clicks, with your name, city and state, I can tell you how old you are, most of the places you've lived and possibly your current address. Even if you're unlisted, chances are I can find at least one service that "accidentally" has your info. ( Got a domain? In two clicks I can probably get additional contact information on you. ( And you thought you were so tricky by not listing your real name on your social networking site - do a reverse look up by that personal email address you put on your resume. That'll find you without any question as to whether it belongs to you or not. Alumni information from high school all the way to graduate school, donations to the charitable organization of your choice, answered questions on LinkedIn recently....gravy. Depending on which state you live in you could be in trouble. Did you know that for a nominal fee, and sometimes for free, you can get access to some very private records. In Texas (go ahead, make jokes about the Lone Star State, it's not just Texas doing this stuff) you can type in a license plate number and it will give you a full download of who owns the car, their parking tickets and driving record. Been married or divorced - your state may hand this information out like candy. Bought a house, sold a house, lost a get the picture.

Like I said, cabin in the woods - manifesto optional. Home school your kids! Bury you retirement savings in mason jars in the backyard. Start that canned vegetable collection in the bomb shelter. I hear SPAM ages well. Godspeed!

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Betamax killed the Gadget Guy

My father was burned by new technology once in his life. Despite my afflicted memory, I know I was pretty young when this happened, probably 1983. One day this new fangled machine showed up at our house. My father explained that we could program it to record television when we weren't home and then we could watch it later. It was called a Betamax. Even at that young age I remember my father talking about the superior technology over VHS. That in fact was true, however not many people had them since VHS was cheaper. Several things became apparent very quickly.

1. More than half the video rental stores only carried VHS
2. If they did carry Beta, they carried half the selection of movies that they had in VHS

It was a bit like having a Ferrari and only a dirt road on which to drive.

Eventually we admitted defeat and bought a VHS. Movie night got easier after that but I think it permanently damaged my father's early adopter tendencies.

To support my theory, here are a few technology milestones from the last 30 years:
  • I recall flipping an actual dial on the TV for many years.
  • Cable arrived in 1993. Who needs cable when you get television for free? (Cable? That's just crazy!).
  • My parents had a CD player in their car before the house and that was only because it came standard. (Who knows how long CDs will be around and you'll have wasted all that money!)
  • The DVD player was purchased sometime in or around 2004.
  • Verizon recently offered them free DVRs with their FIOS install, my father said he didn't want them.
  • It's entirely possible that I can run to the library and do research faster than my parent's computer loads wikipedia.
  • My father boycotted the cell phone after his company made him carry a bag phone in the mid-80's. This boycott lasted until this year when he finally gave in. He used to tell us he didn't want people to find him; I guess he got tired of people not being able to find him.
Now you might be thinking that my father is somehow technology inept. Not so. The man is genius with anything that requires power. I honestly believe the Betamax is what did it. Who knows what kind of greatness could have been achieved in home theater at our house if that awful midget video recorder hadn't shown up?

Mommom Update
On a side note, for those of you who have been wondering where my grandmother is lately. She's back from my uncle's house in Ohio. She's surprisingly more coherent than she was two months ago. I believe this extraordinary turn of events is partly because of some new dementia medication and partly her newly acquired cane. We tried for months to get her to use a cane. My grandfather had a number of nice canes that are now collecting dust somewhere. I think she almost spit the last time we suggested it. She came back from Ohio with a sawed off snow shovel that had a rubber stopper around the bottom. She loves it, won't go anywhere without it. The former snow shovel of my uncle is my Mommom's new woobie. Hey, whatever works.

I called home today and the line picked up quickly. I hear my grandmother yelling, "Will someone please tell me who I was just talking to?". Then I hear my mother tell her, "that was your son Bill". It's pretty clear that the phone is nowhere near any of their ears. Finally they hear me screaming "HELLO? HELLOOOO?" and my mother retrieves the phone from the table.

Good thing my parent's both got cell phones, I suspect I will be getting a lot of busy signals at the old homestead while Mommom is in town.....

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

I write because I care, I give because I have to...

I would like to dedicate this rant to my work husband. Although he’s sold out by actually donating to the United Way, no one has been more vigilant at harassing the crap out of our team leader. Tirelessly he emails and taunts her. Nothing she does is good enough.

Are those the best prizes you can come up with?

How many times a day are you going to email us?"

"Quit junking up my inbox with your crap

Hey, your posters violate the Philadelphia fire code, please remove them immediately

And my personal favorite, "I write because I care, I give because I have to"

Best of all, he blind copies me. The barrage of emails might be the only reason I’m almost sad to see the United Way drive end. Almost……
It's that time of the year and we've started our annual United Way "voluntary" donation campaign. The world of corporate giving is sort of like a cult. This has been true of every office in which I've ever worked. They start with the best of intentions and it quickly degrades into something like this:

Day 1: "Hey, this is a really great cause and only a small donation can make a big difference!"
Day 3: "With every donation you are entered into a raffle and if you give more than $x you're automatically entered into the super special raffle. IPod's for everyone!"
Day 5: "Thank you to those who have given, we're looking to reach our corporate goal for participation - join the team"
Day 7: Distribute FAQs debunking the United Way myths around overhead costs. (i.e. I know there was that whole scandal thing a bunch of years ago but c'mon, cut us some slack. We really want that plaque in the lobby.)
Day 9: "Did you know that you can designate your donation to a charity in your local community? Every donation makes a difference no matter how small." (Read: Are you that cheap that you can't give your local Little League a few bucks and help us out?)
Day 11: "Every year we've been proud of our contribution, we need your help to reach our goal." (Unacceptable participation! We know who you are.....)
Day 15: Rumors abound of lists naming the evil non-contributors
Day 17: In an effort to rouse the competitive spirit the reluctant team coordinator is enlisted to send personal messages - "Bob's team is trying to reach our personal goal of 85% participation - we can't do it without you!"
Day 20: "This is your last chance to donate before we take your first born in place of your contribution. Click on the link or you'll never see your family again. We mean it."

3 days later...

"A few folks have asked if there's anyway to donate since they missed the deadline so we've extended the giving deadline." (Read: They miss their children and are starting to think that the brake failure in the station wagon wasn't an accident.)

I'll admit it, I gave in to the pressure a few years ago. It was a moment of weakness brought on by the corporate equivalent of "CIA enhanced interrogation techniques". Leave me alone! I just wanted the bad man to stop. Talk about a violation of the very core of charitable giving. They say hind site is 20/20; I think we have quite a few good historical examples of why jumping on the bandwagon is not always such a hot idea. Feel free to use these as inspiration when fighting off the corporate donation pushers.

Poor judgement & mob mentality results in a giant New England BBQ
Good Cause: saving the Puritans from the Devil.

You look a little shifty, must be a commie. Round 'em up.
Good Cause?: Protecting America from communist sympathisers & espionage by Soviet Agents

Proof that drinking the Kool Aid is not always a good idea
Good Cause?: Protection from nuclear fall out due to impending attack on the United States

Too bad they didn't have - would have been better than the mass weddings to strangers
Good Cause?: The single most important idea is the parental relationship between God and man.

Note to Self: When two people called Bo & Peep tell you that Jesus is in a spaceship on the Hale-Bop Comet, don't put the bag over your head.
Good Cause?: Survive by leaving earth immediately before the planet is recycled.

A whole lot of perfectly good bed sheets ruined for a really bad cause.
Good Cause?: Self preservation in the face of social change due to rapid urbanization.

Monday, November 19, 2007

The Nanny-Nanny-Poo-Poo Face

My mother is mad at me. She is mad because she says I harass her. If she would only listen to reason I wouldn't have to harass her. My father apparently learned years ago that no good can come from harassing her and as a result nothing ever happens. A few weeks ago my sister, her husband and I were sitting in a bar. He told us that he was talking to my father they're going to build a sun room off the dining room. My sister and I looked at each other and started laughing like a bunch of lunatics. He didn't get the joke. Unfortunately we did. For years, and I'm talking about more than 25 years, my parents have been discussing home renovations. Sure the plan has morphed a few times, but the result is always the same. The decision is made to do something to the house. They talk, they discuss, they buy plans, they take plans to the township and at the end of the day, nada. It's like being trapped in the movie Groundhog Day.

I love my mother, but there's one thing that drives me nuts - the face she makes when she chooses not to listen to you. I like to call it the "This conversation is over nanny-nanny-poo-poo, you can't win because I'm not listening to you ANYMORE" face. You say something, she squishes up her face (sometimes she sticks her tongue out) and then she changes the subject. Case in point - the kitchen. For the life of me I can't understand her desire to hang onto this horrific explosion of 70's mess. I understand saving memories, but I think a picture or a knick knack would be far more appropriate than wallpaper. The wallpaper is a terrifying patchwork of avocado green, brown and mustard yellow. Plaid, paisley and patterns I can't even describe that provide a visual assault unlike any other. I've spent years of my life begging her to rip it down. When you broach the subject her only response is, "This is perfectly good wallpaper, it's not even peeling. Did you know I put this up when I was pregnant with you?". (That was 1976) "But Mom, it's positively awful, please!" Oh, oh.....wait for it.....there it is....The Face. Discussion over.

Then there's the floor. It's a perfect compliment of orange, yellow, cream and brown. Many people walk in and tell me that they remember when their parent's ripped that floor up from their own kitchen. Perhaps she hasn't replaced the floor because they stopped making floors to match that wallpaper in 1979.

So when she mentioned the possibility of doing something to the kitchen I was excited for about ten seconds. "I'm thinking about painting the kitchen lime green.", she says. My sister and I begged her to let us overhaul the kitchen. Her response? You guessed it - The Face. "Mom, even some new hardware would help - look at those hinges! They scream 70's country." She said, "You can't find three hole hinges so we can't replace them." This is classic Mom. If she doesn't feel like doing it then it must not exist. Of course a simple a Google search yielded tons of ornamental hinges. I emailed her the link. "Stop harassing me", she says. We really only harass out of love. Sometimes it takes a little tough love. (Mom - remember when we made you buy new jeans that didn't taper at the bottom? You love your new jeans! You'll love the new kitchen, stop fighting us.)

I'm hoping that by exposing these pictures to the Internet at large I can perhaps guilt her into action. We're thinking nice modern stainless door pulls, green glass tile on the back splash, a nice new floor that doesn't give you motion sickness and antique white walls. We even offered to put a cool lime green accent stripe around the top. Please, I implore all those who know Mrs. J to support our cause. Write to your congressman. Perhaps you can help me create a law against 70's decorating torture of adult children. Don't do it for me, do it for the children.....

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Philadelphia Supper is Icky

1. very bad

For those of you who know me, I love food. I love to eat, I love to cook, I love food shopping. It doesn't have to be super fancy or high end, just good. Specifically I always like to see restaurants move into sketchy neighborhoods. I used to live in the South Street area (which is decidedly icky) and so I was interested when I heard that Supper was opening in the old Vespa Store location. Last night we decided to head over there and check it out. Not knowing much about the restaurant, we called and were able to get a last minute 9PM reservation. Perhaps that should have been our first clue.

926 South Street
Philadelphia, PA 19107

As it turns out it was a small plate restaurant. This isn't necessarily a problem as long as each dish is really worth eating. Herein lies the problem with Supper. It started out pretty promising, the plates were creative to read. I find that unusual food combinations almost always lead to a good meal. Supper proved me wrong. Supper is icky. Not one of us had the "this is awesome" moment that always happens at least once in a small plate restaurant. They divided the menu into Hors D'oeuvres, Tartines and Plates. My tartine was the Wild Mushroom and Garrotxa. If I wanted something that tasted like heated mushrooms and shaved Parmesan on dry french bread, I could have made it at home. The Artichoke and Cauliflower Fritters hors d'oeuvre was a big 'ole fried mess - think Indian Vegetable Pakora only doughy and without the good spices. The Spicy Shrimp a la Plancha was the only slightly redeeming dish, but when they say small plate, they sure do mean small - two shrimp, two mission figs and a few pieces of arugula. My dining companions had little to say about their plates. The Autumn Squash Gnocchi was declared "not as good as Chloe". The Ocean Trout got a slightly better rating with - "it was good". The rest went without mention. Even our bottle of wine was slightly miserable.

Dessert was decent but not overwhelmingly so. The atmosphere was nice and I would even suggest returning to have a drink at the bar. The only problem there is the stunted wine by the glass list. Think less than 5-7 options.

The real icing on the cake, so to speak, was the piss poor service. The woman who served us may well have stumbled off the street and put on a server's apron. The other alternative was that she was on drugs. Who knows. Either way it wasn't just her, it was the entire staff. We sat forever waiting for a drink. They were cold, disinterested and unaware. Our friend ordered a bottle of wine for the table and when she came back she shoved it in my husband's face. The waitress and the runners had a really fun way jamming their arm directly in your face to fill your water glass. The plates were tossed on the table without identification.

At the end of the day I would say if you want small plates, save your money and take it down the street to Ansill. Adventurous, wonderful, lots of "that was awesome" moments and decidedly not icky.

Ansill Food + Wine
627 S. 3rd St
Philadelphia PA 19147

photo credit:

Monday, November 12, 2007

Let there be Cheap Heat! (or at least heat that won't prevent my future children from attending college)

I think it goes without saying that I'm a tad sarcastic. Over the years my sarcasm has been the cause of some unpleasantness. As a kid it often resulted in groundings, in high school it resulted in more than one occasion where I was asked if I wanted my ass kicked, and as an adult it's resulted in festive feedback in performance reviews like "she doesn't suffer fools easily" and "could improve on empathy". Sounds like a bad news story huh? Not entirely.

Sarcasm usually means you're witty, wit requires more than two brain cells and more than two brain cells makes you smarter than most. These three things put together makes for one hell of a complaint letter. I can't remember what made me angry enough to write the first letter but over the years there have been a few gems.

Avis was one of my favorites. For six long months I stood in the blazing Atlanta sun frying in line at the Avis "Preferred" kiosk while the non-preferred customers stood in air conditioning. Invariably I received the crappiest, smelliest car. I decided I had driven my last nasty car so I started my letter. I described for them my last five rental experiences- the dirty feet smell, sweating my butt off to show them my credit card for the 3,629th time, the lack of cars, the ones that ran like tractors, I unloaded. I figured out who all their senior level officers were and cc them. Stamp, stamp, stamp and forget about it.

A few weeks later my cell phone rang. The guy on the other end of the line identified himself as the President of Avis Rent a Car. He told me that he has a staff of people who read and deal with complaint letters but his staff brought my letter to his attention. In the 20 years he had been with Avis he had never seen such an awful letter. He wanted to personally apologize and was wondering if I would mind spending some time with his Atlanta General Manager. As you can imagine, this ended very well for me. It also made me realize something. While my experience was irritating, it certainly couldn't have topped the list of truly awful things Avis had ever done to people. I hadn't exaggerated but I suppose it was the presentation of fact combined with "colorful" descriptions that had caught their attention.

I used to have a boss who said "fact and dater, sweetheart. They always win". Yes, dater. He was a New Yorker and data always came out sounding like dater. (Important note: he was the only one I ever let call me sweetheart at work. He was old and cute and he liked me, so I allowed it.) Barring other influences, he was right and especially right when it came to things like Customer Service.

This came in handy when we had the apartment fire. Sure, I had renter's insurance, but that's the sort of chip you cash in when some nutter burns up the place with a candle or a cigarette. I suspected our fire was caused by the management company. So I called the Philadelphia FD investigation unit and found out that with $25 and a form I could request a copy of the investigator's report. When the management company claimed that they couldn't possibly pay for our dry cleaning and that if we wanted to we could probably sue PECO. "Good luck suing the city" was her response. I said, "You're probably right. I called the PFD and I'm ordering a copy of the investigation report. I guess that will give me what I need to sue PECO huh?" Twenty minutes later she called me back to tell me that she had worked out something with her boss and they would take care of our furniture and dry cleaning. Gosh, how nice of them. The whole affair ended with a check for $2,500 and our signature on the dotted line that we wouldn't sue them.

So when we moved into our newly renovated apartment and found that our heating and cooling units were from 1982 I was a little perturbed. This quickly became anger when I received my first electric bill to the tune of $275. The entire month of August the units ran on high and we still couldn't get the temperature below 75 degrees. It would seem to me that the average person would draw several conclusions from this fact. They did not. Instead I got every excuse in the book: the place in concrete - it retains heat, it's the humidity - this is a really hot month and my personal favorite - have you ever paid Center City electricity charges before, you know cooling is expensive here. These people didn't know who they were dealing with. I pulled our kilowatt usage for the last year and a half, researched the average temperature from July & August '07 & '08 and started my work. Go figure, August last year and this year were the exact same mean temperature. Last year we used half the electricity we had this year. I then compiled a list of all the similarities of the two apartments including the square footage. I also used their own goofy marketing of this place as "luxury living" against them. Last week they finally replaced the stupid units and my last electric bill is under review.

So if you need help with a letter, I'm available. Let there be heat and stamps for all!

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Confession is Good for the Soul

For all you voyeuristic folks out there, you’ll like the Post Secret Site.

Basically this started as a community art project where people would mail a decorated single sided post card confessing their secrets. I think the website chooses a variety of the secrets to share on each week. There’s also a few books – sort of a greatest hits of personal shame.

Some of these are seriously disturbing, some are funny, some are twisted.

You can add an RSS feed to your favorite tool and see them weekly.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Don't be a Delinquent Parent....

I really like reading people’s holiday party FAQs. It’s a little opportunity for them to be witty and funny while conveying important information. I am convinced that this is almost exclusively a polite way to say “we know you think your kids are so special, but they’re not. and I don’t like the way little Jimmy gives me the hairy eyeball when I stumble by hammered on cheap wine”. It’s important that people know that children don’t belong at an evening party with alcohol. Shocking revelation, I know. This is apparently one of those things that people today don’t think about. Or perhaps they were raised by raging alcoholics that dragged them to parties. (Don’t laugh, my old neighbors were lost in a bottle of rum most days and probably didn’t know their kids were still following them around).

In any event I recently received an invitation to a co-worker’s party. This co-worker and I met at the party of another former co-worker. We didn’t know each other then and we still don’t work together, but since we spent several hours in the suburbs together being less than social, we bonded. His wife seemed cool and he was wearing jeans that didn’t suck. I liked them. They’re sort of like city people that have been transplanted into the suburbs. They’re way too funny and cool to live in Schwenksville. Just the name is enough to tell you that it’s not the sort of place that appreciates the importance of good jeans. (No offense intended to Schwenksville; I haven’t the faintest idea where it is or what’s there.)

I’ve included his FAQs below because they made me laugh out loud. This may actually be reason enough to figure out where Schwenksville is…

Frequently Asked Questions!!!

Can I expect a big raise if I’ve done a great job at work this year? Uh – these FAQs are all supposed to be party-related. That written, yeah, sure, why not.

What should I do with all of that money? Hell-looo…party questions?? But, um, max out your 401k contribution if you haven't already.

You know you booked your party smack-dab in the middle of Hanukkah, right?
I know now. I hope you don't think that I'm culturally insensitive.

Can I bring anything to your party? I get asked that question frequently when I have a party. If you’d like, you can bring a beverage or snacks or some blow….pops. Charms Blow Pops.

When I get to your party, can I have something to eat? Sure!

What are you having? That’s kind of impolite. But we’ll repeat a lot of last year’s menu....the hot and cold dips...chili dogs..and, new this year, pulled pork with homemade 'slathering sauce'!

Pulled pork on a Saturday night in the middle of Hanukkah. Let me guess, you're.....Catholic?? Kinda sorta.

What about the Pometinis [pomegranate martinis]from last year? '06 guest feedback revealed fear over spilling red drinks on the light rug. We’re still deciding if we’ll switch the '07 signature party cocktail to something clear.

Like what?

Can I bring a guest? Yes.

Can I bring my kids? Adults only, please.

What do you have against kids? Their low tolerance for alcohol.

So hold it, you’ve served alcohol to kids? Not intentionally.

What is that supposed to mean? It means exactly what I said.

So? A while back I had a party where I let people bring kids. At this same party I invented a delicious new drink made with tequila & Hawaiian Punch, for which I coined the catchy name ‘agave juicebox’. Needless to say, people loved it, and all night long I mixed batch upon batch of these. And with each batch I would pour ‘em out and shout “Who’s ready for another round of juiceboxes!?’ Then I’d turn my back to make more, and each time I turned around the previous batch had disappeared. I just figured that it was adults grabbing them -- while the Wiggles rocked the house on the stereo.

Did you actually serve the drinks in wax paper boxes? No – to avoid confusion I poured them in to Disney-themed paper Dixie cups.

What the hell? I know, I know….by the time I caught on to what was happening my floor was covered with sleeping children and empty Dixie cups. It looked like a cross between nap-time at day care and Jonestown.

And where were the parents while all this was going on? That’s what I wanted to know!! Turns out, they thought the music sucked so they all went outside.

And then? As a condition of the settlement, I’ve told you everything that I’m permitted to say.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Who needs Karaoke on the cruise ship when you can play with firearms?

It's official, we've kicked off the '07/'08 J Family shooting season. All six of us drove out to Coplay, PA to make good on a belated Father's Day gift. Before I get started, I would like to point out that two things seem to be true.

1. People think my family is generally a little weird and,
2. They also think shooting is reserved for rednecks.

#1 is true. #2 Not true - Sporting clays date back to the early 1900’s in England to keep hunters in practice and Skeet was created in Massachusetts in 1920 for a similar reason. I don’t believe either of those places had any rednecks – SO THERE. And yes, I realize that it’s a fairly unusual hobby for a family from the ‘burbs, but we are most certainly not hayseeds. I’m finished, I’m starting to sound defensive. The better question is "how did this happen?". I’m not entirely sure how my father started shooting, but I can account for the rest of the family.

The story starts like this…For my parent’s first Christmas my father bought my mother four snow tires and a shotgun. I would imagine she was a bit perplexed since he was a city kid and it’s a little weird (at least I would have been if it were me). According to her, she responded with “Well, I understand the snow tires but what am I going to do with that gun?” He told her he was going to teach her how to shoot. This may well have sent any normal female wondering if she married a lunatic, however this was my mother and she was not easily phased. Thus many years of happy shooting ensued for both my parents who ultimately became pretty good shots. Which brings me to my next story…

A few years after they were married my father decided he wanted to take a cruise. He told my mother that he was taking a cruise and that if she wanted to come she had better wean that kid. So she did and they went. My mother claims the kid was me, but to the best of my knowledge my parents have been on one cruise and I remember them going (so I couldn’t have been 9 months old – the age I know breastfeeding stopped*). I remember this cruise because my mother had some seriously 80’s one piece strapless pants outfit with a stretchy waist and billowy legs .. you know the one I’m talking about.. it could have only been pulled of in the 80’s. My mother will likely argue with me on this point (the age, not the pants suit) and insist that despite the fact that I am the child who remembers nothing I some how have a vivid memory of this from the age of 9 months old. Not likely. I bet it was my sister. It doesn’t matter either way since my mother will never admit to not remembering things. I digress. The real point of the story is that my mother came home with a trophy.

Apparently in the 80’s, and I’m not quite sure if this is still true, they allowed you to shoot trap off the back of the ship. This seems rather reckless and far too crazy to happen in today’s safety conscious cruise environment (they can’t even keep people from going missing let alone give them guns) but in the 80’s they apparently didn’t care. My father enlisted my mother to enter the shooting competition. She was the only woman in a long line of men. The guy running the event explained to her how to shoot the gun like she was a toddler. She didn’t bother to correct his assumption. After several rounds of elimination it was just my mother, some guy and a gun. She turned around to find women on each deck of the ship cheering her on. At the end of the day she kicked all their asses and got a trophy. Go Mom.

So given the history, it only stood to reason that I got my first shotgun at 12. I went shooting a few times and then disappointed everyone by moving onto boys and high school. For many years the J Family was quiet. Then my sister, who had never shot a gun in her life, decided she wanted to shoot. 3 months later everyone was shooting, we joined the gun club and Dad gave us all firearms under the tree that year. Mom says he always wanted to give a boy his first gun. Two son-in-laws, neither have even held a gun before, sorta like a twofer.

Anyway, after many months of shooting skeet, we figured it was time to branch out. We told Pop we would take him to shoot sporting clays. We made the haul up north past Allentown to Lehigh Valley Sporting Clays for 100 rounds of fun. It’s an old limestone quarry in the woods and was the best 35 bucks that I've spent in recent memory. It also didn't hurt that I was on fire that day. Or as my mother likes to say "the hormones were just right". She's convinced that certain times of the month throw off your game. There may be some truth to that since I can shoot like a rock star one day and a half blind idiot the next. Although I didn’t win (congrats to my sister who hit 70 out of 100) I did have 5 stations worth of straight report pairs. Yay me.

You can count on the next few months involving many weekends spent at the gun club. Yes, we are the loonies in the subzero base layers firing away like a bunch of happy idiots in the snow. It’s really fun except I need warmer socks. Last year I think I almost lost a toe or two. I can always find a reason to justify shopping and the coolest place to shop for shooting stuff is Cabellas. Its like a sporting goods store on steroids. I think everyone should take a trip up there, it’s fun to ‘git yer redneck on every once in a while. (To put it in perspective, they have a furniture section that is entire dedicated to camouflage La-Z-Boys.)

So if anyone needs any orange warning gear or perhaps a nice rifle scope, let me know. Here’s hoping for a good season – perhaps I’ll finally crack 21. Wishful thinking…

*Hey girlie, and you know who you are. Wouldn’t it be funny if this was a tragic slip up in my mother’s story telling and it turned out I was breastfed until I was like 5. Perhaps my trauma is deeper than yours and I’ve blocked it from my memory. MAYBE my bitchiness is really just a PTSD thing manifesting in some weird dysfunctional way… just a thought.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Whiskey Makes your Face Ugly and other Useful Observations

So I'll apologize for my lameness lately. We were in CA for a wedding last week and far too busy drinking wine. I'm sure most of you would agree that wine drinking is more important than sitting in front of a computer.

However, I was thinking about writing and as a result I have a few critical lessons learned or useful observations, if you will.

#1 Avoid the “direct, but not really direct” flight.
I have an unnatural love of Southwest Airlines. My co-workers do not understand this. They’re busy being mileage/airline status junkies (you know who you are!) and I'm busy loving Southwest. Those Southwest people crack me up and best of all, they're usually on time. It’s a novel concept when your local airport is a US Airways hub. I decided that since I had a free ticket I would use them to book our vacation. I knew I had a connection in Vegas on the way out, but I did not know we were ALSO stopping in Pittsburgh. This plane was nothing more than a giant bus in the sky. We simply landed, picked up some more people and then took off again. The same thing happened on the way back but twice instead of once. I was in six airports over as many days....that is bad.

Quotes of the Flight:
Husband watching people board in Pittsburgh:
“Is it just me or are all these people missing necks?”
Taking off from Orange County:
Flight attendant whispered in the PA, "Shhhhh, we're flying over rich people’s houses".

#2 Carpool lanes are cool! Minivans are not.
We got a sweet deal on Orbitz for a weekly rental. I had never rented from Dollar before and now I know why - we were riding in style in an electric blue minivan.

Since there were three of us we avoided lots of traffic in the carpool lanes and we went through the toll booth for FREE - it's like Christmas in October. As we pulled up to the toll with our $4 the guy shouted at us "CARPOOL!". Being from the wasteful state of Pennsylvania we had no idea why this guy wouldn't take our money and was yelling at us. Apparently that means you ride for free - I love these tree huggers.

We had a really excellent dinner our first night at Barndiva. ( Should you ever find yourself in Healdsburg, CA it’s a lovely little place with really killer food.

We then kicked off the official festivities Friday night with what my friend Kelly likes to call a backyard BBQ. This was nicer than most actual weddings. She's a bit obsessive with her event planning, but that's why we love her. Great food, a bluegrass band, a fire pit and lots and lots of wine.

#3 Drinking too much at wedding events can be highly entertaining for party guests, but may piss off your spouse.
I had been careful with alcohol consumption for the first two days in preparation for the wedding. I can’t say as much for the Bride’s brother-in-law. Our other friend commented that he must have incredible balance. His feet were firmly planted on the ground while his torso swayed at a dangerous angle. He later walked up to a group of people (including his mother-in-law) and asked “Anybody got any weed?”. Classic….. His wife looked like she was ready to kill him. He topped off the evening by attempting to lean against the wall of the outdoor tent….as you can imagine, that didn’t go so well. We’ve all been on both sides of that fence. The drunk side is far more fun. Cheers to the brother-in-law!

#4 Need a priest, no problem
The wedding was beautiful. The ceremony was at sunset overlooking a gorgeous golf course. It was almost too perfect. There were wild turkey and deer running around. Bishop Carlos married them. As we all know Catholic priests don’t do weddings outside the church. This guy was a an Orthodox Catholic and apparently they don’t mind the country club and the wild turkey. Seriously…..they found him on the Internet.

Favorite line from the wedding service:
Bishop Carlos during the wedding vows: “If you’re Christian, pray with us. If you’re an atheist, why not just in case

So it was time and I attacked the wedding bar with vigor. Champagne, wine, dancing, hiding from the scary photographer…all was well until I encountered the B&B. Bed and Breakfast you say? No. It was The B&B Lounge. Our after party. Sort of like the road house equivalent for wine country. If I were smart I would have stopped drinking at this point. However I am not and so I did not. Hence...

#5 Whiskey makes your face ugly.
I can't take credit for this observation. It was sage advice from my mother-in-law. She once told me that I should never drink whiskey because it makes your face ugly. This may in fact be true but I think the statement needs to be amended to read – “Whiskey makes your face ugly but sometimes it makes your face look nice to people from whom you should definitely stay away”. I decided at some point that I needed to tell the groom's 6'4" friend that I would like to do shots of whiskey. It really wasn't my fault. He was making fun of me for drinking coke. It's an unwritten rule that if you're really drunk and someone makes fun of you for stopping consumption you should immediately challenge them to drink the worst thing you can think of just to shut them up.

After a few shots of Beam I stumbled upon Beef Jerky man. Maybe he found me, who knows. I'm not so sure he was speaking English at that point but he told me I was delicious and proceeded to feed me beef jerky. It was probably not wise to eat it but I did anyway. It almost seemed rude to refuse since he just paid me compliment….I think. My husband decided it was time to take me home.

The next morning was bad. It involved the bathroom, a complete inability to pack or shower and a lot of self loathing. I made it as far as Kelly’s couch. I then ate half a bagel, prayed that it would stay down and pulled a blanket over my head. My friends took pictures. The groom later showed up and told me while he was happy I had such fun at his wedding he felt that my current state was payback for my own wedding and how hung over he was. I have such good friends.

So the moral of the story is, if you plan to drink whiskey with a guy eating beef jerky, leave the minivan and the rented priest elsewhere because it’s not a pretty sight. Oh yea, and remember to pray, just in case.