Friday, March 31, 2006

A Sincere Blog Recommendation

Have you met Magazine Man? I've been reading his blog for a year now, and I'm always amazed by his brilliantly constructed, well-written stories - many serialized, often cliffhangers. He is, perhaps, the only person I've encountered out in the blogosphere who is more accident/incident/illness-prone than I am. His latest tales are of his young son's challenges with a bully and the new-ish Zero Tolerance policies that now govern our grade schools (often to the point of utter ridiculousness.) I felt my blood pressure rising throughout the story so far (you have to go back a few entries to start this one.) If you read it, you'll likely feel the same way.

I was a victim of aggressive bullying in grade school, junior high, and, to a much lesser extent, in high school. It was at its worst in grade school - if I was by myself, two boys would follow me home, taunting me, throwing things at me, and, when they could catch me, striking me repeatedly with a plastic bat. I think it is because of these two foul creatures that I have a vastly low threshold for rude comments, gestures, and actions toward people who don't meet the usual standards of beauty. I stand my ground now, and I take no crap. Wanna talk smack about me? Be prepared to deal with someone who's likely a lot smarter and quick-witted than you are, shmuck!

But bullying left its mark on me. In junior high school, after years of abuse, I finally punched one of my bullies in the mouth. I decked him. I think he just didn't expect it. Seven years of taunting and hitting, and even the most level-headed person can be turned to violence. Reading Magazine Man's entries about his son, trying to look out for a kid who was being bullied... well, it brought it all back just now. I'm forty, and this made me cry because I remember how horrible it was and how my mom fought to get the school administration to care enough to do something. (They didn't.)

A couple of years ago, I was at a happy hour with some folks from work. One of my co-workers mentioned bullying - there had been a schoolyard shooting that day. A guy from another office chuckled and said, "Oh, yeah! I was a total bully in grade school!" He laughed and pointed at me, "You know, back then, Merujo, I *so* would have terrorized you back then. Ha ha ha!"

I walked away. I never spoke to him again. The asshole didn't get it. He just thought it was funny. I feel terribly sorry for the people who have to work for him.

Oh hell, it's Friday night - and a beautiful one at that. No need to get all bummed out. Go forth, people, and enjoy! But when you have a little time, go visit Magazine Man. Tell him I sent you. Spend some time in his archives. There are funny stories, touching stories, freaky stories... Marvel at how incredibly accident-prone he is! "Enjoy" his near-death hallucinations at Disneyworld! Read some of his greatest hits.

It's good reading.

A message for Nancy Pelosi

Dear Nancy:

Hitting a cop is a crime. I don't really give a crap if the offender is a member of Congress. Cynthia McKinney could have avoided this "confrontation" with a Capitol police officer if she was wearing her lapel pin, identifying her as a member of Congress. Representative McKinney is apparently legendary on the Hill for not wearing her pin. Maybe it clashes with her style. Who knows. I have to wear an ID tag around my neck at work every day. It's the price you pay for security and identity. It's not that painful to wear, and just about every-damn-body in DC has to wear "office jewelry."

You don't wear your ID, you don't get recognized. You slug a cop for doing his job to protect congressional offices, you get arrested. It's that simple.

Apparently, though, Nancy, you think that no one should "make a big deal of this." BS, babycakes, and I'm a Democrat. Maybe the "I feel entitled" peeps on Capitol Hill will get a reality check when McKinney's arrest warrant is signed.

Some days, this city amazes the crap out of me. The only reasons to go anywhere near Capitol Hill:

1. Union Station to catch a train
2. Eastern Market to peruse the antiques and crafts
3. The Library of Congress, because it's cool

I'm afraid if I went up to the Hill during the workday, though, I'd be making rude hand gestures to people, right and left.

Wait - I'm sorry, that's Antonin Scalia's job, isn't it?

God bless us, everyone.

Just a quick comment before I hobble to work

Holy crap, does my back ever hurt. I feel like I'm 90 years old.


Thursday, March 30, 2006

Junk Mail and Hormel Spiced Ham

Much to my irritation, I got spammed today because I have (well, had) my e-mail addy on my profile page. It's gone now. I had it up there in case folks wanted to send me a personal message. However, now that I've received some awfully chatty spam that actually had the chutzpah to say it had picked my e-mail addy off my Blogger profile, it ain't there no more. Grrr.

E-mail spam sucks.

Real SPAM on the other hand, makes for a tasty meal when you're camping. Honest - it does. Spam fried up in a pan with potatoes, green beans, and onions? Yum. I understand that Hawaii thrives on SPAM. In fact, this article even has a Hawaiian recipe for Teriyaki SPAM Stir-Fry.

I can't help but wonder if the cast & crew of "Lost" has developed a taste for SPAM during their time in Hawaii... You know, maybe instead of mac and cheese, the Lost folk should have found a pallet of SPAM tins in last night's episode. Then, SPAM could have had a great promotional tie-in: limited edition "Lost" SPAM. Collect each character's special tin! I want my Hurley SPAM tin!! (This is one of those moments when I wish I had mad Photoshoppin' skillz...)

Hey, I got two Lockes. Trade you a Locke for a Hurley...

SPAM: the official potted meat of ABC TV.

I think I need some ibuprofen. My wrist and my left leg have finally started to hurt. Damn stupid Murano driver. Murano moron. Grrr.

Ripped from the headlines

Well, not exactly. More like ripped from my trousers.

I got hit by a car this morning. Not incredibly hard, fortunately, but hard enough to knock me down, tear my pants, and give me a handful of marks that I imagine will be big ol' bruises by this afternoon. I anticipate some quality ibuprofen time tonight. (Update at 9 p.m.: oh hell yes, I am a big bruise - swollen, sore, and slow-moving. My left leg has these huge purple/red welts and my right wrist hurts like a sonufabitch.)

A chick in in a bronze-colored Murano backed into me as I was walking to work from my parking garage. Apparently she'd changed her mind about where she wanted to park, which would have been fine had she been paying attention and had not been on her damn cell phone. She just hit the gas and then whacked me with the back passenger side of her car. As I went down, I grabbed her rear window windshield wiper.

She no longer has a rear window windshield wiper.

I don't feel too bad about that.

The best part? She never got off the phone, even after she hit me. She got out of the SUV, phone still up to her ear and said, "You alright?"

I have her information. I've called the police. I have witnesses.

And she's an idiot.

People - if you use your cell phone in the car without a hands-free option, here's my message to you: DON'T DO IT. This chickie wasn't paying attention, and I got smacked flat on my back. If she'd hit me any harder, I think I'd be in the hospital tonight. I was lucky. Fortunately, she only caught me with the corner of her car, and I have a big rump to cushion a fall. (Although, I also have a bad back, so we'll see how that goes.)

I had not planned on sitting in my locked office at 9:30 a.m., sans pantalon, patching up my trousers with a borrowed sewing kit.

Of course, no one plans on being struck by an idiot at 9 in the morning. But I'm proof it happens.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

A Proud Moment for Moline, Illinois

In case I haven't mentioned it before, I'm from Moline, Illinois, self-proclaimed "Farm Implement Capital of the World." One of my colleagues forgot that slogan the other day and said to me, "Isn't Moline's motto 'It could be worse?'" Yikes! I love Moline. I just don't think I'm destined to live there ever again. But now, I think my colleague's version of our slogan might be more apt:

People in Moline are now seeing the Virgin Mary in the I-74 bridge over the Rock River.


The location of this latest foolishness is, more or less, a 2-mile straight shot from the house where I grew up. Just past South Park Mall, right before you get to the airport. If the Virgin is still hanging around when I next go home, I'll be sure to tell you.

Of course, Moline isn't exactly a hoppin' hot spot. By the time I next get back there, the Virgin may have moved from the bridge down to the riverboat casinos in Rock Island or Davenport. Just look for the pious woman in the robes and halo, with a bucket full of nickels in one hand and a complimentary cocktail in the other. (I would make a joke about her being familiar with watered down cocktails, after that whole water-into-wine thing with her kid, but that might be pushing the good taste meter into the red...)

Maybe will try to buy the bridge. They can add it to their collection, along with that decrepit Virgin Mary grilled cheese sandwich.

Thanks to Fark for this embarassing hometown moment.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Reconnecting With My Inner Geek

Something's missing. The girl who grew up watching old school Star Trek with her mom, the woman who waited in Moscow for people to send VHS tapes of the latest episodes of Quantum Leap and Twin Peaks and ST: The Next Generation... well, she's missing her geek groove these days.

I haven't seen a single episode of the new Battlestar Galactica, and I never saw even a minute of Farscape or Babylon 5. I just discovered that I completely missed the run of Night Watch (Nochnoi Dozor) here in DC, and I have a feeling that, if I don't get my butt in gear, I'll probably miss V For Vendetta.

What the heck happened? I mean, I can still recite all the dialogue to Star Wars. That's Star Wars. Not Episode IV. Not "A New Hope." Just Star Wars, baby. Vintage 1977.

I have my Buckaroo Banzai poster, my Big Trouble in Little China poster... I just seem to be lacking the vibe right now.

Okay, my geek-friends: if you had one suggestion for getting me back in the swing of things, what would it be? I'll be getting my brand spankin' new issue of "The Middleman" this Wednesday (whoo-hoo, Javier!), so that'll certainly help.

Middleman = Good

If Spielberg, Lucas, and Ford would stop counting their money long enough to make that damned fourth Indiana Jones movie, that would go a very long way, indeed, toward getting me back on the horse. C'mon, guys - get thy crap together!! Do it for the kids! The middle-aged kids!

Indy = Good

I think I have to stop watching all forms of reality TV for a while. I think every moment spent watching Jonathan Antin have big pussy tantrums and cry and say "it's all about the hair" sucks more geek right out of me.

Antin = Bad

Watching people on Survivor whine about 30-some-odd days in some outback locale makes me want to bang my head against the wall. 36 days finding your own food? Boo-hoo! Try years and years of traveling in post-Soviet goodness, looking for clean water, toilet paper, and soup without meal worms in it!

Survivor = Not really interesting anymore.
(Stick a fork in Jeff Probst. It's all done.)

But, I digress...

Anyone have some geeky goodness to recommend? Is Battlestar Galactica on DVD yet? Is Farscape on DVD? (Or Babylon 5, for that matter.) I'm really out of touch...

Even when you're broke... need to find a way to feed your live music jones.

The coming weeks here in DC prove to be a great treat for my particular tastes:

April 26: They Might Be Giants at the 9:30 Club

May 6 & 7: Thomas Dolby at Rams Head Onstage/Annapolis

May 8: Thomas Dolby at the Birchmere

June 12: Joe Jackson (and most of his original band) at the 9:30 Club

I just read that Wang Chung is going to tour this summer. Here's hoping the guys make it to DC - and to a much, much better venue than last time!!

Color me tickled pink and empty-pocketed.

To my new upstairs neighbor...

The fact that it's NCAA tournament time does not make it okay to scream and pound on the floor at half past midnight. I don't give a crap if you're a UConn fan. Really, I don't.

Conversation at the door at 12:35 a.m....

Neighbor: "Yeah?"
Me: "It's 12:30 at night."
Neighbor: "But we're watching the NCAA tourney."
Me: "And? It's 12:30 at night. Could you keep the screaming down?"
Neighbor: "But it's UConn versus Washington."
Me: "And it's 12:30 at night. This really isn't a great way to start off in the building."
Neighbor: "Yeah, but we're watching a game..."
Me: "You seem to miss the point that it's 12:30, and if your neighbors can't sleep because y'all are screaming, it's uncool."
Neighbor: "Well, yeah, I guess... but it's UConn..."

I gave up. Apparently, there is some special rule I don't know about that, if UConn is playing, screaming late at night is okay. I must have missed the memo that I'm now living downstairs from Cheerz Sportz Pub.

Sorry. I get cranky when I have a group of overgrown frat boys keeping me at night. Since the new guy moved in two weeks ago, I feel like I'm living in my old dorm room at Macalester. That wasn't fun at age 20. It's even more unfun at 40.

I'll get over it... when I win the lottery... and build a big house on some empty acreage somewhere...

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Adieu, Bernard!

Bernard Lacoste, who turned his family's modest sportswear company into an indispensable fashion staple for people named Muffy and Skip, passed away peacefully in his sleep in Paris on Tuesday. Lacoste was 74.

In memory of Lacoste, preppies and pretty boys have been asked to turn their collars down and observe a day of pastels. Be at peace, Bernard. Let flights of tiny appliqué crocodiles sing thee to thy rest...

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

DC Area Peeps! Ze Frank needs an audience tomorrow!!

Hey folks!

You know Ze Frank. Oh sure you do. You may not know his name, but I will bet you dollars to donuts you've received one of his bits as a forwarded e-mail over the past couple of years. Perhaps someone sent you How To Dance Properly or Santa's Request Line. The guy is funny, articulate, and sometimes just downright silly.

Ze is an actor, comedian, and scientist, and tomorrow, National Geographic will be filming him in performance for a few hours. If you are available between noon and 3 p.m. on Wednesday, March 22, National Geographic might have a space for you to be an extra in the audience while they film Ze.

If you're interested and available, please contact Christine Kessler at National Geographic, so she can get a headcount and get you on the list. Christine may be reached via e-mail: or by phone: 202-857-5804.

I'm hoping to be able to sneak away from my desk for a bit of this - it's just down the hallway from me!!

Le Nikon est mort! Viva le nuthin'...

My much beloved Nikon CoolPix 950 is on its last legs. Recently, it developed the "red screen of death" - a "system error" message that appears on the LCD screen, while the camera groans, shudders, and attempts to focus. I've been to several Nikon support groups online, and there are many folks with the same problem. If you're lucky, you can reset the camera, but if you're not, it means sending the camera in to Nikon for repair. Everyone has the same story: $146.13 for the repair (not including shipping) to get your CoolPix back in working order.

But is it worth it? The camera has a big 2.1 megapixels and a 2x zoom. For not much more than the price of repair, I can have a new camera with a whole lot more going for it.

I did some research (and spoken to friends who love their digital cameras), and I decided to go with a new camera, the Canon A620. I'm not a good photographer, but I love taking pictures. It's weird to be without a consistently working camera. (If I'm lucky, I can get Old Paint to work for a few minutes here and there before it starts making horrific noises and freezes up.)

Money is very, very, very tight right now, so, loathe as I am to shop there, I opted to buy my camera at Best (evil) Buy. They're doing an 18-month interest-free deal this week for Best Buy card holders. I have a Best Buy card - I got it years and years ago, so I could buy my TV on the interest-free plan. I bought my Nikon there the same way. So, on Sunday, I go into Electronics Hell to make my purchase.

And fail.

Apparently, Best Buy has decided that I don't use the card enough, and they closed my account. The smarmy clerk told me I should have been using it more often. If I wanted the deal, I would have to apply for a new credit card.

No way, Jose. Last thing this girl needs now is to open a new credit file. Ones that already exist? Fine. Whatever. But I'm not getting a new card.

So, no new camera for me. :-( I know, it's only 300 bucks, but, for non-profit girl, here, that's a whole lotta cash these days.

I will start squirrelling pennies away to buy my Canon. Just don't expect any new photos out here for a while.

Sign me bummed,


Sunday, March 12, 2006

Time for a short break

I have a crazy week coming up at work, so I'm taking a few days off from updating the Church of the Big Sky.

That said, I'll be back on Thursday, March 16 with a nice story for y'all. I look forward to sharing My Day of Humiliation with you all.

Until then, happy trails!

What a difference a year makes...

I started the Church of the Big Sky one year ago today. In retrospect, the week of March 12, 2005 was just jam-packed with Major Events for me. Of course, on the 12th, I had no clue that the following days would hold such import for me...

In truth, I started blogging in 2003, on another service, but I ended that run in February 2004, after I got some really creepy feedback to a post I wrote. I figured blogging just wasn't for me. C'est la vie, no?

On the other hand, I did think that blogging was something for my friend, the Sasquatch. He had a sea of opinions and good ideas and things about which he needed to rant. I kept telling him that he needed to write this stuff down, otherwise, his words went to waste (or into my tiny, dinosaur-like brain.) And finally, in February last year, the Sasquatch started his blog, The Patterson Film.

The Sasquatch wasn't sure if he was going to keep at this whole blogging thing, so, in an effort to prod him to keep writing (and he's a good damn writer and should write more!!), I decided to dip my toes into the blog pool again. My first post was simply me bitching about how much much a subscription to Entertainment Weekly costs.

Yes. A post of grrrrreat significance! What an auspicious start. There's one more quickie post the next day, and then, silence for several days. Funny how getting your ass kicked out of your office tends to stifle the muse. (If she who encourages you to whine about the cost of Entertainment Weekly can really be called a muse, that is...)

But then, the desire (and the need) to write returned. I hadn't told many people I was blogging, but it was comforting to know that my dear friends, the Sasquatch and the Atomic Editor, were reading and understanding and worrying for me.

Over the past year, this blog has been a saving grace in my life. It's been a way to reach out when things were dark, focus on something positive, improve my writing (that's questionable, especially since I've developed my own hideously ungrammatical "blog style"), and just tell some of the thousands of weird stories in my head. I am a weirdness magnet, and I think I've barely scratched the surface with what I've posted here.

I like the fact that I've met some really great people out here and have also had the chance to enhance friendships started in other venues. I've had a couple of stalkers and even had my share of haters and detractors, including the guy who left a comment - back when I took anonymous comments - telling me that I should just give up on my job hunt and kill myself. (Nice! I hope you Purell those fingers before you touch anyone, bubba!)

It's been interesting and addictive, and I look forward to telling more stories as time goes on. Lord knows, I'll probably end up going to back to the Hellmouth 7/11 at some point, and that'll be guaranteed blog gold. (Well, bronze, at least!)

And, hey, when you're blog-surfing, please pay a visit to my friend, the Sasquatch. The guy writes a lot better than I do. Plus, he doesn't spew random crap out on his page like yours truly - when he posts, it's because he's actually got something to say. And I hope he keeps it up. We have to keep him off the streets, folks...

Saturday, March 11, 2006

100% Natural Audioblog!

this is an audio post - click to play

Wait - there's more!

I've just received some more unsolicited luvvvv via MySpace!

This one came in under the title: "hello beatiful" (I sure I hope I'm not "beatiful" unless that means I dig the English Beat...) And, I quote, in it's glorious entirety:

"hello how are you doing hope yoou are doing great over there.........i saw you pixs it was ince and it impress t chat......."

Why, no. I do not "care t chat." But thank you, anyway. My pixs are always "ince." I work hard to achieve "ince."

Oy vey.

This next gem, titled "hello sweetie" comes from a man named Isaac, who I hope is not your ship's bartender:

"Hey sweetie how are u doing am !(Cheesy Nickname withheld by Merujo)! by name am from new jessy i am a divorce single man with two 1 ....also am working as a international business man i do travel alot to buy and sell electronics such as laptop,computer,Automotives i was surfing through the site and i went through your profile and it was so interesting and attractive to me so i will like to chat with u to know more about u and also to have things in common with u !!!!!(Weird cheesy nickname again withheld by Merujo, although it probably doesn't matter, considering the strange run-on James Joycian nature of this e-mail)....... I have recently divorced after 3 years of separation. I am having a grate time being on my own with my 1 sun for the first time ever (meaning not under my parent's roof or in my spouse), and I'm loving it! Yeah, there are challenges, but I just love the freedom and the self-confidence I have gained as a result of l!!! hopec all is okay by me to drop my pen i will love to here back from is my yahoo iM..." (frankly, at this point, I should just give you his IM addy, so you can all see if he's this hyper for everyone else, too, but I'll play nice...)

Wow! I was born in "new jessy"!!! And I'm really glad that Isaac is no longer living IN his ex-spouse. That's probably best for them both.

And the hits just keep comin' and comin' folks!

If there is a fairly normal, straight single guy out there who uses spellcheck, I'm the woman least likely to encounter him...

MySpace = wretched hive of scum and villany

Here is, in a nutshell, why MySpace sucks big time. Witness an unedited, unsolicited e-mail to me from one of MySpace's finest:

"hey i like ur profile
add me to ur myspace buddy list

do u use yahoo whats ur screename

ur hot
ur pretty
ur sexy
ur adorable
ur sweet
ur a sexy angel in heaven
ur a beautiful centerfold
ur as pretty as a rose

hugs and kisses"

(Name withheld to protect the moronic)

Well, Name Withheld, I'm a fairly well-educated, curmudgeonly, middle-aged woman who thinks UR in need of some help. UR not impressing me with your UR compliments. Especially since my profile features just a headshot of me with devil horns. It's not pretty - it's just pretty accurate. UR not going to get me to respond to UR e-mail.

Please consider writing in complete sentences and reviewing my profile a bit more accurately. Then UR gonna be doin' better, Name Withheld.


(I have a MySpace account solely to read the journals of a handful of people. I may just have to ditch it altogether...)

UR friend,


Friday, March 10, 2006

It's the little things that make your day

Call me a geek. Call me a dork. I'm okay with that. Today, the Weekend Section of the Washington Post made my day. You see, as long as I've lived here, I've imagined what it would be like to open up the Weekend Section, flip to the one page I always check - the upcoming gigs at 9:30 and the Birchmere - and see one name there. The name that would just make me smile from ear to ear.

After 12+ years of flipping to that page with no joy, today was finally my day:

Never thought it would really happen. But "never" is an awfully long time, eh?

It's not a smoky little club in San Francisco, Thomas, but it'll do just fine. Can't wait to hear the music again.

C'mon, May!!

A Change of Heart

I've decided to not post the long tale of my departure from Job X here at the Church of the Big Sky. I will post an abbreviated version of the immediate events of that day on the anniversary of me getting the shaft, but the rest of it? The key elements will go, in a well edited and smartly detailed version, to the Inspector General of that particular federal agency. And they can do with it what they wish - act on it, investigate it, ignore it, or throw it in the trash, for all I care at this point. I've not painted myself as a saint in this document, for certain. But I'm sure as hell not some crazy whackjob. Yet, I'm the one who was escorted out of the office, humiliated and tagged as a threat for reading a news story over the phone. (More on that next Thursday.)

Why did I decide to edit myself here?

I'll tell you. It's for a couple of reasons.

The first is that, today, I've already had twenty hits on my blog specifically from my old office. (Damn, that's a lot of blog-reading on taxpayer money.) And one of those hits was a search to see if my friend the Alasko-American has a blog. (She doesn't. You can stop looking. The director of Job X scared her enough for her to stop using her First Amendment rights online, thank you very much.) That troubles me. The Alasko-American doesn't deserve any persecution courtesy of me and my blog, and I'm not giving the management of Job X any satisfaction in hunting my friends. So, there's Reason Numero Uno.

Reason Numero Dos? Well... here I am, sitting in my favorite coffee shop, in between doctors' appointments, on a magnificently sunny day off from the best job I've ever had, and I realized that, very truly, living well is the best revenge. (I'm actually taking a quick break from reviewing a grant proposal right now - you know you love a job when you're happy to read government grant proposals on a day off!) I'm no longer in a place where nepotism is a popular concept, where complaints about poor treatment and sexism are belittled, and where I am a second class citizen. I work in an atmosphere where my skills are appreciated and my opinion valued. Even when things are tough and deadlines are pounding my brain, I love getting into my office.

You can ask the Sasquatch. I'm a different person than I was twelve months ago. I'm really, genuinely happy for the first time in years. (Hell, even my skin is better and, most nights, I sleep now.)

I'm no longer partnered up with a sad, misogynistic weasel or a princess who thinks I'm too uncouth and graceless to work with. I'm not listening to people fight with their spouses over the phone (a bad idea with your office door open, by the way.) I'm also not listening to management 'n' friends talk about how much they're looking forward to me being gone (another bad idea with your office door open, folks. Delightfully inappropriate!) I'm not in a poisonous place anymore.

I'm in a crazy-busy place, for sure, but it's incredibly dynamic and positive. I feel so much more free now. And healthier, by a mile. I wish this kind of work atmosphere for you all.

Respect and appreciation and the offer of simple decency.

It may sound trite, but those things really are beautiful, especially when you've come from a very dark place.

My father's family is from Ireland, and the motto on our family crest is "Percussus Resurgo." Struck down, I rise again. And, so I have. I was down, but not out. And I'm back up again, folks.

Job X be damned.

Now, off to revel in the 75+ degrees. It's a good day to be alive.

Conan in Finland

In case you've missed it, Conan O'Brien has developed quite the relationship with Finland. "Late Night with Conan O'Brien" is broadcast on a Finnish cable TV channel, and, more and more often, there are Finns in his studio audience. I love it - he makes a point of introducing them. "Everyone say 'hi' to Jukka!"

Conan has become somewhat of a sensation in Finland this year, as he bears a pretty amusing resemblance to Finland's red-headed president, Tarja Halonen. Conan even did fake campaign commercials for her as segments on his show - all in Finnish.

My favorite fake campaign ad was Conan sitting with two Finnish-speaking actors discussing the candidates around an ice-fishing hole. After jokingly talking about the benefits of re-electing Halonen and taking a swipe at her opponent, a fish jumps out of the hole. Says Conan in halting Finnish, "See? Fish commit suicide just at the mention of her opponent's name!" It was all a joke - for the benefit of O'Brien's growing Finnish audience, but it actually became a campaign topic in Finland - was O'Brien's joking affecting the election? (Halonen's opponent was not amused, though I doubt the occasional joke from a late night American TV comedian really made a profound effect on the voting results.)

During the Olympics, O'Brien made a sojourn to Finland, where he received an overwhelmingly kind and positive welcome. He was feted by President Halonen and chased by paparazzi, which had to be quite something for the pale, skinny, very self-deprecating O'Brien. I get the impression that Conan was really amazed by his popularity with Finnish viewers.

Tonight, his show is devoted exclusively to his trek to Finland. I can't wait to see it. Sometimes his humor is spot on, sometimes it misses, and sometimes it makes me squirm with discomfort. Let's see where his off-kilter sense of fun takes us this time.

I'm trying to imagine him waking up to the breakfast buffet at the Hotel Presidentii in Helsinki. I remember my first stay in Finland - for Americans raised on "Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer," seeing reindeer meat on the breakfast menu is a shock at first. (But it's pretty damn tasty.)

Viva, Suomi!

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Show Yourself

Through the wonders of StatCounter, I know that there is at least one person from my old job who is reading this blog (and it ain't the Alasko-American.) Since there isn't anyone left there who has even shown the slightest interest in me or my well-being since I unceremoniously got removed from that office, I'm more than a little curious as to who you are.

Show yourself. You know who I am.

Who are you?

Waiting for the other shoe to drop,


To you, ladies, on International Women's Day!

It's not much of a holiday at all here in the United States, but in the developing world - and all throughout that old Eastern Bloc - today is quite the event for women. International Women's Day was a sacred ritual in the Soviet Union, with men bringing their wives and mothers (and female coworkers) flowers, chocolates, cakes... sometimes booze... in honor of their strength, beauty, abilities, you name it.

For most Soviet women, it meant the only day of the year when their husbands and boyfriends and sons cooked, cleaned, and lavished them with respectful attention. On the 8th of March (8 марта), like well-programmed pod people, Russian men uniformly were seen on the street bearing flowers and sweets and the makings of a meal. If you saw a man without such accoutrements, you had to assume he was single or divorced or widowed - or his mom didn't live in the same city.

I assume it's still the same way in Russia and most of its old, crumbled empire. At my old job, if we had a visiting post-Soviet delegation in on the 8th of March, the men would bring flowers for us all and a representative from the male contingent would make a short, but sweeping speech in our honor. (Then, they'd usually want to get together after work for one of their "hotel suite happy hours" which always featured vodka, wine, bread, sausage, pickles, more vodka, and even more wine.) It was sometimes touching, sometimes pleasant, and... well, mostly patronizing. (But I'm saying that from my very American perspective.)

I send out greetings of the day to female friends and coworkers, most of whom are unfamiliar with the holiday. I imagine that my friend, the Alasko-American, who is spending her very last day at Job X today (good for you, chiquita!) is getting gifts and flowers from her very last Russian delegation. On top of it, it's the Alasko-American's 29th birthday. Have a happy one, my friend. Can't think of a better way to celebrate that liberating yourself from the Hell Job on International Women's Day. Just too beautiful.

So, have a good one, women of the world. Enjoy your day. As for me? I'm going out to see some women friends I haven't seen in a very long time. We're going to have a long nosh and yak at a little Mediterranean place and go see the gay cowboy movie. How's that for a Chick Night?

Mutha Russia, ah just wish ah knew howda quitchew!

Monday, March 06, 2006

And you, and your sweet desire...

Call me an old school geek, but here it is, well past my bedtime on a school night, and I'm jamming out to the Best of ELO. I love those guys. I defy you to be unhappy when listening to "Mr. Blue Sky."

If I didn't live in a crackerbox apartment, I'd have the volume up, and I'd be dancing around to "Livin' Thing" right now. Livin' Thing has cowbell in it.

And lord knows, we all need more cowbell.

Sunday, March 05, 2006


18 pages.

I've written 18 pages of 12-point Times Roman text about what happened to me last year. 18 pages.

It goes back to a handful of years before, just to set the stage.

But, I'm torn. Do I want to publish it here or not? I sincerely want people to understand what happened to me. I feel that I need to be able to express what happened and why it came pretty close to destroying me. I was diminished. But now, I am stronger. (Broke, but strong.)

I mention no names. I identify no agencies. If the people in the stories were to actually recognize themselves, I would hope it would be with a measure of genuine shame.

But now that I have written it down, I don't know if I want to post it - split into entries across a week. Was it enough to write it down? Or do I need to hit "Publish Post" and tell you the words. I wanted to scream it from the mountaintops last summer. I wanted the world to know that I was a decent person, but I was still afraid then. I was afraid of our government, and how the petty, vindictive, and foolish actions of a couple of immature people might have had a terrible effect on my entire life in our post-9/11 paranoia.

Especially here in Washington.

I'm torn.

18 pages. It's a lot of story. It's a lot of hurt. It's a lot of petty indignities and stupid wrongs that ended with me being the victim of a truly bizarre false accusation.

I have this week to ponder it.

Yes, I am stronger now. I have an amazing job. I don't wake up with fear and anger and sadness every morning. This will be a great decade in my life. However, I am still haunted by last year, and the casual way in which these foul people brushed aside the value of my life.

But I will remain strong.

And, if this exercise has done nothing else, it's shown me that I can write a chapter's worth of story over coffee breaks in a week. If I can do this, I can write a book, dammit.

Off to ponder (and see how far behind schedule the Oscars are running...)

Not that this matters a hill of beans, but...

Here are my Oscar picks:

Best Picture: Crash
Best Director: Ang Lee (Brokeback Mountain)
Best Actor: Philip Seymour Hoffman (Capote)
Best Actress: Felicity Huffman (Transamerica)
Best Supporting Actor: George Clooney (Syriana)
Best Supporting Actress: Michelle Williams (Brokeback Mountain)
Best Original Screenplay: Paul Haggis and Bobby Moresco (Crash)
Best Adapted Screenplay: Dan Futterman (Capote) c'mon - do not let this man's biggest claim to fame be as the brother on "Judging Amy"!!!
Best Foreign Language Film: Paradise Now
Best Documentary: March of the Penguins (unless there is a gay penguin backlash among Academy voters...)
Best Animated Feature: Wallace and Gromit in the Curse of the Were-Rabbit
Best Art Direction: Memoirs of a Geisha
Best Cinematography: Good Night, and Good Luck
Best Original Score: Memoirs of a Geisha
Best Original Song: "Travelin' Thru" (Dolly Parton - Transamerica)
Best Costume Design: Memoirs of a Geisha
Best Visual Effects: King Kong

Best part of my picks here? Of all the films I've chosen above, I've only seen Good Night, and Good Luck, Crash, and Paradise Now. A sorry state of affairs for a movie junkie. I've just been too beat and too broke to see 'em all. But the three I have seen? Excellent.

Let's see how far off the mark I am...

Saturday, March 04, 2006


I have got to get whatever is stuck in my craw out of said craw. I am far crankier than I should be.

But I would like to thank the following people for making me even crankier today:

1. My next door neighbor's girlfriend, who likes to turn up the music to ungodly levels at 9 a.m. every Saturday, now that she has moved in and they, uh, "get down and get funky" on a weekend morning schedule so regular you'd think Metamucil played some part in their sex life.

2. The people from Discover Card who called me 6 times in under two hours wanting to offer me "customer service." (Congrats, Discover Card, you're almost as good as Gateway with the harassing phone calls, but not quite as annoying yet...)

3. The minivan full of people weaving around in front of me on the Pike today, with the occupants passing back and forth the biggest doobie I've seen outside of a Cheech & Chong movie. I especially liked it when they put their vehicle into reverse and almost ran into me at a red light and then waved the super-jumbo spliff out the window in a "sorry I almost killed you, I'm just stoned!" gesture. Damn!

4. The peeps at my favorite coffee shop for forgetting to pay their Internet bill, thus cutting off the free wireless access for its caffeine junkie writer customers (like me.)

5. The complete asshole sitting behind me at Caribou Coffee in downtown Bethesda (where I have retreated to write this afternoon.) You think it's adorable that your kids have been playing all the ringtones on your phone for the last ten minutes. I think it would be adorable if you all spontaneously combusted. Right now.

I fear I need an attitude adjustment.

Or maybe, just maybe, there are just a lot of people in Bethesda that need a swift kick in the ass.

You know, I'm going with the latter option.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Apparently, "contemporary" has more meanings than I'd originally believed...

Marquee outside a hipster Greek restaurant at Dupont Circle:

"Featuring contemporary Greek cuisine of yesterday, today, and tomorrow"

Discuss amongst yourselves...

Others were women.

Last Saturday, as tradition demanded, I accompanied the Sasquatch on his geektastic trek to the static plastic model-a-rama fest in Richmond, Virginia. The Sasquatch makes model planes and tanks. It keeps him off the street. That's a good thing. (Hey, I do paper crafts with stamps and embossing powder, so I'm a geek, too. No rolling of eyes here. I like old school crafts and hobbies. I like creating things.)

I made us nearly 40 minutes late for our departure from Bethesda. First, I overslept. Then, I had to rip a bunch of music to put on my eeny-weeny Creative MuVo mp3 player - the poor man's iPod. (It's more of an iNot.) I bought the Sasquatch donuts in apology for my sluglike behavior and we hit the road.

The trip to Richmond is pretty boring, once you get past the Hellmouth that is the Springfield Mixing Bowl. What an evil and terrifying place.

Every once in a while you hear some horrifying story of fatalities when people underestimate the danger inherent in driving through the Mixing Bowl. I hate it. In the old days, going through that nightmare was the only way to get to IKEA. Now, I have an IKEA about 15 minutes away from me in College Park, so treks down 95 are fairly rare for me these days.

But, for the Sasquatch and his love of plastic, I will ride shotgun on the Hell Road.

I'm not a modeler. Back when I was a kid, I got some Star Wars models to put together. All I achieved was a disastrous mess, with layers of my thumb skin (print and all) embedded in some Super Glue on R2D2's half-completed carcass. I have never had decent motor skills, and my eye-hand coordination is laughable. I'm also a threat to myself with an Exacto knife. (Seriously - I've been known to really hurt myself just trying to slice a bagel.) So, it's really best that models stay in the hands of nice guys and far away from me.

However, I appreciate model aircraft from a different perspective. As the daughter of a WWII pilot, I like seeing all these guys putting so much energy in crafting scale creations of the planes Mom flew. Every once in a while, some guy will see me eyeing a certain plane with great attention and - although I think it may be against their club rules to talk to chicks at model events - he'll say, "Nice, isn't it? Know what it is?"

I really like saying, "Yeah. My mom flew those." The cool part is - instead of giving me the "yeah right" response I sometimes get elsewhere - these guys will immediately ask "Was she a WAF? A WASP?" That's very cool. These dudes know their history. I wish more people did.

One thing that sticks in my craw, just a wee bit, is that, in the world of WWII scale modeling, there are no women pilot figures. I supposed I could buy a box of "random women" figures and pop one of their heads on a male body in heavy flight leathers and no one would know the difference. But, the guys who pursue this avocation are focused on the warriors in the field. There really isn't a market for "home front" models. That really doesn't have the cachet of crafting a weathered, war weary plane or tank, surrounded by 1/72-scale guys in uniform, also weathered and war weary.

Eh, it's not really itchin' my craw that much, I guess. (This is neither here nor there, but just what exactly is one's craw? Why does so much get stuck in it? And, is it potentially disgusting that I mentioned anything itchin' a craw? Maybe I should just move on...)

One thing caught my eye at the model show: an October 1943 issue of "FLYING" magazine. 350+ pages of American air superiority. It was $25, and I was totally hooked. First of all, this was REAL history - the stories, the propaganda, the ads (amazingly direct in their open hatred of the enemy)... it was a brilliant window into the past. And yet, no one else was giving it a second look. The old gent selling it told me that other issues of FLYING ran an average of 78 pages, so this was unusual simply for its great size. Also, this was their first issue exclusively devoted to the U.S. Army Air Force. I explained to him that my mother flew as a WASP, and he pointed out that there was an article on the Air Transport Command, under which my mother and her colleagues flew.

I was sold. I turned over my $25 and headed outside (into gloriously un-February-like sunshine) to sit and read.

Eager to see what coverage the women pilots received, I flipped to the section on the Transport Command...

And I found the reference to those brave young women...

This is what it said about them:

"Others were women."

Others were women?!? WTF?!?!

Others were women?!?! Damn!

I actually caught my breath so audibly when I read that, the woman on the bench next to me turned and stared.


I will take it for what it was. Wartime propaganda. Propaganda focused on keeping our boys alive and taking out the Axis powers.

But still. "Others were women."


This is why it's so important for us to remember EVERYTHING that we can about this era.

Yes, others were women. And they were damn fine pilots and ferociously brave humans.


We left the model show, after the Sasquatch had mortgaged his soul for a bag of goodies (modelin' ain't a cheap hobby) and ate lunch at some weird, progressive Arby's that sold salads and rotisserie chicken and had, more or less, table service. I felt a little weird, though, because there was a couple behind us in line that did not know how to use the coupons they had. (I swear to god.) And the guy was absolutely beside himself that they had a "jamocha" shake. "Omigod! They have the jamocha! I've been waiting years for this! Cool!"

Holy crap, dude. You have got to get out of Richmond.

After far too many carbs, we hit the road for Bethesda. On the way down to Richmond, we passed the brown park service sign we always pass: Stonewall Jackson Shrine, this exit. I kept bugging the Sasquatch to stop. We were under the impression that the Shrine was where Stonewall Jackson's amputated arm was buried. I made several tasteless suggestions for photo opportunities at the Shrine. Most of them had to do with me pulling one arm inside my sweatshirt.

The Sasquatch reminded me that we were mere minutes from the Cradle of the Confederacy, and that I'd likely get the crap beaten out of me. Still, I was voting for the tasteless photo op. So, sue me.

At last, the Sasquatch agreed to stop. We took a rolling country road for a few miles, only to find this:

Turns out, the Shrine is not where Jackson's arm is buried. It is, in fact, the modest house (the remaining structure of a long gone plantation) where he actually died. And, I write with utter sincerity, it is a touching and solemn place.

Manned by one very earnest - and incredibly knowledgeable - young park ranger, the Shrine is quiet and dignified. There were only a couple of other visitors while we were there. The loudest sounds came from a clock in the room where Jackson died and the wind that blew hard across the empty fields, where only the outline of plantation foundations remained.

The well outside the house. I took a zillion pictures of it - none of them good.
Don't ask me why.

Just a window upstairs in the house.
I bet if I had Photoshop, I could make this look cool.

The chaise in the room where Jackson died.
I thought this was a lovely still life arrangement.

The Sasquatch on the front porch of the house, looking appropriately somber.

The Sasquatch being Mr. Artsy Fartsy graphic designer,
taking "texture" photos with his swanky digital camera...

I'm glad we stopped. It genuinely was interesting and compelling and touching. And, if we really want to visit Stonewall's arm, it's up the road, buried near the battlefield at Chancellorsville...

But I won't take any tasteless photos. Just wouldn't seem right now.