Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Random Post from the Road

Just a few observations as I get ready to fly home from my first business trip in five years.

1. About 90% of my trepidation about this trip was wondering how bad the security checkpoints had gotten in the last five years. Because, you know, I hate taking off my shoes in public (I suffer from Hideous Feet Syndrome). Also, I usually do something wrong when I put my stuff on the conveyor belt - do my shoes go in the tote or on the belt? cell phone stays in the purse or not? STOP JUDGING ME, TSA EMPLOYEES. And the last time I flew, they hadn't come up with the grand idea of x-raying me in case I had a shiv up my hooha. Can't I just sign a note promising that I won't take off my pants during the flight so I can access a hidden weapon of stabbery?

Ugh. Anyway, security turned out to be total non-issue. I put everything in the tote, the nice TSA lady groped my right ankle (wearing latex gloves, a smart move when in proximity of my feet), and away I went. And here at Logan, I didn't even have to take anything out of my bag! Take that, evildoers! You're not the boss of us! Boston Strong, motherfuckers!

2. Last weekend, Precocious Daughter and I watched the movie Flight. The timing on that was maybe not so great. On the one hand, I was totally confident that if we ran into unexpected turbulence, Denzel Washington would pull us through. On the other hand, if you're familiar with the movie, I have two words for you: minibar scene. I was much less worried about a plane crash than I was about what might happen if I were confronted with a fully-stocked minibar in my hotel room. Turns out my company is far too cheap to put me up in a hotel fancy enough to have in-room booze. Thus I was able to remain happily sober for the two days I was here. Which is a good thing, as I would have completely embarrassed myself in front of my colleagues. Because their ability to drink like goddamn Atlantic cod in the middle of the week put mine to shame. No way I was going to take on a bunch of seasoned Yankees in a game of Who Can Hold Their Liquor? These people are legendary.

3. I was not able to put my song about Mr. and Mrs. Edie Brickell and Their Adventures in Domestic Violence to music while I was here. I was just too tired after a night of pretending to be a lively and engaged professional person to do anything but fall asleep on the multitude of comfy pillows I was provided. Eight pillows, just for little old me? So sweet. But I do intend to record it for your listening horror bemusement at some point. As soon as I have some time to myself, uninterrupted, with no one listening. Say, 2018.

4. I had lunch at a place called Wahlburger's, which apparently is owned Mark, Donnie, Paul, Marlon, and Tito Wahlburg and has its own reality show. Everyone in my group had to sign a waiver because they were filming inside, although the only camera I saw disappeared about two minutes after we sat down, so I doubt I'll be making my TV debut on the show. I had a haddock sandwich, because when in Boston, you have to eat seafood. It was OK. I met some dude named Nacho, who I guess is a friend of Marky Mark's. Seems like a nice guy, although he accused one of my co-workers of touching his butt. 

5. People in Boston really do say "wicked" and "pahk the cah," so I will no longer feel bad about employing these stereotypes when impersonating people in Boston. Remember, behind every stereotype are a bunch of people who actually talk and act exactly the way you expected them to.  

In conclusion, I'm sorry there are no pictures in this post. But I hate the touchpad on my laptop and I don't have a mouse. So open another tab and Google "damn clever pictures about travel, minibars, feet, celebrities, and Marky Mark." Then look at the first five pictures you see. Boom, you're a blogger. 

OK, going to read the Nelson DeMille paperback I just bought (time-honored Baudelaire tradition when flying) and see if they push back my flight even further. Latah, Drunkahds.

 

Monday, April 28, 2014

Edie Brickell Really Has an Unfair Height Advantage in a Fight

I'm torn.

Possibly the greatest celebrity news story of the year came out today. Paul Simon and Edie Brickell were arrested on disorderly conduct charges following a "domestic incident" at their swanky Connecticut home.

How awesome is that?

So naturally, I wrote it up as a parody of Paul's classic hit "Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard."

But try as I might, I couldn't record it properly. Because I have to catch a plane in the morning and because Precocious Daughter was here so I only had the length of time she was in the shower to do it and because I'm pretty inept at operating the mixing software and blah blah blah.

So I didn't get to record the track.

Maybe tomorrow night when I'm all by myself in a hotel room in Boston I'll take another crack at it. Because really, it's much funnier when I sing it, because my voice is inherently funny.

But I don't want to wait to post my parody lyrics, because things like this have a shelf life. It may be too late already.

Here goes nothing. And then I owe someone a post about hagfish.

The Ballad of Paul Simon and Edie Brickell
(sung to the tune of "Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard" - music below if you want to sing along)
by Chuck Baudelaire

Well, Edie Brickell has a story to tell
And Paul Simon is complainin'
About the time they were tested and both got arrested
For disturbing the peace in New Canaan.

The neighbors heard it all,
What Edie said to Paul.
Her mama was appalled,
And the police were called.

There was a fuss, Edie tried to discuss,
But Paul didn't want to hear it.
He couldn't take any more, but when he went for the door
Edie wouldn't let him anywhere near it.

The cops were on their way
When someone started shoving
They were on their way
Disorderly conduct was the charge that day
You'd never know 'em,
The way they were goin'...
New Bohemians singer and Garfunkel's co-star
New Bohemians singer and Garfunkel's co-star.

Long story short, they wound up in court
TMZ let the story leak.
They got a slap on the wrist and the case was dismissed
If they promised not to fight again next week.

Now they're on their way
Paul says he still loves Edie
They're going home
To put it in song on their best guitars
Back to New Canaan
Where they'll be remainin'...
New Bohemians singer and Garfunkel's co-star
New Bohemians singer and Garfunkel's co-star.
New Bohemians singer and Garfunkel's co-star.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

The Dirt Behind the Great E.T. Landfill Dump

You may have heard that one of our most cherished urban legends has been destroyed.

Not the one about the stoned babysitter and microwave.
That one is still going strong.
E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial has been found in a landfill in Alamogordo, New Mexico. Or at least, a bunch of copies of the crappy video game bearing his name. And there is much rejoicing.

If you know anything about video game history, you probably know that the home gaming industry in the United States got off to a huge start in the 1970s and 1980s, only to have it crash disastrously in 1983. The Japanese eventually had to save our asses by inventing Nintendo, which was Japan's way of officially forgiving America for that time we atom-bombed them.

They even threw in Hello Kitty to show there were no hard feelings.
One of the reasons the gaming business tanked was a little cartridge called "E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial." The Steven Spielberg film by the same name had been a huge hit in 1982. If you weren't around when it came out, you have no idea how big this movie was. I mean, it was like The Avengers, except the special effects were better and you didn't have Robert Downey, Jr. tossing off lame one-liners every two minutes. It was like Avatar with no blue people having sex and not directed by a douchebag. It was like 12 Years a Slave, except not about slavery and also it made a lot of money and had, like, one black person in it.

Yo, dawg, I think they get it. You can stop now.
Anyway, in 1982, E.T. was huge, and the Atari 2600 was huge. It didn't take a genius to figure out that an E.T. video game for the Atari would be mega-super-totally-pretty-big. Unfortunately, the same not-a-geniuses who greenlit the game also decided that it absolutely, positively had to be ready for release by Christmas 1982.

Now, to a generation raised on video games with hyper-realistic animation, intricate story lines, and complex gameplay, this next statement may come as a surprise: Back in the early 1980s, the novelty of being able to play games on your TV far outweighed the actual quality of most games. It really took a leap of imagination to believe that the clump of pixels moving choppily around on the screen was a tank or an explorer or a football player. But we didn't care, because it was the most advanced technology most of us had ever seen.

Although this came damn close.
So it wouldn't have taken much to create an E.T. video game that would sell a jillion copies and make everyone happy. I mean, they could have just slapped an E.T. figure over the frog in "Frogger" and it would have worked. And in retrospect, maybe they should have.

Who wouldn't enjoy seeing the plucky little alien
repeatedly being greased by a semi truck?
Instead, Atari tried to create an all-new, exciting, challenging game entirely from scratch in the space of weeks. Sure, if they had succeeded, E.T. the game would have advanced home video games to an entirely new level. Instead, it established a cardinal rule of gaming: When you make time to market the guiding principle in developing a new title, you end up with a game that has not been well thought out, designed, or tested on any level and plays like a total cash-in.

Just like in Hollywood.
In the case of E.T., Atari created a game that had mediocre graphics even by the standards of the time. Worse, the controls were confusing, and the game was simply too damn hard for its target market - kids who loved the movie and wanted to play with E.T. forever and ever and feed him Reese's Pieces until his little alien guts exploded on the shag carpeting - to play.

I know that was a terrible sentence. But it was a lot of fun to write, so it stays in.

Even in pre-Internet 1982, word of mouth on the game spread like wildfire. Seemingly every person who rushed out to buy a copy told 300 people how terrible it was. And after the initial burst of sales, nobody bought the damn thing. It wasn't just a disappointment: It was a disaster. Again returning to movie terms, it was like Johnny Depp putting a damn bird on his head to play Tonto.

People will pay to see Johnny Depp in
almost anything, except a crow fedora.
Atari had made millions of copies of the E.T. game, believing it had the hot Christmas gift of the year on its hands. Instead it took a bath on heavily discounted sales, retail returns, and of course consumer ill will. The failure of the game destroyed Atari and put the entire home video game industry in Beanie Baby territory for years.


Shown here: Upwards of $12.00 worth of Beanie Babies,
adjusted for worthlessness.
So what did Atari do with all the unsold game cartridges? Somewhere along the line, a story got started that an Atari executive ordered nearly a million of them to be dumped into a landfill in the dead of night. Since there wasn't really anyone around to confirm or deny the story, it grew. Over the years it became a full-blown urban legend.

But now, an intrepid team of archaeologists, documentary filmmakers, and nerds have actually unearthed the first few hundred of what may be hundreds of thousands (or maybe just a few more hundreds) of the fabled discarded cartridges. It really is sort of like casting a line into Loch Ness and pulling out a sea monster.

Also would have made a much better video game.
While it's really cool that the tale of the midnight video game dump turned out to be true, and the mystery has been solved, the fact is that we're now down one urban legend. Half the fun of these things is in trying to unravel the myth; unlocking the actual secret is sort of anticlimactic. Like losing your virginity or watching the final episode of "Lost." That's it? Now what?

Don't despair. I'm here to restore some of the mystique of the E.T. legacy by revealing, for the first time anywhere, the real reason why all those video games were buried in Alamogordo.

Are you ready?

You're on, Mr. Nimoy.
Well...it's a heavily guarded secret that video games are actually alien technology. When the Roswell UFO crashed in 1947, among the technology the military extracted from the wreckage were sophisticated video rendering modules, including highly complex computer simulation programs. Modern flight simulators used by the military and commercial airlines are based directly on the alien technologies.

In exchange for positive portrayals of U.S. military interests, the government also allowed the entertainment industry to use the secrets of Roswell for its own ends. Over the years, this unholy alliance has resulted in the development of the Hollywood special effects we all know and mindlessly believe in, as well as top-quality pro-military fare such as "I Dream of Jeannie," Top Gun, and Gears of Duty: the Return of Halo: the Game.

 The thing is, the alien technology is so powerful that it has to be extensively modified for civilian use, lest it inadvertently alert the aliens that we murdered their comrades and stole their secrets. That's why movies and video games take so long to develop; they have to go through an extensive vetting process by the U.S. government to ensure their programming can't be tracked by space baddies.

Whoa, those Transformers look familiar.
When E.T. became a huge hit in 1982, Atari saw dollar signs that looked like money. And in their rush to get the E.T. video game to market, they bypassed the normal security protocols that would have made sure it was scrubbed of code that would attract the aliens' attention.

"Hey, Groblx, doesn't the alien in that video game
look an awful lot like Zlyob the Overlord?"
The results of this terrible decision have been heavily covered up by the powers that be, but traces of the aliens' retaliation against us can be discerned on the cultural landscape of the 1980s: the Dukakis presidential campaign. Post-Thriller Michael Jackson. Scrunchies.

Enslaved the minds of all who wore them.
By the time Madonna released her first album, civilization was on the verge of collapse. The government knew it had to round up all the unsold copies of the E.T. video game and bury them so deep they couldn't broadcast their malevolent signals to the aliens. So they paid off Atari and orchestrated the infamous midnight landfill run. Since no one bothered to play the copies of the game that had actually been sold more than once, the aliens lost track of us and stopped their attacks. The Earth was saved. And when Japan developed the NES, they solemnly swore to follow the security protocols that keep our extraterrestrial enemies from making us break dance.

Curses, foiled again.
I ask you: What will become of us now that the E.T. cartridges have been unearthed and exposed to the listening frequenices of our darkest adversaries? Think about it.

That's my story, and I'm sticking to it.

Now go, Drunkards, and tell the tale. Preserve the legend, and pump up the jam.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Blocked

I have writer's block.

Not even funny, Calvin.
I've been trying to write something all night, but it's not working. I guess I'm just not good at this.

I think I'm wondering where Bill the Butcher has been for the last few days.

I think I've been obsessed with buying a new car.

I think I don't believe in myself.

So I apologize that you spent the time and effort to click here just to find that I've got nothing to blog about.

Thanks, though.

I don't know why I don't get more reader suggestions.

Other than...I don't have many readers.

I would welcome them, though. Just saying.

Here's a picture of a beautiful thing, as my way of saying thanks:


Tomorrow, maybe, Drunkards. Thanks for loving me enough to click.

Ideas are ALWAYS welcome

Thursday, April 24, 2014

The Baudelaire Method for Ninja Car Buying and Whatnot

A co-worker and I both bought new cars this week.

I love my new ride, Benedict Cumberhatch, and I got him for a really good price and had a great experience at the dealership. My co-worker, to hear him tell it, did a shit-ton of running around town, getting into haggling death-matches with various salespeople, and seems to have ended up with a car he's not all that excited about.

This tells me that I'm a freaking ninja master at buying cars.

I do not wish the corrosion protection package.
Hi-ya.
I'm going to share my wisdom with you, partly because I know how difficult it can be to buy a car and partly because I have so little other wisdom to share.

You do not want me to share my wisdom about
handling sharp objects.
So listen up, and learn the Baudelaire Method for Ninja Car Buying and Whatnot.

Step 1: Know what you want.
It is much harder to define your perfect car than it is to define your perfect mate. For one thing, you can't bend a car to your will once you've reeled it in; it has to be exactly what you want without any goading from you. I know, right? Also, a car can't put itself into debt to make you happy. I know this sounds grim, but don't get discouraged. Cars and mates have a lot in common: in both cases, you want them to be reliable and easy to maintain,  they should make you look good, withstand a lot of neglect without showing dirt, and have a great sound system. All without bankrupting you, of course. Personally, I want to make sure mine looks good from the rear, but that's a matter of personal preference.

Step 2: Stalk your car.
When you're looking for a new vehicle, every parking lot, every intersection, every traffic jam becomes a car lot. Look around: like kids on a playground, you'll see every size, shape, color, and personality.  After a while you'll find that a particular type catches your eye and makes your heart flutter, and you'll start to imagine the two of you cruising around town together. And this is making the kids on a playground metaphor seem reall awkward. To be clear, I'm talking about being attracted to a particular type of car. Don't do any of what I've just described on a playground.

Step 3: Avoid human interaction until absolutely necessary.
With the exception of a suitcase full of cash, nothing makes car-buying easier than the Internet. (The same goes for sexual gratification, but I'm just going to stay away from metaphors for the rest of this post, OK?) I picked out Bene from a local dealer's website, downloaded his window sticker to check out his pertinents, requested an e-quote, got back a price that was lower than any offer I would have had the cojones to make in person, printed out the quote, took it to the dealership, showed it to the salesperson and said "I want this one," and drove him off the lot just a couple of hours later. The car, that is, not the salesperson. I didn't have to haggle, and more importantly, I didn't have to make small talk. Brrrrr, small talk.

For the millionth time, thank you, Allie Brosh.

Three critical things to remember about online car shopping:

1. Be completely passive. Don't make an offer, don't make a counter-offer. That may be hard for some of you, but trust me: Passivity is a life skill that anyone can learn. If the dealership knows what it's doing, it will give you a price that will render all that back-and-forth bullshit unnecessary. If the dealership doesn't know what it's doing, don't buy your car there, doy.

2. If you request an e-quote and instead receive any variation on "Why don't you come in and we'll see if we can put a deal together," delete the email and scrub your keyboard with antibacterial wipes.  You're done here.

3. Kelley Blue Book values are for chumps. Look up the fair market value (what people are actually paying) for the car you want, of course. Subtract 10-15%, then ignore any quotes for more than that figure. I ain't lying, people.

Step 4: Know what to look for.
When you're actually face-to-face with your prospective S.A. (significant auto), keep in mind that judging a vehicle is like judging a dog at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show.* There are certain things you have to look for. For example, never buy a car:
  • With a dinky glovebox.
  • With a steering wheel that blocks your view of the speedometer.
  • Whose dipstick and washer fluid reservoir you can't immediately identify/easily access.
  • Without a center armrest.
  • (for used cars) Whose radio presets are all hard-rock or talk-radio stations.

* That was a metaphor, sorry. It had nothing to do with sex, I promise.

Step 5: Be nice.
Be an absolute hard-ass on everything else in this list. But smile and make self-deprecating jokes and laugh at whatever the salesperson/business manager/finance guy says. My co-worker tried to be Mr. Hardass, and now he's a 220-pound bear of a man driving a white (God help me), used Nissan Juke that looks like a albino frog and cost more than my brand-new Ford Focus hatchback that I love like PB&J trail mix.


Regular readers know how I love
that mess.
That's it. Choose wisely and well, is what it comes down to. And don't haggle. This is the 21st century; don't let the previous millennium drag you down.

Now go buy a car. Or, you know, the terrorists win, or something.

Also: In exchange for this sage advice, if someone could tell me how to afford a car payment for the next 60 months, that would be great, thanks.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Brilliance Is in the Eye of the Beholder

Sometimes I pride myself on writing witty, thought-provoking posts.

Other times I post pictures of bears riding motorcycles.

And really, which is more eloquent?











It's a rhetorical question.

I like bears, OK?

Go read HuffPost if you want incisive social commentary.

Because bears.


Tomorrow: How to buy a car if you suck at buying cars.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

On the Road Again

On March 19th, an idiot kid who was staring at his cell phone drove into my beautiful 2002 VW New Beetle in a parking lot. And totaled it.

Possibly this is exaggerated.
But you weren't there, man.
This is so precious: The kid is the (I assume) grandson of a pair of local Century 21 realtors. Should I give their names? That would be tacky.

Stan and Mary Pritchard,
Judge Fite Realty.
Anyway, I don't think the kid ever told Meemaw and Peepaw that he drove their 2004 Honda Accord into another car because he was being a dumbass. Because when I filed a claim with his insurance company, he never answered their calls. And when I finally filed a claim with my own insurance company because I actually wanted something to get done, my insurance company couldn't get him to answer his phone, either.

Hey, kid, there's a thing called subrogation in the insurance world. It means that my insurance company will pay to get me into a new car and then totally go after your insurance company and/or your grandparents to fucking pay up. That might involve collection agencies, lawyers, whatever. I'm sure your real estate agent grandparents will appreciate being hounded because their Neanderthal grandson decided to conceal the fact that he destroyed a middle-aged mom's car (with her child inside it) rather than act as if he had fully descended testicles and own up to his stupid irresponsibility (or irresponsible stupidity, take your pick).

Also, his phone number totally isn't 972.207.4775 and you shouldn't call him and ask him how he's sleeping since wrecking Chuck Baudelaire's beloved Bug.

None of that is the point, because today I bought a new car, and I am in love with it.

It's a 2014 Ford Focus hatchback.

Such squee.
His name is Benedict Cumberhatch. Of course.

He is an economical, practical small car. Excellent safety ratings, good gas mileage, satellite radio (yes!!!), and I got a great deal. Like $6K below MSRP great deal. I am happy, people. So happy.

No, it's not a luxury car, or a sports car, or a fancy-schmancy import. It's just mine. My little American-made, adorable, under warranty Ford Focus hatchback. No BMW or top-o-the-line sedan could make me happier. Because this car is me.

It cost almost nothing, and I put almost 40% down. What.

I love Benedict Cumberhatch. I think Precocious Daughter and I will be very happy tooling around town in him. And probably he'll be the car in which she learns to drive.

Allow me to have a heart attack over that.

I love you, Bene (thanks for that nickname, Smee). Anyone need a ride? Because I'm driving, baby.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

So Chuck and Yet So Far

I saw Chuck Norris yesterday.

He came to Precocious Daughter's karate tournament. I mean, he came to see his own daughter, who is an 11-year-old black belt, if you can dig that. But he was there watching his kid, just as I was there watching my kid. So we were united in purpose.

And we were breathing the same air and listening to the same music blaring over the P.A. For all intents and purposes we were one.

Except that I spent the day sitting in cramped, uncomfortable bleachers, and Chuck stood on the competition floor, looking exactly like this:


For hours and hours as the competition went on, Chuck watched over the proceedings like the badass he is.


Any kid who approached him for a picture after winning a trophy, Chuck obliged.


PDaughter, unfortunately, didn't place in any of her events. She did a great job, but the competition was really fierce. Everyone put up their best performance because Master Norris was there.

Also, parents weren't allowed to get anywhere near him. So I didn't get to actually meet him. (Did I yell "Hi, Chuck!"? You bet your bippy I did.)

So I've had to create this artist's rendering of what a picture of Chuck and me would have looked like. It's for Chuck's benefit, really. I feel bad that he missed out.

Such a perfect likeness.
Chuck, if you're reading this...I drove all the way to Bryan, Texas for you. I left civilization and drove past approximately 168,000 cows to be with you. And to watch PDaughter compete, of course. But this was your chance. For me, it was totally worth it to watch you in action.

Shown here: Action.
I'm sorry we didn't have a chance to get to know one another. You would have loved me. Ah, well. There will be other tournaments. We may yet have our moment. Chuck Norris and the crazy lady who yells "Hi, Chuck!" every time you show up. Until we meet again...take solace in your wealth, fame, reputation, social standing, and hot wife.

Be strong.

Friday, April 18, 2014

The Road to Chuckville

Tomorrow is Precocious Daughter's statewide karate tournament. It's in beautiful Bryan Texas, just a hop, skip, and a jump from Texas A&M University. About which I give not a shit, but maybe I'll get some extra hits from people Googling "Aggies."

Also, here's an adorable picture of their mascot, Reveille.
Who's a good doggie?

The best part about going to the tournament is that it teaches children from across Texas to compete in a spirit of fairness and excellence.

Hahaha, no, of course not. The best part is that CHUCK NORRIS WILL BE THERE.

He's already been here.

Regular readers know all about my love-stalk relationship with Master Norris. And this is my chance. I want to shake Chuck's hand. I want to get his autograph. I want to run my nose through this beard.

That's why my motto for the tournament is "Meet Chuck or Get Arrested Trying 2014."

By Chuck Norris, of course.

But I don't have much time, and I need your help. I need a perfect opening line to ingratiate myself to Chuck Norris, to let him know how I much I respect and admire him, how much I want to clone him from his fingernails, and most of all how I'm totally not an insane person who should be escorted from the venue by his goons and/or the police.

So I've been working on some ideas. Let me know which one(s) I should try.

Potential Greetings to Chuck Norris on the Occasion of Meeting Him Totally in My Capacity as the Mother of a Defending State Champion and Not Some Nutcase Blogger/Fangirl

1. "Hello, Mr. Norris. It's a pleasure to meet you. May I please have the honor of putting my tongue in your ear?"

2. "Can I take a selfie of you kicking me in the face?"

3. "I have a 10th degree black in being completely obsessed with you."

4. (If his wife is nearby) "Hey Chuck, why don't you give your daughter there 20 bucks and tell her to go buy a t-shirt while the grown-ups talk?"

5. "I'm a huge fan. I've seen all of your memes."

6. "I've got a great idea for a new TV show. It's called 'Walker, Texas Ranger.' You star as a lawman who still catches bad guys even though you have to use a walker to get around."

7. "Is that your real hair? Is that your real beard? Are those your real pecs? I can keep moving down as long as you like."

8. "Chuck! Chuckchuckchuckchuckchuck! CHUUUUUUUUCK!

9. If I lie between two cinderblocks, will you break me in half like a board?"

10. "Hey Chuck - let's fuck."

Also, wish PDaughter and all of her Kickstart Kids classmates on a successful tournament. I hope to see them all do well before I'm dragged kicking and screaming out of the gym.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

My Aura Can Beat Up Your Aura

I took one of those online quizzes recently.

OK, I took like a dozen of those online quizzes recently. I'm one of those people who take online quizzes. I contribute nothing to this world. But I know which Disney Princess I am, dammit.

Turns out it's Dopey.

Anyway, the specific quiz prompting today's post was called "What Color Is Your Aura?" That's a good thing to know, right? The color of one's aura says a lot about...the color of one's aura.

Shown here: Not actually your aura.

Whatever. Nobody was shot, killed, maimed, deprived of health coverage, or sent to a forced-labor camp as a result of my knowing the color of my aura. Which means that in a small way, I really am contributing something to the world. Who didn't get shot, killed, maimed, deprived of health coverage, or sent to a forced-labor camp as a result of something you did today, huh?

According to the quiz, my aura is black. Yep. My aura is the absence of all light, the visual representation of total darkness, the color that only sucks in and does not reflect back.

And you thought those quizzes weren't accurate. Pffft.

Me and my aura.

Lots of my Facebook friends took that quiz. Their auras were yellow, or blue, or red. Vibrant, dynamic colors. The colors of the crayons everyone fights over as a kid. The kinds of colors people name as their favorite.

I'm not bitter.

Tea, Earl Grey, fuck you.

I just decided to make up my own aura meanings, that's all.

Here's the link to the quiz. Take it and find out what color your aura is, but look at my explanation instead. Because it's way more accurate because I said so. And if you don't believe me, I'll come after you with my black-aura death-laser eyes.

If your aura is...

Red: You are fabulous in a "Springtime for Hitler" way. You are always perfectly put together and in control, at least on the inside. From the outside you appear to be borderline sociopathic, but that's OK. The world doesn't understand that you are heir to the throne of Ra the Sun God, and that is the world's problem. Just don't forget to coordinate your shoes with your aura, or your karma will run over your dogma.

Orange: Cats and chinchillas can smell your aura, and it drives them wild with passion. You probably took some shit for eating Play-Doh as a child, but only you knew that by ingesting it you took on its power. One day your ears will fall off as a sign that you are about to achieve enlightenment.

Yellow: You aura appears to be the result of a cosmic printing error. Probably it was supposed to be green, but the universe was out of cyan that day. You should spend your life searching for someone with a complementary aura color. Stick with something in the neutral palette - those neon auras may be trendy now, but you'll look silly in a few years.

Green: You share your aura with many creative, innovative people. Like the inventor of Cheetos, and whoever created the Doge meme. People don't always understand your motives and tend to think you're a bit of a jerk. That's their loss, and they'll wish they'd treated you more nicely when you finally work out how to spin gold from string cheese.

Blue: You passed out in the bathroom. The toilet overflowed, and now you're laying in a pool of blue Ty-D-Bowl water. This is no way to live your life.

Silver: Oh, sure, show off your badass glittery aura. You probably have perfect hair and can instinctively find the nearest public restroom when you need to go. Your sweat glands secrete Febreze. Gay men ask you for fashion advice. Butterflies try to sip nectar from your nostrils. You are destined to be hit by a bus.

Purple: With an aura like yours, who needs underwear? You are a free thinker, which is great until you realize that most laws and social mores were not created by free thinkers. In fact, the NSA has created special radar to detect auras like yours. They can see you right now. If you know how to ascend to the next plane of consciousness, now would be a good time to do that.

Black: The possessor of the black aura is powerful, merciless, and pretty damn sexy. Oprah looks under her chair when you tell her to, and then you're all "Psych! You get nothing!" Also, your eyes shoot death-lasers, which is kind of cool. Chuck Norris is your spirit animal. You rock.

You're like a unicorn's skidmark.

Stay tuned for my next quiz, "Which Symptom of a Crippling Drug Dependency Are You?" (Hint: It's probably either incontinence or hollow eye sockets.)

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

An Open Letter to the Charlatans at Groupon

Dear Groupon:

I feel it is my duty to inform you that the purveyor of one of your daily deals is providing less than the level of service it advertises. In fact, I would go so far as to say this business is approaching fraud in the way it conducts itself. Since your service is by far my favorite online provider of belly-dance lessons, permanent eyebrow tattoos, and discounted meals at obscure area restaurants, it seems to me you would appreciate being informed when one of your participating vendors is giving your reputation a black eye by association.

Allow me to briefly lay out my story in hopes that others may be spared my experience. It began, as most visits to my inbox do, with a new Groupon email.  By the way, the frequency and inevitability of receiving your offerings is on a par with that of the Valu-Pak mailers that arrive in my mailbox and are similarly brimming with relevant local deals, and I thank you for that. I scrolled past the romantic getaway to Houston and the BYOB crockery-painting class - there are only so many weekend trips and drunken art studios one can fit in, no matter how delightful - but I stopped when I saw the deal for "mole removal."


The abstract graphic representation of the mole was intriguing.
This was a real stroke of good fortune for me. With the onset of Spring gardening season, I've found myself battling these pesky critters in my yard, where they root and dig and generally make a mess of my lovingly-planted flower beds. Also, while their blind shuffling about is undeniably adorable, they've bumped into my patio support columns so often that I fear they're becoming structurally unsound (the columns, not the moles). And so I jumped at the opportunity to have up to three moles removed for the astonishingly low price of just $39 (a $350 value).


They're only cute if they belong to someone else.


When I contacted the featured business, the representative was initially very polite and friendly. She asked me about the moles I wanted removed, and I said they were the standard variety - small, hairy, and generally obnoxious. She said she understood completely and promised their removal would be discreet and painless. This I appreciated very much; there's no shame in having a garden plagued by varmints, but there's no need for the neighbors to know, and really no call to visit cruelty upon them. We're all God's creatures.

We set up a date and time for an initial consultation, which I thought was very thorough. Unfortunately, the representative failed to arrive, even though I waited at home the entire day, during which time I personally witnessed the moles having their way with my succulents. I called the business to inquire whether there had been some miscommunication regarding our appointment. I was then informed that it was in fact I who had failed to show up at the arranged time. I was incredulous.

Do you mean to tell me, I asked, that you expect me to bring the moles to you?

Upon which I was told that the business does not make house calls, and would I like to reschedule my appointment.

At this point I'm afraid I became quite flustered. Trying to keep my voice calm and reasonable, I asked, If I'm paying you $39 to have my moles removed, yet I'm required to catch, cage, and transport them to your establishment myself, what exactly am I paying for? What will you do upon taking possession of the moles that constitutes "removal" beyond what I've accomplished on my own?

There was a long pause on the line, and then the representative rather timidly explained some procedure involving lasers. Lasers?! Good Lord, I want the beasts humanely relocated, not subjected to spy-grade weaponry.

I told the representative I would prefer to try traps, loud noises, or perhaps spreading a mild pesticide on the affected areas. She hung up on me.

Is this the kind of negative customer service experience Groupon wishes its clients to have? If so, then you should continue to offer deals from this business, because my experience has left me wanting no part of this particular operation. I believe I've wasted my time and money, and I still have the problem of voracious rodents among my plants. I really feel this company has no expertise in the service it claims to provide. Frankly, I'm baffled that it chose to advertise on Groupon at all, or that you agreed to let it do so without making some attempt to ascertain that it could deliver on the promise of low-cost, effective pest control.

If it is at all possible, I would like a refund of my $39. Under separate cover, I will lodge a complaint against another of your advertising businesses, which claimed to offer "custom framing" yet refused to arrange for my abrasive neighbor to be falsely accused of any crime at all, let alone one tailored to my specifications. This apparent pattern of disappointing Groupon deals is worrying to me, as it should be to you.

Feel free to contact me if you have any questions.

Sincerely,
Charles Baudelaire
(not the 19th century French poet)

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Ten Things You Forget When You Stop Sewing

Or, Ten Things You Remember When You Start Sewing Again.


1. Choosing fabric for your project is terrifying. It has to be perfect. What if you get it wrong? Worse, what if you mess up your project? That one-of-a-kind vintage bolt end is gone, baby.


2. Pinning and cutting the pattern pieces is soooo tedious. How can it possibly take so many different parts to make a simple top/dress/skirt?


3. Was it this hard to thread the needle last time I sewed? The eye must have shrunk from disuse. That's the ticket.

4. You have to keep the tension when you're winding a bobbin, or you end up with a loose, saggy mess of thread. There's probably a metaphor for life in there somewhere.


5. The cleanest, straightest seam you ever sew will be when you didn't notice the bobbin thread ran out halfway through.

6. Nothing is quite as specifically, exquisitely painful as sticking a pin into the pad of your fingertip.



7. Pressing is even more important than actual sewing. Getting a perfect press does more for the quality of the finished garment than sewing a perfect seam.


8. Stay-stitch, slip-stitch, edge-stitch, tack-stitch...so much sewing that no one ever even sees! But it all totally counts.


9. Pattern pieces under a type of fission and expand in size once released from their package. Once out, they will never, ever, ever go back in again.


10. Sewing time doesn't work the same as regular time. The phrase "just give me five minutes to finish off this edge" bears no relation to reality. Five minutes means you've missed two meals and all your favorite TV programs.

I've really missed sewing.