Archive for January, 2010

Rolling in style

escaladeIf you know me, then you know that I tend to look at license plates on the road more than the average driver.  If it’s a good vanity plate, I’m quick to praise the driver.  But if it’s a poorly constructed one that doesn’t adequately get the message across (or uses a number for a letter in some moronic fashion), I’m even quicker to chastise its creator.  Needless to say, I’ve set the bar pretty high, which is why my own plate is not of the vanity variety.  I’d put too much pressure on myself to make it perfect, so I’m cool with my meaningless numbers and letters.

Last week, however, a colleague of mine asked if I could help him create a plate for his new vehicle.  He’s a funny and boyish guy who happens to be loaded, so this wasn’t an ordinary task.  He recently purchased a fully tricked-out Escalade, complete with a tv in the back and limo-like passenger seating.  He’s only going to use this new vehicle when he has a driver take him and a group of friends somewhere.  (Sounds like a nice option, eh?)   When I came into his office, he had the DMV site up and a picture of a plate that read, “1PLAYA1.”  “Do you like that?” he asked.  “Well,” I said, “I can see what you’re trying to do, but to me and to most of our state, that will look like ‘beach’ in Spanish instead of a hip version of ‘player.'”   He saw what I meant, even if he didn’t fully agree.

The website will tell you instantly if something is available or not, so we spent a little time on it.  If he was set on having “Playa” in it, I first suggested, “YO PLAYA.”  He loved it, but someone else must too, because it was taken.  What about, “PLAYAAA” I asked?  He liked it, but not enough (even though it was available).  “Maybe something with ‘pimp’ in it,” he said.  “I’m sure most of those are taken, but let’s try it out,” I replied.  Of course, almost all versions of “Big Pimpin'” were taken, much to his dismay.

I then recalled that he likes to refer to “keeping the pimp hand strong,” that is, how to maintain his male dominance in a relationship.  (Please note: while this sounds absolutely horrible, violent, and demeaning, he uses the phrase metaphorically and – to my knowledge – does not actually strike anyone.  It’s more like, “Your wife handles all of your finances?  That’s no way to keep the pimp hand strong.”)  With that knowledge, I had more options to play with.  “Ooh, there’s a special plate that allows you to use symbols, like a star, plus sign, or…a hand.”  We went back to the plate-selection page. As hilarious luck would have it,  the plate with the hand is the “Kids” one with a little drawing on the bottom and gives money to the Child Health and Safety Fund.  Perfect for pimps, right?  So I motioned for him to move, sat down at his desk, and made a plate on the screen to say, “DA PIMP (Hand).”  He thought it was awesome, but once again, it was already taken.  He suggested “DU PIMP (Hand),” but I didn’t like that at all.  We finally agreed that “D PIMP (Hand)” still got the point across, and if people didn’t understand the hand part, it would still look like “D PIMP” to them, which he felt was cool enough by itself without the second meaning.  This time, it was available.

He clicked on the next page, and we encountered an unexpected wrinkle: A box to explain the license plate’s meaning.  “Crap,” I said, knowing the game was likely up.  “No, you can do this,” he said.  “Come up with something brilliant.”  “No pressure,” I added.  So I sat there for a few seconds before a light bulb went off and I started typing: “People Inspiring Minors through Prayer (P.I.M.P.) is an urban organization that lends a helping ‘hand.'”  I’ve known this guy for a couple of years, and I’ve never seen him laugh as uncontrollably as he did after reading that.  It was the prayer part that brought him over the edge, naturally.  “I still doubt that’s gonna get through the censors,” I said.  “Ya know, unless you quickly create a website for that made up organization.”  I was kidding, but I could tell that he was considering it.  Instead, he called his girlfriend to ask her opinion.  She loved the idea (which means they’re a good match, I suppose), but asked if he’d ever be using the vehicle for business and/or charity events.  He probably would, he told her, and “D PIMP (Hand)” was off the table.

I’ll still try to help him come up with something that is cool but not wholly inappropriate.  Ya know, like “(Heart) MY HOES.”  What?  He’s an enthusiastic gardener!

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Grosser than gross

banditAnd by “gross,” I wish I only meant 144.  Instead, I’m using that adjective to describe an anonymous person’s bathroom habits.  I suppose I should add a disclaimer saying that I’m going to talk about some nasty things (in case the title didn’t clue you in), but please bear in mind that reading about this unfortunate occurrence pales in comparison to actually experiencing it.

I work in a building that has one male and one female bathroom per floor.  A little while after I started, the male bathroom (which is the only one I frequent – why, what have you heard?) started to get noticeably messier.  This meant more than one’s fair share of willy-nilly urinating, forgotten flushes, and balled-up paper towels thrown on the floor in a corner where apparently people thought a trashcan should be.  It’s not a huge bathroom (three urinals and two stalls), so this made a big difference in my use of the facilities.

After several complaints, two main changes were made.  First, a small trashcan was placed in the aforementioned corner.  Second, the door’s hardware was changed so as to require a code.  Why’s that?  Because the prevailing theory on the increased messiness was that people from other floors were coming to ours to relieve themselves.  (That’s because we routinely saw people we didn’t recognize leave the bathroom and walk over to the elevator.  Those are some crazy detective skills, I know.)

For a while, everything got better.  The new trashcan was being used, and I stopped having to peer into a stall to check for collateral damage before entering to do business of my own.  Then it happened.  I was standing at the left-most urinal one morning when I noticed something on the wall right in front of me.  “Is that…a booger?” I wondered (possibly aloud).  Yes, yes it was. I know this because there were two or three more next to it on the wall as well, and they all looked exactly like you would expect.  “That’s disgusting!” I thought or said. 

Over the course of the next several months, The Booger Bandit struck again and again.  I’d guess about once every week or two.  It’s possible that it happened more often but was taken care of by the cleaning crew that tidies up throughout the day.  I don’t know why I’d never brought it up to my co-worker Rob, but I did one day after I was pushed too far.  Smeared boogers near my face while I’m dealing with a variety of bathroom smells is one thing, but when they’re also tinged with blood, I’m compelled to speak.  (Yes, I’m well aware of how gross that is.  That disclaimer’s making even more sense now, eh?)   “Hey Rob,” I said, “Have you ever noticed that someone appears to be wiping boogers right above the urinal?”  “Yes!” he said, with the kind of happy relief normally reserved for people realizing that they’re not crazy.  (“You hear those whispers too?  Thank the lord!”)  “What’s wrong with that guy?” I asked.  He had no answer, but I kept going: “I guess I can almost understand it happening once.  Let’s say you’re peeing, and you have one of those kinda sharp boogers up high in your nostril and you just have to get rid of it.  You do, but then you realize that you have nowhere to put it.  So there you are, your dick in one hand, and a booger in the other.  Forced to make a choice, you smear it on the wall in front of you.  Maybe you meant to clean it up but forgot, maybe not.  I can buy that happening once based on a poorly-planned nose pick.  But the second time, it’s no mistake.  And every time after that, well, that’s just fucked up.”  He agreed, but seemed a little concerned that I’d put so much thought into it.

So what can I do?   I don’t think taping a sign that says, “Please don’t smear your sometimes-bloody boogers on this wall” will do anything except possibly encourage copycat Booger Bandits.  I don’t know most of the guys who regularly use the bathroom, so I can’t just slyly mention it to everyone I run into while I’m in there.  I’m at a loss, and I’d appreciate any suggestions.  All I know is that I’m fed up, and this type of behavior snot appropriate for the workplace. (Sorry, I couldn’t help myself.)

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Devalued Word of the Day: Professional

Today’s devalued word epitomizes everything the devalued word stands for, or rather, doesn’t.  You know a word has gone bankrupt when it implies exactly the opposite of the literal definition.

And that’s what has happened with today’s word, “Professional.”  Thanks to descrupled marketers, the word professional is now shorthand for “Hey, let’s be honest. You don’t want to spend that kind of money on a socket wrench set. But you’re in luck, because this is the set that professional socket wrenchers actually buy. And somehow I also cost less than the other ones. Buy me.”

In fact, professional is the moniker that people attach to professions that aren’t.  Chances are, when people tell you they’re a “Professional _____,” it really means “Yes, for a living I do this thing that you never knew anybody could do for a living. I am a professional hula hooper.  And one day I hope to make money doing it.” You never hear people say “I’m a professional doctor” or “I’m a professional police officer.”

One exception I add here is the word “pro,” which is different than professional.  You can be a pro surfer, pro skateboarder, or pro snowboarder and make serious money rivaled only by the unplumbed depths of pussy it also earns.  Until recently I wouldn’t have included pro golfers in this group.

I find it telling that GMC chooses that word to describe their line.  “Professional Grade.” I’m biased against domestic cars, but they did receive 3 bailouts from the government.  Maybe all the professional pickup truck drivers lost their jobs?

So let’s beware the professional moniker until marketers stop being professional swindlers.

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Many things to read there

So my boyfriend had to go to Portland for two months to train for his job. Upon telling me this, I had two thoughts: 1. That sucks (normally we both live in the San Francisco area) 2. Sweet, I can go to Powell’s!

Powell’s bookstore in Portland is the largest independent new and used bookstore in the whole wide world. As a big ole book nerd, nothing could make me happier. After booking my flight for my weekend visit, I asked my boyfriend, only half-jokingly, “what are you going to do all weekend while I’m at Powell’s?”

I had been to Powell’s once before as a child, with my dad. My aunt lives in Seattle and we used to drive or take the train up to visit her for Easter when I was younger. My dad swears that I both love and remember being at Powell’s, but I don’t. All I remember of Portland is having a lady come into a public bathroom and calling my name, saying that my dad was worried that something had happened to me. Apparently planning for a a train trip with his 6 year old didn’t include some sort of public bathroom strategy and when determining how long I should take in there, he forgot to take into account that women’s restrooms almost always have a line. Also, sinks are hard to reach when you’re 6.

So besides that youthful visit, all I knew of the store were amazing stories from friends who lived in Portland. Books as far as the could see, they said. New books, as cheap as used ones. Used books, practically free. I would salivate just thinking of it.

When I arrived, it was everything I thought it would be and more. British editions of PG Wodehouse novels for under $10! Hardcover biographies half off! Out of print books and NY Bestsellers!

My final choices:

Thank You, Jeeves by PG Wodehouse

The Promise by Chaim Potok

Sex Sleep Eat Dream by Jennifer Ackerman

Olive Kitteredge by Elizabeth Strout

all for the low, low price of $37.80! Four new books (including one current NYT Bestseller) for less than $40?! Try pulling that off at Barnes and Noble!

Shell game

mychal thompsonMy beloved Lakers were playing on the east coast this evening (beating the Knicks), so the game started at 5pm PST.  When that happens, I end up listening to the majority of the first half in my car on the way home.  I have some issues with the radio broadcast team (that Mike Honcho or I could spell out in great detail at some point), but I put up with them because…well, I want to listen to the game.  Today, something different happened: I rather enjoyed an interaction between the play-by-play guy and the analyst:

Spero Dedes: Lamar Odom is sporting a different look tonight, wearing a purple headband.

Mychal Thompson: Like Donatello.

Spero: (confused silence)

Mychal: At least I think he was the Ninja Turtle who wore the purple headband.

Yes, Mychal, you were right.  Donatello was visibly identified by his purple headband (or headband-like thing that also covered his eyes), and his weapon of choice was the bo staff.  I know this because when the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ comics came out in the mid 1980s, I was a young boy at summer camp who found their antics amusing (especially the orange-masked Michelangelo and his love for pizza). 

I turned 10 years old when the cartoon of the Turtles came out, following the success of the comics.  That same year, Mychal Thompson turned 32 and was traded to the Lakers to help them win the first of two consecutive championships.  Why then did this reference come so easily to him?  His oldest kid is currently in college, so he was too young for their heyday.  I’m at a loss, but that’s fine with me.  Regardless of why he has that knowledge at his fingertips, I certainly enjoyed the comment.  Keep up the random pop culture references from my childhood, guys, and maybe you’ll win me over yet.

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Like butter

yacht-a know betterI was in a check-out line at Trader Joe’s recently, and the guy in front of me just had that douchey air about him.  You know what I’m talking about, right?  Maybe it was canvas loafers with no socks that screamed, “I’d rather be at my yacht club right now, har har har,” but something just really didn’t rub me the right way.  Then I listened in to the rather one-sided conversation he was having with the cashier:

Douchey McGee: You don’t carry margarine here, right?

Cashier: Yes, we have some.

Douchey McGee: Oh, well butter is so much healthier and natural that I wouldn’t expect you to carry margarine. 

Cashier: (smiling) Well, we do.

Douchey McGee: Did you know that margarine is naturally black in color?  It’s true; they add food coloring to make it look more like butter.

Cashier: I didn’t know that.

As I sat there questioning the veracity of his statement, she handed him his receipt, thanked him for coming in, and wished him a pleasant rest of the day.  I stepped up and faux-apologetically said, “Sorry I don’t have such interesting tidbits to share.”  She gave a large sigh of relief and said (surely breaking the friendly TJ’s code), “That is more than fine with me.  Did you hear what he was complaining about?”  “Margarine?” I offered.  “No, before that.  He was complaining that he had been on vacation for three weeks and so it was difficult for him to get up at 10am this morning.”  We agreed that his plight didn’t garner too much sympathy, wished each other well, and parted ways.

When I got home, I went online to fact-check his margarine origin story.  Wikipedia tells me: “Margarine naturally appears white or almost white.”  That makes much more sense.  More importantly, that guy was wrong with the trivia he brought up in the first place.  So if you’re scoring at home, that’s a douchey air about him, complaints regarding a three-week vacation, and false spontaneous trivia.  I think it’s pretty safe to say that I won’t be asking to hang out on that guy’s yacht anytime soon.  Har har har indeed.

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The doctor is insane

HouseI have a strong recommendation for all of you out there: If you’re sick and lying on a couch for hours at a time, DO NOT watch 3 or more successive episodes of “House.”  I did this about a week ago, and I spent the rest of the day thinking things like:

 

  • “Patient is still displaying a sore throat though clearly in the sneezing stage of the cold.  Let’s run an MRI on his kidneys to rule out Schmeckenberger’s Disease.” 
  • “The sinus pressure is most notable when pressing on the patient’s naso-labial folds.  What is that pressure hiding from us?  Check his home for any leaky faucets or wonton soup.  Those may indicate early pherminodermatitis.”
  • “Very interesting; he’s producing more mucus than his own body weight but the x-ray showed no esophageal inflammation.  Maybe that’s because the aggravated tissue belongs to…his alternate persona.  Start him on dioxytricyclodine.” 

My brain eventually stopped working like that (and the fake limp wore off), but please heed my advice: If you’re sick, you don’t want an extended stay at the fictional Princeton?Plainsboro Teaching Hospital.

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That’s Bullshit: Crossword puzzle edition

That's Bullshit!I do crossword puzzles enough that I feel I’m onto much of the trickery that the puzzlemakers employ.  For example, a clue might say, “Logical beginning?”  If it’s three letters, I know it’s likely to be “Eco,” since that’s a prefix that goes with the word “logical.”  Sometimes they still fool me, but I’ve gotten pretty good at knowing the clue’s angle immediately after reading it. 

I did a puzzle online this morning, however, that had one particularly troublesome clue for me: “Baseball card stat (3 letters).”  The thing is, I’ve seen that clue countless times over the years in various phrasings.  The answer is always “ERA” or “RBI.”  That’s it.  Just like when they ask for a Hebrew month, it’ll be “Adar,” and if the word “diarist” appears and the answer is three letters, it’s gonna be “Nin.”  That’s just how it works.  Well, I was having trouble getting the intersecting clues, so I didn’t know which answer it was going to be for this puzzle.  I was short on time and had everything but that top left corner completed, so I got into my desperate mode and changed the difficulty level of the puzzle from “Master” to “Regular.”  This allowed me to see if any letters were wrong by highlighting them in red.  So I went back to that clue.  First I put in an E, which was immediately red.  “Must be RBI this time,” I thought, until the R was red too.  “Ooh, changing it up, eh?”  Next I tried an A for “AVG” but found that red as well.  “Could they want HRs for homeruns?”  Apparently not, as the H was wrong.  I was very confused and checked to make sure I had read the clue correctly (which has unfortunately been the problem a few times in the past).  Yep.  “They couldn’t want OPS, could they?” I wondered.  OPS is an advanced stat used by baseball and fantasy baseball geeks but not much elsewhere.  Nope, O was wrong too.  BBs (the designation for walks)?  Wrong!  SBs for stolen bases?  Wrong again! 

I gave up and did what I absolutely hate to do: I went through the alphabet until I was right.  The first letter was…D.  “D?  For what, double plays?  That’s odd.”  But then the P was wrong.  I honestly couldn’t think of a baseball stat starting with D, and so I went back through the alphabet again.  (If you’re scoring at home, that’s for the first and second letter of a three-letter answer! The letter wheel this time stopped on…O.  “You bastards,” I thought, and then I typed in the final letter: B.  Yes, I suppose there is a Date of Birth on the back of a baseball card, but why the hell would the clue choose something with a dozen other abbreviated stat names when a DOB appears on every single form of identification?  “Driver’s license stat,” “Passport stat,” or even “First stat?” would’ve been fine with me.  But this…this was bullshit.

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Disappearing act

Don't you be like me!

Every so often, there will be a “Where are they now?” special that focuses on people who were briefly famous for one reason or another a while back.  I kinda like those, because it’s always a weird balance of “I’m only known for this one thing” and “I’m really tired of only being known for this one thing.”  What I don’t see often enough though are specials that focus on people who were at the top of their game for an extended period of time and then seemingly disappeared.  Oh sure, they’ll show me a special on what happened to “one-hit wonders” (in their respective fields) like The Knack, Mark Spitz, or the eventual show on actress Ellen Page.  But I’m more interested in those who experienced fame over the course of successive years and then had to deal with life when the well started to run dry. 

I bring this up because I was flipping through channels recently and saw that Mel Gibson’s movie, “What Women Want” was on.  In the scene I happened upon, he was talking to the formerly-ubiquitous…Helen Hunt.  Helen Hunt!  Wow, she used to be everywhere.  Even though I didn’t watch “Mad About You,” there were seven seasons of her on that show and in promos for it coming into our living rooms.  Near the end and shortly after that show, her movie career was as big as anyone’s.  She had the superbly-written “Twister” (yes, that’s sarcasm) and the multiple-award-winning “As Good As It Gets” in successive years while still on a weekly television comedy.  Then, after the show ended, she went on a tear.  2000 had “Dr. T and the Women” (which I never saw but still pops up in crossword puzzles from time to time), “Pay It Forward” (don’t get me started on this one), “Castaway,” and “What Women Want.”  Woody Allen’s “The Curse of the Jade Scorpion” came out in 2001, and I thought I’d never see the end of her.  (Don’t get me wrong, she was doing a fine job, but four highly-publicized movies the first year after a lengthy tv show ends and I start craving some diversity.)

Well, since 2001, things have changed.  I don’t know if it was a personal choice to get away from the craziness or she hit a magical age that makes producers stop calling (though she’s just one year older than Sandra Bullock). Either way, her next entry isn’t until 2004 (“A Good Woman,” which I’ve neither seen nor heard of).    A year later, she was on the tv miniseries of “Empire Falls,” and just two other released movies since then.  If you’re scoring at home, that’s four big movies in the year 2000, and five total IMDB titles since then.  There are two listings currently in post-production, so she’s definitely still working, but that’s a pretty noticeable fall from the public eye and it was a bit of a shock when I saw her on the screen a couple of days ago.  I happen to think that a three year absence after four Emmys, three Golden Globes, and an Academy Award is noteworthy.  Was there a pervasive societal sense of a Helen Hunt overload?  If so, I’d better start writing my “Whatever happened to Jennifer Aniston?” post now.  Ya know, just to be prepared.

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