Saturday, September 30, 2006

In Which My Superpowers Suffer from Kryptonite

Mr. McGee thinks that I have a superpower, entitled "Make Retail Sales Associates Kowtow to Me." I mostly use this superpower when I'm in high-end boutique-type stores and being ignored. As a rule, having worked retail myself, I am endlessly polite and patient with retail salespeople. Working retail sucks. But in certain retail stores, when I am being ignored because the salespeople are profiling me as "too young" or "too poor" or "not trendy enough to be our demographic," I feel obligated to whip out my superpower.

My superpower consists of nothing more than standing up straight, looking extremely bored and irritated, and feeling superior. Mr. McGee was astonished when I used this superpower on our honeymoon and we were IMMEDIATELY served -- and apologized to -- in a boutique that had been ignoring our existence and attempt to buy a costly souvenier for several minutes. My superpower never fails, from the pharmacy to costly East Coast boutiques. My superpower is basically an attitude that says, "I have a great deal of money and if you don't pay attention to me THIS INSTANT, you are not getting a commission." (My superpower is something of a liar.) It's amazing how quickly it works.

This weekend I went to a furniture store. I popped over while running my weekly errands, and I was wearing trackies and a cheerful purple scarf. (24 years of life in the midwest has convinced me the only way to defeat cold weather is with VERY CHEERFUL COLORS.) This is how I discovered that my superpower DOES NOT WORK in the midwest when I'm wearing trackies. Now, on the coasts, trackies are something that Hollywood stars wear to go shopping in. But in the midwest, wearing trackies to shop apparently says, "I am either 17 or have no clue how to dress myself."

The midwest is probably right about this. Full-grown adults don't really have any business appearing in public in trackies unless they have the flu or are actively jogging (something that is EXTREMELY UNLIKELY I will ever do). But still -- my life has three levels of clothing: Suits, which are for court; business casual, which is for client meetings; and schlubby clothes, which are for days when I work the hardest and spend all day THINKING and writing and busting my butt. So it was a little annoying to discover that my most SERIOUS clothes, the schlubby trackies, are the ones that don't get taken seriously at the store. Particularly when I was attempting to use my superpower. Nobody likes to discover Kryptonite.

Not that suits are foolproof. I went right from court to trying on bridesmaid dresses earlier this week, and one of the clerks at the bridal boutique felt the need to inform me I was fat. Guess what store I won't be buying my dress from?

Some things, you just don't need superpowers for.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Hostageware, Spyware, and Trojan Horses

I have been totally trojaned, and not in the condom way, in the Greeks-sneaking-into-your-city-inside-a-horse way. I got a nasty computer virus, I think through a windows media file (which I didn't open on purpose!), which carried in its trojan belly some nasty malware (spyware, tracking cookies, etc.) and some hostageware, which I've never had before and which seems ever so much more offensive than the rest. Hostageware is a particular kind of malware that installs itself on your computer and makes you PAY the creator to have it removed. In my case, it's a "program" called VirusBlast! that claims to be the best virus removal software on the internet. Google the name -- their page is the first listing (for God's sake don't click on it!) and the next 100 or so hits you get are for various sites with instructions on how to remove the VirusBlast! virus. That really pisses me off more than malware normally does; a virus disguised as a virus removal software is just kind of sick.

At any rate, it pops up ads every five minutes telling me to pay $30 for their software to clean up my nastily infected computer (thanks for the virus, VirusAss!). I'm pretty good with computer maintanence stuff, since I'm my own IT department, and I run daily virus scans (McAfee), weekly malware scans (SpyBot S&D and AdAware, both free and you should get them), and weekly CCleaner (also free, deletes cookies, internet history, temp files, etc.). I use Firefox, my security settings are high, my passwords are funky, and I have to approve all cookies. I'm thinking of switching to Kapersky AntiVirus (I think that's how it's spelled) when my McAfee subscription comes up for renewal, which has only 3% market share but catches substantially more viruses than the market leaders (according to Consumer Reports) and updates faster. In other words, I am diligent about this stuff.

I've manage to stop the popups, but VirusBlast and its little trojan buddies are hidden pretty deep in my computer, in things I don't know how to fix without killing the computer, so I'm getting help from the fine folks over at BleepingComputer.

I feel really violated. I'm tech-savvy, so I know how tracking cookies, data-aggregators, and so forth invade my privacy. I know how to manage the level of privacy I require. I resent these intrusions into my life, but I know how to repel them. This, on the other hand, is a nasty attack, an invasion of my personal property, no different from someone breaking-and-entering my home or stealing my car.

I am researching legal precedent for tort actions against virus and malware hijackers in Illinois.

I'll be back to fun blogging again soon, I promise, but for now I have to burn this trojan horse to the ground and spit on its smoldering remains. It's time consuming.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Why No Update?

Mr. McGee is cooking up a guest post and I'm waiting on him.

Meanwhile, Orange Cat was indiscreet and that means laundry for me!

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Resources for Beating the Electric Rate Increase

Here in Peoria, we're all in a twitter because utility deregulation decided on 10 years ago has come home to roost, and has done so REALLY. EXPENSIVELY. without offering the vast majority of consumers any choice in electrical company (so no rate competition) but hitting us with prospective 55% rate increases. C.J. has covered the issue here and here; everyone IN Peoria already knows how we're about to get screwed* and anyone outside Peoria who cares can go google it up or read C.J.'s posts.

*I'm not entirely sure we will get screwed -- this year, anyway -- because it's an election year, and all available political parties and gubernatorial candidates are saying it's the other party's fault and promising if THEY are elected, they will immediately put in place a rate freeze on behalf of the consumers. Meanwhile, the AG's office is suing the state's electric utilities en masse. All massive utility rate increases should occur during election cycles. It's also sort-of instructive how eager Illinois politicians are to back off a duly-passed (if, IMHO, ill-conceived) law that might snark off citizens in an election year.

Anyway, this post isn't about that. This post is about some resources for people looking to lower their electricity use (and therefore their bills). As regular readers of this blog know, I'm committed to environmentalism for reasons theological, political, practical, and personal. But I'm not committed to living in a cave or giving up daily hygiene practices. So these links have a variety of changes one can make, small or large, cheap or expensive, that will lower the electricity bill at least a little bit. (Those would be practical and personal reasons for environmentalism.)

Power Generation

To start with the most expensive change: If your roof is in rough shape, and you're thinking of reroofing, consider solar roofing tiles. You don't have to commit to huge ugly panels any longer, and costs have come down dramatically. The new solar roofing fits in with common asphalt tiles and serves as your roofing tiles.

SunSlates and United Solar Ovonics are two of the big players in the field. SunSlates are actual roofing tiles with solar panels in them -- the electrical connections are in the tile overlap, so clever -- that you can install as a full or partial roof. The Ovonics product is like a roll of solar sheeting, which is a little hard to describe, but Ovonics claims is more energy-efficient. Both look "roofy" and don't scream "I have hideously ugly solar energy on my roof and my neighbors hate me!" The SunSlates, in particular, look basically like regular roof unless the sun is hitting them directly, in which case they look like very shiney regular roof.

The cost for solar roofing is typically estimated to be 150% to 200% of "normal" roofing, plus $100 or so to have an electrician hook the system into your home's electric. BUT! The State of Illinois WILL PAY YOU to install solar roofing! Check out DSIRE , where you can read about renewable energy incentives. (I've linked to Illinois but they list incentives for all 50 states.) In Illinois, the best offers for homeowners rebate you 30% of the cost of your renewable energy installation at a residential property, up to $400,000.

Many utilities also allow you to sell back any extra energy you generate to the utility, making your meter spin backwards. I know ComEd in Chicago does; I don't know if AmerenCILCO in Peoria does or not. It's worth a phone call to find out. A simple roof installation on a typical home won't cover all your electrical usage year-round unless you EnergyStar the crap out of your home, but when you're producing more than you're using (say during a sunny summer day when everyone's at work and all you're powering is the clock radio), you'll be selling that extra to the utility and lowering your bill.

"But Illinois is so cloudy!" you complain. Ah, grasshopper, UIUC begs to differ. On page 12 (in adobe; page 4 of the internal pagination) of this report, you can see a lovely map of statewide average daily solar production for each of the 12 months of the year utilizing data gathered over the last 15 years. Even in grey January, your solar panels will produce a steady drip of power (plus, no trees will be blocking them from sucking up every last photon of sunlight). You can also read a lot of geek-speak about solar potentiality in Illinois. Interestingly (and not from this report), if you follow Daley's greening of Chicago, solar experts say that Chicago has the potential to generate MORE solar power per square meter of solar panel than Phoenix does, because current solar panels become inefficient at the ultra-high temperatures of summer in the sunbelt! The Midwest is currently considered one of the top US residential solar-generation geographies; for solar-wind combo, we're way up the list (because almost all our cloudy days are windy days). There's basically nothing on the market now for residential wind generators (if you live on a farm, several European companies make modern home windmills for electricity generation, sort of like the big wind turbines but on a smaller scale), but there's some exciting little wind generators in belfry-like structures about the size of a fat, squat chimney currently in testing, so in five years you might be able to combine a solar roof with a little "wind belfry" for home energy generation.

Power Saving

For those of us not reroofing or building new (geothermal temperature control, which Terry Bibo wrote about in the Journal Star, is great for new constructions or more rural homes, but somewhat impractical to retrofit your house with in the city), there are lots of smaller changes to be made.

Energy Star appliances improve every year -- Consumer Reports can tell you all about them. Flourescent Light Bulbs are way better than they were even a year ago. A 15W compact flourescent (fits in your standard lamp fixtures with no adaptors or anything) replaces a 75W incandescent, sips proportionally less energy (that'd be like 1/5 of the incandescent?), and typically lasts a lot longer. (Incandescent bulbs' lifespans are unpredictable because they rely on the decay of the filament and sometimes you get one of those bulbs that lasts for, like, ever; flourescent bulbs are more predictable.)

Compact flourescents still cost more than incandescents, but they're still a savings when you factor in how much longer they last and how much less energy they use. We started with them about a year ago in a couple of fixtures we leave on a lot -- outdoor lights, the basement light by the litterboxes because Grey Cat can't see in the dark -- that I had gotten sick of changing all the time, and we're so pleased we've migrated them into most of our lamps and things. A year ago when I turned on my reading lamp, it would be really dark at first and take a minute to really get going, in that slow-to-turn-on-flourescent way. In just the past year, they've improved so much that they come on bright immediately. They also don't hum, and they cast a warm light, not that ugly green light that highlights all your facial blemishes and pimples.

One of the biggest energy hogs in your house is the clothes dryer, which uses something like 4 times the energy of the washer. The thing about the clothes dryer is, clothes will dry naturally on their own if you leave them alone, and there are lots of good options. You can find those "umbrella-style" clothes lines -- a pole that opens up, umbrella-style, for a compact clothes drying space -- at Menard's, Do It Best, or Lehman's (more on them below). They take up little space in the backyard and many can be taken down in the winter. In the winter, your clothes will actually dry FASTER because our air in the midwest is so friggin' dry in the winter, and they'll release that moisture into your house if you do it indoors. I'm experimenting with that this winter, with drying racks; sometimes drying clothes indoors just makes the whole house smell like wet dog. If I'm doing six loads of laundry, I'm using my dryer. But for smaller laundry days, air drying has worked out well for me.

(Added note: Clothes dryers are really hard on your clothes. As a general rule, air-dryed clothes will last longer and stay in better condition, providing you don't accidentally bleach them by leaving them out for three days in the sun. Air-dryed clothes don't need fabric softener, which is also surprisingly hard on your clothes because it works by compromising the integrity of the fibers.)

If you need to replace your hot water tank heater, why not look into a tankless? (Okay, so for a lot of us, this saves us on natural gas costs, not electricity. But bear with me -- we'll get to the electricity in a minute!) Tankless water heaters, common in Europe and Asia, only heat the water when you need it, typically resulting in a 50% savings on water-heating costs. The electric-heated models are good, but the gas-heated models are fantastic. They can typically heat water for more appliances at once, and they allow you to take a literally endless shower (not that any of you good water-savers would do such a thing!). If you've got six people in the house all showering in the morning, nobody's going to get stuck with a cold shower when the water runs out with a tankless.

So here's the electricity-saving part: with a tank-heater, you not only are heating the water whether or not you're using it, but you're heating up the air around the tank as the tank releases its heat into the surrounding atmosphere. Not such a big deal in the winter, but in the summer, your tank is making your house hotter, and if you're running your air conditioning, you are paying extra in A/C costs to cool that air back off. Which, in turn, cools the tank faster, which causes it to re-heat the water sooner, which makes your A/C work harder. Depending on the efficiency of your A/C and the insulation of your tank, the costs can be appalling.

Modern tankless heaters also claim to last longer than tanks, and parts are much cheaper to replace than the tank. (It's just a few pipes, after all.)

Finally, a couple resources for electricity-saving STUFF.

Co-op America maintains a National Green Pages -- a yellow pages for green businesses. Whether you're interested in solar roofing, tankless heaters, or anything else electricity-saving or green, the National Green Pages will have a listing for a company or six that has it. They also have contractors who specialize in green technology installation, although most "regular" contractors can do these things easily.

And last but best of all, let me direct you to possibly my favorite catalog of all time, the Lehman's Non-Electric Catalog. Originally a store catering to the Amish, Lehman's has every kind of non-electric home gadget, appliance, toy, and doo-dad you could possibly imagine. Their customer service is great and their products are very high-quality. If you really like margaritas, and you need to make them non-electrically, either because you're on rumspringa with a jones for margaritas or because you're tailgating and can't power your blender, Lehman's carries an efficient hand-cranked blender. Seriously. Hand-cranked blender.

They have all manner of drying solutions (clotheslines, stands, indoor thingies); a mortar-and-pestle (combined with a sharp kitchen knife) has basically rendered my food processor obsolete for all but the biggest jobs; and they have everything from propane refrigerators (if you were serious about going off the grid) to woodstoves to oil lamps to kick-ass gardening tools. (Best. Hoe. Ever.)

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

In Which I Explain How I Decide Whether Bugs Live or Die

I am still recovering from jet lag, being one of those weirdos who gets no jet lag flying east to Europe but is a disaster for a week after flying back west to the U.S. Primarily this means I start snapping at Mr. McGee about 6 p.m. and I'm going to bed really really early. I still haven't liberated my pictures from his computer.

I'm slowly catching up on housework -- the cupboards are filled, the laundry is halfway done, the unpacking is progressing -- but I've gone nowhere with the garden. I went out there thinking I'd plant a late-fall lettuce crop, but the garden has become scary in the two weeks I was gone.

Almost everything is overgrown, often eating up the entire path. There's one crop flowering a really pretty blue. I have no idea what it is. The tomatoes and melons that came ripe shortly after we left but sat unpicked on the vine have turned rotten and are really, really, really gross. But the scariest part is that there are all these BUGS in the squash bed, bugs I have never seen before. I hate new bugs, because I don't know if they're going to, like, jump on the back of my neck as soon as my head is turned, burrow into my spine, and take over my body, yeerk-style, for their evil bug-like purposes.

But the real problem is that with new bugs, I don't know if I can kill them or not. The basic criterion for whether or not I will kill a bug is whether it is going to make an audible SQUISH! when I do so. So mosquitos and ants I kill, but not cockroaches. Anything with a high-quality exoskeleton I can't kill because the squish sound/sensation they make when the guts squoosh in the exoskeleton when you smush them FREAKS THE HELL OUT OF ME. So yes, I actually capture cockroaches and set them free in the wild because I'm too scared to squish them. (Not that we've had any roaches here, knock on wood, but they were friggin' everywhere in North Carolina when I lived in the apartment with the drunken maintenance team. I moved.)

So these bugs in the squash bed, which sit freakishly still for bugs out in the open in the sunlight, probably because it's getting cold so they're not moving around a lot, but POSSIBLY BECAUSE THEY'RE PLOTTING THEIR MASS ATTACK ON MY TENDER PINK FLESH, appear to have a shell/exoskeleton, but they're really flat, and I can't tell by looking how hard it is. And obviously I'm not touching one of those things because I DON'T KNOW IF IT BITES, or worse, burrows into my skin and becomes an alarming parasite worthy of a Discovery Channel documentary on what exactly they do to human hosts and how gross the surgery is to remove them. It looks too big to burrow, but YOU CAN'T TAKE THESE CHANCES with strange bugs!

So I can't tell if this bug is going to make that nausea-inducing squishy sound or not if I whack them with a shoe or garden tool or something, which means that I can't take the risk the bugs would make the vile and frightening noise, which means I can't kill them, which means I can't work in the garden because I don't like turning my back on strange bugs that might eat me for lunch when I'm not looking. No gardening is occurring until my spousal bug exterimator goes and kills them all for me.

Thank God I got married.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Blog Business

First off, I was mentioned on WTVP while I was gone? What was up with that? Somebody share?

For Peggy, on the Rutabagas: You CAN mash potatoes and rutabaga together (roughly equal proportions), but I was actually talking about "mashed rutabaga" -- all by itself -- which you make exactly the same way you make mashed potatoes. Cut into small chunks, boil until fork tender, mash with milk or cream.

For Knight in Dragonland, on the Nature vs. Duct Tape post, who said "I can't tell what's supposed to be there and what's a weed. Let me know if you find some good resources." -- What I did, when we moved, was let everything come up the first year and see what it was. A more scientific method would be to call the county extension from the U of I and talk to a master gardener there. There are various field guides to recognizing seedlings, none of which I can decipher. But I HAVE discovered that things that come up in straight lines are generally planted on purpose. I don't think I'm doing this "clustering to make the best use of space" thing in the veggie garden next year. I'm doing straight, military rows. They were much easier to weed when I could see what wasn't in the row. On a much more practical note, ask your neighbors. They probably at least vaguely remember what was in that flower bed, and if they like gardening themselves, as mine do, they'll be a gold mine of info.

For fans of my felines, they were competently cared for by my baby brother, who gave Orange Cat shots like a champ, but they are happy to be home. Orange Cat purred so loudly last night at the return of the warm sleeping bodies I thought he might go over his monthly purr-quota before he got to mid-month. Grey Cat, on the other hand, got lost in the dark, which he does sometimes, so he sat downstairs crying. I called to him, which usually helps him figure out where he is and where we are and how to get from A to B, but he was too lost and it was too dark, so I had to go rescue him from the mean nasty dark living room so he'd quit crying.

I have the only cat in the world who can't see in the dark.

Eyebrows Digs Archaeology

Mr. McGee and I jetted off September 2 to spend two spectacular weeks at Arbeia Roman Fort in South Shields, U.K., in the Newcastle-upon-Tyne metro area, on an archaeological dig organized through the charitable organization Earthwatch.

The trip was a gift from my fabtacular uncle and godfather Pic and his stunningly beautiful wife Patricia. (There is a really good story behind this gift. I'll tell it later.) It was also the first vacation Mr. McGee and I have taken together since our honeymoon four years ago, and the longest vacation I've taken since ... high school? So after two weeks away I'm a little confuzzled about how to start getting my life back together and what to catch up on first - house? work? sleep? Forgive the disjointed blogging until I get my head back together.

Anyway, we went to Arbeia, a Roman fort that's part of the Hadrian's Wall system, although it isn't on the Wall itself. We spent two weeks digging on the site's dig, specifically on the road foundation of the intervallum road (the road that runs around the inside of the fort wall) and the surfaces under the earthen rampart. We dug in a small area of the southeast corner of the original fort (Arbeia went through four phases, I'm sure I'll tell you all about it in future posts).

What did we find? Animal bones, limpet shells, pottery shards, bits of tile, rusted iron nails ... lots of fun stuff. Teeth were my favorite. We also participated in the care of finds after finding, including washing and labelling, and in site mapping and surveying. I was so psyched I learned how to survey. I have seriously always wanted to know what those dudes on the side of the road are doing with their sticks and telescopes. Now I do!

We stayed at a guesthouse about six blocks from the fort, where we were fed like morbidly obese kings who really like cholesterol. I lost weight. (Yay Europe's walkable cities!) The guesthouses, arranged by the expedition, fed us English breakfasts to order (eggs and bacon and toast for me, every. single. day. Heaven!), provided us with packed lunches, and fed us dinner. We never knew what we'd have in our lunches or what would be for dinner. It was great. We'd appear at the fort at 9 a.m., work when and where we were told to, stop for tea, work, eat lunch, stop for tea, work, and go home. Despite working our butts off, it was ridiculously relaxing since someone else made all your food decisions, time decisions, and everything. Most of the time we didn't even know what day it was.

We had the Saturday mid-trip off, and we visited Durham, which has a spectacular cathedral, and then on Sunday we had a group trip to various sites on Hadrian's Wall. Also a 3-mile hike along the Wall. (They put the bus at the end of the route before I got a good look at how hilly it was so I couldn't back out.)

My pictures are currently being held hostage on another computer, but I'll do the full archaeological monty over the next few days. And I cannot reccommend the trip enough -- the specific Earthwatch expedition, the fort and town as a vacation destination, Earthwatch generally. The people of South Shields were welcoming, friendly, fun, and have knock-out accents. The Earthwatch program draws a demographic for whom learning IS recreation, so it's a spectacular chance to be among kindred spirits while learning fascinating stuff, visiting strange and exciting lands, and doing something to advance human knowledge.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Eyebrows Is Back for the New Fall Season

After a grueling 16-hour travel day, starting in South Shields, U.K., on the mouth of the Tyne River where it meets the North Sea, and landing at last in O'Hare in the single most exciting airplane moment of my life (not in a good way) which introduced me to the glorious world of airsickness, Eyebrows is back.

Yes, I actually took those two weeks of blog reruns and snuck overseas for a vacation. A super-fantastic spectacular vacation that I will blog about in excruciating detail as soon as I'm a little less jet-lagged and a little less freaked out by O'Hare's terrifying crosswinds.

I have 51 e-mails (just to my blog address; my personal address was 171 and I can't even bear to think of my professional address!) and oodles of comments to catch up on, which I promise I will in the next week or so. I feel totally mentally revitalized and ready to tackle life again, all except my laundry. I'll give you a vacation hint and say that my clothes from vacation are SO DIRTY it will probably take half a dozen washes to make them wearable again! Can you guess what I was doing on vacation?

(No fair those of you who already know telling!)

In the meanwhile, mega-thanks to my friend and html-guru Star, who blogs over here, routinely rescues me from self-inflicted html disasters, designed my snazzy professional website, and was kind enough to post the blog reruns for me while I was away.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Special Autumnal RERUN: Rutabaga!

The soundtrack of every holiday of my childhood was the sound of rutabaga being chopped. Rutabaga is crazy dense. Picture a round object about the size of an infant's head, but a lot heavier. (Some of them are adult-head size, but my knife isn't that long.) The only way to get through it is to take your longest kitchen knife, sharpen it up, drive it in the first half inch or so, then whack the tip with your rolling pin. Hard. Over and over and over. Repeat this to cut the rutabaga into 1" chunks which you then boil and mash just like potatoes. It's hard, noisy work, cutting up the rutabaga. My mother likes to do the mashed potatoes and rutabaga first thing in the morning, so she just has to heat them up before the holiday meal. And when I say first thing in the morning, I mean first thing in the morning. For twenty-seven years I have woken up on Thanksgiving morning and Christmas Eve morning at about 6 or 6:30 a.m. to the sound of a rolling pin whacking a knife through a rutabaga.

Rutabaga!

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

RERUN: Zizzy-Zazzy

Growing up, my siblings and I always called those "Zizzy-Zazzies." I don't know why. My parents certainly didn't call them that. But we coined the term "Zizzy-Zazzy" and we got very excited whenever we created a zizzy-zazzy, making it run all over the room and onto one another's faces. The best zizzy-zazzies were, of course, mom's, because she had a diamond ring and diamond rings will make a million tiny rainbow-colored stars all over the walls and ceiling if the sun hits them right. But we could make our little sunshines with watches, mirrors, toys, and all kinds of things.

Zizzy-Zazzy

Monday, September 11, 2006

RERUN: 2 Meals a Day, Plus Snacks

In [the cats'] minds, the only benefits to being owned are that 1) food appears twice a day on a predictable schedule and 2) we introduced them to fleece blankets. They're like, "Ohhh, fleece! This is so much better than that time you put your cashmere sweater down on the bed for thirty seconds while you found the right bra and our shedding radars heard the sweet, sweet sound of cashmere knit from two floors away, and we galloped up two flights of stairs, raced into the bedroom, and leaped on your sweater so that by the time you turned around, we had managed to divest 50 cubic inches of cat fur on your brand-new, never-worn, very costly cashmere sweater. Fleece is SO much better than that!"

2 Meals a Day, Plus Snacks

Friday, September 08, 2006

RERUN: Condemented

My husband believes condiments are actual foods. Entire food groups, even. I live in a household where, "Hey, want some bread with that butter?" is an actually legitimate question. My husband butters toast the way other people do drywall. First, all holes, nooks, and crannies in the toast must be spackled solid with butter, so the toast has a uniform top surface. Then he must spread a thick layer of butter over top ("mudding" the wall) so it has a uniform appearance. The butter must stretch to all corners and leave no portion of bread visible.

Condemented

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

RERUN: Rhubarb + Eyebrows = Total Lack of Couth

You see - and I can't believe I'm about to tell this story in print - rhubarb makes me fart like crazy.

My grandmother made spectacular strawberry-rhubarb pies, and for my uncle's 50th birthday, we naturally had his favorite strawberry-rhubarb pies in place of a cake. Well, imagine my dismay when a few minutes after eating this delicacy, I found my guts a-grumbling, my belly a-bloated ... and my farts a-farting. In the middle of a family reunion. I tried to be subtle, leaving the room, releasing gas quietly. But one of my little toddling cousins came over and banged me in the belly with his head as he hugged me, setting off a report like a gun-shot from my tortured colon.

Rhubarb + Eyebrows = Total Lack of Couth

Monday, September 04, 2006

RERUN: Nature 1, Duct Tape 0

My husband and I recently bought our first house – with a yard.

For two people who have been living in student housing – dorms, apartments – for the last eight years, this is enormously exciting. My husband has something of a green thumb, and I’m quite the environmentalist, so we were ready to get dirty in the yard, planting a veritable native-habitat paradise that would be as beautiful to behold as it would be friendly to the environment.

Alas, the best-laid plans.

Nature 1, Duct Tape 0