Sunday, September 28, 2008

What Passes For a Political Post Around Here

We went to our favorite pub to watch the debate the other night, thinking that we might also meet some new people. It was a madhouse when we got there, so we ended up having to take a table outside the main room where people had gathered to watch. So much for meeting new people.

Out in the bar, both TVs were turned to the debate. One was tuned to CNN, one was tuned to Fox News-- I guess this was an attempt at appearing to be non-partisian, what with the whole "allowing Barack Obama's campaign staff to host a debate-watching party in the private room" thing. It didn't really make any difference, since both channels were broadcasting the exact same thing, down to the camera angle, without any commentary (during the debate, anyway). The volume was turned way up, but because of the size of the room and the number of people in it, it wasn't really possible to hear what was being said, so we had to rely on the closed captioning.

I love closed captioning both in concept and practice. And I especially love closed captioning in real time, because I get a little kick out of the small errors and too-literal interpretations of what's being said. Now, this is not intended to be a slam against the closed captioners, who have seriously mad typing skillz. It's kind of like how it makes me smile when the normally unflappable, perfect NPR announcers screw up. It's like "See, those are people like me!"

The CNN closed captioner was significantly slower than the Fox News closed captioner, which meant that every so often, he just skipped a couple of sentences to catch up. The Fox closed captioner was faster, but made lots of little mistakes. My two favorites: "Dwight David Ivan Her" (The follow up novel by Sir Walter Scott!) and "meow posturing" (I watched my cat do that just this morning, trying to reach her back paws during her morning devotions).

Forty-five minutes in, I just couldn't take it anymore. I am so effing sick of talking points and petty name calling from both sides. Why are we reduced to this drivel? And why doesn't anyone ever call John McCain out when he uses selective memory/ carefully framed half-truths as "facts" to "support" his points? I expected so much more of him during this campaign, and I am angry, angry, angry with him. I remember back when this whole thing was just getting underway... I told everyone and their dog that I was hoping against hope that we would get to see a McCain-Obama race, because I was certain that we'd get to see a race run with a respectful and real discussion of the difficult issues facing our country, a discussion that would allow for reasonable people to disagree. This, I suppose, should be taken as proof positive that I am, all appearances to the contrary and all snarkiness aside, an irretrievable optimist.

I am finding this race much more difficult to follow, emotionally, than even the 2004 campaign. I'm starting to believe that the greatest danger we are facing as a nation is our inability to have a civil discourse and our divisiveness-- artificially induced by the media, or maybe by the most vocal and extreme elements of the political system. I can't believe that I really have so little in common with a conservative voter that we can't find common ground on many, if not most, issues. And I find it increasingly more infuriating that people are being encouraged to disdain or even hate other people on the basis of differing opinions on issues that the vast majority of people don't even really understand, just because Oprah or James Dobson says so.

P.S., because Paca's blog reminded me: is awesome and informative, and so is the League of Women Voters.


Saturday, September 27, 2008

Signs That You're Watching a Really Great Movie on Sci-Fi Channel (Sure to Be an Ongoing Series)

1. The scene opens on a seemingly abandoned vehicle with claw marks on it.
2. All of the actors are wearing military uniforms and carrying big guns.
3. The opening credits use the phrase "Starring Steven Baldwin"
4. Use of the following bits of dialogue: "What is that??", "Don't you die on me now!", "Send that bugger back to Hell!"
5. Heavy use of video effects to indicate that you're seeing a scene through "the monster's eyes".
6. The combination of time periods, i.e. high school girls from the modern era fighting an egyptian queen and her army of living mummies (using only the powers of her mind!!!)
7. None of the characters are allowed to smile, ever.


Monday, September 22, 2008

However, My Beef Stew with Noodle Was Excellent

It's a lovely warm evening, and I've been pent up for several days with a nasty cold that finally seems to be abating. I can tell that I'm getting better because I'm hungry and I'm antsy. Ash has been agitating for Chinese carryout for ages, and I've been resisting because for some reason, thinking of the taste has been making me feel vaguely ill. I go through these phases every so often where I either can't get enough of something or can't stand the thought of something, and they're not always related. For instance, although I will sometimes go on a kick-- say, with salt and vinegar chips-- I won't eat them until the thought makes me sick, just until I feel no particular craving for them anymore. Then I won't eat them for a long time, but not because I can't stand the thought of them. I just don't really want them for a while.

Anyway, in a flash of wifely inspiration, I suggested a trip over to our old neck of the woods to visit a favorite taiwanese restaurant of ours. Sort of like Chinese, but different! Brilliant!

In addition to the regular menu, this place offers an ever-changing list of "Chef Specials". Ash, who has no dietary restrictions to take into account, has ordered off this menu many times, and the food he gets is almost always better than the noodle soups I tend to order. Tonight, the first item on the list was called "Home Style Smelled Bean Curd", aka "Stinky Tofu". I've long heard about the extreme awesomeness of this dish from the mouth of a certain taiwanese woman I know whose name starts with P and ends with g, and sounds like "ay-lin" in between, and I've even been present when she ordered said delicacy from the very same restaurant. Ash points to the menu and says "Is this the stuff that Pei likes?", and then proceeds to order it.

The waiter says "Oh, that pig intestine."

Ash and I look at each other, then back at the menu. Thinking that this is just a little misunderstanding, Ash repeats the order, "No, I want the Homestyle Smelled Bean Curd", and for good measure, he points to the words on the menu. The waiter looks at it, then repeats, "Yes, that pig intestine". Ash and I look at each other again, and then back at the waiter, who says "It have bean curd and pig intestine". Ash says "Oh, okay. That's fine. I'll still have it." The waiter eyes him dubiously, but I assure you not half as dubiously as I. As the waiter turns away, I hiss at Ash, "Really??", and he confidently retorts, "Yes, really." This leads into a long discussion on how his grandfather grew up in the Great Depression and didn't waste food, and I kept coming back to the point that, yes, people all over the world and throughout time have eaten various bits of innards and offal, but that, in our culture at least, people usually leave them behind once they can afford to do so (which is, of course, a vast oversimplification, but I was trying to have an argument), and then our food comes out.

Ash's Homestyle Smelled Bean Curd with Pig Intestine came in a little metal dish over a lit sterno burner, bubbling and foul smelling (hence, the name "Stinky Tofu"). Each of us took a bite.

Pei, why do you hate us??? Was it all just a big trick to get us to eat something disgusting? I mean, if that's the case, you should have made a bigger effort back when you were still living here. I'm sure you could have talked Ash into it at some point! And I love tofu, so I would have followed right along! Seriously, all this "it smells horrible, but tastes fantastic" crap? HA. It was like licking a farm animal of some sort. You know it's bad when Ash's comment on the dish was "The pig intestines aren't bad".

After this, how will I ever be able to try durian, should the opportunity present itself?


Saturday, September 20, 2008

Maybe It Involves a Primitive Form of Teleportation

When I left for my most recent trip, I had to drive myself to the airport. I parked the car out in the long term parking lot, scoring a super sweet parking spot just a few yards from one of the shuttle stops. While waiting for the shuttle to pick me up, I noticed a poster inside the shelter, right next to the map of the parking areas.

"Overloaded with baggage? Next time, use Curbside Check-in instead!"

So, wait. Let me get this straight. Instead of hauling my luggage through the parking lot, onto the shuttle, back out of the shuttle, and up to the curbside check-in, I have the option of using a magic curbside check-in that appears right next to my car upon parking? Where do I sign up for that service? And will it also deliver the bags back to my car at the end of my trip so that I don't have to be overloaded with baggage between the baggage claim and the extended parking lot? Or am I on my own for that bit? Oh, wait! I know! It's actually a riddle. I handle your bags before they arrive in my hands. Who am I?

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Friday, September 19, 2008

Business Travel By the Numbers

* Number of flights I've been on in the past two weeks: seven
* Number of flights that were designated as "delayed" by the airline: one
* Number of flights that took off within ten minutes of their scheduled departure time: zero
* Number of flights that arrived more than twenty minutes past their scheduled time: seven
* Number of places to buy something-- anything-- to eat or drink once you clear security at the Kansas City airport: one snack cart, despite the fact that several signs advertised a restaurant supposedly located behind security.
* Price of a small bottle of water at the snack cart: $3.99
* Price that US Airways charges for a plastic cup of water in-flight: $2
* Price that US Airways charges for cheap domestic beer in-flight: $7
* Price that US Airways charges to check a bag, each way: $15
* Approximate percentage of people who brought enormous bags on board as a "carry-on": 60%
* Number of US Airways flight attendants who made any attempt to enforce carry-on rules: zero
* Number of meals in the past fourteen days that involved some sort of barbeque: eight
* Estimated length of time before I will be able to stomach barbeque again: one month, minimum
* Bottles of Dayquil consumed during the past fourteen days: 1.6666 and counting
* Cost of the room service burger I ordered the night I was too sick to join my colleagues at the fancy-dancy dinner cruise: $18.65
* Number of pillows on my bed at the fancy-schmancy hotel in Charlotte: six
* Cost of the king-sized bag of M&Ms in the minibar at the fancy-schmancy hotel in Charlotte: $6.50
* Cost of the bottles of imported italian mineral water on the bedside table at the fancy-schmancy hotel in Charlotte: $12
* Sampling of the exotic animals I petted on the safari-meets-petting-zoo team building event: zebra, giraffes, emu, alpaca, some sort of albino elk, yak, those things that look kind of like antelope that have twisty horns, and a whole host of assorted goat- and deer-type things
* Number of days that I got out of bed early enough to blow dry my hair and put on makeup in the past fourteen days: nine
* Number of days that I would normally get out of bed early enough to blow dry my hair and put on makeup in any given fourteen day period: zero
* Number of times that I got to swim in the beautiful swimming pools at the hotels we stayed in: zero
* Number of emails that I will probably have in my inbox when I go back to work on Monday: I'm too afraid to guess. But when I was gone for two days at the beginning of last week, I came back to 63 emails.
* Number of people that I heard speaking Swedish in the Philadelphia airport: three
* Number of people that I heard speaking German in the Philadelphia airport: six
* Number of people that I spoke German to in the past fourteen days: one, and it wasn't at the Philadelphia airport
* Meetings missed due to illness on the most recent trip: three
* Number of hours I've slept since arriving home yesterday: approximately seventeen
* Number of days until my next business trip: 49