Wednesday, February 20, 2008

The A-List

My third freelance article for, this one on silly games couples should avoid, was just posted here: So support your local blogger and check it out!

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Midterm Memory Loss

I remember bits and pieces of my childhood: favorite toys like click-clacks (outlawed), a steel slinky (they’re now plastic), Lincoln logs (real wood), lawn darts (gotta love the 70s), my Easy-Bake oven (too much)? These are examples of my long-term memory, still wonderfully intact, though certainly not comprising a full inventory anymore. Yet certain images or songs, or the mention of a name I haven’t heard in decades, can trigger amazing memories.

And I remember what I had for lunch a few hours ago (chicken, tomato and Swiss cheese on a toasted baguette), the conversation I had with a friend this evening and even what I promised to have done by Friday in a meeting this morning that I'm sure can wait until Monday. All simple examples of my short-term memory.

But it’s all of that information in between, the midterm memory, that’s a total blank. What was I thinking six months ago? What was critical in my life five years ago? I’m sure I had a to-do list. How much have I actually forgotten? A movie comes on cable and I’m sure I’ve seen it but I’m not totally convinced, so I watch it all the way through and experience some demented form of Déjà vu. I can’t remember what happens next, but as soon it does, I’m disappointed because I somehow knew that. It takes two hours to realize I didn’t enjoy the film the first time either.

I’m convinced we all have a limited storage capacity for memories, and by the time we reach midlife, we're maxed out. Every time we form a new memory, an old one is erased. Yes, it’s a file-delete-replace scenario. And exactly what pivotal moments or formative experiences of my life are being replaced by “But his real name is Marshall Mathers III”, or “No, there were nine Enterprise starships (everyone forgets the USS [not NCC] XCV 330, though it predates the Federation, it still counts!)”, or “I'm pretty sure it’s Rock of Love two and Flavor of Love threeeee”?

And trying not to retain a new stupid memory will only reinforce it more. "Farewell!" whatever it was that allowed me to finally reach self-acceptance. Guess it's back to therapy. Maybe this time we can restore some lost memories using regression, just not too far or I may end up losing another nugget when I grab something from a past life by mistake. "I liked to wash the linens at the far end of the river, just out of sight of Papa but still within view of young Jebediah's stable." What?! I was a chick? Great...

No Earth-shattering revelations or scientific backing here. Just sharing another one of my neuroses so I may not be alone in continuing to worry about the things I’ve forgotten that probably don’t matter. And how would I know anyway?

De-spill-inators! Cool New Coffee Gizmo

Cooler than sliced bread? Absolutely! I went into my favorite coffee shop this morning and was delighted to find this fabulous device, straight from this weekend’s coffee convention.

What are they called? De-spill-inators? Glug plugs? Crotch-savers? They look like tiny plastic pacifiers and the name doesn't matter! All I know is this simple but brilliant idea made my day.

Every morning I stop by my favorite coffee shop, Orinoco Coffee House (, to pick up a large (you’re allowed to call it “large” there) piping hot cup of my morning nectar (Orinoco’s house blend), filled to the rim.

My car’s cup holder is directly behind the stick shift so I have to do the stick:lid shuffle. I hold a bunched napkin over the sip hole of the plastic lid to keep it from spilling all over the console, while simultaneously changing gears, trying to prevent a historic reenactment of Mount Vesuvius.

Today I saw a bowl full of these wonderful devices, which easily plug into the sip hole of a plastic lid and keep your coffee where it belongs. I prefer they not be treated as disposable and reused but who am I kidding? We’re driving to coffee shops for something we could make for ourselves in the morning and drinking from disposable cups instead of our favorite mugs.

Not to hate on Starbucks but why haven’t they solved this dilemma? I didn’t stop purchasing from them just because of their horribly designed coffee cups/lids, which contributed to more than just a few morning wardrobe changes; my local Starbucks stops brewing mild coffee after 4 PM. Pardon? I’m not looking for hi-test at 8 PM to help keep me up if my demons aren’t doing the trick. Besides, I always prefer to support locally owned businesses and this is one of the reasons: they're taking care of me before I even ask. Anyone wonder why Blockbuster has collapsed? Meeting the needs of your customers shouldn't be an afterthought.

One note of warning: there is a tiny hole in the plastic lid meant to release steam and pressure. So if you have that plug in, be sure not to squeeze your coffee cup when holding it; otherwise, that coffee will find its way out, possibly at high speed (through the back edge of the lid, through the air hole or launching the de-spill-inator skyward like it’s New Year’s).

It’s the little things that make me happy. Now if I could just get a disposable cup I can retrieve from my cup holder without simultaneously disengaging the lid I may make it to work unscalded and dry one morning.

Monday, February 18, 2008

When Did Politics Become Such a Spectator Sport?

I know we’re in the oversaturation-of-information age, and we feel inundated with stories about Britney, but there is so much coverage of the 2008 Campaign I feel like I’m living in an Orwell novel.

“Did you vote?” “What do you think of Obama or Hillary?” “Do you think McCain will do it or does Huckabee still have a chance?” What I think is honestly none of your business, and it shouldn’t matter to you. I wish it didn’t matter to you. You see, once you know what I’m thinking, you can slot me: I’m either with you or against you. I’m either fair-minded and intelligent or a complete and total moron.

Whenever I get into political discussions with friends, if there’s a difference of opinion, it’s rare that we listen to each other with open minds. We wait for our turns to speak, often yelling over each other, and simply try to show just how wrong the other person is.

It’s just like sports. “Oh, you’re a Yankees fan! Figures.” Once you know I’m considering an opponent, or not your candidate, your entire opinion changes, and often quite harshly.

Maybe we should start selling jerseys, blue or red naturally, with names and electoral numbers so everyone can go out and root for their fave. And we’ll know exactly what you’re thinking by the color of your jersey. Except we won’t, of course. No one party or candidate can ever sum up our personal thoughts or perspectives on different issues. I have different opinions on different topics; they could never be formed into one platform, represented by one party or shared by one candidate.

I don’t care how attractive or unattractive the candidates are. We elect orators. We elect the photogenic. We have to sift through marketed imagery and slogans, and more misinformation than a 4-year-old telling you how the spaceman broke the lamp. What we don’t get to base our vote on is someone’s honesty. I’m not saying any of the candidates in particular are dishonest – just that we can never truly know what they’re thinking without all of the various marionette strings helping them through the campaign.

I want to be represented by someone who will actually weigh each situation intelligently without preconception, instead of heading into office with all the answers ahead of time and a fully hand-picked staff.

I cherish my rights to free speech, to vote and to privacy. I think we could all exercise a little more of the latter.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Topless Beaches – Good Idea…on Paper

Before you go, there are some things you need to think about. Seriously. First, it’s everyday people, in all shapes and sizes, from the very young to the very old. You need to be ready for that. It isn’t going to be like a party at Hef’s mansion.

And honestly, gentlemen, it’s reality. Look at some of the horrors women have had to witness on beaches everywhere. A beer belly may provide an additional SPF of 15 as shade over that banana hammock, but no one wants to see that. And topless is merely an option for men; it’s not required. If you could use some 18-hour support yourself, at least grab a tank top.

Most likely you’ll be in Europe, which means you’re in for a variety of grooming practices. I’m not judging, just sharing an observation. There are plenty of shirtless men who could use some more care with a razor, or a full back-waxing, or at least a few more visits to the gym instead of just holding a membership.

If you’re American, experiencing public nudity sober and in actual daylight may be a huge deal your first time. Get your giggles out before you arrive and try to show some decorum once you get there. Mirror shades don't fool anyone. Consider who you're sunning with, too. This may sound obvious, but if you're in mixed company (your best friend and his wife, someone's sister, coworkers), you may want to save the visit to a nude or topless beach for another day. And try not to verbalize any disappointment when you realize super models don't hang out on topless beaches; and even if they did, they wouldn't be hanging with you.

And for you ladies, if this is the first time any part of your body is getting real exposure to the sun – be careful. Of course, be sure to apply the sunscreen generously, but I can’t stress this last point enough: apply it before you head to the beach. There is simply no harmless or inconspicuous way to apply lotion to your breasts in public – it will be on YouTube before you get back to your hotel. Have fun!

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Phone Number Acronyms: In a Texting World, Let’s Stick to Digits

Sure it’s fun to tell people your phone number spells “WINDBREAKR” but we store those numbers in our cells and don’t think about them again until we lose/break/drown our phones and send a mass email. But that’s not my point.

In the 1920s, phone numbers that spelled a word were clever. “Hi Gladys. Ring me up KL5-GAMS – I need to hire a flapper, a floor-flusher, not a heeler but a real Oliver Twist for the big hop on Saturday.” In those days, there were party lines and operator-assisted dialing and very few phone numbers and exchanges.

With the advent of toll-free numbers (virtually meaningless in a cellular world of whenever-wherever-whatever-minute-loaded plans), companies needed their 800 numbers to be memorable, so they turned to acronyms (words).

“For the best in indifferent customer service, call us at 1-800-ANYWHO.”

But, here’s my problem. I’m in texting mode these days. When I dial 1-800-ANYWHO, it looks like this:


Because I’m dialing 1-800 then spelling ANYWHO like a text.

A is 2, N is 66, Y is 999, W is 9, H is 44 and O is 666 (yikes!)

Of course, it only takes 10-digits to dial someone in the states, so HO (44666) is completely ignored and I land in a completely different indifferent customer service phone-tree hell. But there are enough blogs about that topic.

So let’s stick with phone numbers and leave the acronyms for the corporate geniuses who need to have a nickname for their projects, just like their little buddies.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Shout-out to my Verizon FIOS DVR and missing the Super Bowl!

OK, first, I’m the idiot who booked a flight on the afternoon of Super Bowl Sunday. I still think the game is the last Sunday in January. But I got a cheap flight and a light traffic day and a nice weekend away.

This also may be Karmatic retribution for the technological snobbery of my Top 10 Mantiques blog.

Anyway, today DVR is an acronym meaning Didn’t Vreaking Record! There’s a fabulous feature on my co-branded Verizon-Motorola HD DVR (QIP6416-2) – “Delete Bumped or Reschedule”. It means the program you originally selected to record with one-click ease from the guide has changed. They throw up an exclamation point icon next to your selection in your Scheduled To Record tab (which I’m sure you refer to often). If you do nothing, so do they. They don’t record it! I can understand if I was taping Dance War: Bruno vs. Carrie Ann and it was interrupted with a Presidential address to request a bump, but I’d still expect the default to tape it and for me to figure out what happened. If the program time shifts an hour, shift the record time – the programs each have unique IDs.

But this was the Super Bowl. It starts at 10 AM and ends at 10 PM (or later). I chose to record the game and the post game, and skip the 8-hour pregame special. I’m fairly certain between Friday afternoon and Sunday evening, kick-off was not rescheduled or pre-empted. Yet while I was away this weekend, my DVR threw a flag, which I couldn’t see from Orlando, and it skipped the recording. *$#% me!!!

When I returned home Sunday night at 8 pm, I didn’t see the familiar red record light on my DVR and I freaked [worse than any whopper missing from the menu at a BK’s Lounge, my friends]. Honestly, my freak-out was hurling my remotes one by one into a cushy chair. I had to put the battery cover back on one. But I was pissed!

So I missed the first half of the game. With a score of 7-3, I wasn’t too heartbroken. I composed myself and selected reschedule for the game and postgame. Postgame wouldn’t take. Forget it! I’ll just watch it live. I'll just rewind here – wow, it went back 30 seconds. OK! Then live it is. I did pause the game several times as I unpacked, for convenience – kind of the point of the DVR. That, and not having to switch out videotapes or worry about missing a show.

One of the great things about my DVR is my 30-second fast-forward: perfect for skipping ahead after the end of a play, through the huddle, and straight to the next snap. So I thought I had plenty of time to catch back up to live. But then I got hungry. So I paused for a good 15 minutes.

So I’m pausing and watching and running upstairs, pausing and watching and running outside. I get to 1:56 left in the game. It’s 14-10 (Pats leading) and I’m thinking, “Boy this is still a close game. I wonder if…” The DVR reaches the end of the recording and switches to live TV, where there are 4 seconds left in the game, the Giants have somehow scored a touchdown and prevented a Patriot comeback, all in the blink of an eye. Actually two eyes, because mine are both fluttering away tears.

Verizon believed the game would end at 9:45 so that’s when it stopped taping. It was 10:00 in real time when I realized this. I had assumed I was on the live TV channel pausing and watching – I guess I was watching the recording of the show I thought never happened.

In retrospect, I could have set up the VCR as a backup, but it wouldn’t have been in high-def and when the power spiked just once over the weekend, my programming would have been lost. I would have returned to good old blinking midnight.

Next time, I’ll record two shows at once and manually set the start and end times. I get both Baltimore and Washington HD channels – a nice benny living in an area that will be the first to be wiped when the big one drops. I’ll also ask friends to tape it and then ask them not to spoil it for me. I’ll ask the same think of all media (radio, internet, tv, print, bloggers), just so I can catch up on Monday.

Like I said in the beginning, I’m the idiot who scheduled a flight on Super Bowl Sunday. And the idiot who started taping the second half for apparently no reason other than to rob myself of the last two minutes. But, Verizon and Motorola, if you could hear me now…

Technology sucks. Sometimes.