Sunday, March 29, 2009

caffeinated Sunday musings.

I have not written in my blog in a while.  So in order to quell the throngs of readers that sit on this page all day, hitting refresh for hours in the mere hopes of an update (read: in order to put off studying) I am updating.

I am currently sitting in Starbucks with my physiology.  I really like this place.  I know that Starbucks is all corporate and taking over the world and everything and I should support independent businesses and cute local coffee shops with my money, but let's face it, I just like it here.  

One thing that has struck me as slightly odd about this place, though, is the music they play.  Don't get me wrong - I love it.  A lot, actually.  I have yet to hear a song in Starbucks that I dislike.  One time they even played Josh Ritter and I freaked out.  When I walked in this morning and was waiting to order my coffee, my favorite Shins song ("Gone for Good") was playing.  I knew at that moment it was going to be a good day.  After that came the really excellent and slightly hilarious Iron & Wine/Calexico tune "A History of Lovers."  I would count both of these as favorite songs of mine; they would both probably make the top 50.  By this time, I had gotten my coffee and was sitting down with my Elle magazine to read an article or two before I hit the books.  The music continued in the indie-rock genre for the next few songs; I think a Neko Case song or two was in the mix.  After that, however, the music abruptly changed; I think they played an entire Frank Sinatra album, which was great for studying.  It was also very quiet.  Now, though, I think they have put in a Motown mix or something.  And it got WAY louder.  There does not seem to be any volume control, because whereas fifteen minutes ago Frank's soft crooning was barely background noise, right now some 1960s diva is blasting into my ears at an almost disturbing volume.  It's all very odd.  I would guess from this sequence of musical events that the employees get to put in whatever CD they want, or maybe they have certain CDs they can choose from.  When I worked at American Eagle, they had a predetermined playlist that was about two hours long.  It played on repeat, all day long.  I still cannot hear the song "Golddigger" without having memories of folding and refolding pair after pair of jeans until I began to wish that jeans were never invented.  While most of the songs were decent, I think all of us would have appreciated a little input into the music process.  (There was one particularly heinous Christmas rap song that made me want to gouge my ears out.  Yes, I said Christmas rap.  It was about Santa Claus and it was truly awful.)  So Starbucks, while I'd appreciate a little volume leveling, thank you for playing good music.  I'm sure your employees appreciate it as well.

Also, an hour or so ago I talked to the cutest little boy I have ever seen.  He asked me if I was doing homework.  I told him that yes, I was studying for a test.  He then held up his carton of chocolate milk and informed me that he was drinking coffee.  I told him that chocolate milk probably tasted better than coffee.  I asked him how old he was and he told me "two" and held up two fingers.  At this point, his mother corrected him, saying "no, you're three, remember?"  He then had a lot of trouble trying to remember how to hold up three fingers.  That's got to be a bummer - just when you learn how to answer a question, your birthday comes around and messes everything up.  He then asked me if I was three.  I told him that I was not three anymore, although sometimes I wished I was.  I think he was sad.  I just love children.

The music got progressively weirder and weirder (and louder and louder).  But they have redeemed themselves, because they are playing Josh Ritter right now!

Monday, March 16, 2009


When I was in London a little over a year ago, I ate a really, really unhealthy diet.  It consisted mainly of coffee, tuna melt sandwiches from EAT, large quantities of Cadbury Fruit 'n Nut bars, and Belgian chocolate shortbread scones.  Most nights, Kelli and I would stop on our way home at the Tesco grocery store across the street to get a snack since it had usually been hours since our last tuna melt.  She often got virtuous things to eat that were brightly colored and full of vitamins.  (You know, fruit and stuff.  Kelli, I hope you read this because I am making you look really good here.)  I, on the other hand, always got this thing that I think was called a Belgian chocolate shortbread.  It was quite unusual.  It was triangular and quite large, like a scone you would get here.  Except it did not taste remotely like breakfast food.  It tasted like a soft and fluffy shortbread cookie.  And it had Belgian chocolate drizzled all over the top.  It may be the best food item I have ever eaten in my entire life.  

I would like to make such a dessert.  I am open to the fact that it will probably take several tries and several different recipes to reach the desired result.  However, I am having trouble finding even one recipe that is similar to what I remember.  

Part of the problem is the language barrier.  (Yes, I said language barrier.)  I would describe it as a "shortbread scone" because it tastes like shortbread and looks/feels like a scone.  However, in England, a "scone" is not like our scones here, but circular and a lot more fluffy, a lot more like what we call a biscuit.  I can't look for "shortbread biscuit" either, though, because biscuit = cookie.  And all the "shortbread" recipes I can find are thin and dense, like a cookie.  Which are delicious, but not what I want to make.  

Confused yet?  I definitely am.  I can't believe that everyone has not caught onto how wonderful these things are and immediately spent hours trying to replicate them in their own kitchens and posted the results on the Internet for all to share.

I have found one promising recipe. 
I am going to try to make these tomorrow.  I don't have macadamia nuts, so I might try it sans nuts and sans raspberry sauce and see if the taste and consistency are similar.  If so, I can then get some chocolate to drizzle across the top.  If this recipe doesn't work, though, I don't know what I am going to do.  Does anyone have any suggestions?  I will not rest until I have satisfied my craving.  I am thinking of calling Tesco and asking for their recipe, but a) this would be expensive and b) I doubt they would give it to me.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

attention: CONTEST.

the inspiration.
Last week, we had a Fundamentals of Doctoring test.  Don't even get me started on the overall stupidity of this class -- if the fundamentals of the medical profession mainly involve memorizing arbitrary, inane, and probably incorrect statistics in order to regurgitate them on a multiple-choice exam, then I've chosen the wrong profession.  But I digress.  My point is, one of the statistics we were required to memorize for the last exam was about marital infidelity.  According to the PowerPoint slide we were given (no references, of course), 50% of married men are unfaithful at some point in their life.  The numbers are lower for women, sitting at around 26%.  When you average the sexes together, this means that on average, 38% of people that are married are going to cheat.  Now to be fair, not everyone gets married, so we'll apply that number to the 95% of people that do marry.  This comes out to a whopping 36%.  

the study.
I am an optimist.  I refuse to believe this number is true.  So I'm going to try to refute it using the least scientific way possible.  Yes, that's right -- I'm going to extrapolate the results to the songs in my iTunes and see if they hold up.  If those statistics are correct, then over 36% of my music should be written about cheaters.  Here's my reasoning: 

1) Famous people have a higher-than-average infidelity rate.  Have you read Us Weekly lately?  Me neither, but judging from the covers I see in the grocery store, people of fame and fortune cheat on each other at a much higher rate than the general population.  Plus, they are prettier -- I can imagine the temptation is probably much greater for a guy who goes to parties with, say, Jennifer Aniston and Keira Knightley and Natalie Portman.  

2) Musicians are notorious for writing songs about cheating lovers.  I mean, let's face it.  If you are a song writer and someone cheats on you, it is going to be the #1 single on your next album.  No question about it.  

Assuming the above reasoning holds true, the proportion of songs written about infidelity should be higher than the actual real-life percentage of cheaters.  So I am going to conduct a study on my own iTunes library by counting the number of songs that involve some sort of infidelity.  This will probably take awhile.  I have a lot of music.  But I am curious, and let's face it, I have a lot of free time this week, so I am going to start counting.

here's where you come in.  
I would like everyone who reads this to venture a guess as to what percentage of my iTunes library will fit this description.  I have 4,541 songs.  If our trusty FOD statistics are indeed true, then 1635 of these songs (36%) will be added to my "CHEATERS" playlist.  If the true number of songs is lower (as I suspect it is) then I am never paying attention in that class again.  

So leave me a comment with your guess.  That means you.  The winner, or the person who is closest to the actual percentage will receive a REALLY AWESOME PRIZE.   It will probably take me a week or so to go through my library, so you've got a few days to come up with a really good answer.

some things to consider: 
1) Did I mention this is probably the least scientific study I can think of? Because it is.
2) I have some Christian music on my computer.  I would venture to say that most of these songs will not be about cheating lovers.  It is not a large part of my library, but it will probably skew the results a little bit. 
3) I have no way of knowing if most of these songs are about marital infidelity or not, but for the sake of this study, let's assume they are.  Maybe this will counteract #2.
4) It is possible that different people would have vastly different numbers to come out of their individual music collections.  Perhaps these results could someday in the future be extrapolated to a personality assessment.  I'm imagining a Cosmo quiz, maybe -- "Is Your Man Faithful?  Analyze His Music Collection to Find Out!"
5) Of course, this is all in good fun.  May the best man (or woman) win.  Also, if you don't enter my contest, I am not your friend anymore.  Thanks.

UPDATE, 3/16/09:  
Apparently the folks over at Paste Magazine and I are cut from the same cloth.  Except their survey is slightly more morbid than my own...

Thursday, March 12, 2009

ten reasons why I love 30 Rock.

10. Frank's hats.
They're never the same, and they're brilliant.  

9. Liz Lemon.  
If you ever feel bad about yourself, Liz will make you feel better.  Between her love for off-brand Mexican cheese curls and her bumbling altruism, I'm not really sure how she landed her job as the TGS head writer, but I'm glad she did.  (To Pete, her producer: "Did you know that inner-city graduation rates in New York are lower than they are in the Sudan?  Wait.  That doesn't sound right.  Maybe it was teenage pregnancy.  I should really read more.")  

8. How incredibly dumb the "actors" are.  
I'm lumping Jenna (Jane Krakowski) and Tracy (Tracy Morgan) together in this category because it's hard to determine which one's idiocy is more hysterical.  Both are caricatures of self-centeredness, and it's hard to believe either has more than a fifth grade education, but we love them anyway.  Why?  It's hard to say.  Tracy decides to leave a legacy for his children by inventing a porn video game?  Jenna performs on the show her Israeli award-winning original song entitled "Muffin Top?"  Sure, why not.  

7. Kenneth the page.  
"I don't drink hot liquids.  That's the devil's temperature!"  Part ridiculous hillbilly, part omnipotent genius, and 100% committed to his page duties, Kenneth probably has the highest quotability factor on the show.  The lining of his page jacket is also rumored to be the safest place in 30 Rock to hide your cash, but that's just hearsay.

6. The episode "Jack-Tor."  
While I would be hard-pressed to find an episode of this show I don't like, "Jack-Tor" stands out to me as the most brilliant by far.  It kicks off with Jack instructing the TGS writers (via a professional-looking video, even though he is sitting in the room with them watching it) that they need to incorporate not-that-subtle "Product Integration" for GE microwaves into their next show.  Liz and the staff are outraged. (I won't spoil what makes this so funny, but be forewarned that there is a man in a giant Snapple costume involved.)  When they write the sketch, they ask Jack to guest-star as a GE executive.  Hilarity ensues.  Meanwhile, Liz discovers that Tracy is illiterate.  (Or is he?)  It's truly top-notch comedy.  I can watch it over and over.

5. The guest stars.
What do Jerry Seinfeld, Jennifer Aniston, Salma Hayek, Gladys Knight and the Pips*, and Steve Martin have in common?  That's right.  They've all guest-starred on 30 Rock.    

*this episode, obviously, concludes with a cast-wide musical theatre-style rendition of "Midnight Train to Georgia." And it's awesome. 

4. Jack Donaghy.
When you were a kid, I bet you always wanted to grow up to be GE's Executive Chair of Television and Microwave Oven Programming.  Well, Jack Donaghy has achieved this dream.  He works on the 52nd floor, has a hard-working assistant and an assortment of beautiful girlfriends (Beyonce, Condoleezza Rice, Salma Hayek, etc.), and powerful political connections.  In fact, he even served in the Bush administration for a short period when he was almost ousted from his GE position by his archenemy, Devon Banks.  Never fear, though; he was able to overcome the odds and return to his position of power.  He's a marketing genius, too.  Anyone remember SeinfeldVision, in which Jerry Seinfeld's likeness was captured from the hundreds of hours of Seinfeld programming owned by NBC and inserted into every program aired by the network?  It's amazing what computers can do these days.

3. Dr. Spaceman.
It's an honor to the medical profession that we are able to include Dr. Leo Spaceman (pronounced "spa-CHE-man") as one of our own.  I want to be him when I grow up.  At the end of season 2, when Liz discovers Don Geiss passed out in a diabetic coma, Dr. Spaceman comes to the rescue.  After regretfully informing Jack that he can't inject something into Geiss's heart because "there's no way to know where the heart actually is," he ponders whether to call 911 or 411.  Luckily, he is able to ask the 411 operator for "New York, diabetes repair?"  We could all learn a lesson from this man.  The NBC staffers keep him awfully busy, too; between acquiring Tracy's growth hormone pills and rationing flu shots so only the rich employees get them, he must never get a moment's rest. 

2. The not-so-subtle political humor.  
Political satire is obviously one of Tina Fey's strong points, as evidenced by her SNL portrayal of Sarah Palin this past election season.  30 Rock is no exception.  Perhaps the best example is in the season 2 episode "Subway Hero," where Jack can't find a celebrity to represent the Republican Party at a McCain fundraiser he is planning.  He tries to convince Tracy to do it.  At first, Tracy is unsure.  "I can't vote Republican!" he exclaims. "That's letting my people down!"  But after a "We Didn't Start the Fire"-induced nightmare in which he finds himself in purgatory with Richard Nixon, he is convinced.  Together, Tracy and Jack come up with a new campaign method - and a rather unorthodox one.  

1. The way NBC shamelessly makes fun of itself.  
Product integration.  Comedy sketch writers.  Executives with enormous salaries.  Ridiculous reality shows like "MILF Island."  I'm glad NBC has a sense of humor.  

If you are a member of Netflix, the first two seasons are available to watch online for free.  Do it.   I'll see you in a couple weeks after you are able to unglue your eyes from the computer screen.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

1. This past weekend, I went to Birmingham for concerts.  I am kind of obsessed with live music, if you couldn't tell.  Kacie, Liz, Alan, Kendrick and I went to see the Cardinals at the Alabama Theatre on Friday night and I loved it.  Our seats were in row T, which is kind of far away, so that wasn't awesome, but it was still a really good show.  I have decided, however, that it's pretty close to impossible to be prepared for a Ryan Adams show.  He has so much music that you have to be a die-hard fan to know all of it.  They put on a great show, however.  The gorgeous encore of "Oh My Sweet Carolina" was more than worth the $46 I paid for the ticket.   The Blitzen Trapper show on Saturday (at Bottletree, my favorite venue ever) was pretty phenomenal as well.  I highly recommend their music if you have never heard it - it's really infectious and I feel like it would be hard to find someone who would not love it.  

Also while in Birmingham, I went to Samford and laid out on the quad and printed like 200 pages for free in the library.  I kind of miss that place.

2.  I impulsively bought a harmonica yesterday.  I am really awesome at playing it.  I am not even exaggerating here.  If you want to feel really musical and good about yourself, buy a harmonica.  Learning to play guitar is really painful and it sounds like crap for the first month or so and it is really discouraging.  But within 10 minutes of picking up the harmonica, I was able to rock a mean "Jingle Bells."  It's also kind of a fascinating instrument.  Did you know that breathing in and blowing out produce different notes?  Crazy.  I'm still working on the whole not-hyperventilating thing, but give it a few days and I'll basically be ready to join a band.  When I get a little better, I plan to buy a little bit nicer instrument (although the $5 version is working out quite well for me at the moment) and one of those neck holder things so I can play hands-free.  As Liz remarked yesterday, I could play the harmonica and drive at the same time!  How awesome would I be then?

Sunday, March 1, 2009

I am LIVID right now. 

Last night I came home to my apartment around 10:30 and noticed that the carpet in my room was wet. I was annoyed because this happened a couple months ago, and it had been some type of leak from the apartment next door that had come under my floor and gotten everything soaking wet. It was the biggest hassle in the world - they ripped up all the carpet in my closet and brought a huge loud fan in for a day or so, then when they cleaned the carpet it smelled so bad I thought I might asphyxiate from the fumes when I went to sleep.

So when I realized that it had happened again, I was incredibly mad.  It's even worse this time too, because it's covering a lot more floor space - like half my bedroom and extending into the living room.  Also there was a huge inch-deep puddle in my kitchen.  I called maintenance around 11:30 last night, and this is how the conversation went:

me: I just got home and noticed a large amount of water underneath my carpet in my apartment.
him: Oh, are you underneath apartment 110?
me: Yes, I think so.
him: Oh, yeah.  They had a water heater problem today.  We figured some of the water had gotten into your apartment, but we didn't want to knock on the door because it was kind of late.
me: Okay, can you send someone out to look at it?
him: Yeah, we'll send someone out tomorrow to clean it up.
me:  Okay.  It's a whole lot of water.  (Judging by his attitude, I don't think he grasped this).

Fast forward to 4pm today.  I leave to go to the library to study because my apartment is like a wet sponge (I have been wearing rain boots inside all day, it's the only way to walk around) and it also is beginning to smell AWFUL.  On the way, I called maintenance back (it is a pager number).  30 minutes later, he calls me back.  Conversation:

me: I called last night about a water leak in my apartment...
him: Oh, yeah.  I'm glad you called, I had completely forgotten about that.
me: Can you send someone out today to fix it?
him: Sure, I'll call the carpet guys.  I'll give you a call and let you know when they're on their way.
me:  Well, actually, I'm not at home, and I won't be for the rest of the night.  You can get in without me there, right?
him: (very long pause) Oh.  Um.... I guess so.  I'd have to call a manager...
me:  Well, I will not be home for the rest of the night but I'd like to have it taken care of.
him:  Okay... I'll see if we can figure something out...
me: Thank you.

It is now 11:39, and when I walked in a few minutes ago nothing had changed.  He obviously did not call someone to come out.  The place smells incredibly bad.  I don't even know what to do.  I have to go pay my rent tomorrow, so I am going to try to talk to the new manager about it, because the place changed ownership a few days ago. 

I don't know what to do.  I honestly can't stand living here and it makes my life infinitely more stressful than it already is.  I'm embarrassed to even bring people here because the property is so disgusting.  There are always multiple stray cats running around the parking lot, and my upstairs neighbors have loud parties at all hours of the night and like to participate in activities such as flicking their cigarette butts onto my car.  Not to mention that ever since I have moved in it's been a constant battle with maintenance issues.  I spent the first three months without a light in my kitchen because something about the fixture was messed up and they couldn't seem to find time to replace it.  The only problem is, my lease is until the beginning of August and I don't know if there's any way I can get out of it.  

I'm going to bed, I guess.  Nothing like living in a swamp.