Now we’re cooking with gas.

Every year, when the Olympics begins, I ask myself, why don’t I spend more time watching short-track speed skating? Every four years is too long to stay away from this crazy shit. And then, when the Olympics ends, I think, eh, see you folks in four. If speed skating was that thrilling to watch, we wouldn’t need football.

Although we’re all thinking about baseball now, aren’t we? Spring training is underway in Florida and Arizona, and the winter is in retreat, with the usual skirmishes as it does so. Now we’re just counting the days, literally. A nursery near my house has a countdown-to-spring sign it puts up right around now. The light is different on my late-afternoon dog walk. There are worst things to notice as I wait for the p.m. canine bowel movement.

Oh, look — more speed skating on the teevee.

May I have a drumroll, please? It is finished.

Yes, very happy, especially considering this is what we started with, from approximately the same angle:

I cooked my first meal on a gas stove tonight, and man, it felt good. Now to dirty this room up with life. It’ll never look this good again.

I’m restocking slowly and methodically. Everything has to be washed, and why not get a start on death cleaning by pitching the extra loaf pans, is what I always say.

I’d like to say something about the events of the day – CPAC, Wayne LaPierre, pothole hell – but it’s the end of the week, I worked hard today and all I want to do is put my small appliances back where they belong.

At least speed-skating appears to be over for the time being.

A good weekend, all.

Posted at 10:00 pm in Same ol' same ol' | 10 Comments

Meatballs for lunch.

For those of you who own Aeron chairs, a tip: Those mesh seats allow dust to fall through, and one day you will drop a pencil, bend down to pick it up and be so consumed with shame at the sight of its undercarriage caked in dust that you must stop what you’re doing this instant and clean that shit up.

I hate finding long-hidden dirt. When we took down the framed artwork in the kitchen, there were dust bunnies behind the frames. But who the hell cleans behind pictures? And needless to say, when we pulled the fridge out, there were horrors lying in wait.

No dead mice or anything, though. We are told that we’ll have a functioning kitchen by the end of the week. I’ll settle for a stove and running water. Alan has a plan to refit two closets, so most of Saturday was consumed with a trip to Ikea.

“The best thing about a trip to Ikea?” I said as we got into the car. “Swedish meatballs for lunch.”

And that was, indeed, the best thing about driving 45 minutes each way to get to goddamn Ikea — bland meat orbs in a powder-based gravy. That’s because they were out of the shelving we wanted, even though the website said they had nine sets in stock. “Uh, I guess the website hasn’t caught up,” the apologetic warehouse worker offered. We also got some silverware trays for our new kitchen drawers, but once we got them home, found they didn’t quite fit. So really, the meatballs were the best part of the day.

But lunch for two only cost $18. And we even split a dessert.

Hope springs eternal, and today Alan cobbled together another configuration of shelving, Ikea promised it was in stock, and he headed back out to get it, ill-fitting silverware trays in tow. I stayed home and cleaned up construction dust to the best of my ability.

To better weekends, once this is over.

In the meantime, there was some bloggage:

I am shocked, shocked to learn that Australians were involved in this:

A violent brawl that broke out on a Carnival Cruise Lines ship bound for Melbourne, forcing the vessel to dock early in NSW, may have been sparked by a dispute over a thong.

(That’s a flip-flop to some of you. We called them thongs when I was a kid.)

(A fellow passenger) said she believed the violence had all been instigated by one large family group of at least 20 people who “came onto the boat wanting to fight people” and were using any excuse to start trouble.

Travelling with her partner and another couple, she said their group became targeted two days ago after one member accidentally brushed past a member of the “violent” family.

I’ve known people like that, but they usually confine themselves to local taverns. The captain of the ship was quoted in another publication saying to a passenger who wanted the group put off the ship, “What do you want me to do? Throw them overboard?” In this case, I think that would have been a splendid remedy. And quite entertaining to watch.

In public discussions of higher ed, the comments swing wildly from “every child should have the opportunity to attend” to “not every child is suited for college, you know.” Both can be true, you know. Sarah Vowell strikes the right balance with this nice ode to Montana State, her alma mater, and land-grant colleges everywhere.

We are not fashion bloggers here, but we like fashion, so here’s a great shot of Helen Mirren, looking amazing.

Finally, I know the man is uncoachable, but can no one persuade him to stop doing this? Maybe by telling him it makes his hands look even smaller?

Onward into the week. Hope yours is great.

Posted at 5:42 pm in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 97 Comments

Ten firehoses.

Another Friday, another late post. Well, there’s always the weekend ahead.

Truth be told, we’re even more confined to the second floor of the house as this kitchen project lurches on, although I hope it’s better this weekend. Yesterday was the absolute worst, with the appliances being delivered (one of them, anyway) along with the cabinets, which together filled every inch of space in the living and dining room. The cabinets are being built and hung today, so some of the footprint is reduced, but I have a stove in my living room and pretty much everything is filthy now.

And so I am not a very happy person. I need order. I have chaos. They tell me relief will come next week. We shall see.

This is what my chaos looks like, in the meantime.

Another reason I’ve not been motivated to write: The news just keeps coming. The portrait unveilings, subject of the last post, feel like they happened in 2012, now that they’ve been eclipsed by the school shooting, the Playboy Trump mistress and the Russia indictments, all in 48 hours. I read the Playboy-mistress story at 5:30 this morning, and the Russian indictments dropped during the lunch hour. I feel dizzy.

That’s not even counting ancillary stories, like Scott Pruitt flying around the country in first class because someone was mean to him the last time he sat in coach, “mean” being “told him to stop ruining the environment.”

Does it seem like something in the air has finally changed, though? I’m wary of epistemic closure, and I try to pay attention to the other side, I really do, but it does seem we’re in a different place now, public opinion-wise, than we were a year ago. Every parent I know with a school-age child is incandescent with rage. But I don’t get out nearly enough to qualify as a public-opinion expert.

In the meantime, even though Jolene posted this already, I want to bring it to your attention again: Just because you agree with a particular organization doesn’t mean they’re playing by the rules. In this case, it’s Everytown for Gun Safety, and their oft-quoted statistic that there have been 18 school shootings this year. No there hasn’t:

Everytown has long inflated its total by including incidents of gunfire that are not really school shootings. Take, for example, what it counts as the year’s first: On the afternoon of Jan. 3, a 31-year-old man who had parked outside a Michigan elementary school called police to say he was armed and suicidal. Several hours later, he killed himself. The school, however, had been closed for seven months. There were no teachers. There were no students.

Which makes it not a school shooting, in my mind. The organization I work for now has a hashtag: #FactsMatter. They really do. You can’t build good policy on a weak foundation. Keep that in mind the next time the news blows up, which will probably be in…about eight minutes.

Have a good weekend, all.

Posted at 5:46 pm in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 55 Comments

Snowed in.

Two questions I am tired of:

Why don’t women speak up about these things? Here’s why. And also here.

Where do I want to eat? The answer is the same: Somewhere with vegetables, because we don’t have a kitchen, but we do have a floor:

It’s gray. The countertops will be gray, too, and the walls, a very pale gray. I’m worried about too much gray, but we’ll have white cabinets and white doors/woodwork, so I’m hoping it won’t remind us of a cement factory. If I were describing it in a real estate listing, I would call it a cool, urban gray. Neutral gray. Gray-not-greige. I am losing my shit here. We’re in the midst of a projected 5- to 9-inch snowstorm, I’ve been working my (taupe) bedroom for a week and either Alan or I have blown snow all but one day this week, but I’ll probably have to do it twice more today, so.

At least the guys are back at work on the kitchen, having slogged through the weather like it ain’t no thing. Man, what they say about immigrant labor is true. It’s particularly noticeable as I met a woman the other night who is in her first year of retirement from teaching. At 46 years old. Alan was not pleased to hear this. “Well, teaching is a demanding job,” I said, weakly, and he replied “I HAVE A FUCKING DEMANDING JOB.” Can’t argue with that. She said she began accruing seniority years while still in college, when she worked as a lifeguard at a public-school pool. That’s the old Michigan there, when the cotton was high and the good times went on and on. Over now.

Back to Rob Porter for a minute, the nice Mormon White House staff secretary who likes to abuse women. What is Hope Hicks doing with this loser? And before this, she was with Corey Lewandowski? You’d think a beautiful young woman with the world at her feet might choose more wisely. But of course, then she wouldn’t have the world at her feet. And she may yet end up learning legal terms like allocution and time served. So there’s that.

Sorry for this thin gruel today, but I am stir-crazy and should maybe write something else. Have a good weekend, everyone.

Posted at 9:45 am in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 78 Comments

Covered in dust.

One day you have a kitchen, an outdated and ugly one:

And the next day, you don’t:

Of course, the best thing about a kitchen renovation is kitchen archaeology. Wallpaper from days of yore:

Justlikethat, the process has begun. I worked at home Monday and Tuesday, while Wendy stayed close by my side, unnerved by the sounds of demolition downstairs. This crew works at a blistering pace. Monday: Demo. Tuesday: Subfloor. Today: Floor. Sas and his crew – Igor, Sergei and the other guy whose name I forget – are very nice. They speak Russian to one another all day but politely switch to English when I stick my head in. And of course it has snowed every night this week, and is snowing now, hard. I’ll go out and clear it once it stops. Three more inches coming Friday.

Thanks for all the advice. I’m trying to keep a semblance of normalcy, but it’s damn hard. I have the coffeemaker set up in the dining room, but am resigned to a lot of pizza and standup meals. It’s harder on Alan, but it’s like chair pose in yoga — it won’t last forever.

And now I have yet another day of work ahead. I was kind of looking forward to this project, if only because tile, cabinets and backsplashes probably stands the best chance of pushing you-know-what out of my head, but NOOOOOO. I am speaking, of course, of the military parade. Cadet Bone Spurs strikes again.

Have a good one, all.

Posted at 8:53 am in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 70 Comments

Appliance heaven.

Sorry no post on Friday. I wrote something, read it over and declined to hit Publish. More people should do that from time to time. Not everything that can be said, should be said. More to the point, I’m not sure I said what I meant to say. But by then it was late, and work had piled up.

It remains in the Drafts folder. It may yet live.

I always thought of that as the sign of a true writer: That you don’t know exactly what you think of something until you write about it, because writing and thinking are so inextricably linked that it’s hard to do one without the other.

What a weekend. On Saturday, we spent a fair amount of money on a stove and dishwasher. We didn’t buy a fridge, because the one we have is only a few years old. Besides, I took one look at this…

…and laughed out loud. I asked the salesman who pays the hefty premium for a fridge that will take a photo of its contents, keep track of your shopping list and otherwise make you dependent on yet another electronic device. “Younger people,” he replied. Of course. It reminded me of when I was shopping with my mom in…I guess it was 1984, because the Apple Macintosh had just been released. We were playing with one in the computer store near our home. I explained that you could use it to write, paint and draw.

“There’s also a program you can get, where you put in all the food you have in your fridge and pantry, and it tells you what you can make from it,” I said.

“I do that every day, only I use my head,” she said. I had to admit I do the same thing. The few times every year that I duplicate-buy something I forgot I already have don’t add up to the $3,500 or so one of these things cost.

And then it was home to start clearing out the kitchen, because demo starts tomorrow. (Allegedly.) My kitchen gets a thorough cleaning every couple months, with a clean-as-you-go policy the rest of the time, but man, nothing like pulling that microwave out from its space on the countertop to feel a wave of shame wash over you. There aren’t dead mice or anything back there, but especially in the pantry, let’s just say some people like to eat snacks while standing in the doorway assessing other snacks, and Wendy can’t get every morsel that drops. If I lived in Florida, where (I’m told) the rinse-and-hold setting on the dishwasher gets used after every meal, lest cockroaches be drawn to a dirty plate within, well – I wouldn’t live in Florida.

Photos to come.

As to bloggage, well, I’m throwing in the towel today. Hot takes on the memo are so thick on the ground you can barely move, and it already feels like we’re hunkering down for the next disaster. Perhaps it will come in the form of a pandemic we’re unprepared to face because funding for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has been slashed to finance tax cuts. Maybe it’ll be next year’s flu — wasn’t the 1918 pandemic preceded by a mini-pandemic in 1917? One of my colleagues just returned to work after his flu adventure, and he’d gotten the shot. I told him that next year he’d be safe, while I would die.

And then, of course, there’s the Super Bowl. Ring in on the best ads. And go Iggles.

Posted at 1:30 pm in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 83 Comments

Gut the room.

Like (I hope) many of you, the Nall/Derringer Co-Prosperity Sphere has seen its investment portfolios go a little nutty in recent months. Blessed with all this new “wealth,” we’ve decided to spend a little bit of it, remembering the lessons of recent downturns. One lesson: My sister had a colleague who liquidated a bunch of stock in a red-hot market to buy a BMW. The stock (and many others) went south soon afterward, and he said, philosophically, “At least I got a car.”

We, however, are getting a kitchen. It’ll be the last big project left on the Big Projects list, and it’s time for this 30-year-old Home Depot cheap-ass shit to GO. The contractor is Ukrainian, and references say he brings an eastern European work ethic to the job, but any free advice you have to offer, I’m listening. The estimate arrives later today.

I had a busy-busy weekend. A charity nonprofit I serve on the board for had its main fundraiser this weekend, and it blotted out the sun. In reality, the sun (and moon) shone down benevolently on us, and I took some pictures before the party got started, so enjoy a couple of them. The temperature was mild, and the ice was on the move. It was quite a sight:

Even prettier as the sun went down:

This was at a local yacht club, so hence the waterfront setting. We raised about $15,000.

Not much bloggage today, although it seemed when I wasn’t partying this weekend, I was reading the news with a perma-furrowed brow. Just one story, today, which would seem to indicate another Night of the Long Knives may be coming in the Justice Department:

WASHINGTON — A secret, highly contentious Republican memo reveals that Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein approved an application to extend surveillance of a former Trump campaign associate shortly after taking office last spring, according to three people familiar with it.

The renewal shows that the Justice Department under President Trump saw reason to believe that the associate, Carter Page, was acting as a Russian agent. But the reference to Mr. Rosenstein’s actions in the memo — a much-disputed document that paints the investigation into Russian election meddling as tainted from the start — indicates that Republicans may be moving to seize on his role as they seek to undermine the inquiry.

These people do not act like they have nothing to hide.

Have a good week, all.

Posted at 10:04 am in Same ol' same ol' | 64 Comments

Rotten Apple.

Someday we’re going to look back on this era and…marvel, I guess, although “recoil in horror” may well be an option, too. I think often how long it’s been since I’ve done business with a larger outfit that didn’t make me seethe with anger or sneer with contempt. This weekend it was Apple’s fault.

My iPhone 6 is three years old and going strong, except that the battery is failing. How do I know this? Because the power falls from 75 percent to 20 percent in 10 minutes, that’s how. Sounds like a failing battery to me! Apple recently acknowledged it was slowing down the older model phones accordingly, and, chastened, offered replacement batteries for them for $30. How very convenient, because I need a battery.

I followed all the links, which led me to an appointment at the Genius Bar. I arrived on time: Hello, I need a battery. The nice lady plugged my phone into her iPad and ran all sorts of diagnostics. It turns out? I need a battery. I surpassed my impulse to eye-roll. So let’s get it done. It turned out there were none in stock, but when one arrived, they’d let me know.

So, one trip to the Apple store down.

The email came a few days later, and said, “come anytime.” I headed out in a gathering snowstorm on Friday. The nearest Apple store is about 15 miles away, I should mention. I arrived and handed over my phone. Give us 90 minutes, they said. So I went back out and shopped the clearance sales, got a French press at Nordstrom, then came back to the warm, bustling Apple store. Are those places ever not bustling? Just asking.

The tech greeted me like a mother who’d brought her child to the ER with suspicious bruises. He showed me a photograph of the phone’d innards. “We can see that this phone has had liquids inside it,” he said. Yep, that sounded right — I was caught in a drenching downpour last summer with the phone in my back pocket, ports facing up. I’m sure it got wet then, because the speaker and mic failed for a couple of days. But I dried it out in a bag of rice and it’s worked fine ever since. So fix the battery, OK?

“We can’t do that,” he said. “We don’t work on phones that have been penetrated by liquids.” Options: Buy a reconditioned iPhone 6 – a three-year-old phone, mind you – for three! Hundred! Dollars! Or just do the usual upgrade thing. Hundreds of dollars more. But to fix a “penetrated” phone in fine working order, only in need of a battery? Out of the question.

Well, it was nice to visit Nordstrom. Good coffee. And I got some tights at 40 percent off.

Why do we let tech companies treat us like this? Why do we happily help them run established businesses out of town for a slightly better price, and then scrape to them and beg them for the latest sacred object? I wish I knew.

I’m going to Office Depot. The hell with this.

And I’m sorry about that rant. It’s cold again, and I’m feeling cranky. Plus it’s the auto show this week, and I’m on my own. To whoever asked in the comments, the prom is this coming Friday, and I’ll have my usual report. From what I’m hearing, the tl;dr is: Trucks for days.

While Alan was working at the kitchen table, I took myself down to the DIA and saw “Bombshell,” the documentary about Hedy Lamarr, movie star and frustrated scientist. It’s very fine, and I recommend it. If you didn’t know that this legendary Hollywood beauty also had a restless, problem-solving intellect, then you should know now. The story is both triumph and tragedy, but what I found most interesting was what it had to say about the human imagination, and how ideas can come from anywhere. Engineering ideas don’t always come from engineers; Lamarr’s singular idea – a way to make radio communications secure via switching frequencies – came from who-knows-where, because she wasn’t even college-educated, and the man she worked with was inspired by player-piano scrolls. But their idea was sound, even as the military brass scoffed at it.

They didn’t get paid. (And she could have used the money.) But her reputation has made a comeback.

Tomorrow will be warmer, and it’ll be Monday. And we’ll await what fresh hell might be around the corner from Shithole-gate. Sigh. Bundle up.

Posted at 8:11 pm in Movies, Same ol' same ol' | 70 Comments

Always look ahead.

In honor of his 60th birthday, Eric Zorn published a column called, I hope at least somewhat ironically, “My 14-point plan to be a good old man.” I reached that milestone a few weeks ahead of Eric, and never even considered such a thing, but admittedly, I no longer have a column deadline, and might well have if I did.

For the record, I don’t even consider myself close to being old. I get what he’s saying, though — at this age you can see senescence on the horizon, maybe closer. People you know are starting to die, sometimes of aggressive cancers that just show up one day, announcing time’s up.

On Tuesday you’re fine. On Friday, you have a few weeks left. It happens.

I read Eric’s list, and I approve of it. The tl;dr might be: Your body is one thing, but you can always be young in heart and spirit. I have young friends, real friends, not just my friends’ adult children. I listen to new music when I can. I respect a lot of their art, popular and otherwise. I consider that younger people as a group have many things better figured-out than my generation did at their age. I have hope for a better future, which I further hope will arrive before a totally horrible future comes beforehand. I’m sorry that the boomer generation, of which I am a part, is going out so disgracefully, even though the president is way older than me and I consider him part of a different subset. Unlike lots of young people, I don’t think my generation is the worst ever, or, in the current slangy parlance, Worst. Generation. Ever. Can’t we all get along? We need our confederates.

I was thinking this while reading a piece by a former colleague, a man I once liked very much, who seems to have taken a different path, desiccating into a bitter husk. It’s possible it was written on a bad day – we all have them – but it made me sad. I won’t link to it, in the interest of keeping a certain peace. Practicing kindness seems the best option here.

The other day I was sweating through the final moments of my weight workout when an old man started…I guess he was flirting. It wasn’t anything serious or creepy, just a semi-obvious I see you and I like what I see exchange. At first I was baffled, as he seemed to be much, much older. Then I realized he’s maybe 5-6 years ahead of me, so entirely age-appropriate if I were into it. He picked himself up off the mat where he’d been doing crunches and walked off to the locker room with the step of a far younger man. Here’s to you, you spicy geezer. I hope I have that confidence when I’m…your age.

Bloggage: A pretty good take on Facebook, what ails it and how it should be fixed. And it should be fixed.

The Case of the Infamous Dossier gets more complicated. Still sorting through this one.

Finally, from the comments, I know a lot of you have been getting junk phone calls lately. Me, too. I have a 734 area code, a souvenir of my first cell phone being purchased in Ann Arbor. I make a lot of calls to people who aren’t in my network, so I answer them all, but lately when I see not only the 734 area code but the first three numbers of my own, I let it go, then immediately block it. Lately, I’m starting to get weird email, too, and I wonder if it, too, is a new scam.

One of my private email addresses is first initial/married name -at- a popular domain. And a couple months ago — about the time I started posting my resume on job-search sites, a huge mistake I regret — I started getting email for Norma MyMarriedName, who also uses first initial/last name. She appears to be a very busy lady, buying stuff online and signing up for gym memberships and all sorts of stuff. One included her street address, which I figured had to be a fake, but I G-mapped it and lo it exists, and in Newark, Ohio, no less. We don’t yet have your down payment, Norma, and without it we can’t guarantee delivery by Christmas, wrote someone at Montgomery Ward. (It still exists, yes!) It doesn’t seem exactly…legit.

It keeps happening. I’ve started hitting Unsubscribe on some of them, and by doing so I’m wondering if I just delivered the full contents of my inbox to the Russians. If so, have at it! It’s the address that I mainly use for crap, so enjoy my utility billing notices and unread New York Times Cooking newsletters, Boris.

But who doesn’t know their own damn email address?

Time to punch down the pizza dough and consider toppings. Good midweek to all.

Posted at 6:40 pm in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 123 Comments

Into it we go.

I believe it was another blogger who once said that she enjoys Christmas as much as the next girl, but dragging that tree to the curb is like getting another room on your house. Seconded. Every time I sweep up the pine needles, I think how a pre-lit artificial tree is definitely not selling out. Things are complicated this year by the snow on the walks and a serious deep freeze, which means we’re going to be tracking those fuckers back into the house for days and weeks yet.

Yes, I just referred to pine needles as fuckers. I go on a jihad about cleanliness at this time of year.

Otherwise, it was a pleasant new year’s weekend. Prime rib was prepared and served, as was spinach soufflé and a disappointing potato dish, bailed out by a wonderful sorbet. I may make sorbet every weekend for the rest of my life, if it’s as good as the kir royale sorbet I made for dinner yesterday. Glad I bought an ice cream maker at a garage sale a few years back. (“Does it work?” “Oh yes. It’s just that I have two of them.” #GrossePointeProblems)

Now for dry, abstemious January. I’m pretty damn ready for this one, gotta say. But I’ll eat the rest of the sorbet first.

I can say with confidence that my New Year’s Eve was better than young Barron Trump’s:

When I was 11 and my parents had plans for NYE, I could sleep over at a friend’s house, or have someone over, or otherwise do something that an 11-year-old might consider fun. I was never dressed up and required to go to their party with them. Just looking at the random crowd shots gives me the heebie-jeebies on his behalf:

Have we ever speculated on whether Barron is on the spectrum? I’ve thought so for a while now. Those of you experienced with these kids are encouraged to weigh in. His may be the only book out of this administration I might look forward to reading.

Speaking of which, this is required reading for those of you keeping up. And that’s all from me for now. I’m going to try out my new meditation app. Happy new year to all of us.

Posted at 4:55 pm in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 39 Comments