Tuesday, December 28, 2010

How I Did Not Save Christmas

I didn’t draw anything this past week because of Christmas. I did get to climb in a dumpster at work today, though. If this sounds like fun, you need a more stimulating job.

See, a couple of weeks ago I borrowed my roommate’s plastic Christmas platter to take a bunch of cookies to work. The cookies lasted about three hours, and the platter got repurposed for a swanky executive event in another part of the building. I figured it would turn up eventually. A single fried chicken thigh can spend six months in our office fridge unmolested, so nothing terrible could happen to a heavy plastic tray in the ten days before Christmas.

As it turns out, that is not the correct answer.

This morning at work I remembered that I should retrieve that platter before my roommate gets back from her Christmas vacation, so after a cursory but fruitless search, I sent out an inquiry to the staff.

Ten minutes later, a coworker came over to inquire how much the platter cost and where it was purchased.

Apparently, in a pre-holiday cleaning frenzy, the tray was mistaken for a disposable one and purged. And then the trash went out.

Luckily for me, the garbage truck doesn’t hit our neighborhood until Tuesday. All I had to do was fish around a little in the dumpster we share with a few nearby buildings. I was even a little bit excited, since my job does not include a lot of field trips.

The good news is that now I know what the neighbors got for Christmas. The whole top layer of the dumpster was Barbie playset boxes and sacks of wrapping paper, all of which I could reach from the outside. Last week’s office trash was farther down, though, so I glanced at my open-backed shoes and jumped in.

I knew that one of our neighboring businesses dealt with large, feces-rich birds (it seems they board parrots). I did not know that Monday is cage-cleaning day. The shoulder-high mound of discolored, dribbling newspapers convinced me to get out of the dumpster and call my roommate to confess.

She says the tray is not emotionally irreplaceable, so I will not be returning in the wee hours of the morning with hip waders. And my pants should be okay after a couple more washings.

Ultimately, I have emerged with further validation for my policy of never throwing anything away without watertight evidence that I will never need it again. Also, I’m pretty sure I don’t want a parrot.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Popcorn and Stuff

I have spent the day eating day-glo orange cheese popcorn, which a vendor thoughtfully provided for my office. If every staff member were to eat as much of it as I have, we would need about 650% more popcorn.

It’s in one of those big cans with the cardboard divider, so there’s butter flavor and caramel corn as well, but those are clearly inferior products. We also have another can featuring white cheddar popcorn instead of the traditional atomic tangerine. That one is tasty too, but it cannot measure up to the full-on flavor magic chemical onslaught of the orange kind.

I do love Christmas for reasons other than the abundant food, like family and Jesus and hanging jingle bells on things. But it’s definitely the season that most reveals my level of self-control, which is roughly that of an attention-deficit hummingbird on crack. That’s why it only took me 32 hours to get through an entire bag of Reese’s peanut butter-filled chocolate bells, including the 15 hours when I left them at work.

The candy came from my excellent office Secret Santa, who had correctly divined that I am essentially a tall, well-educated eight-year-old. Thanks to her, I also have a new desktop collection of colored pens and things that light up. I acquired these items on a scavenger hunt through the building, featuring rhyming clues and the freezer. It was pretty much the best day ever.

She probably figured out my overall maturity level when she saw me eating a cupcake someone brought for the breakroom. This process requires attention to each of the elements involved.

There’s the frosting, which should be slurped off in one smooth swoop. The cake may be devoured in one bite for the very brave, or in up to five with breaks to lick up the crumbs. Then the paper remains, with its fine coating of concentrated delight. You should skin this off with your teeth, working around the circle and punctuating with noises of pleasure.

I do that last part in the copy room by myself.

In conclusion, here are some more shiny things.

UPDATE: Looking at it in the light of day, I see that this post doesn't make a lot of sense. It's like I just spit up the contents of my brain onto the web and pretended to connect the dots. Then again, that's pretty much what the internet is like as a whole, so I don't feel too bad.

Anyway, sorry about that. If you want, you can try not sleeping for a while and see if that helps. Actually, if you do that, just read the whole site and tell me how it goes. Preliminary research suggests that I get a lot funnier with decreasing brain function.

Monday, December 13, 2010


While checking out at my local yuppie grocery store, I realized that I was buying all the staples of New Age life: edamame, bulk raw seeds, something with tofu, and milk that isn’t milk.

Edamame and pumpkin seeds are delicious, the tofu thing was on sale, and the un-milk was part of an intensive scientific investigation. I am accustomed to drinking skim milk, and when I moved in with my staunchly 2% roommates, I decided to examine all the options since I was buying my own cereal whitener anyway.

I am almost dangerously willing to sample new foods. In my college cafeteria I served as the canary in the mineshaft, informing my friends which offerings were delicious and which might cause them to miss class for a week. That’s how I found out that, when it comes to falafel, texture is everything.

The gently steaming pile of dark tan nuggets did not invite dining so much as a little plastic bag and a trowel. I scooped one onto my plate, where it nestled between the breadcheeks of my emergency backup sandwich. With my tablemates looking on incredulously, I bit into the thing.

It might have tasted good—I couldn’t tell. Any flavor was completely overwhelmed by not only the precise color and shape resemblance to my childhood Basset Hound’s backyard deposits, but also the exact sun-brittle texture of old dog turds in the desert. I had never wondered what it would be like to bite into one of those, and I am not glad to know.

Anyway, the experience still didn’t scare me away from weird food, and the aforementioned yuppie grocery store has a lot of fake milk. I started with vanilla soymilk, which rocks because it’s lightly sweetened for when your chocolate Cheerios aren’t meeting your morning sugar needs.

Then I moved on to vanilla almond milk, which is even sweeter and kind of almond-y. It’s also slightly brown, but if you stick to a chocolate cereal regimen, the color is not too disturbing. This one was so yummy that I started drinking it for dessert, and I bought a second carton the day the first one ran out.

About ten ounces into the half gallon, the bleh threshold hit, and I had to get sweeter cereal to hide the taste.

Next was coconut milk—not the watery stuff inside a coconut, but a shockingly white milk imposter. It felt too thin to be that white, and it tasted more like the chilled spit of someone who had recently been eating coconut cream pie.

During the coconut period, thanks to another sale I picked up a half gallon of dark chocolate almond milk. Even I am not self-destructive enough to put this on cereal, but chocolate definitely goes on the Ice Cream List of foods I always want to be eating.

Apparently, I had conveniently forgotten about the bleh portion of my previous almond milk adventure.

There’s nothing wrong with the actual taste of this beverage, I’m pretty sure. The problem is the scent you notice right before it touches your lips—that whiff of protein that suggests you are not about to taste a refreshing beverage but rather bite into a nicely charred piece of chicken.

It’s the falafel all over again, really, with other senses beating out taste for a lasting impression.

I gave the rest of the carton to my mom. I did warn her beforehand. Also, she has a minimally effective sense of smell and has never even noticed a problem with powdered milk.

Mom says the chickenmilk tastes fine. Personally, I’m thinking of going back to cows.

(P.S. Does your regular, non-yuppie grocery store still have an aisle labeled “New Age Beverage” like mine does? Every time I see this I giggle a little.)

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Boom De Yada

This is the latest artwork commissioned for my office.

I keep all this stuff on the network in a file labeled "I'm kind of a jerk," because that pretty well sums up the general tenor of my signs.

It's also why I enjoy making them.

*With apologies to my Girl Scout upbringing, xkcd, and The Discovery Channel

Monday, November 29, 2010

The Bleh Threshold

I recently crossed the Bleh Threshold again, thus eliminating another lunch option.

The Bleh Threshold is the point at which some delightful item or experience suddenly becomes loathsome due to overexposure. I reach this point pretty often with food, due to my extremely lazy cooking habits. When I discover a dish that is both delicious and convenient, I will happily eat it for ten meals in a row until I never want to see it again.

That’s what happened with baked pumpkin. Thanks to Halloween, I acquired several pounds of jack-o-lantern leftovers and cooked it all into fragrant, chemical-spill-orange mush.

Since I grew up eating a lot of baked squash, my pile of pumpkin-and-butter-filled Tupperware promised delectable lunches and dinners for most of the week. I was equally thrilled about the food and about the chance to feel cool by eating something my coworkers thought was weird.

My first jack-o-lunch was like a mouthful of magical unicorn sunshine. I spent the afternoon dreaming about eating it for supper, and the gold-plated laughter of kittens and bunnies did not disappoint. Tuesday repeated all of Monday’s glory, if not more.

Three bites in to Wednesday’s serving of concentrated enchantment, I abruptly realized that this was the most disgusting food I had ever tried to swallow. If rubber cement and boogers had ugly children, they would beat this stuff instantly. And I had another quart at home.

I should know better by now. Childhood experience with the Bleh Threshold has already driven me away from Pop-Tarts, frozen chicken fried rice, butterscotch pudding, Teriyaki Chicken Bowl carry-out, Orange Crush, and some creamy casserole with a lot of black pepper, all of which are delicious three times a month and vomitous three times a week. Apparently the whole “too much of a good thing” idea is for real, despite protests from the internal four-year-old in charge of my self-control.

This distressing phenomenon isn’t limited to food. With computer games, the Bleh Threshold usually hits as soon as I am legitimately sick and have nothing else to do. With clothes, I tend to reach the BT upon finally seeing a picture of myself and realizing how my favorite sweater appears to the outside world.

With music, the process is drawn out and always tragically self-inflicted:

Anybody want some pumpkin?

EXTRA CREDIT: Hit Repeat and join the cycle!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Challenge

I know this week’s post is late, and I’m sorry. I’ve been busy. This is why:

A few days ago, I (and the rest of my office) received the following urgent message from our CEO:

In case anyone missed the important part, here it is again:

I am aware that my boss composed this message to be festive and cute. At the same time, a person presented with an offer like this would be crazy to refuse it. Or at least that person would not be me.

After a trip to Hobby Lobby and a few hours with the hot glue gun, I was able to show up on Tuesday as follows:

(TIP: If you get hot glue on your glasses, get used to having it there. It is now an immovable structural component.)

As it turned out, while my coworkers seemed pleased with the outfit, no one was surprised. A couple of them had been taking bets, not on whether I would dress like a turkey, but on which day. Apparently I'm becoming predictable.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Change Is Bad

This is my pillow.

* It is covered with pictures of African grassland animals, not a thriving biohazard community.

This is not my sleeping-at-night-in-a-bed pillow. I am a Grown-Up and I have a fluffy, white, safari-free one for that. It is my napping-on-the-couch-instead-of-balancing-my-checkbook pillow.

It is not actually very comfortable. My mom made it when I was three or four, and I used it for car trips and hitting my brother until the stuffing formed five or six large, tough clumps. This development made the pillow less satisfactory for sleeping but much more satisfactory as a weapon.

Eventually he got big enough to fight back, so the pillow was retired to a corner with the creepy stuffed cat and that baby doll whose legs were eaten by the dog.

One day in middle school, I came home to discover that my mom had been sewing. She had retrieved my decrepit pillow and lovingly refilled it with fresh, fluffy stuffing, cleverly transforming a disused childhood treasure into a functional element of my young adult life.

This was not okay.

The old stuffing had suddenly become crucially important to my emotional wellbeing. After several volleys of tearful accusations, my poor, bemused mother pointed me to the sewing room trash can, where the discarded clumps were headed for their eternal rest. I cleaned away all the clinging threads and scraps of fabric, savagely cast out the new filling, and returned things to their proper and natural state with a great sense of righteousness.

Using this pillow now is a lot like covering the ground with a sheet and some rocks and hoping you hit just right. I triumphed over the demons of change, though, and those lumps are my badge of honor. Along with the bruises on my head.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Robin Hood

I finally watched Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves—the one with Kevin Costner and a very confusing relationship between the Sheriff of Nottingham and a shrieking witch. That only leaves a half million more versions of Robin Hood to go!

Actually, I had seen this movie once before, but I didn’t remember anything after the first ten minutes because I was too busy being emotionally devastated. But we’ll get back to that in a minute.

Like the rest of my generation, I was a Disney junkie as a child. My parents say that I wasn’t very interested in the princesses, though. Instead, after I saw The Little Mermaid at about age four, I liked to stomp around the house wearing my mom’s snow parka and cackling like Ursula. Later I switched to Sleeping Beauty’s evil fairy godmother, Maleficent. She was cooler because she had green skin and no tentacles and a better name. And she could turn into a dragon.

But my favorite Disney movie of all time ever was Robin Hood. All the characters are animals, including a singing rooster voiced by Roger Miller, and Robin himself is a dashingly handsome red fox. I’m pretty sure that canine outlaw was my first true love.

Anyway, my mom knew how obsessed I was with the movie, even if she didn’t fully grasp my feelings for the hero, so she rented a copy of Prince of Thieves for me to see. “It’s a different version of Robin Hood,” she explained. “You’ll like it!” I was sure she was right.

I was seven or eight, and this was my first experience with multiple adaptations of the same story. I did already understand about the same actors playing different characters, though, thanks to concurrent viewing of Star Trek: The Next Generation and Reading Rainbow.

(TANGENT: I asked my mom one day why LeVar Burton had an earring on Reading Rainbow. She didn’t know how to explain this phenomenon to a first-grader, so she told me that he wanted to be sure we could tell the difference between LeVar and Geordi La Forge.)

So I curled up in a big chair and waited, overwhelmingly excited to see a whole new movie about my very favorite characters.

Imagine my disappointment when, instead of my furry beloved, I was faced with THIS guy and his radical 1991 costume epic pseudo-mullet.

I hadn’t known until that moment that the Robin Hood story was about humans. I assumed that any “different version” would have a different fox and a different bear, just like how the live-action version of 101 Dalmatians still has dogs.

This revelation ranks as one of the major traumas of my childhood, right up there with losing my second-favorite My Little Pony or almost getting swept out to sea.

I don’t remember watching past Robin’s return to England in the second scene. My mom probably turned it off, either because my innocent childhood illusions were shattering violently or because she noticed how many maimings, blindings, skewerings, and attempted rapes were going on.

Though I never gave up on Robin entirely, I eventually transferred most of my energies to practicing running on all fours and writing dozens of first-person stories about wolves, in case I was able to fulfill my career goal of becoming one. Of course, most of the process repeated itself a couple of years later when I got to see Balto.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Your Mother Should Know

I made Muddy Buddies this weekend. That’s where you soak Chex cereal in calories to create the most divine chocolate-peanut butter snack food ever to exist.

I was making them late at night for a Halloween party, and of course I had to keep tasting to make sure they came out okay. The following chart summarizes my experience with this process:

As it turns out, eating a pound and a half of sugar at midnight is not just a bad idea right then. It is also a bad idea the next morning.

Waking up with the digestive equivalent of a hangover was the latest in my body’s series of educational seminars, together titled “Your Mother Was Right.”

Apparently, “All that sugar will make you sick!” is an actual fact of nature and not just a way for parents to suck the fun from Halloween and birthdays. Who knew?

I also owe my mom credit for “It’s past your bedtime!” Sleep deprivation has been an awesome way for me to accomplish important stuff like reading Chuck Norris jokes online, but I’m gradually realizing that it has legitimate consequences such as exhaustion and acting stupid.

Extreme sleepiness routinely makes me too dumb to get another blanket or go to the bathroom when I wake up cold or...whatever. But I reached a new low last week when I woke up at 4 a.m. too dumb to roll over.

I had fallen asleep immediately upon contact with the bed, and it took a couple of hours for my body to work out that it was really uncomfortable and try to get my brain to fix the situation. Unfortunately, when I regained consciousness with my neck bent like an elbow, I couldn’t work out what to do about it.

So, Mama, I’m going to bed now. And I ate real food for supper along with my ice cream. I’m definitely going to keep swallowing watermelon seeds, though.

Monday, October 25, 2010

This Is Ridiculous

The public expects certain abilities from people with a college degree. I’m actually competent at many of these, including having a job, driving without hitting things, subsistence-level cooking, and buying my own laundry detergent. I even have a few bonus advanced skills, such as baking cakes and correctly using semicolons.

It’s the abilities generally expected of the average four-year-old that elude me. Stuff like drinking out of open containers.

Back in the mid ’00s, before we learned that hard plastics will kill us all, I carried a one-quart Nalgene water bottle with me everywhere and drank an amount of water that would drown most marine plants. Hydration is great and all that, but my bottle had a four-inch opening, and as far as coordination was concerned, I might as well have stuck my head in a stock tank.

Raising that bottle to my mouth was like trying to drink from a bucket on horseback at sea in a hurricane. With seizures.

I routinely ended up with drool-like rivulets cascading onto my clothing, particularly if I was preparing to look trustworthy and professional.

Since then I’ve replaced my Nalgene with a series of stainless steel bottles whose neck sizes ranged down to one inch, including one with a straw, and I still manage to spill all over myself at least twice a day. Plus, life events keep requiring me to drink out of cups and glasses containing things like red wine or Great Bluedini Kool-Aid, for which “just let it dry out” is not a viable solution.

I need to either gain more muscle control or invest in a cut-glass sippy cup.

UPDATE: I poured both tea and water down my face while writing this. I’m starting to understand why my parents didn’t like to let me have purple grape juice as a child.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Odometer, Part II

Remember how last month I was weirdly obsessed with my car's odometer? I kept getting close to seeing awesome numbers like 0987654, missing them by tenths of a mile, and feeling devastated way out of proportion to the actual magnitude of my tribulations.

Well, guess what? I suddenly realized that life is bigger than seven plastic wheels, conquered my need to control pointless minutiae, stopped talking to my car, forgot about palindromes, and haven't looked at the odometer since except to check when I'm next due for an oil change.

Just kidding. That's silly.

What I did instead was realize that even if I did catch sight of a magic number, it would only last a second or two before disappearing forever, and then I would have no purpose in life but to wait for the next one. I needed a way to immortalize these perfect events, so that I could remember forever the day I saw 1234321.

So I started driving everywhere with my camera in my purse, just in case a really cool number came up. It's a good thing I did, because this weekend the digits rolled past 099980, and I switched into Heightened State of Alert mode. After a few more miles, the effort of watching all the dials while simultaneously not crashing into anything became too taxing, and I had to take drastic steps.

It only took fifteen or thirty loops of an empty church parking lot to pull everything together, and just look at the reward for my dedication:

What could be more glorious, you ask? Only THIS:

Now I can start a photo album! One day when I'm old, my descendants will gather eagerly to see pictures of the day Great Grandma's car reached 101010.1 miles, 222.2 of them since the last tank of gas. Then I'll turn the page and show that piece of gum I stepped on that looked just like a question mark, the light through my kitchen window reaching exactly as far as the dishwasher, and the bag of M&Ms with the same number of every color. Finally, I'll regale them with the story of how I learned to rotate my socks to wear all the toes evenly, and they'll head home to bed, exhausted by all the excitement.

Either that or I'll put on slide shows for my 47 cats and ask myself questions in their voices.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

More Visual Aids

My office needed some more signs this week, so I drew these for the ladies’ room.

On the wall, they appear in a Choose Your Own Adventure format that I cannot recreate with my nonexistent web design skills, so you’re stuck with the more Goofus and Gallant layout below.

Also, the little rectangles on everyone’s shoulders are their nametags, with the yellow circle standing in for my organization’s actual logo.

Option 1:

Option 2:

I had these panels spread across my desk when they were spotted by a gentleman in his late 80s who volunteers at my office. He glanced at the one that proclaims, “I like filth!” and asked, “What format do you prefer—books, films, pictures?”

While I looked horrorstruck, he said, “I’ve never had an opening like that in my life!” and went on about his business.