Thursday, November 29, 2007

Bad sex

Enough about smelly washers! (Not really. If you have more to say, you can still comment on the previous post. Or e-mail me. Two friends have e-mailed me from the other side of the Atlantic about their own smelly washer woes. Mind you, I have but two friends on the other side of the Atlantic, so 100% of them have smelly washers. Whereas I know scores of people in the U.S. who have not mentioned smelly washers. Is this a cultural thing? Does America have washer superiority, or is it just chance, this disparity?)

Anyway—Nancy Friedman's Away With Words blog pointed me towards the Bad Sex Awards of 2007, dishonoring the literary flights of fancy that have done the most harm to the cause of good sex writing this year. Norman Mailer won for a horrid imagining of Adolf Hitler's parents' bad sex, complete with a penis that was "now as soft as a coil of excrement." (Eww!) That's pretty awful, all right, but Gary Shteyngart's Absurdistan offers this gem:

"You wanna pop me?" she said. This must have been some new-fangled youth term. The verb "to pop."

"I wanna bust a nut inside you, shorty," I said. "I wanna make you sweat, boo. Let's do this thing."

I'd like to say that she stepped out of her jeans, but in truth it took a while to maneuver two large dimpled buttocks and the accompanying vaginal wedge out of the hard shell of her Miss Sixty denims. We huffed and sweated; I had her hanging off the edge of the bed while I gripped the cuffs of her jeans; I nearly pulled a groin muscle getting her naked; but through it all I stayed hard, a testament to how much I wanted her. She kept her T-shirt on throughout the initial popping, which is just how I like my sex, infused with a little mystery. I slipped my hands beneath the cotton tee and felt the smooth creamery of her breasts while saving the visuals of those brown glossy globes for later. Her vagina was all that, as they say in the urban media - a powerful ethnic muscle scented by bitter melon, the breezes of the local sea, and the sweaty needs of a tiny nation trying to breed itself into a future. Was it especially hairy? Good Lord, yes it was. Mountains of kinkiness black as the night above the Serengeti with paprika shoots at the edges - the pubic hair alone must have clocked in at half a kilo, while providing the inspiration for two discernible trails of hair, one running up to the navel, the other to the base of the spine.

The short first season of the HBO series, Tell Me That You Love Me, recently ended. Whew! Not a moment too soon. The talky, whiny, pouty people weren't a problem for me. And I pitied the character who'd been married for years, had been faking orgasm all along, and had never managed to learn how to masturbate successfully (as if this is rocket science!)—at least she mastured that skill in the season finale. The show had almost as much sexual content as a Skinemax movie, and yet it was 99.9% unerotic—much like the Bad Sex finalists of fiction.

Good gravy! The world scarcely needs more bad sex.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Is your washer smelly?

Funny thing, this. Somehow, back in the day, this blog got a few hits from people Googling I had no idea what that was all about. Washers get smelly? There is a website for that?

Then my laundry machine turned on me. There was a funky mildew smell, and it wasn't from festering wet laundry left inside for too long.

I removed the agitator mechanism and scrubbed it and bleach-sprayed it. There! All clean!

Except...not. Still had the stink.

I spent a few months being mystified and a not a little frustrated by the recalcitrant odor. Then I read a blog post that alluded to search terms leading people to the blog, which always has the effect of luring me into sweeping the dust out from under SiteMeter and checking out my referral records. And there it was: Could this be my savior?

I checked out the website for the first time. Seems like hooey—unless you happen to be vexed by refractory olfactory assaults wrought by your washing machine. I figured I had nothing to lose but $19 and the desire to drop $800 on a brand-new stackable laundry unit, so I placed my order. A few days later a padded envelope arrived, bearing a ziploc bag full of a white granular substance and a xeroxed page of instructions. [Aside: Yep, I just used two trade names as generic terms without capitalizing them. I still tend to capitalize Googling, but I'll give up the G soon enough.]

It took a few days to summon up the gumption and the time to soak the washer tub with hot water and the Purewasher powder for a few hours, soak it again overnight, and run a few rinses in the morning. The powder itself has almost no smell, and while you don't want to leave it on your hands, there's no need to protect your skin with gloves.

The verdict: It's not quite back to virgin washing machine non-odor, but the remaining mildewy smell is faint.

The people say that overuse of laundry detergent leads to this fungal overgrowth somehow, and they advise using about a quarter of what the detergent bottle calls for. I do wonder if the Ecos lavender laundry detergent I've been using predisposed my washer to the stink. I used less than the eco-savvy bottle called for, but maybe that was still too much—or maybe it's the detergent itself that's the problem. I bought a small bottle of Tide and have been using a teeny amount of it for each load, and it seems to keep the mildew smell at bay. Every fourth load or so, I use the lavender detergent, but I get paranoid that I'm smelling mildew after each Ecos load.

The amount of Tide I'm using is halfway up to line 1, or about a half inch up from the bottom of the cap. (My washing machine has a small capacity, but I was using between lines 1 and 2 back in the day.) The fragrance is still plenty strong with such a small amount of detergent, so I'll bet's advice about using a fraction of the usual amount is spot-on.

I feel like such a good citizen of the internet now that the people Googling will actually find on-topic information at my blog. As for the "why is my poo orange" folks—sorry, I can't answer that question.

Monday, November 26, 2007

An olio

  • On the way home from lunch, we passed a poster for the new Rambo movie coming out in January. The writer, director, and star is Sylvester Stallone, of course—and he's 61 years old now. Grambo!
  • At lunch, Ben sampled my wan fruit cup containing honeydew, cantaloupe, and one lone grape. He hasn't really tasted the non-watermelon melons much before, so I was curious to see whether he'd like them. "They could make it crunchier," he concluded.
  • Also at lunch, Ben was motivated to polish off his French fries by dipping them in grape jelly.
  • The combination did nothing for me, but you might like it. He topped his burger with barbecue sauce and French fries. (I think he might enjoy the chip butty.)
  • Me, I'm a crossword geek. I make no secret of that. I'm also a crossword snob, and disdain the lesser crossword venues out there. If your crossword tastes are more democratic than mine, I'll bet you can still identify some flaws in this puzzle.
  • I upgraded my Mac OS to Leopard and discovered that the new version of the Safari browser clashes with Blogger. Not only clashes, but crashes. Repeatedly. So I took the advice of a couple readers of my crossword blog and downloaded Camino. Wow! All those handy-dandy Blogger features you can use when you're composing a post, that were never available to me in Safari? They're very nice. Text of all sizes, text of all colors, a variety of fonts, and the bulleted list format of this post—all quick and easy buttons. I will try not to be annoyingly amateurish with these new toys that approximately 3.5 gazillion Windows-based Blogger users have had for years.
  • When I bought Leopard at the Apple Store, the checkout process was awesome. The guy who was answering my questions ran my credit card on his little pocket doohickey and e-mailed the receipt to me, and I never had to stand in line. Genius! And why am I buying myself software so close to a big gift-giving holiday? Simple: Making Christmas shopping easier for Mr. Tangerine. He wants the iPod Touch, so I think that means I ought to spend more money on myself and give him the gift-giving credit.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Orange, no tangerine

That's what goes in the sweet potatoes—my mother-in-law's recipe. I popped my sweet potato cherry, so to speak, with her Thanksgiving sweet potatoes. I'd grown up as a picky eater, but then around 1990, I bravely ventured a taste of Mom's yams, and yum! Could easily double for dessert.

It keeps really well—this I know from Thanksgiving weekends when I'm still enjoying the leftovers come Sunday—so Ben and I made the sweet potatoes this afternoon. He helped me peel them (...I think I should've peeled all the way down to the brighter orange flesh to avoid the stringiness I fear is lurking in the casserole dish now) and boil them. We're having a small dinner group tomorrow—my mom and cousin are joining our threesome. So I figured five smallish sweet potatoes was enough for us. (Second thoughts: The leftovers are so good, I will want more, and I won't have them.) Boil for 45 minutes, drain the water, mash 'em. Melt together 1 cup of brown sugar and a stick of butter (well, that's the quantity for eight spuds, not five) and stir those in. Also stir in about a half to two thirds of a can of thawed OJ concentrate. Mmm, orangey goodness! Orange color + orange flavor = Orange Tangerine favorite.

If you're serving them right away, you might want to warm up the OJ concentrate first. Otherwise, throw it in a casserole dish and before serving, bake at 375° for 30 to 45 minutes.

What else is on the menu? Turkey, coming cooked from the grocery store. We'll just heat it up tomorrow. Dinner rolls, white and nubby multigrain. Mashed potatoes—oh yes, mashed potatoes. I like to load 'em with butter and sour cream and some black pepper, maybe a little rosemary if the mood strikes. French green beans, which is to say skinny green beans served simply with butter. The can of cream soup plus canned deep-fried onions thing has always grossed me out. Dumbly, I decided not to buy too many beans, and now I'm thinking how much I'd like to have those for leftovers lunch Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. My mom's bringing stuffing, gravy, and a cranberry-orange relish.

And for dessert, pecan pie. Ben and I need to roll out the pastry dough for the crust. I got the recipe from my friend Carla last year. She graduated from pastry chef school, but the all-butter recipe she likes is from her friend's late mother. I suck at the rolling and shaping of dough, and the dough wasn't cohering into a ball so I kept adding a little more milk until suddenly...too sticky. (I think that's how it went last year, though, and it tasted good anyway.) As for the pie filling—oh! the pie filling! It's my dad's recipe modification. Take the pecan pie recipe on a bottle of Karo dark corn syrup. Triple the quantity of pecans. Throw in a little extra butter, because butter is yummy. Use a deep-dish crust to accommodate the extra volume of pecans. The resulting pie: It's pecans all the way down. The wanness of a standard pecan pie, with a thin layer of nuts suspended atop an inch of goo? Not for me. I like it this way. One option I do sometimes is stirring in chocolate chips to make a chocolate pecan pie. Not sure which way I'll go this time—it may depend on whether I have two pie pans and enough crust to make both kinds of pie.

What am I grateful for this Thanksgiving holiday? Two things, mainly: That I don't have to travel (we're expecting the season's first snowfall here) and that the turkey will be cooked by Jewel. Not so sentimental, but there you have it.

Hope you all have a relaxing, safe, warm, nourishing holiday and that the people you're with don't drive you bonkers!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Close encounters

So, I spent three days in L.A. and the most famous person I saw was "Merv Griffin's Crosswords" host Ty Treadway. (Who is, for the record, warm, genial, and rather handsome. And I also met him a month before going on the show, at the Chicago auditions. I got a hug.)

I have seen famous people in other cities, though. Here in Chicago, at a California Pizza Kitchen, Mr. Tangerine and I saw Jackie Mason 10 or 15 years ago. He was in town for his one-man show, I think. He appeared to be dining with a bodyguard or other entourage member. He wandered around the dining room scoping out plates of food. When he passed our table, Mr. Tangerine said, "Jackie Mason!" Mason replied, "Hey. I'm just lookin' for a good item." Ever since then, Mr. Tangerine and I have always enjoyed looking for a good item when we're out on the town. Why read a menu when you can eyeball the food other people are eating?

Also in the 10-to-15-years-ago range, I rode in an Orlando hotel elevator with Carrot Top. Of course, I wasted no time stripping off his clothes and mine and savagely pleasuring him because he's a celebrity. No, wait, that didn't happen.

I've been to concerts, of course, and I saw Patrick Stewart in The Tempest on Broadway, but those don't count as celebrity encounters because they cost me money.

I once swooned because I reached out and touched the fuzzy peach sweater of a soap opera actor at a mall appearance. He was the guy who played Sean Cudahy on All My Children, and the year must've been somewhere around 1980 because I saw him with my best friend in 8th grade, Leila. (A few years later, Leila saw Cheap Trick's Robin Zander in an airport.)

Edited to add what I just remembered: At the 2006 Sundance Film Festival, I saw Glenn Close and Rachel Dratch, and chatted with documentarian Morgan Spurlock of Super Size Me fame. And at this year's American Crossword Puzzle Tournament, I saw Phil Donahue.

So, what famous people have you seen in the flesh? C'mon, spill some dirt!

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Feral meet-up

Ah, who doesn't love a bloggerly meet-up? I don't doesn't. Which is to say, I love such a thing. Tonight, the Feral Mom (am too lazy to link—she's accessible from the "bloggers I've met" blogroll) hauled her station wagoning self to North Hollywood/Studio City to rescue me from the hotel and take me out to dinner. She found a neighborhood bar/restaurant that had zero beautiful Hollywood types, dingy lighting, no smoking (oh, California, you seductive slut, with your non-smoking law in bars, you make me yearn for the day, less than two months off, when I can pub-crawl in Chicago without getting cigarette-stanky), and decent food. I had two Newcastles, and you know (or maybe you don't) that I am a total lightweight. I also had half a complimentary shot of homemade peach vodka (can you say "cough syrup"?) but could not bring myself to finish it.

Anyway, Her Feralness and I had a lovely time. We talked about parenting (hey, if you have trouble getting your kid to sleep at the right time and for long enough, check out Mary Sheedy Kurcinka's book, Sleepless in America. It saved my sanity, improved my kid's behavior and school performance—yo, I am evangelical about this book. Really. Have also recommended it to Bitch Ph.D. and Tertia of So Close, also in the blogrolls. I don't think I've blogged about the book, but I certainly meant to. Completely empathetic approach, with empathy towards both the parent and the kid.), dissertations (well, Feral's working on one—I haven't done the academia thing since college), parent-at-playground revelations, her famous Franma, world media domination, and general shooting-the-shit topics.

It is always a treat to hang out with a blogular friend who, in the flesh, is just like a real human friend and not just words on a screen. Feral? Is awesome. Alas, she did not take me to her Trader Joe's store, where the cashiers and baggers apparently are all horny. L.A. is just too sprawled out for it to be convenient to do that. Feral is a driving champ! She drove 45 minutes just to pick me up and go two miles away for dinner. So sweet!

Tomorrow, this Bitch B.A. will commune with Bitch Ph.D. and her Pseudonymous Kid. Haven't seen them since the summer of 2006! We are overdue. I have no idea what we will be doing. Something about a shop near Echo Park, maybe? I'm game. I didn't come to California to go to Disneyland and take a bus tour of the stars' homes, after all.

Oh, I didn't mention this trip at all, did I? Yeah, I'm gonna be taping the crosswords game show on Monday, so I'm in L.A. this weekend.

So I'm here for the game show, and came in a day early so I'd have a chance to see my bloggin' friends in person on their new(ish) home turf.

A week ago, I think, the high temps were in the low 80s. This weekend? Low 60s. Sigh. Still better than the seasonably Novemberish weather than Chicago's been having, though, so I will take it. It'll be nice not to be deciding between the fall jacket and the winter coat, and do I need gloves. No, in Californ-eye-A, one does not need gloves.

I don't know if all game shows are like this or not, but do you know what the rules are for the taping day? No use of cellphones, no laptops. Can you imagine? I can't help but think that prison rules are more lax than that, though I may be mistaken. After a long day at the studio and a long flight home, I will be exhausted—and woefully behind on my blog-reading addiction. All right, so really, I'll be missing less than 48 hours. I can catch up. But it feels so...foreign. And deprived.

Gawd, am I whining about the rigors of going on TV? Apparently it is all going to my head. But what doesn't really?

While I'm here, a brief Ben update: Mah boy done made the honor roll! (Yes, it's second grade. I know.) Report cards came out on Thursday, and he had all As and Bs (well, there was a B– in there). And also perfect attendance! Quick. Let me find something wooden to knock on and be all superstitious. Somehow he wasn't sick all quarter. I think this is the first time he hasn't missed any school in a quarter.

There. Are you falling asleep now? Because I am. G'night!

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Haiku festival!

It's time for another round of JP's haiku festival:

Haiku and senryuu, of course have the same three-line formal structure: five syllables in the first line, seven syllables in the second, and five syllables in the last line. I like to have one line (doesn’t matter which one) that has an imperfection of plus-or-minus one syllable, just because imperfection is tragic, and tragic is beautiful. So I’d live to see your 5-8-5s, your 5-7-4s, your 6-7-5s…. whatever, as long as it’s only one imperfection. Perfect 5-7-5s will be accepted as well, but they are a little obvious, don’t you think?

Of course, free form haiku are welcome as well; heavy on the imagery, as stingy as possible when it comes to the syllable count.

As you know, the haiku form is related to seasons and nature. Senryuu, while sharing the same formal properties of haiku, are supposed to be funny. They can be witty political satire, golf-clappy high brow social commentary, or a juicy fart joke.

So put on your Inspiration Hat and go to JP's blog to contribute your haiku or senryuu by November 18.

Who's your candidate?

My sister sent me this link to a political quiz, originally from Minnesota Public Radio. You answer 11 questions about political issues (ranging from abortion rights and immigration to stem-cell research and the line-item veto), and the candidates are assigned scores based on how much they agree with your preferences.

I'm a lifelong lefty, so it's no surprise that Kucinich was my best match (54 points). Richardson (52) and Edwards (49) were my runners-up. I don't know much about Richardson, but I do like Edwards and wish more voters were fond of him.

Who are your love matches?

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

I am delighted: Ergo, I must blog it posthaste

Two Mondays in a row, I somehow managed to get a teeny splinter of glass in my foot. Last week, I couldn't find the super-fine-point splinter tweezers, but managed to extract the sliver anyway.

Today, the splinter dug deeper into my big toe and hid from the regular tweezers. This evening, my hero came home from work and found the splinter tweezers. (Mr. Tangerine! Who is always asking me to find things!) I reported to the procedure room (a.k.a. the living room sofa) and Dr. Tangerine—who has the dexterity of a watch repairman—set to work. I braced for twinges of pain, but none came, even though my Dr. Tangerine prodded out two wee shards of glass.

He got up to put away the tweezers and I got up to blog, remarking, "I must blog this immediately!" Is there any more heartfelt way to show one's appreciation than blogging it? I say no.

Also, I can't recommend the splinter tweezers highly enough. If you can't find one at your local drugstore, order yours online. You will be glad you did the next time you or someone in your household has a splinter.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Oy, the squirrels

When I was a teenager, my dad loathed squirrels. He bought a lot of bird seed to fill his squirrel-proof bird feeders, and those pesky squirrels managed to outfox human engineering every time. The first time I truly understood the Fear and Loathing of Squirrels was three years ago, at Flea's son's birthday party.

Then last year, a squirrel chewed through the screen of my kitchen door and had a freakout when Ben discovered him. (I now know what squirrel poop looks like.) I had a freakout myself, of course. This summer, another squirrel came through the kitchen door. Squirrels have gnawed through the hard plastic below the windshield of my car. A week ago, after a window had inadvertently been left open a few inches, Ben and I went out to the car and found a squirrel wandering about the vehicle's interior.

We know squirrels have a taste for acorns, nuts, bird seed, and bread products. They also like to get their vitamin A, it seems, as they like to nosh on jack-o-lanterns.

Exhibit A: Jack-o-lantern on Halloween. It has been outside for less than six hours. One eye socket and one tooth have been nibbled, and the "lid" is missing.

Exhibit B: Jack-o-lantern on November 2, after 48 hours of squirrel exposure. It looks like the jack-o-lantern is a heavy meth user. Every tooth is gone, and the lips, such as they were, have been chewed off. A squirrel neurosurgeon appears to have performed a frontal lobotomy.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Delinquent blogger notes Halloween

I have been remarkably uninspired of late. But you know, a zillion other bloggers have been posting adorable pictures of their kids dressed up for Halloween, so I'd better jump on this bandwagon before it has left the barn. So to speak.

In our part of the city, some large condo buildings have trick-or-treating for the residents, and pretty much all the other buildings are candy-free zones. Oh, there may be some hapless and kind-hearted souls with huge bowls of candy, but they often languish all evening long when no kids show up. I mean, if you're a kid, are you going to go to an apartment or condo building, buzz the intercom to be let into the building, and then knock on a bunch of doors where no one's expecting costumed kids? No.

So it's wonderful that the neighborhood association (which I haven't joined because it appears to be largely a white yuppie I'm not much of a joiner) has organized a dedicated trick-or-treating zone for the past few years. We walk a half mile away to reach a half-mile stretch of a residential street where maybe 40% of the buildings are taking part. So that's a one-mile candy route if you do both sides of the street.

The last couple years, Mr. Tangerine and I were Ben's trick-or-treating escorts. This year, I told some of the other moms at the school playground about the candy zone, and we made plans to meet up. Mr. Tangerine was willing to come along, but Ben informed him that he must not. Just as well, because oh! Did those boys ever have themselves a grand time. Five boys racing pell-mell down the sidewalk—they were in such a hurry to find chocolate sources that they ran right past a couple gates. "Whoa, whoa, whoa! Back here, boys!" By the end of it, the kids were so worn out they started roughhousing a bit too much. Sugar high + bedtime + two-mile walk/run = wildness.

I'm not going to show you how Ben's costume looked. Store-bought Darth Vader costume, no big deal. And with the mask on, you can't tell it's him. And his friends' costumes were hidden by their coats (savvy Ms. Orange had Ben wear so many layers inside his costume, he didn't need a coat). But this photo encapsulates the sheer joy of trick-or-treating, doesn't it?

Those smiles, the intoxicating aroma of a bag full of candy, the promise of satisfying your sweet tooth with five lbs. of candy—I haven't dressed up in a costume in at least a decade, but damn, I think I love Halloween.