Friday, February 29, 2008

Brooklyn, here I come!

Twelve hours from now (weather and O'Hare air traffic control permitting), I will be half way to New York for the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament! Here's how the tournament works: Six crosswords on Saturday, preliminary standings posted around 8 a.m. Sunday, one more crossword Sunday morning, then the finals (which I do not expect to be in, but I won't turn down an invitation). Friday and Saturday night will be devoted to schmoozing at the hotel bar. Daytime breaks are likely to take me to Jacques Torres's chocolate shop and other short Brooklyn excursions.

And late at night, when the bar closes? Time for bed. In my hotel room that I will have all to myself. I don't mind sharing a bed with my husband—in fact, I much prefer it—but the kid, ai-ai-ai. Most nights, he wanders down the hall before sunrise and climbs into bed with Mom and Dad. And sometimes he snores. Or tosses and turns. Or grinds his teeth so loud. So two nights to myself. Yay!

Friday, February 22, 2008

The insanity of clothing sizes

Explain this to me.

I bought some women's t-shirts from the Gap about 15 years ago, size medium. They've been downgraded to pajama drawer status, but they're loose and comfy, and the cotton's nice and soft.

In the interim, breast augmentation surgery has made a few million American women's boobs bigger, and WonderBras and their rivals added padding to women who have eschewed implants. And the population has also grown increasingly obese over the years.

So how come now, an American Apparel women's tee in size extra-large barely stretches over my torso? I have a "normal" body mass index, so it's not as if I'm freakishly outsized. I know the snug fit has become more popular in the last five or ten years, but really: an XL is too small for me? WTF? I don't get what's happening here.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Randy Pausch's "last lecture"

Apparently there's this concept in academia of the "last lecture"—if you could only lecture once more before you died, what would you say?

Oprah's favorite doctor, Mehmet Oz, heard about an engineer type named Randy Pausch who's dying of pancreatic cancer, and Oprah had Pausch on her show to reprise his "last lecture." The video is here, and it's well worth the 11 minutes it takes to watch if you aren't one of the millions who've already seen it.

It's inspiring (and funny, and touching, and straightforward without being trite), and it reminds us all to keep our focus on what's important. My cynicism put itself on hold for those 11 minutes.

Monday, February 18, 2008

The name's Tempic. Peter Tempic.

Benjamin recently suggested that I should get one of those Peter Tempic mattresses. That was a couple weeks ago, and it still cracks me up.

That boy rocks, it must be said. He's funny (intentionally—not just with malapropisms), he's sweet, he always praises my (all too rare) cooking. And he's a pretty damned good eater for a 7-year-old. We went out for dinner tonight, to an Indian restaurant. (Free street parking right in front! What are the odds, right?) He loved dipping his paneer pakora (batter-fried cheese) in both the tomatoey sauce from my alu matar (potatoes and peas in a tomato-onion sauce) and some mango chutney. He had some chicken pakora too, which looked to have tandoori seasoning inside the batter coating. Maybe it was too ordinary for him—he didn't eat that much of it. And for dessert, we all shared gulab jamun, those doughnutty balls in a sweet syrup. Neither Ben nor I liked the dessert, but hey, we both tried it.

I was too afraid to try Indian food until I was nearly 30. The kid, he is a good eater, adventurous and open to trying new things. Mr. Tangerine waited out Ben's infancy with great trepidation, wondering if my picky-eater genes would win out. Nope, it appears not. Ben seems to have inherited his dad's fondness for flavor, variety, and food explorations.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Creepy phone call

By the way, at my other blog, I wrote up the game show experience. The guy who (undeservedly) won took umbrage at how I portrayed him in my blog last week. And he tracked down my phone number. And he called me. At my house. At 10 p.m.

That's fucking creepy, right? I mean, how much of a sense of entitlement do you have to have to call a near stranger after 9 p.m., first off? Isn't that the general rule of thumb, that you don't call someone after 9 unless you know them well enough to know it's OK? And to phone a blogger? WTF? Wouldn't the first line of action be a blog comment or e-mail?

I asked why he cared what anyone else says about him—why can't he be just content with the seven grand? And do you know what he said? That the money is nothing to him—he can make that in a day. Obnoxious, right?

What a twit.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Cognitive dissonance

The days grow longer now that we're just over a month away from the vernal equinox. Spring is coming! The sun's not setting until about 5:30 now, so there's an extra hour of daylight in the afternoon.

However: It's 13°F. And that's a good 15° warmer than yesterday.

So which is it? In this awkward in-between stage, do we focus on the lengthening days and strengthening sunshine, or do we wallow (indoors, of course, with fleece and flannel) in the arctic chill, watching the snow fall and wondering if our corner of the planet will ever thaw?

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Watch me!

A lovely friend who shall remain nameless owing to copyright issues has put my Merv Griffin's Crosswords episode on YouTube (sans the first round, which I wasn't in): Part 1 and Part 2.

What struck me at the beginning of the first round was this: "Hey, Ilene and Jeff were way thinner than that!" Somehow, all the contestants (self included) look heavier than in real life, whereas Ty Treadway looks the same on TV as in person. How can that be? I swear he didn't look anorexic in person. (Just foxy.)

Thursday, February 07, 2008

One fine day

Sometimes at bedtime, I like to ask Ben what his favorite part of the day was. Today, he listed four things:

  • Crosswords—seeing me on TV.

  • Grammy—my mom came up to the city to watch the game show with us.

  • The assembly—he found out that we're invited to the school's awards assembly on Friday. (I think he's getting perfect attendance, and that his two January tardies didn't count against that. He was on the honor roll in the first quarter, but not for the second quarter that just ended.)

  • The ISAT—Ben's class is beginning to practice for the ISAT standardized tests. (Thanks, No Child Left Behind, for making teachers teach to the test!) Bless this child, he truly enjoyed the test! He finished too quickly, apparently, and had to read his chapter book while waiting for his classmates to catch up.


Yesterday, Peapod delivered my grocery order. While putting the food away, I encountered a rogue container of cottage cheese. I seldom buy cottage cheese and when I do, the 24-ounce tub is far too big.

When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.

When life gives you a bucket of cottage cheese, make sweet cheese pie.

It tastes sort of like cheesecake, sort of like flan. And everyone in the house thinks it's yummy. Why, you might even acquire cottage cheese on purpose to make this.

In my head, I was making this for my dinner last night. Yes, the recipe says it serves 6 to 8 for dessert. Yes, the words sweet and pie are in the very name. But it has cheese! And eggs! And milk! That's good for me, right? Calcium, protein, vitamin D? Yep. Good for me.


The other day, Ben was drinking milk and burping. Apropos of nothing save his own burps, he announced: "When Dad burps, it smells like beer. When you burp, it smells like Coke. They both smell horrible." Gawd, I love that kid! He now says he's the Crackmaster 3000 because he's always cracking people up.

Monday, February 04, 2008

An olio

(Olio is crosswordese for miscellany.)
  • That new "low-calorie hydrator" from Gatorade called G2—you want a low-calorie means of rehydrating yourself? It's called W-A-T-E-R. "But Orange, I need those electrolytes, don't I?" Eight ounces of regular Gatorade gives you 37 mg of potassium and 90 mg of sodium. You should consume about 3,500 mg a day of potassium, so a big bottle of Gatorade will provide about 3% of your daily allotment. Orange juice gives you three times as much potassium as Gatorade, ounce for ounce. And skim milk? Eight ounces gives you 407 mg of potassium and 127 mg of sodium. So drink a few ounces of milk and a bunch of water and voila, rehydration with electrolytes! Screw Gatorade and their low-calorie hooha.
  • I wouldn't have been rooting against the New England Patriots if all those Bostonians hadn't been so obnoxious about both the Pats and the Red Sox. They became more arrogant and loud than Yankees fans, and that really took some doing. Undefeated throughout the season and playoffs? Yeah, fine. Blah, blah, blah. You lost the Super Bowl. Now will you people hush next year? Modesty will make your team much more popular.
  • Oh! If your local TV station airs Merv Griffin's Crosswords, my appearance is supposed to air on Wednesday, February 6 (the first episode if your station airs two episodes a day). You can find channels and airtimes here. (Some of the info may be out of date.) Look for a turquoise V-neck sweater and a scintillating intellect.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Six useless facts about me

My old college friend Mo tagged me with a meme.

The rules:

1) Link to the person that tagged you.
2) Post the rules on your blog.
3) Share six non-important things/habits/quirks about yourself.
4) Tag at least three people at the end of your post and link to their blogs.
5) Let each person know they have been tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.
6) Let the fun begin!

#1 I'm a two-footed driver. I know you're supposed to use your right foot for both braking and accelerating, but I use my left foot for braking. (You know what's tricky? Using your left foot for both pedals. I had to do that when my right foot hurt, and it was incredibly non-ergonomic.)

#2 One of my worst procrastinations is putting off making those practical phone calls that need to be made—like scheduling appointments. Once I'm actually on the phone, it's totally fine and not at all stressful, so why do I put it off?

#3 I grew up in a suburb that was about 20% black, a teeny amount Asian and Latino, and mostly white; with busing, the schools were mostly white, about a third black, and a smidgen other. Growing up somewhere really homogeneous seems foreign and exotic and a little scary to me.

#4 I prefer natural fibers like cotton and cashmere (though I loathe itchy wool) and cannot abide and crappy acrylic. I make a huge exception to the preference for natural fibers when it comes to fleece. Polartec, microfleece, and all the finer grades of polyester fleece are wondrous and comfy (if a bit staticky on withdrawal from the dryer)—but shouldn't I feel just a smidgen guilty that they're made from petroleum? And microfiber undies—smooth and comfy, and I love 'em, but I think they're derived from oil too.

#5 I'm a hot-blooded mama. I hate to feel hot and I hate to sweat. If I had to choose between 0° and 100°, I'll bundle up and take the 0°. Coats that are extra-warm—made from alpaca, say—are of no interest to me.

#6 I still chew my nails (and so does my son—his own nails, that is). I'm still waiting for the cure. Do you have a cure?

I thought about not tagging anyone, but let's see if we can't pry into the secrets of Jay, Narya, and Psycho Kitty.