This is how Duncan MacLeod should’ve carried his katana

It’s a rainy day, and rainy days make me wish for umbrellas. Not that I don’t have some — I do. Long ones, and short ones, good ones and crappy ones, and intermediate ones that make me glad they’re not crappy and sad they’re not good all at the same time. I think I’ve spent a total of zero dollars on umbrellas since moving to DC, mostly because on rainy nights after closing, the lost and found bin at Information gets pillaged* by employees who would rather not be drenched when they get home.

So, UrbanBohemian tweeted (“Where I can shop for a well-crafted big gay rainbow umbrella. Can I combine a rainbow pattern w/the Blade Runner shaft?”) about a Blade Runner umbrella, and I saw this beauty on the side bar:

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It’s an umbrella disguised as a katana. Part of me says: “This is a really neat idea! Why didn’t I think of it?” And part of me says: “Dude, if you buy this and carry it with you, every single block, cops are going to stop you with pulled handguns. You’ll never got nowhere, and you might get shot.”

On the bright side, if I did, I wouldn’t have to go back to work. Hooray!

Also, the dork in me says: “Y’know, if Duncan MacLeod concealed his sword as an umbrella, he wouldn’t have to suffer through people asking him, ‘Dude, why are you wearing a heavy leather duster in summer?’”

*Oh, and save your moralizing: like you’ve never gone into a restaurant in the rain and asked if you’ve left yours even though you’ve never eaten there. Liar.

The New Circulator Route Doesn’t Actually Pick Up on McPherson Square, Though.

I’m used to the dark of night, not the light of day, and as the train emerges from the tunnel, the latter still has the power to surprise me, even though it’s been this way for a week or so: am I late? This early in the morning — I’m usually out the front door of my building shortly after six — the summer heat has yet to hit, and it feels wonderful outside.

Yeah, that’s right, summer heat. Spring? That was Friday the 24th. Started and ended. It’s summer now, bitches. A fact that became incredibly clear to me last night when I walked home after a shift at the Bookstore: it was, I suppose, slightly cooler than it had been five hours earlier, but I was a sticky mess when I made it two miles north and found to my incredible displeasure that I’d left my ceiling fan off and my apartment was warm and toasty.

I prefer last night, though, to Saturday. As we were closing, bright flashes illuminated the intersection we sit on. “Is that a storm?” I asked. “Traffic camera, probably,” someone else thought.

No, it was lightning. After we’d chased the customers out, and finished the recovery, and taken off our name-tag/lanyards and clocked out and grabbed our stuff and made our way upstairs to be checked out, and that’s when we all sort of realized that, yes, indeed, that’s rain.

And none of us have umbrellas.

So we all sort of eyed each other, and then made a mad dash for the lost-and-found box. I snagged a gray umbrella, but I would’ve taken the hot-pink one. See, I’d planned on walking home, but two miles in a downpour? Not my cup of tea. My first plan was pretty basic: I’d walk a block to the Metro, hop on, get off, walk the block and a half home. Armed with an umbrella, easy as pie, right?

Wait, what’d I do with my SmarTrip card? Then I remember: I left it hanging on my closet door. I check my wallet: do I have enough cash for a paper ticket?

No, I’ve got a solid buck.

Wait: flash. What accepts a single dollar?

The Circulator! And what new route does the Circulator have? That’s right: McPherson Square, only a few blocks to the East, right to the Metro stop near my apartment. Awesome! So I step out of the Bookstore, open my umbrella, and proceed east to McPherson Square, where the rain stops doing a hard drizzle and starts a full-on downpour, and in this downpour, even with umbrella, I’m soaked, and circling the square twice, what do I see?

I’ll tell you what I don’t see: I don’t see a Circulator stop, and the only Circulator I see is going to Georgetown. I’m tempted to get on, because I’d just finished reading the Exorcist and it scared the bejesus out of me and I want to see the stairs, but I don’t want to walk home from Georgetown in a thunderstorm, either.

I’m on the verge of panic. Well, okay, not panic, but here’s the thing: I’ve just walked a good distance out of my way. I’m tired, I’m very wet, I don’t want to trudge two miles home in a thunderstorm, but I can’t find the fucking Circulator. There’s a bum looking at me from a park bench, and I’m half hoping he’ll ask me for money so I can give him my dollar and have no choice in the matter.

On my third lap around McPherson Square, this is when my brain decides to start working: on the eastern edge, I notice that the street is not 14th as I had assumed, but rather, 15th. And I know that the Circulator runs down 14th Street. So now I’m a little puzzled, especially since the Circulator bills itself as running from Woodley Park to McPherson Square, why doesn’t it pick up on McPherson Square?

And I see my answer as I walk east: oh, look, there’s an entrance to the McPherson Square Metro on 14th and I Street, and there, catty-corner, is a bright Circulator stop notice. And there, even more beautiful, is a Circulator coming down the street. Even better? My dollar totally worked.

Who Is John Galt?

CNN.com:

In the midst of the credit crisis and the federal government’s massive bailout plan, the works of Rand, a proponent of a libertarian, free-market philosophy she called Objectivism, are getting new attention.

“If only ‘Atlas’ were required reading for every member of Congress and political appointee in the Obama administration. I’m confident that we’d get out of the current financial mess a lot faster,” Wall Street Journal columnist Stephen Moore wrote in early January.

It’s obviously getting attention from the general public. Rand book sales are “going through the roof,” said Yaron Brook, the president of the Ayn Rand Institute. According to Brook, “Atlas Shrugged,” her most famous novel, has sold more copies in the first four months of 2009 than it did for all of 2008 — and in 2008, it sold 200,000 copies. It’s been in Amazon.com’s top 50 for more than a month.

Not bad for a 1,100-page doorstop of a book that came out in 1957, by an author who died in 1982.

Working at a bookstore, I can attest that Any Rand’s books are selling quite a bit more than they had been. In fact, I bought a copy of Atlas Shrugged a few years ago. I only got a few hundred pages into it before I gave up, and it sits alone and dusty on a bookshelf in my apartment.

But something occurred to me today, as I read that CNN article. Continue reading

If You’ve Got a Case of the Mondays, I Will Punch You

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There’s a pretty simple reason that, in addition to putting forty-hours a week in a cube-farm, that I work twenty-five plus hours at a part-time job: I need the income. I’ve got bills, I’ve got debt, and I’d like to be free and clear of that sometime before I turn forty. The benefit — or downside — of having two jobs is that Mondays really don’t mean that much to me, except that I have to get up earlier to go to work.

“Ugh, Monday!” the guy who sits in front of me says as I walk to my cube. “How was your weekend?” Apparently he’s forgotten that in the seven months we’ve sat in this arrangement, my answer is almost always the same: “I worked.”

That’s a bit simplistic: I ran errands Saturday morning. I left early and walked to work, detouring down 23rd Street and finding the Chinese Steps on 22nd. Got caught in the thunderstorm on my way home that night, went to McPherson to pick up the Circulator, walked around soaked before I realized the Circulator actually picks up on Franklin Square. Worked all day Sunday, big inventory that evening, got yelled at by a mother because we closed the Kids section an hour before the rest of the store to begin. Got yelled at again because we don’t allow people to check out books, and because we didn’t have a directory of grant organizations in stock.

Alarm went off at 5:30, hit snooze, missed my train, and my bus, got to work ten minutes late. A/C is on full blast and I’m in short sleeves shivering. There’s a steaming hot mug of hot cocoa to my left, my desk is already covered in notes, my right forearm beginning to turn gray from the graphite on my notepad. But it’s sunny out, and it was beautiful this morning. I’ve got two projects to finish today, and a client to set straight.

The moral of this post, however, is, Monday? Not the start of my work week. And again, I have no scheduled days off this week.

So, really, if you start blabbing about your Mondays, I’m going to be tempted to punch you. Because you probably had days off. And you’re probably fortunate enough to make more than I do, or you were smart enough to avoid the mistakes I’ve made, and I won’t hold either against you, really, but your Monday is over in five or six hours, and mine won’t be over for thirteen, and maybe you think it should be unconstitutional for people to work over the four-oh in a week, and that’s fine, too, but I’m not the choir and your preaching is starting to piss me off.

Enjoy your days off. And instead of groaning about Mondays, why not celebrate that in this time of economic turmoil you’re still employed? I’m glad I have two, too.

On Knowing The Value of When To Be Quiet

It was about ten minutes before my groggy self realized the couple in the hallway were actually having a conversation in the hallway, and weren’t just chatting as they made their way to the elevator, or to their apartment. It was also, according to my alarm clock, 4:00 Saturday morning. Ah, for a glorious night of constantly interrupted sleep, my studio apartment, my bed directly against the wall, no soundproofing, no room of distance keeping my ears away from the rather loud conversation of what they wanted to do to each other.

So I slid out of bed, pulled on some jeans, a t-shirt, opened the door. They looked at me. Do you mind? I asked.

Have you been eavesdropping? they asked, in complete seriousness.

It’s not eavesdropping if I’m a captive audience, I replied. These walls are very thin, and this is a studio. I point to a wall. My bed is right there. They mumble an apology, move down the hall. I hope they’re headed for an elevator, and I go back to bed, fingers crossed that it’ll be the last time I’m woken up.

About thirteen hours earlier, I was on a southbound train from Grosvenor-Strathmore. I made a mistake: I boarded the very last car, and at Tenleytown, a group of rowdy school students boarded. Even over my iPod, I could hear everything: the screaming, the inappropriate talk, the cussing, could see kids doing pull-ups on the train’s bars, running back and forth, shoving each other off the train at stops, fighting over seats. They’re frequently a hazard of riding the 3:XX train, as it reaches Tenleytown as they’re dismissed (I assume).

I call them a hazard because of their noise level — I often nap on the Metro, as I’m often enroute from the Office to the Bookstore, and sleeping on the job is verbotten, and I’m tired from a short night’s rest previously. Clearly, they show no respect for sleeping passengers.

I wondered to myself if I’m becoming old and crotchety, or if I’m just becoming crotechetier. Friday was a gorgeous spring day, they’d been cooped up in class all day, they had energy to burn. After all, they’re only kids, wasn’t I one, once? (Sometimes, I think no). In a few years, I told myself, when they got closer to my age, they’d learn to control their energy, be more respectful. For now, they’re just kids.

Work was slow – no one wanted to be in on a beautiful day. Recovery was done quickly, and even walking home I was in my apartment before ten. Exhausted, I went to bed.

I, alas, did not have a good night’s sleep. My neighbors, all night, loud, going, coming, parties, earplugs didn’t work, white noise didn’t work. Tossed and turned. So much for appropriate behavior as you age, or am I being too narrow in the concept of respecting your neighbor? Do they need to be quiet so they can have a good time, or do I need to lose sleep so they can have a good time? What’s so hard about being quiet in the hall, anyway?

It Is Not A Pretty Day Out! Or: How I Came To Remove My Shirt And Beat It Against A Car In Order To Kill Swarms of Bugs, And Set Off the Car’s Alarm In The Process (Okay, I’m not really sure how I set the alarm off, but apparently, I did, because I was the only hitting the damn car).

Fearless in Toronto has a very good set of rules for blogging, but, fuck it man, if I couldn’t blog about work, I’d do crazy. I’d go really super duper crazy if I couldn’t blog at work.

So, at the Office, I am on what is quite seriously called “The Fun Committee.” It is the TFC’s job to plan “fun” events that all employees are highly encouraged to attend. Needless to say, The Fun Committee is not particularly fun. Take, say, today, for example.

A guy from the Sales department was hogging the conference room, so our fearless leader decided that since it was such a brilliant day, we should hold our meeting outside. Sounds great, right?

Wrong. I mean, it was a gorgeous day outside, but all the picnic benches were in what I like to call “Bug Infestation Zone” in the shade and under the trees.

So we sit down and we’re talking about what fun activity we want to do in May (a leave work early BBQ), when suddenly I notice that Martina’s hair is, uh, moving. Okay, not her hair, all the little black bugs in her hair. So I reach over and wipe her hair clean, and she starts to protest when her eyes widen: bugs are all over my shirt’s sleeves. I rub them off, she picks a bug out of her tea, we go back to deciding what we’re going to do, and we’re done.

So I get up, I turn around to walk to the building, and there’s a literal chorus of gasps from behind me. Apparently, I looked something like Alfred Molina in Raiders of the Lost Ark — remember the scene? He turns around and his back is covered in big hairy spiders? Like that, except tiny black bugs, instead of spiders. I got off lucky — poor Martina had more in her hair.

Resigned to what must be done, and determined not to bring bugs into the Office with me (because the only thing that could make this place more miserable would be bugs plus, y’know, work), I unbuttoned my shirt, took it off, and looked for something to smack it against to shake loose these dastardly white-shirt loving bugs: an old, battered Jeep Cherokee was nearest to me, and I figured one light hit would be enough to accomplish my ends: so I swung my shirt.

Indeed, one hit was about all I needed to clear my shirt of bugs. Alas, what I did not count on was that the Jeep was so sensitive, that its alarm exploded upon impact. I’m not talking about ball of flame, debris, etc., I’m just talking about “WHOOP! WHOOP!” and flashing headlights. Y’know, the usual. I know, that as a former vehicle owner, if someone smacked their bug-infested shirt against my car, I’d want to know so I could chase that person down and kill them slowly and painfully.

And at that moment, the Jeep went from “WHOOP! WHOOP!” to “whap whap”, which cracked me — and everyone else up — because it really sounded like the Jeep was suddenly trying to catch its breath. It alternated between “WHOOP WHOOP!” and “whap! whap!” until we got into the building. With my shirt clear — although now stained with tracks of bug-blood — and Martina’s hair un-writhing, and both of us directing hard stares at the guy who’d suggested we go outdoors, back to work we went.

I Am So Sick And Tired Of All These MonkeyFighting Snakes!

I have made no secret of my enjoyment for Snakes on a Plane — look, I love movies like Gosford Park and Good Bye Lenin, so why can’t I balance those artsy-fartsy flicks with something so ridiculously stupid it’s automatically great? I have to admit, though, the movie’s nothing without Samuel L. Jackson and his foul mouth. However, there’s something equally ridiculous with even attempting a TV-edit of the film (and let me just note that SoaP was a film I saw in theaters opening night, and it was great for all the camp: the audience participation was so loud, you couldn’t even hear Sammy’s line, because it was drowned out).

Quiche & Pirates

A friend came over for dinner and a movie tonight. I made broccoli quiche, and although I’d planned to make banana bread for desert, I forgot to buy baking soda and my chef-on-email advised me that it wouldn’t come through properly.

But the quiche, once it settled (seriously, let it cool), was fantastic. Serve with sliced peaches. Yes, I’m serious.

Moving on: the movie we decided to watch was Treasure Island. The 1950s Disney version. I think she settled on this, in large parts, because my DVD stash is a.) rather extensive and b.) rather completely unsorted or organized in any way, shape, or form, despite the labels on the baskets which suggests that they’re in alphabetical order (hah).

You’ll recall, a few weeks ago, I read Treasure Island. The movie is largely true to the book, especially for the first hour. The last thirty minutes or so, it almost seemed like the writer and director got bored and tied everything up with some cartoonish violence — the last shoot out is particularly hilarious, although I am slightly surprised that a Disney film actually showed Young Mr. Hawkins getting a knife in his arm. Obviously, I’m most disappointed that Hawkins only has one pistol when he shoots Israel Hands, as opposed to two.

I mean, Master & Commander this wasn’t. If you haven’t seen that movie, shame on you! But, specifically, a young ship’s boy is wounded in combat and there’s a disturbing scene where his arm is amputated. The actual amputation is off-screen, but his obvious terror is disturbing.

Anyway, the best part of the movie was Robert Newton as Long John Silver. I mean, it’s interesting to watch it now — and I’m sure I’ve seen this film before, but not since I was a kid — that a.) pirates are in the news and b.) we actually have a Talk Like a Pirate Day: September 19th, mark your calendars, I’m going to be fun at work: “Arrrr, business section is right back here, avast me timbers you wallowing swabs!”

Talk Like a Pirate Day? What a misnomer! Talk like Long John Silver Day — he’s unique in the film, the only guy to actually capture the essence of being a pirate. Probably that’s why everyone emulates him on ITLaPD, with his “Arrrs!” and “Avasts!” and “Shiver me timbers!” Actually, I can’t recall if he ever says “shiver me timbers!”, but I think he did. (And okaaaay, so Robert Newton is their “patron saint” — why not just call it ITLLJS Day? Right?)

Checking out Robert Newton’s page on Wikipedia, I was sad to learn he died in 1956, but surprised to learn he reprised his role as LJS both for a 1954 movie, and a short-lived TV series.

The moral of this post: if you have Netflix? Go put Treasure Island on the top of your queue. It’s the cat’s meow.

My Coffee Table Is A Character

Previously, I’d used an oak chest my grandfather made as my coffee table. This was a horrible idea, especially as, in my studio apartment, my coffee table tends to double as a kitchen table. Many stains later, I moved the chest to the foyer (yes, my tiny 400 square foot apartment has a foyer), and replaced it with a workbench I’d been given as a child. For years, my Mom used it in her studio (she’s a professional quilter, teaches at the Smithsonian, published a book on applique), but she was looking to free up some space so I got it back.

I took the day off from work today — wasn’t working at the Bookstore tonight, and really didn’t feel like being miserable at the Office, so I used my PTO, caught up on laundry, filled my fridge, and I’m making a broccoli quiche tonight: a friend is coming over and we’re going to have dinner and watch a movie. In any case, I was looking at this workbench, which has been a familiar part of my life since I was old enough to have memories, and I found myself staring at the logo imprinted on the runner. (Yes, imprinted, it’s certainly not just a stamp).

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Overwhelmed by curiosity (and, er, also: bored), I Googled what was written underneath: Ripton, NY. This was the link I came to, which sent me to Community Playthings.

Scrolling down the left-hand menu, curious if they still sold workbenches, I found exactly what I was looking for (although I have no idea if my bench is 24″ or 26″ high, or some other now discontinued height). I also have a very clear memory of this bench coming with a vise, although I suspect Mom took it off. In any case, my workbench is very similar to the ones depicted, the major difference being that it features a lower “shelf” (for lack of a better description, where the cross-joints are). Here are some photos:

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As beaten and weathered as it is, I love this workbench. I have my feet resting on it as it is. It’s a real classy piece of furniture, and it’s got character. I like that in my furniture.