29 April 2010

NPR on the train

I note of advice to everyone - don't combine NPR and a train ride. Here's why:

I was listening to "Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me" (the podcast) on my iPod last week. For those of you who don't know, it's a comedic game show of sorts, which airs on NPR. It features various columnists and other news junkie celebrities talking about the events of the past week. It's hysterically funny in a nerdy, NPR-geek kind of way - think Jon Stewart only without all of the words requiring bleeps.

It's a funny, funny, show. And I laugh at it regularly. Sometimes, I even laugh out loud, but usually it's a chuckle and I try to restrain myself from making too many overt snorts.

During some portions of the shows, they have call-in contestants - listeners who answer questions about what was in the news in the last week. Sometimes, it's obvious stuff. Sometimes, it's not.

During one call-in segment, I was listening to someone who didn't know the answer to the question...and he should have known! (I would tell you what the questions / answers were, but then you'd inevitably label me a news snob. I'm okay with the label of "news junkie", but "news snob" is too much.) He had three questions, and got all of them wrong. It was heartbreakingly sad - if you call a news show, you should at least watch a little news that week. During the final question, when he said he didn't know, I was fed up with him, and sighed, rolled my eyes, and I flung a general look of exasperation.

Usually, I laugh at the show, and fellow riders either move away from me (thinking I'm out of my mind) or chuckle at me (realizing I'm laughing at something I'm listening to.)

However, on this particular occasion, as I was rolling my eyes and making a distinct look of much disgust (at the caller), a perfectly nice gentleman was taking the seat next to me. As such perfect timing goes in these types of situations, he caught the full brunt of my eye-roll at the exact moment that he was sitting, and incorrectly assumed that I was passing judgement on himself for sitting!

Realizing this faux-pas, I laughed out loud (now he thinks I'm nuts) and took my ear buds out. I apologized immediately, and explained to him that I was listening to a radio show, and my look of disgust was definitely NOT meant to be flung willy nilly only to land in his direction! He laughed and said "Wow, thank goodness. I almost took that personally!"

The sum result is that a) I don't have a poker face. Never have. Never will. b) It's a dangerous combination, riding the train and listening to a comedy show at the same time. People might think that you're crazier than you really are.

15 April 2010

Online obsessions

Okay, I'll admit, I'm a Facebook fanatic. I'm not too crazy with the farms or fish, but I love the little voyeuristic peek into people's lives, and staying in touch with the people I love... it's awesome.

But I have a few other online distractions that maybe aren't as socially accepted as Facebook. So I thought I'd share some of the latest ones with you... none of these are obscene, so don't worry about that. Well, unless you count some foods as obscene... but I digress...

Chris Kimball's Blog:
Most of you know my obsession with Cook's Illustrated(and if you've never heard of it, trust me - it's awesome. Every recipe is perfect, directions are flawless, and it's totally unbiased. Love it!) The blog is even better - recipes, anecdotes, equipment reviews, tales from the test kitchen... this place is heaven, and Chris... well, he's just one truly awesome dude.

Stuff I Ate
Continuing the foodie theme, my most awesome friend & co-worker Lori has set up the Stuff I Ate blog, a great collection of insider NYC food tips, and some recipes that blow your mind, categorized under titles like "Recession recipes" and "Comfort Food". Her recipe for kale chips is to DIE for - and I hate kale! She also has the exact same camera that I do, and yet she can take photos of food that make your mouth water, while mine make food look like I pulled it out of the dumpster outside. Lori, I bow to your foodie-ness, and your food-photo abilities! (pass the kale.)

On the flip side, if you're looking for inspiration to stick to your diet, here's your new favorite site: This is why you're fat. It's pictures, submitted by fans of the site, of the most fattening, horrifying, calorie-and-fat-laden foods available all over the country. Dishes like the Flatline Burger (Double bacon cheeseburger with peanut butter deep fried and served with two sides of chipotle mayo), Cheetos coated in strawberry glaze, and The Chimmy-Dean (a pork sausage wrapped in a flour tortilla and deep fried, topped with maple syrup, bacon pieces and cool whip.) Yep, that's definitely why you're fat. It even includes a link to my next favorite food obsession:

The world of marshmallow Peeps meets the world of sushi... to create, Peepshi. The "rice" is Rice Krispy Treats, the "fish" is Peeps, the decor is... I'm not sure, maybe strawberry licorice? I don't know but it's kinda strange and cool looking. I wouldn't eat it... but it might blow up nicely in a microwave.

LOLdogs and LOLcats
Hysterically cute, sappily captioned amateur photos of dogs, puppies, cats, and kittens. It's almost as bad as Daily Squee for over-the-top, girlie, gooey cuteness that most males will avoid like the plague. Only go here if you are a) ready to admit you like cheezy cute sites, and b) not embarrassed by cheezy cute sites. Even the people who make comments use their own funny "LOLspeak" language. Awesome? Ur doin it rite.

Rules of the roads

There's been quite a dramatic shift in the traffic patterns of NYC in the last year, and I have to say, it's really throwing me off kilter.

I can deal with the 4-wheel traffic - the uneasy relationship between pedestrians and cars/trucks has struck a kind of agreement in the last oh, 50 years of psychotic driving in NYC. Cars agree not to run over me when I'm crossing the street, I agree to (mostly) avoid crossing the street completely against the lights. Even jaywalking is acceptable, as long as the block before you is stopped at a light, and the only oncoming traffic is that turning onto your street. (Those of you that live here, you get what I'm saying.)

Very rarely do pedestrians and vehicles clash openly, unless a) there's a tourist (driving) who believes that they have the right of way when turning (you don't), or b) there's a tourist who tries to jaywalk (Hint: Don't. It takes years to perfect.)

The issue I'm starting to have is with 2-wheeled vehicles. Bikes - I'm talkin' to you.

I've seen a bike take out a pedestrian walking (with a "Walk" sign) in Central Park. And when I say "take out", I mean blood dripping from a head wound and broken bones. Not cool. I will admit that some pedestrians are rather thick when it comes to crossing the street, but dear bicyclists, a red light means "stop" for you, too. I don't care if you're training for a race, timing your laps around the park, or wearing minuscule matching spandex - God gave you brakes, use them when the light is red. If you do that, I will happily take full blame when you hit me at full force when I try to stupidly walk across the path in front of you while you're sailing downhill in Central Park.

The uneasy relationship breaks down further on the new bike paths around the city roads (i.e. Broadway).

NYC pedestrians are trained to observe light patterns, walk sign patterns (I know exactly at what point in the blinking "Don't Walk" phase I can make it, and when I can't.) But now, on Broadway and other streets, there's a new bike lane, with it's own set of lights! Retraining us concrete-brained pedestrians to unlearn the habits of crossing the streets is difficult...and dangerous.

I apologize to the several bicyclists that I didn't see and stepped out in front of. I'll admit it - I deserved those choice words you shouted at me. And that Evil Eye that I gave you was purely a knee-jerk reaction that I give to everyone - nothing personal.

But at the same time, most of the time, the bikes don't stop at red lights anyway, and come barrelling down those bike lanes with the wrath of God behind them. Once, I even heard a lady shouting "Get out of the way!" at the top of her lungs as she ran her bike lane's red light. Her red light was even shaped like a bicycle. It's a light for illiterates. Did her brakes burn out, like those runaway trucks on highways? I doubt it. Here's a hint - if you hit me, it'll hurt both of us, no matter how loudly you're yelling. Slow down (especially when you're legally required to do so) and we'll both be happier.

It's going to take a while, and now that the MTA is cutting off subway lines, I'm hoping that more bicyclists will take to the streets. But I'm also hoping that we can decide, together, that we can get along a little better. I promise to (for the first time in 15 years) try to look BOTH WAYS before I cross a one-way street, if you promise to STEER with your handlebars, and USE THE BRAKES instead of cuss words when something happens in front of you.

Can you imagine if, when a car sped towards an idiot crossing the street and not looking where they were going, all the driver did was yell "Hey moron, move!" and just kept going at the same rate of speed? Can you say road pizza? Do you see where I'm going here?

You are moving at approximately 20-30mph. If you hit me, it will suck, mostly because you will *keep moving* at approximately 20-30mph until the pavement halts your flight through the air as I keep your bike tangled around my legs about 10 feet behind you. Pavement and you - it's going to hurt.

Take a lesson from the bike messengers around the city. Learn to steer, learn to brake, and learn to dodge. Yelling won't help, nor will it slow you down or steer you around your obstacle. That's what those things called "handlebars" are for.

Thanks, and have a nice day.

14 April 2010

Whoever said that there is no such thing as a stupid question never worked in media production.

It was 6pm when my work cell phone rang. As I'm at work by 5:30am every day, I try to finish up work by 3 or 4pm every day. A 6pm call is never good news...

"Hello, this is Beth"

"Hi there," (a very young, intern-like voice) "this is Amber, [name removed]'s assistant. I was just going over the details for tomorrow with [name removed]. It's at 7am?"

"Yep, 7am."

"That's 7am, Eastern time?"

"Yep, 7am Eastern time. I think I covered this in the logistics sheet I emailed to you a few weeks go, yes?"

"Do you realize that 7am Eastern is 4am on the West Coast?"

"Um, actually yes. Yes, I do know that." (and I'm thinking by the rather shocked tone in your voice that you did not realize this...until just a few minutes ago. I'm also thinking that you're right on the edge of a panic attack right now.)

"That's really early."

"Well, yes, yes it is. And that's why I sent the email 3 weeks ago to confirm that you were OK with the time. It didn't seem to be a problem then. Is it a problem now?"

"Well, um. It's just really early. I thought it was at 7am pacific time."

"Let me pull up the email that I sent. Yep, March 25th, I sent you the logistics and it says 7am eastern time. Is that going to be a problem?"

"Um. No. Well, okay. If it's a problem I'll call you back."

Now, I feel sorry for assistants, I really do. Especially those who are assistants for assistants for celebrities. I have worked with enough publicists, assistants, assistant assistants and celebrities to know what types of people you risk working for when you take on a job like that. Undoubtedly poor Amber was tasked with the menial job of typing up the final version of [name removed]'s schedule for the next day when she realized that it said...7am Eastern.

Now, I don't feel too badly for you when it's your own fault for not reading, but I do give you a speck of respect for realizing that there actually is a time difference between the East and West Coasts. And for what it's worth, I'm really sorry... that's a harsh lesson I'm sure you're learning the hard way on the other end of my silent phone. This will be a bad day for you, and you'll probably have a drink or three on Friday because of it. I honestly hope you don't get fired for spotting what no one else on your staff seemed to recognize three weeks ago.

Now it's 7:15pm...an hour after I received the call. I haven't heard anything at all from any assistants. But I'm assuming that in California, someone is getting yelled at, if not by [name removed], then by [name removed]'s higher-level assistant who had to break the news.

In any case, see you at 7am Eastern... (4am Pacific...)