Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Battle of the Holiday Chocolates

Matt and I each did work for a certain big-corporation-owned educational publisher this past year. Matt spent excessive amounts of time and effort producing a masterful 216-page comics adaptation of "Romeo & Juliet." I busted out two 8,000-word bullshit how-to guides, at least one on a subject I know nothing about.

Corporate Publishing Company is nothing if not generous with its impersonal holiday food gifts, and several days ago a small package of those Chocolates of the World that are all the darn rage (you know the type -- tastefully small squares of chocolate with labels that indicate country of origin, cacao percentage, flavor "notes") from Dean & Delucca arrived at the house for Matt.

Two days later, a shiny green box of assorted Godiva truffles came in the mail for me. Behold our loot:

So whose chocolates reign supreme? Winners have been determined in the following categories:

Trendiness: Matt.
Festiveness of packaging: Kate.
Size-of-gift-to-actual-work ratio: Kate, big time.
Size-of-shipping-box-to-actual-item ratio: Matt. Observe:

This package may win that particular award for all time, actually.

Who do you think gets the grand prize? Let me know. Maybe we'll let the winner hoard the whole shebang and devour both boxes in a feast worthy of my childhood idol. I, for one, would be happy if Corporate Publishing Company dropped the whole holiday goodwill schtick and just paid its freelancers acceptable fees for their work, but that's probably just me.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Christmouse Tree

My Grandma Kathleen always had a couple Christmas trees, but I only ever cared about this one, the mouse tree.

When I was a kid, every year my parents and I (mostly my parents) would give her a mouse-themed ornament, and up on the mouse tree it went. Finding these ornaments became a little more difficult after Hallmark stopped its annual mouse-ornament series sometime in the mid-90s, but thankfully ornaments featuring adorable rodents didn't go out of style, and some gift store would always deliver.

Mouse ornaments often fall into one of two categories.

1. Mouse has shenanigans with delicious food:

2. Mouse uses human items for strange purposes; said items appear comically large:

I inherited the tree and all its ornaments after my grandma died in August 2006. They were in her attic in a box with a Post-it that said "For Katie" on it. My parents still try to get me a new ornament for it every year, but it's become increasingly hard. Last year the best my dad could find was a mouse holding a giant (comparatively, anyway) key that said, "New Home 2006," a sentiment that had no relevance to our lives. That's OK, though. The tree's running out of room, and I like the old ones.

Monday, December 10, 2007

My de facto mother-in-law gave me a $15 Starbucks gift card for my birthday. I can only imagine that she somehow wound up with said card and had nothing better to do with it (maybe she intuited that I have a penchant for the jolly green lady in a circle ... is development of one a requirement of turning 26? Because nothing could be further from the truth.)

How to best redeem this ? I browsed through my local Charbucks for options:

1. Starbucks advent calendar.

2. James Taylor's "One Man Band," DVD that captures the enduring onstage appeal of a performer who transcends genres and generations.

3. Mug with depiction of the Orange County, California skyline.

4. Collectible ornament shaped like bag of coffee.

5. Mitch Albom's "The Five People You Meet in Heaven."

6. Starbucks-brand espresso machine for $584 instead of $599.

Any ideas? I think I may find myself having a feast of Cranberry Bliss Bars and individually wrapped slices of pumpkin bread.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Office Cat

Ever since this picture showed up on MSN Animal Tracks (I'm a religious visitor) a few weeks ago, I have not been able to stop looking at it and subsequently exploding with emotions I can't fully explain.

Oh man. Look at that damn cat. Just look at him. That expression. He's so focused. So hard at work in his job as an office assistant at the University of Cat. Working on deadline. I can't take it. It hurts. It's the greatest thing I've ever seen.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Noble but utterly and unsurprisingly failed

I started working at Philadelphia's Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, where, under the pretenses of working on a research project, I've been going through the treasure trove of documents that disorganized governmental organizations never throw out. From a 1964 issue of "Library Journal":

"AURAL READING MACHINE: A new machine to enable the blind to read ordinary printed material is being evaluated by the Battelle Memorial Institute. At the present stage of development of the reader, the sounds produced by the device do not resemble speech but are patterns of musical tones similar to chords played on an organ. By interpreting these tones, trained users should ultimately attain a speed of 15 to 30 words per minute."

Which led Mr. Wiegle and I to envision the following fantasy history:

"ORAL READING MACHINE: At the present stage of development, the machine converts inputted text into an omelette recipe, then makes an omelette. By interpreting these omelettes, trained users should ultimately attain a reading speed of 300 words per meal (wpm). Users will be able to program the machine to automatically process the morning newspaper and create omelettes before the user awakes. The user can then consume breakfast and the news simultaneously. A meal of 36 omelettes will result in the reading of the major sections of a standard local paper."

NY Times Headline, 6/27/1965: "Study shows blind people gaining weight more rapidly than other demographic groups"

Monday, October 15, 2007

Don't That Look Like a Tasty Bowl o' Mush?

I have been experimenting with an innovative and delicious new dessert concept. At first glance, you may be tempted to call it little more than warm, undercooked rice pudding, but I prefer "dessert risotto." Here's how the inaugural Nailgun Alley version goes:

Make some jasmine rice. In a saucepan over medium heat, stir said rice with butter, peanut butter, cream, and sugar. (Don't get all high and mighty with cooking technique and when to add what. It's all gonna turn into the same delectable slop no matter how it goes down.) Remove from heat. Fold in frozen chocolate chips. Consume.

The man of the house was so keen on the idea that tonight he made a big pot of rice, ate half of it with chili for dinner and then ate the rest as chocolate-peanut-butter dessert risotto. Though I think he now regrets that plan (note: best to precede dessert risotto with dinner of healthy green salad), we at the Dessert Risotto Foundation applaud his ricely efforts.

Next adaptation will be an autumnal blend of canned pumpkin, pie spices, and graham cracker chunks.

The only thing that might theoretically be able to top this: deep-fried dessert risotto.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Up and clickable

My other Web site is up. You know, the one that may make me some money. I'm assuming this one won't, but if you'd like to prove me wrong by sending a check, by all means.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Better than a polo shirt

From now on, I'm only working at places where the uniform involves adorable Thai fisherman pants.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Cute animals you can eat: Part II

There was an old woman of Smedley

For the first time ever, I have a Crazy Neighbor. Her name is Josephine and she lives across the alley. Her makeup looks like it was put on by a blind five-year-old with crayons. She has an undetermined number of formerly stray dogs living with her. If she sees you, she will tell you about the dogs' dietary habits, health problems, etc. Then she will tell you about the rude crackheads who live next door (whom I have never seen and whose existence I doubt). Then, if you're lucky, she will tell you about her plants.

The plant-house ratio of Josephine's lot is about 4:3. Our landlord, Mitch, who likes to upsell, told us she's a "world-class horticulturalist." The other day she stopped me and, gesturing to an overgrown monstrosity with sad, droopy, trumpet-shaped bulbs, said, "Have you smelled my plant at night?" I told her that I hadn't. "It smells wonderful! It has a narcotic quality! It almost put the security guard at the crack house to sleep!" Then she laughed her nutty little head off.

Look! Doesn't this look like the house of a crazy person? It's like Grey Gardens over there, but without any famous relatives to add integrity.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Cute animals you can eat: Part I

The first in an ongoing Nailgun Alley series.

Keep circling, buddy

These two signs are all over the city. Lew Blum and George Smith are in a race for total domination of the Philadelphia car-towing industry. Be forewarned, drivers. If you park somewhere you shouldn't, a man with a name that belongs in a 1950's musical revue will personally tow your car, possibly while wearing a fedora and smoking a cigar.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

OTC Candy

Those of you without a conveniently located Wawa are missing out on one of the most delicious candies on the market: the Angel Mint. You know how diners and Thai restaurants sometimes have those orbs full of mints on the counter near the entrance? Those pastel-colored mints that start out chalky but turn into smooth, melty, ambrosial peppermint auras in your mouth? Angel Mints are like those. Only they're three times as big and you can buy them for 15 cents each instead of trying to smuggle out a giant handful while the hostess is looking the other way. I've taken to getting at least two a day.

Further research, however, has made me considered curtailing my new habit. The Angel Mint company has a whole shtick about the numerous therapeutic health benefits of the Angel Mint: relieves symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome! neutralizes free radicals! soothes the dry mouths of patients undergoing chemotherapy! "The Angel Mint treats the person, not the disease." And check out this picture that makes the things look like a mixture of after-dinner mint, sausage casing, and cannabis. Creepy!


I've recently decided to go back to school for library science. Soon after filling out the "request more information" form at the Web site of Drexel's (mighty expensive) program, I received a glossy color packet that probably cost 38 percent of some kid's tuition. Infosphere, the department's quarterly newsletter, contains the following delightful paragraph:

"iGoogle, iPod, iVillage ... 'i' has rapidly become the internationally recognized prefix of technology. Drexel's College of Information and Technology is at the forefront of this trend with its adoption of the brand 'The iSchool at Drexel.'"

I will probably not being applying to the iSchool at Drexel.

Promises, promises

I made a vow when we signed the lease here. A vow that the first thing we would do, even before the boxes were unpacked, was repaint the patio door. Why, you may ask? Allow me:

One month, 11 days later, the peace sign perseveres.