Monday, March 29, 2004

AT LEAST I'M in good company.

Tuesday, March 23, 2004

I PRETTY MUCH HAD eight cups of coffee this morning. More on that later, but for now I offer that tidbit by way of explanation as I introduce a particularly nasty installment of "What Is Wrong With People?"

10:41 a.m.: I hear a talk-radio caller refer to the 41st president of the United States as "George W. Bush Sr."

11:47 a.m.: On the way to my weekly tennis clinic, I'm at a particularly nasty suburban intersection near where Interstate 66 meets the Beltway. I'm waiting and waiting and waiting for a left-turn arrow. Two cars are in front of me. The arrow finally comes, and the self-important fuck who's first in line does one of those "I am safer than thou: One miz-sippi, two miz-sippi, three miz-sippi ..." things. He finally goes, just as the arrow is turning yellow. The old biddy behind him does one of those "I am safer than thou: One car length, two car lengths, three car lengths ..." things.

I do one of those "I don't care if I have to pass you within the same lane, lady, I am not waiting 10 more minutes for the next goddamn arrow" things.

1:04 p.m.: After the clinic, I'm packing up my way-too-big-for-my-ability-level Yonex bag on a bench next to one of the instructors, a nice guy but not exactly, um, un-humorless. He looks like our UPS man. Two college girls take the court and start smacking the ball back and forth with effortless grace. Compared with me and the others in the clinic, they might as well be a young Monica Seles and a contemporary Maria Sharapova. Each shot is at least as swift and true as that one particularly nasty Marat Safin look-alike two-handed backhand I managed today. They're obviously varsity players, and good ones.

"Man, they're even better than us," I say, with what to most people would be obvious sarcasm.

"Well, they wouldn't beat me," humorless UPS tennis guy says.

"I mean us students," I say.

"You shouldn't talk like that! You need to be positive! Believe you could beat anybody when you're out on the court!"

You'd think I'd have learned my lesson, but I interrupt with some false bravado: "Oh, I could beat them, with my drop shots and lobs -- but they're better, technically."

He gives me the "Are you nuts?" look. (What do you want from me, humorless UPS tennis guy? Make up your mind!)*

1:12 p.m.: There's also a stupid little bookkeeping matter that HUPSTG has dragged me into, but I won't bore you with that part.

1:20 p.m.: As in every locker room I use, I'm the only man who thinks of using one of the eponymous "lockers" that these rooms contain. The others just pile their (particularly nasty) clothes and shoes and equipment on the floor while they shower. I suppose this says unfortunate things about my manhood, what with the idea of hanging-out-there vs. tucked-inside. Whatever. What is wrong with people?

1:49 p.m.: As I wait for my carryout order at my favorite local taqueria (tres tacos -- puerco, cabrito y lengua! yuca con chicharron!), the doofus behind me buys a canned beverage and does the tapping-on-the-top thing before opening it. If you think this ritual keeps the carbonated contents from bubbling up on you, you're an idiot. The carbon dioxide doesn't "know" you're "asking" it to stay down. Agitation in any direction is still agitation. Your tapping may not be enough agitation to cause a foam-up, but it sure as hell won't prevent one.

2:28 p.m.: There's a traffic light a block ahead of the street on which I make my last turn on the way home. Nobody in the history of driving is ever polite to anyone anywhere else, but people on this stretch of Sixth Street SE, Washington, DC 20003, invariably stop short of the street I want to turn on, just in case somebody is driving by and needs to get through. Never mind being polite to me and getting the hell out of my way so I can go home.

2:32 p.m.: I get home. The tacos are bueno.

OH, THE COFFEE. So, the Senseo machine makes a passable version of coffee if I use two of the dark-roast pods per tiny cup. I have a lot of pods to use up, but they're going to go pretty fast if this keeps up: Two pods times two equals four pods per normal mug of coffee. If I want two mugs, that means the equivalent of eight of the intended servings. I had two mugs this morning, in between George W. Bush Sr. and one miz-sippi, two miz-sippi.

Another little cup would taste pretty good after the tres tacos, but ... am I nuts?


*I actually do think I would stand an outside chance of beating them, if I got into shape and my drop shots and lobs were particularly nasty that day.

INTERESTING. It's not often that you see a fairly honest look at the mysterious world of publishing. If this account is representative, I'm doing quite well in the sales department, if not the advance department. (I make my money the old-fashioned way: I eaaaaarn it.)

Monday, March 22, 2004

THE NO. 1 BESTSELLER makes sense, but I'm a little stumped about how those other books made the top 10.

BACK FROM HOUSTON. This American Copy Editors Society conference may have been the best yet. My presentation went well, I thought, before a standing-room-only audience. (No microphone! I mumble too much in one-on-one conversations, but I project when I have to.) My books sold out at least 24 hours before my session started -- good news and bad news, I guess. I talked to a lot of strangers. The banquet speaker was fabulous.

You can find more details along with some pictures at the ACES site and at Tom Mangan's Prints the Chaff.

Houston as a city was a bit of a disappointment, though I can't say I saw enough of it to really give it a thumbs-down. Pockets of downtown seemed to have some life, but we weren't in one of them. It's a good thing my session relied on PowerPoint rather than handouts -- I had supplemental handouts, but I couldn't find a copy shop that was open on Saturday near the hotel.

I did take a short bus ride and visit the River Oaks neighborhood. The mansions were impressive, but even more impressive was their setting. Some are right on an otherwise sort-of-skanky major street; others begin immediately off this street. You're on Kirby, and suddenly as soon as you break its plane you're in a block that looks like the most beautiful, tree-lined rich-people enclave you've ever seen.

Next year: Hollywood. If you're a copy editor, be there.

ENOUGH ON-TOPIC TALK. The Senseo coffee maker has been a huge disappointment so far. (You told me so, Craig!) I can only hold out hope that the dark-roast coffee is infinitely better than the medium and mild roasts that came with the machine. (Or that the pods I ordered from the Netherlands are different from the ones they make for Americans.) The dark roast will be better, I'm sure, but probably not infinitely better.

The thing is fast, though not as fast as advertised. There's a warm-up cycle that takes at least 90 seconds before you start the 30-second brewing process. But the taste? Hospital-cafeteria coffee comes to mind. Well, hospital-cafeteria coffee with an impressive head of crema. It's quite a sensory mismatch to see something so pretty while tasting and smelling something so ordinary. Brewing it double-strength, with two pods per small cup, helps a little, but not enough.

And somehow the device is engineered so that other manufacturers' coffee pods produce only lightly tinted water. I tried using one Douwe Egberts pod to trip the switch, if that's how they do it, and one Starbucks espresso pod to add some flavor. Again, lightly tinted water.

Tuesday, March 16, 2004

I'M NOT BIG on adult beverages or anything, but I sure do love new furniture.

A CO-WORKER came up with a great name for the anti-obesity initiative:

No Behind Left Behind.

I can't believe nobody thought of this before, but it yielded only three Google hits, two from the same source and none making the same joke. That's about as close to original as it gets these days.

Monday, March 15, 2004

YEAH, YEAH, so there's that new book, and the conference in Houston, and upcoming trips to Miami and Las Vegas and Phoenix. But what I'm really excited about right now is the new coffee maker that Amazon.com is scheduled to deliver this week.

These things are supposed to be taking over the world before long. Once again, I'm an early adopter.

Coffee-bar quality a cup at a time in 30 seconds! Prepackaged "pods" mean minimal cleanup and no grinding! Less fuss means coffee won't be just for breakfast anymore!

I just hope the actual coffee will be available soon. The stuff is supposed to be great, but I may have made a mistake going with a machine that works with only one brand.

Saturday, March 13, 2004

SORT OF ON TOPIC, but a welcome piece of validation from JungleScan.com, which tracks Amazon.com sales rankings:

Today's top winners

Friday, March 12, 2004

THE TIVO is set for the premiere of "Wonderfalls" tonight on Fox. Could it fill the "Ed" gap?

Wednesday, March 10, 2004

IF I REMEMBER the transitive property correctly, Al Gore may have invented syphilis.

WHAT ARE YOUR nightmare "Jeopardy" categories?

What, everybody isn't obsessed with this idea? You somehow get on the show, you're raring to go, your thumb-button reflexes are sharp as can be, and the unveiling-of-the-board music starts, and you see . . .







Those are my nightmare categories, at least.

"Shakespeare" may surprise you, but it's true. It's part of my living-in-the-present fetish when it comes to fiction. I can't do too old or too new. In fact, too old and too new merge for me, as evidenced by my use of ye olde terminology in making fun of "The Lord of the Rings." (Or was that spot-on? Hell if I know.)

Sunday, March 07, 2004

TRENDSPOTTING: Suddenly waiters and waitresses are saying "How does everything taste?" instead of "How is everything?"

Friday, March 05, 2004

NOTE TO HOME-DECORATING TYPES ON TV: I appreciate that you know enough about the French language to realize that many letters that aren't silent in English are silent in French. I applaud you for the effort.

But armoire is pronounced armoire, not "armwah" or "amwah" or "ahwah" or "aaaaaaah." Note the trailing e. Armoir would be "armwah," but armoire is, for all practical purposes, "armwar."

The same principle explains why you shouldn't call a woman "Francois." And why it's "coo" yes, "grah" no in coup de grace.

Thursday, March 04, 2004

SO, I GO to J. Crew in search of pants. Flat-front chinos are the style of the day, but a visit to the dressing room convinces me that flat fronts aren't compatible with my current tummy situation (CTS). The helpful J. Crew man says the Gap has pleated khakis. (Just like in "Miracle on 34th Street"!)

At the Gap, I find the promised pleats, in "stressfree" khakis -- split-resisant, stain-resistant. The first pair I find in my size (Waist: Fat. Inseam: Short.) is marked down because of a . . . stain! No irony necessary.

Wednesday, March 03, 2004

PERHAPS Robin could smoke some more (provided she stays out of jail). Jesus. Holy hag voice at age 23, Batman!

Tuesday, March 02, 2004

LILEKS nods to the tragically underrated Aztec Camera. Also, nice mentions of Joe Jackson's "Steppin' Out" and Nick Lowe's "Cruel to Be Kind." And some not-so-great stuff.

I was never a huge Joe Jackson fan, but I was (am?) a Joe Jackson look-alike. Lucky me. But "Steppin' Out" is one of a dozen or so Joe songs that I really like.

Monday, March 01, 2004

I LIKE THE CYNICAL TYRANT, but here's something I couldn't disagree with her more about. She loves to write checks! And she's not even old!

I stopped writing checks at bill-paying time the second online banking became available. I stopped writing checks at the supermarket the second credit cards began being accepted. About the only time I write a check these days is when, say, a plumber doesn't accept plastic. Or when I want to add something to the home-equity line. If I didn't trust myself with credit cards, I'd use a debit card.

YOU COULD HAVE GUESSED THIS, but I'm not happy about "The Lord of the Rings: The Huge Pyle o'Cashe" winning all those awards. I was really rooting for "Lost in Translation," but I'm less upset about it losing than I am about "Rings" winning. I'll have to admit, though, that despite my feelings about "Mystic River," Sean Pean probably did do a little more acting than Bill Murray did.

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