Friday, September 30, 2011

Does Old Navy give demerits for being tardy?

Because Melanie is not going to be on time tonight.

How to peel garlic in ten seconds AND make a lot of noise

This was too cool not to share. And if you're not wasting time peeling garlic, you'll have more time to mix me a drink. Cheers!

How to Peel a Head of Garlic in Less Than 10 Seconds from SAVEUR.com on Vimeo.

My new favorite color is blue, or British rowers get naked for a cause

I love a good "cause," don't you? Oh, and Chris, give me a call if you need help with your self-examination.



Thanks to Dan for sharing.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

When Religion and Science Clash: A Twitter Conversation between @nerdista and @erichovind

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My gal pal @nerdista found herself entangled recently in a conversation with @erichovind, an evangelist blogger who apparently likes to thrust his "Evidence Bible" in others' faces. The ensuing conversation took both hilarious and tragically misguided turns.

[On a side note, what is an Evidence Bible? If religion needs evidence, what then is the value of faith?]

Eric is stuck on the notion of Absolute Truth (capital A, capital T). He means capital G god. Fine. I understand the need for black and white values and lack of uncertainty. Heisenberg's principle can really be freaky if you take a moment to think about it. Besides, I read an article today that says our perception of reality may just be a holographic projection of an even more real reality. Put that in your pipe and smoke it, then talk to me about Absolute Truth.

The problem with Absolutes and science is that they are effectively mutually exclusive. Science relies on measurable evidence and constant reevaluation of the evidence. As our ability to measure changes, so does our understanding. So, understanding can never be absolute. The moment it crosses that threshold, it becomes religion and static--some would say stagnant.

It's a fundamental problem: the religious point of view is fixed, and the scientific one is not. I don't see how they can ever reconcile.

So, they shouldn't. Let people have faith. Reach for, worship, take comfort in the unknowable. It's okay. You can even call it God. Just know that scientists are also reaching and asking questions. They're not doing it to undermine your faith. In fact, they don't really care about your faith (because it's not measurable). They are reaching out and asking questions to learn more about the universe around them. And I think that's not such a bad thing.

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What Book Would You Ban? A Tongue-in-Cheek Homage to Banned Books Week

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Laura Miller at Salon.com stole my thunder with her article yesterday. Looking back at the books she and her colleagues read as children, she wrote up a short list of books that she wouldn't shed a tear for if they were summarily banned from reading curricula around the nation. Her mention of A Separate Peace reminds me of the Simpson's episode where Homer's mom comes back and bonds with Lisa over their mutual dislike for the works of Mr. Knowles. It still makes me giggle.

You see, it's okay to hate books. Some books deserve it. And, while I would never truly advocate for the banning of a book, I wanted to propose a little hypothetical: You are an evil dictator or an aspiring evangelical who hates free-thinking and the moral decay of the nation. Now, what book do you choose to ban?

I'm voting for Paulo Coelho's The Alchemist. For many years I had heard about this book. So many fellow readers had recommended it. It contained some deep, mystical knowledge and insight. Or so I was fooled into thinking.

Reading this adult (and not in the good way) fable caused me to sigh with exasperation, roll my eyes, and generally look as though I were having a stroke. The message was so bland, so trite, so "metaphysical." I hated it. I vowed never to read another Coelho book. I have more entertaining outlets to waste my time.

So, as the newly appointed Czar of the Universe, I ban The Alchemist. Now go read Jonathan Livingston Seagull.

(But seriously, only losers ban books.)

Who's the dummy?

This seriously freaks me out.

Arrested with live hummingbirds in your pants

What exciting thing have you done this week, lame-o.


I hope the birds get some therapy after this.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Anderson Cooper and I have so much in common

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Twitter says so. It MUST be true.

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Let's Eat Grandpa!

Watch those commas. Save a life.
Let's eat grandpa
Thanks to Scott for sharing!

Rubber Bookshelves: Why bother rearranging your bookcases?

Since all books don't come in the same size, perhaps it's time to re-think our bookshelves. If you've ever had to rearrange the adjustable shelves in one of your bookcases, you will appreciate this design idea. When will Ikea start carrying these?

Monday, September 26, 2011

A Million Virtual Monkeys Almost Wrote A Shakespeare Poem. What Did You Do Today?

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To say these virtual monkeys actually wrote a Shakespeare poem might stretch credibility a bit. Thanks to a program written by Jesse Anderson, 99.99% of the random words in "A Lover's Complaint" were hammered out by virtual monkeys and then placed in order by the program.

Mr Anderson's virtual monkeys are small computer programs uploaded to Amazon servers. These coded apes regularly pump out random sequences of text. Each sequence is nine characters long and each is checked to see if that string of characters appears anywhere in the works of Shakespeare. If not, it is discarded. If it does match then progress has been made towards re-creating the works of the Bard.

No real or virtual monkey actually typed out, in order, word for word, a poem by the Bard. Nor will one ever do so.

"Why, Todd, why would you say such a thing?" Well, first, it's statistically impossible. The universe will end before such an event could happen. Second, monkeys are terrible typists. Everyone knows that. Third, no one even makes typewriters anymore, so where are these millions and billions of typewriters going to come from? I call that Shakespeare - 3 and Monkeys - 0.

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Surprise! It's Monday.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Owls: Be Afraid, Very Afraid

Watch them eat, sing, and dance. Then cling to whatever is nearby, to whatever will keep the nightmare away.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Goodbye Borders Books And Thanks For The Memories: 1971-2011

Today, the final remaining Borders bookstores closed their doors for the last time. Between Waldenbooks and Borders, I spent ten years with the company and met and worked with hundreds of amazing people all across the country. I made some of my best friends as a result of the Borders connection. For that alone, I owe the company a debt. Well, that and the dozen pens, markers, box cutters, and staplers that I managed to transfer from one office to another and from the stores to my home. It was all unwitting, I assure you.

Despite the void the disappearance of Borders will create for booksellers, book lovers, and book makers, we still have the stories. The stories in the books we picked up at the stores (thanks to the discount, the long-defunct book credit, and the ARCs). The stories about co-workers: friends found and lost, ideas shared and debated, policies argued and ignored, lovers new and old. The stories about customers which, frankly, are endless and unbelievable unless you were there. These stories will sustain us and we will continue to share them, telling and retelling, exaggerating and explaining. We were there for something extraordinary. Pass it on.

And, so, here are a few stories--my little tribute--gathered from my own collection of fine bookstores (there were eight in all, not including the five store openings [sorts] that I did). I hope they give you a glimpse of the magic of these places.

My first Borders was store #135 in Tulsa, OK. I was a graduate student and needed a summer gig. I had worked for the company before and pretty much blew away the competition on the infamous Book and Music Test. It's amazing how valuable years of college and grad school education used to be at Borders. Like many Borders, #135 was special. Do we all say that about our first? The team was amazing, and the community was genuinely excited for us to be there. In Oklahoma, we were a liberal safe space for many people. I remember once being in the men's restroom going about my business at the urinal, when in the corner of my eye I saw movement. Now, I've always had excellent peripheral vision, and it served me well this day. Emerging from the space between the wall and the bathroom stall divider was a small mirror. I guess I was unknowingly participating in the day's show. I kept my calm, though. I'm not easily flustered (or wasn't in those halcyon days) and probably more forgiving for this particular transgression because I'm gay and happened to be studying queer theory as part of my Ph.D. studies. Lucky kid. I finished, stepped back to wash my hands, then addressed the supposedly empty bathroom, "You know, you might want to be a little more careful next time. Some people might not be as understanding as me." Then I left and entertained the guys with my tale.

My second store was #264 which we lovingly called Tulsa 2. It was my first Borders sort and I knew the store inside and out. This poor store had good times and bad. Beginning with the Native American blessing (or curse?), we struggled a bit as the planned development around us never seemed to materialize. Add to this a divisive General Manager who played favorites but with everyone so you never really knew where you stood at any given moment and we had a recipe for drama! Still, what a store. I can think of stories about the lead bookseller who played devil-summoning music after the store closed, the Music Manager who was the purest embodiment of a female drag queen I've ever seen (yes, female. She was performing drag queen. It was so meta.), the woman who was the horse masseuse who also militantly shelved the literature section, and my best friend whom I convinced to moved to Tulsa to take a job running the back office and often had to wave her hands wildly in the air to trigger her office light's motion-detector which had been conveniently placed behind a bookshelf and out of the line of sight where she worked (she was convinced there was film of her flailing around in the dark with the lights suddenly coming on because her office had a security camera). These were good times. I also met easily one of the best managers the company produced--Dan. He ran the cafe with humor and organization. He went on to manage his own stores and likely could have run a region. But, Borders rarely recognized such talent. Dan managed to staff his cafe with the cutest bunch of short-haired lesbians you will ever find in Tulsa, Oklahoma. They were all funny, smart, and good at their jobs. Then there was the young man named Will. He was funny--in his way. I think I remember Dan or Shannon telling the story about walking into the back of the cafe and finding Will doing karate moves. I'm sure the customers waiting for their lattes didn't mind. Ultimately, Will was undone by a slice of cheese. One day, as a result of a tummy ache and a call to his mom, Will ate a slice of cheese without paying for it. His mom said it would help. Loss Prevention took a different stance and Will was terminated. Don't cry, though. It was really for the best.

After Tulsa, I moved to Washington state. Tukwila, Seattle, and Bellevue comprised my three-pronged attack on the community. In Tukwila, I remember Char, the lead bookseller, who managed to squeeze more smoke breaks out of a day than seems temporally possible and who still knew the store better than anyone else. I also think of Jack and Doug in the music department. She and he were into the Smiths and we bonded--but not immediately. Shortly after I started working in Tukwila, I remember passing Doug on my way to the bathroom (I swear all my best stories are NOT bathroom related). I was carrying my toothbrush and Doug made some remark about it. I paused, looked at him (probably judgingly) and said, "Yes, I believe it a little thing called oral hygiene." Then I proceeded to the bathroom to brush my teeth. Doug told me later when we knew each other better that he had told some of his co-workers that he had just been dissed by the new manager about not brushing his teeth. I wish I could tell you that was the meanest thing I did while I worked there.

Store #66 in downtown Seattle was literally miles away from Tukwila but figuratively a million light years away in terms of culture and clientele. And I loved it. For five months the pace and the insanity energized me. I don't think any other store ever had that kind of feeling. It was maddeningly magical. And, I was lucky enough to forge an amazing relationship with my former boss and always friend Renee. I even got to run the store for a month when she went to the UK for Borders. You remember that, don't you, Renee? It was the one month the store made plan. Ha ha. I remember once having to tell a woman not to bring her bird into the store: she was simply carrying it tucked inside her coat. I think she told me the bird was cold. I remember chasing a shoplifter onto the street and around the corner. He dropped a few CDs to distract me. And I remember the day I had a frantic customer knock on the office door. I opened it and listened to his tale of a hypodermic needle loose in the bathroom. (Yes, it's ANOTHER bathroom story!) I, jadedly, grabbed the biohazard/sharps container and walked over to the men's room. This bathroom had seen its fair share of horrors. Just before I started, it had been set on fire by a junkie, so I didn't expect much to come of this little incident. To my surprise, I found the needle stuck in the hand dryer, propped in the part of the blower that you use to redirect the air from your hands to your face. Even I was shocked. I guess I should have been a little nicer to that customer and offered him a free coffee or something.

Bellevue, the first store I ran as the General Manager, was a three-story paean to books, music, and movies in the area's premiere shopping mall. And, for some reason, it was predestined for failure. Still, we worked hard. And we had some success. The company's former president, Tami Heim, twice remarked that we had the best smelling restrooms, and this woman visited a LOT of stores. So, we smelled good. It was something. We also had a nightmarish Regional Director who probably didn't care how the bathrooms smelled. As far as I could tell, she didn't care about much. During one of her visits to the store, I proudly presented the previous month's sales data. We had beaten our plan. Her response, in front of my management team, was, "Yeah, but the store's still going to lose a million dollars this year." Inspiring, no? After this, receiving a section sign that read "STATIONARY" instead of "STATIONERY" seemed a little less pressing. RIP Bellevue.

From there, I travelled to San Francisco and worked in the Union Square store. I met David Sedaris and Eddie Izzard at this store. I worked during Christmas when the store sold over $100,000 in books, music, and DVDs every day for a week. Yes, Virginia, people used to buy books and music. I also got to watch a pants-less man casually make his way from the periodicals section to the escalator. Standing at the second floor information desk and watching a naked butt slowly descend to the first floor of the store was oddly poetic. Cheers #57.

Finally, I ended up in Hawaii. Didn't everyone want to work at a Hawaiian store? Didn't I? And suddenly I was. And, to tell the truth, it was just about as amazing as we all thought it would be. When I arrived at store #206 in Kailua-Kona on the Big Island of Hawaii, I was a pale San Franciscan who didn't know the difference between "mauka" and "makai." I also didn't have a car of my own. After having a rental for a month (paid for by Borders--thanks!) and then trying unsuccessfully to buy a car twice from a man who must have been certifiable and/or playing a trick on the haole, I was nearly at my wits' end. I had returned the rental after agreeing to meet the seller at the airport. He never showed. I took a cab back to the store and was a little stunned and unsure about what to do next. I had no friends for hundreds/thousands of miles, I had broken up with my long-term partner a month before, and now I had no wheels. What had I done by moving here?! But, when asked about the car purchase by one of my new employees and after telling her the saga, she didn't hesitate to offer me the use of her second car. Seriously, there was no hesitation. She said it was aloha. I think I may have shed a tear, but I'll deny it if anyone asks. She lent me her car, invited me to Thanksgiving dinner, and introduced me to a culture that still holds a special place in my heart. As a swan song for Borders (I left in 2006), I couldn't have asked for a better tune than a little Hawaiian melody.

When they closed the doors on the Kona store, my friend Kris, the final General Manager of that store, sent me this photo. I had tacked my last lanyard to the wall of my office on my final day. It was my goodbye letter to the store and to my career at Borders. Years later, thanks to Kris, it was still there. She said she didn't have the heart to take it down when they closed the store. I like to think it's still hanging there.

Aloha nui loa, Borders. Your stories are safe with us.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Post-dinner satisfaction

Ahhhhh.

It was this kind of day in San Francisco

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Lunch at 4505 in the farmer's market at the Ferry Building followed by a walk through the Castro, Dolores Park, and the Mission. Tonight, I'm having dinner at Bottega in Yountville. Pasta coma awaits!

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Red

This shot is amazing. I wonder who does her Botox? Flawless. Werk it, gurl.

 

Friday, September 16, 2011

Why the Oxford comma matters

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Thanks to my friend Kevin for sharing this. And for proving, once and for all, that Stalin is one hot piece of beefcake.

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Move over Kool-Aid: Enter Kiddex Juice Drink

I don't understand this and I don't want to. Watch at your own risk. Sleepless nights await you.

Crocodile Bachmann

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G'day mate. You call that a Tea Party?! THIS is a Tea Party!!

Check out Bachmann-eyezed.

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Bar-noculars: Why bring one flask when you can have two?!

This is why I love "American but made in China" ingenuity. I can LOOK interested in a sport but really just be there as an excuse to drink. Play ball!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Meanwhile, back in Seattle...

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The Pacific Northwest tour is winding down, but Seattle is greeting me with open arms and LOTS of traffic. Tonight, I'm hoping to go to Machiavelli's for dinner. Time to carbo-load on Seattle pasta!

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Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Good morning Orcas!

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No sunshine yet, but we're still heading out to get breakfast then hopping on a whale watching boat. Wish us good luck and lots of orcas. I've been practicing my whale calls, so I think we'll do okay. Weeeeouuuuueeeeoooouuuuuwaaaaaoooouuuuuiiiiiiiiiaaaahhhh. The rest of the watchers are going to LOVE me.

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Monday, September 12, 2011

Orcas Island Getaway

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This will be my view for the next couple days as I celebrate the bf's birthday on Orcas Island. Beautiful views, sunshine, native art, and free WiFi!!

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Todd Road: The Great Caffeinated Way

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I'm pretty sure this road leads to a Starbucks or some other caffeine refueling station.

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Sunday, September 11, 2011

Moon Over Mt. Tabor

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It's a warm lovely night in Portland. Tomorrow, we're headed to Orcas Island with a high of 68!

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Saturday, September 10, 2011

Cutest après-dinner coffee service at Spinasse

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I had dinner at Spinasse in Seattle last night with the bf and my friend Courtney. Let me thank Yelp and Open Table. The reviews were correct. Everything was really good. Pasta with the butter sage sauce, the pasta special of the night with clams, and the caul fat-wrapped rabbit meatballs! I die. Then, when we got our coffee, it showed up in this adorable teensy set. I hope you can judge the scale by looking at the little spoon with the chunk of sugar on it. It was tiny and the coffee was STRONG. All in all, I would definitely recommend Spinasse if you're in Seattle.

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Thursday, September 8, 2011

Erasure starts to break it all down

It's about time Andy and Vince came out with some new music. They still look like they're having fun on stage and off. It's hard to believe I first heard them around 25 years ago. I was 4 if you're counting.

Something Defiant Is About to Happen Here

Patrick + Scott from John Hoel on Vimeo.



Thanks to Nubian for sharing this! And congratulations to Patrick and Scott!!

Violated by advertising, or the SF Gate hurts my eyes!

Why would any editor or designer or living, breathing human being agree to such a garish display of uglyosity?! Yes, we like the 49ers. Some of us even love them. We were stoked they won the World Series or something. But, this. THIS! This shocking use of banners and color is akin to advertising rape.* We can't sit idly by and let it happen.

Someone call the Internet Police.

  SF Gate home page hideousness

*This post was clearly not sponsored by Visa.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Labor Day or bust!

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Looks like it's going to be a gorgeous weekend!

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Food Bank attracts poor people, so church closes it

I'm pretty sure this is what Jesus would do to. Look, that condo conversion is never going to pay off with all those poor people around. Clean up the neighborhood and flip at sh*t!

WWJG: What would Jesus gentrify?