Monday, December 31, 2012

Happy 2013!

Ho ho ho! Another year soon comes to an end, and a new one begins! Unlike last year, 2012 contained a minimum of fiasco and a maximum of fun, with a side order of frenzy. Whew! Let's review!

January opened with me still getting used to my new job. I moved in with Boyfriend in February. I had Lasik surgery at the end of March, and instantly became 1.75% prettier. Papa came for a visit in April, and Boyfriend casually asked him "if it would be okay if we got married." Papa said yeah, okay.

Boyfriend had a big party to celebrate a milestone birthday in May. We watched a Red Sox game up in a box! Some guy clambered over the seats and tried to crash the party, and security promptly booted him out. There is no messing around in the Fen, kids.

June was a haze of barbecues. July saw me in upstate New York enjoying nature with Boyfriend's extended family. The end of July happened to be my birthday weekend, a milestone one, thank you for asking, and Boyfriend had a surprise up his sleeve. Then Mama came up in August to check out our digs and try to drown us in food. Not to be outdone, we visited her in Philly in September and ate far too much.

We had Canadian Thanksgiving at the folks' place and finally got moving on wedding planning in October. We chose a place and I gently tried to dissuade Fiancé from inviting everyone he's ever met. The month closed with a Halloween party where a dog wandered around dressed as a taxi.

We had two Thanksgivings in November, one rowdy, the other cozy. My bridesmaids helped me find a wedding dress, and they got their dresses, too.

December saw us at the traditional watching of the Boston Pops Christmas Concert. We flew to Manila on the day after Christmas. We have gained weight since, damn the delicious food!

Oh, and early in the year I set up a separate website for my comics. Since it's just a hobby, like my writing, I will consolidate everything here next year.

Those are the highlights of my most excellent 2012. I hope your year has been as delightful as mine, and I hope this holiday season brings you joy and merriment!

HAPPY 2013!!!

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry!

In true holiday tradition, I have been overeating and drinking. Ho! Ho! Ho!

It started out with the Boston Pops Christmas concert, a Fiance family tradition. As always, the orchestra performed wonderfully. Santa made an appearance to request "The Twelve Days of Christmas," and he was, naturally, immediately tailed by hopeful children. Meanwhile, we downed white wine and snacked on chips and shrimp. Then we went to Capital Grille to have a proper dinner. Fiance had the largest bowl of French onion soup ever -- it was practically a trough. I had oysters to start. Most everyone had steak, but I opted for shrimp stuffed with crab and lobster. There were five pieces but I could only make it through four because of too much pre-eating. So...worth...it...

The next day, we went to the 'burbs for a Yankee swap with the man's extended family. There were meatballs, cream cheese and jam and crackers, turkey, ham, fruits, and several battalions of dessert, all intent on fattening me up. One dish stood out. Here is a photo of Fiance holding forth while an edible Christmas tree made of broccoli, bell peppers, and cherry tomatoes cries out to be eaten:



The following day, Mama stepped off the Acela Express and instructed us to take her to an eat-all-you-can, stat. We spent almost two hours at Maki Maki, a new Japanese buffet. Mama spotted the oysters and that was the end -- she took an entire plateful. She grudgingly allowed me one oyster, the Christmas Eve spirit being truly miraculous. Later, Fiance tried his luck at oysters, but someone had taken a whole lot, and there were none left. I got up to refill my plate no less than five times. Then I realized there was chocolate fondue, and no sooner had I lovingly dipped in my pineapple on a stick than my mother charged up next to me. "Where are the marshmallows?" she demanded. She grabbed two. Then she spent another minute cackling with delight as she poked the marshmallows through the flow of chocolate. She compared the parting of the chocolate to... let's just say she compared it to something biblical. That has nothing to do with Moses.

Now we are off for more food at the future in-laws' place. Food! Food! It will no doubt cure the cold I developed last night. I already feel better thinking about it.

MERRY!*

*Greeting taken from adorable sign sent by future MIL -- knowing us to be godless, she sent the "Merry" and omitted the "Christmas." 

Friday, December 21, 2012

Giving = Receiving

I love humanity...on principle. I can be nice. I help out lost tourists if they ask. (Do I send them in the right direction? Generally speaking, yes.) I tip generously. If drivers clearly have to rush home to poo, I let them go ahead when I'm at a crosswalk. I give to charity. I recycle. I call my mom every day. And today, as I listened to her laments about her bad back, it dawned on me that giving isn't better than receiving. Giving is receiving.

Allow me to elucidate. My mom puts up with a lot of crap at work. Apart from the evil administrators who deprive employees of basics like use of the microwave and going outside to eat, her coworkers apparently keep borrowing small amounts of money for lunch and then never pay her back. No big deal; both my parents believe that relationships are far more important than money, and have drilled this value into our heads. But it gets annoying after a year, right? So that's her situation: give, give, give. But then, recently she had a horribly painful backache while at work. It was so bad she started crying. She was all set to go home, but these same coworkers told her not to because her pay would be docked. Their solution? They split up her tasks among themselves so she could rest quietly in the nurses' station. So she got paid back for her generosity. (paid back -- get it? get it?)

Here's another example: Fiancé and I were walking home from brunch last weekend when we spotted a giant U-Haul truck with an attached pod trying to maneuver in the narrow streets of the North End. Ever gallant, Fiancé spent the next fifteen minutes helping the man make a very tight turn without hitting parked cars. Success! What did Santa's darling helper get as his reward? Why, the gift that keeps on giving: me.

Speaking of me, I got a bonus this week, plus a ton of presents from my coworkers. Seriously -- all the swag barely fit into an oversized bag. I am still trying to puzzle out what I gave in order to receive such bounties. My inspiring work ethic? Ha ha ha! No. My unflagging smile and cheerful hellos for everyone? Maybe. My spirited participation in all entertaining yet strictly useless discussions? Perhaps. My unsolicited showing off of pictures of my cats? Getting warmer, I think.

Whatever it is, I'm convinced that every good deed, like every bad deed, gets its due. 'Tis not just this season; 'tis all year round. Although there appears to be a concentration of good stuff happening around the holidays, selection bias might be at work.

Now if you'll excuse me, apparently someone just fell into the river next to my office, police and the coast guard and firemen are everywhere, I must ogle. From my nice, warm cubicle, obviously. It's wet and gross out there.

Oh, and happy Friday!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Game Review: Star Ocean: The Last Hope (XBox)

Star Ocean: The Last Hope is the latest installment of the Star Ocean RPG series from Japan. The Last Hope is actually a prequel to the three other games that came before. It begins with WWIII, and how the ruined Earth prompted humanity to look toward space -- the "star ocean." With the secret help of a race of aliens called the Eldarians, Earthlings develop the hyperspace technology necessary to launch space ships to the farthest reaches of the galaxy.

The main characters in the story, Edge Maverick and Reimi Saionji, are crew members on one of the ships assigned to find a suitable planet for human relocation. As the fleet of ships prepares to launch from the moon base, famous hero Commander Kenny calls the two "Seeds of Hope" in his head. Since Edge is 20 and Reimi is 19, and they're somehow part of a mission where the future of humanity hangs in the balance, that's pretty much a dead giveaway that they're genetically altered to be superior to the rest of humanity.

After this entirely plausible opening scenario that will suck about thirty minutes of your life, The Last Hope's story rapidly goes into a nosedive. First, there's a scene involving giant insects with electromagnetic shields that deflect the crew's guns. So Edge has to fight with a sword and Reimi has to use a bow and arrows for the rest of the game. I think I got whiplash from shaking my head in disgust. Basically, the team landed on a planet judged inhabitable for Earthlings, with conditions similar to a dinosaur era on Earth, and the hostile insects evolved a defense against exactly the kind of high-tech weapons the crew carried? I can't even stop my eye roll right now. Then the writers compound the stupidity by claiming in the in-game manual that Edge has such great reflexes that he would be a poor gunman -- apparently, he's so fast that he'll shoot at where the enemy will be, instead of where it is. Groan.

Soon, a young Eldarian named Faize joins Edge and Reimi. Faize invented a small aircraft called the Sol that can flit easily within a planet and also well outside the planet's atmosphere. Faize, genius alien, fights with a rapier. Double groan. Fortunately, he has Symbology (magic), which is always useful. The trio continue the mission of finding an appropriate planet and meet a young girl named Lymle, who had the potential to be mega-annoying but is only marginally so. I can overlook the foibles of a character with powerful Symbology.

Anyway, eventually the group realizes that something much bigger is afoot in the universe, and off they go on a couple more planets. Along the way, they meet an engineer from an ancient alien race with a self-appointed mission of safeguarding space. Unlike Fiancé, this engineer has zero personality and is completely useless in battle. Reimi can fire off three shots in the time it takes him to launch a beam from his arm. Next, they meet Meracle, who is -- of course -- a scantily clad cat girl. Then they rescue/recruit one of the Featherfolk, Sarah Jerand, who clearly has the brains of a bird, how fitting. Good thing her AI heals the group like a boss. Next up is the impossibly busty Myuria, whose...assets...also include strong magic and playful disdain for all the other characters. Plus, she steals MP from enemies! Beautiful, agile, strong offensive magic, decent healing magic, and can self-supply MP? That's my favorite character right there. Finally, angry Eldarian Arumat joins up, and I mistakenly leveled him up as my secondary Tank without realizing that Meracle had higher attack stats, and she's faster, too. That'll teach me to judge based on appearances.

The cast of characters, combined with the excellent combat system, make The Last Hope super fun. After all, variety is the spice of life. Getting a new character is always a pleasure because all of them have different fighting styles and hilarious battle cries. The graphics during battle are superb. The characters make incredible leaps and dodges and swipes. The Special Attacks help you pwn any enemy in no time flat, especially if you do a Chain Combo. You can also go into Rush Mode if you get hit or strike the enemy enough times, and then your character glows white and goes berserk. It's all very satisfying. Also, it seems Myuria can only cast a spell while posing like she's on the cover of Maxim. I love it, I love it.

Apart from the awesome fighting, The Last Hope continues the franchise's Item Creation, a gameplay element that rewards the obsessive gamer. You can create any item if you have the recipe and the needed materials. Every shop you visit has a list of delivery orders that you can fulfill to gain EXP and money. Naturally, a lot of the items they want must be created, and there must be much fighting, mining, and foraging before Item Creation. I would have wasted away playing this game when I was a teenager. Fortunately, as an adult, I have my priorities in order. I knew that I had to finish this game as soon as possible so I can move on to the next game. (That would be Eiyuu Densetsu: Zero no Kiseki Evolution.)

Anyway, if I had to rank this game, the story would get a 3 out of 10. The writers thought that the characters clearly having a boner for Edge equals character development. They were wrong. Many events were improbable, even for a sci-fi/fantasy game. The cut scenes were unnecessarily long. One cut scene took almost an hour. It also peed all over science. Ugh. The writer(s) of The Last Hope needed to care more. Meanwhile, the music is a solid 8 out of 10. Motoi Sakuraba of Valkyrie Profile fame composed the soundtrack, and he's an old hand at operatic games. I especially enjoyed the mournful theme of Lemuris. The graphics get a 6 out of 10. The palette on the world map made everything look flat. Finally, the combat system is a 9 out of 10 for being fast-paced and fairly challenging. Yay battles!

In conclusion: The Last Hope is a serviceable entry into the Star Ocean series. It will please hardcore RPGers with its traditional story, strong combat system, and clever Item Creation aspect. The character designs will likely creep out or annoy Western RPGers, which is always a bonus.

If you want to try this game, I advise you to skip the cut scenes. Then you can cut out 40% of the time it takes to play this game! And you can go and frolic outside! Frolic, I say! FROLIC!

This review brought to you by too many sugary holiday treats.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Vegetarian Nacho Salad

In honor of Reverend Cowherd, founder of the UK's first vegetarian church, I present this delicious and easy meat-free recipe.

FRAGRANT ELEPHANT'S VEGETARIAN NACHO SALAD
Serves Two!*

Ingredients:
  • Black beans (8 oz.)
  • Green leaf lettuce
  • 1/2 cup salsa
  • 1/4 of an onion and 1 tomato (chopped)
  • Grated cheese (optional)
  • Tostitos Blue Corn Chips
Instructions:
  1. Cook the black beans. Once cooked, drain.
  2. Put the beans back in the pan. Mix in the salsa, onion, and tomato.
  3. Shred the green leaf lettuce.
  4. Put the chips in a wide, shallow bowl. 
  5. Add the lettuce on top.
  6. Then add the bean mix.
  7. If you want, add grated cheese.
  8. Bask in the praise from your impressed victim fellow diner.

This meal has protein via beans, plus other nutrients from the lettuce and tomato. The raw onion adds bite. The cheese has calcium. Meanwhile, the chips save it from being completely healthy. Can't have too much of a good thing!

"I could eat this every day!"
-Fiancé 

*Bonus: Contains one serving of moral superiority for having a smaller ecological footprint than a beef dish!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Newtown

Had to stop reading the profile of the victims because of tears. The gunman killed women and children. You know, the people that get to go on lifeboats first. I read about how the teachers died shielding the kids and I just lost it. President Obama was a wreck, too.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Movie Review: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012)

My dad used to read The Hobbit to me when I was a halfling. He also got me the three-issue comic with David Wenzel's awesome art. I clamored for more, and received the animated video. That thing was hideous. When I grew up, Fiancé bought me the single-volume revised edition of the comic. Nerd love just can't be beat.

I say all this as a proviso. I love The Hobbit. I can recite every riddle in the scene between Gollum and Bilbo. I can pretend to lip sync to the many songs the dwarves sing during the journey. Most of all, I want a Gandalf of my very own, especially after watching Sir Ian McKellen in The Lord of the Rings trilogy. In other words, this is not the place to go for an objective take on The Hobbit.

I love it like cake. It has all the requisite ingredients of a Tolkien epic in cinematic form: panoramic vistas; a soaring soundtrack; snappy dialogue; and moral commentary. And then there's the cheese. Oh, the cheese. Thorin, leader of the dwarves, has a fiercely tragic glower that telegraphs slow-motion battle action scenes with triumphant background music. Boy, does he deliver. The scene at the end where -- SPOILER ALERT -- he hurls himself from a burning tree to attack an orc was the second cheesiest in the movie. "What?" you exclaim, "what could be cheesier than that?" Galadriel. Galadriel is so cheesy that she could bring wine and it would instantly be a wine and cheese party.

Ba-dum-dum!

For the uninitiated: The Hobbit tells the story of Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman), who is recruited by Gandalf the Grey (McKellen) to be the burglar for a group of dwarves marching to reclaim their mountain home from the dragon Smaug. Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage), now king of the dwarves, leads twelve of his kin/kith on the expedition. They need a burglar for the sneaky parts of their mission.

In the book, Gandalf keeps disappearing on mysterious errands. Director Peter Jackson seems determined to explain why. The first movie in The Hobbit trilogy shows viewers the side quest that pulls Gandalf away from Thorin and Company: the rise of the Necromancer.  It looks interesting so far, especially since it involves the nutty wizard Radagast.

Jackson also provides a prologue about the dwarves' former glory and their fall from grace via dragon. I think it's effective because it underlines why Thorin and his fellows are hellbent on getting back to the Lonely Mountain / Erebor. It also introduces audiences to the other peoples in the story: the men of Dale, and the woodland elves. Thorin is not a fan of either, but he can be a jerk sometimes.

Two people make this movie shine: Martin Freeman as Bilbo Baggins, and Andy Serkis as Gollum. Their scene together is hands down the best part of the film. Freeman is perfect. I have loved the actor since the original UK The Office. Meanwhile, Gollum is rendered even better than before. The technology for his character is amazing. Serkis does a fantastic job of making Gollum the pathetic-pitiful-crazy figure that he is.

If you love Stephen Colbert and anything Hobbit-related, watch his episodes from the week of December 3. He interviews Freeman, McKellen, Serkis, and Jackson. Colbert is a huge Tolkien nerd. I love him even more.

Now, enough reading! Get out there and WATCH!!!

Friday, December 14, 2012

Movie Review: Attack the Block (2011)

Attack the Block is an enjoyable teens vs aliens movie. The main character, Moses, starts out as just another juvenile delinquent leading other hooligans. Then the aliens come, and Moses and his band of loyal followers bring it. Well, eventually. After all, they're up against giant beasts with a double row of teeth that glow in the dark.

As the aliens close in, the boys retreat back into their apartment block, where they gain unlikely allies. They also manage to antagonize the local drug dealer along the way. That doesn't stop them from making a beeline for the safest place in the block: the dealer's fortified weed room, which incidentally holds the source of, and solution to, their extraterrestrial problems.

The soundtrack of the this movie is pimp. The beats pound away as the youths' inner city lives come into focus. Attack the Block isn't shy about social commentary. At one point, Moses speculates that the aliens have been sent in to "kill black boys." Earlier, one of his friends laments that they mugged a nurse: "Why did we go after poor people?" They smoke weed with a major pothead (Nick Frost, of course). They're barely supervised. But that works to their advantage, because parents can be such a killjoy when you announce that you're off to fight aliens, and where's the biggest kitchen knife?

Watching the movie, Fiancé was struck by how much of American culture has spread over the Atlantic. The kids in Attack the Block could be mistaken for typical gangsta youth in the States, if not for their British accents. John Boyega, who plays Moses, looks like a teenage Denzel Washington. But the characters in the movie have extra grit that lets them make good tactical decisions: flee when possible, attack when necessary. In the end, Moses comes up with the plan to end the alien threat. There's a glaring absence of police throughout the siege of the block, but I think that's because the movie demands it.

It's easy to see why this film has achieved cult status. Attack the Block features strong performances, a sharp script, competent cinematography, and of course, a pimp soundtrack. It's a pleasant distraction from the soul-crushing dreariness of your life. Wait, your life isn't soul-crushing or dreary? Well, just mine then.

Tonight, we watch The Hobbit! Happy Friday!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Book Review: I Shall Wear Midnight (2010)

Young witch Tiffany Aching stars in I Shall Wear Midnight, a touching, thoughtful foray into responsibility, friendship, and power. Terry Pratchett introduced Tiff to readers when she was nine, in The Wee Free Men. Now she's almost sixteen, and is as smart and stubborn as ever, but with the added duties of being the witch of her homeland, the Chalk. In this adventure, she must stop the Cunning Man and prove herself worthy of having her own steading.

In the book, Pratchett spends a lot of time deconstructing the idea of witches. Mostly he does so through Tiffany's musings. He also uses a witch we've seen before: Mrs. Proust, who runs a novelty shop in the big city. Tiffany and Mrs. Proust both clash with the superstitious view of witches. Tiffany usually wears green dresses, while Mrs. Proust is constantly shilling a new line of humorous poo-shaped products. But they both wear the pointy hat, and they both do what needs to be done. On the Discworld, being a witch means taking care of business.

The author creates the Cunning Man to underline the horror of witch persecutions. The Cunning Man is basically a spirit that can influence pliable minds. "Poison goes where poison's welcome," says Mrs. Proust, and the Cunning Man can only turn those whose minds are filled with hatred, rage, and envy. It resurrects itself every so often after being banished by a strong witch. (Guess which mega-witch banished it last time. Go on, guess. Hint: blue eyes.) Due to certain complications in her ironically nonexistent love life, Tiffany becomes the new target for the Cunning Man's relentless campaign to rid the world of witches. She finds herself hated by people she grew up with, because the Cunning Man feeds their minds with lies about the evil of witches.

Of course, no Tiffany Aching story would be complete without the Nac Mac Feegles, a race of tiny faerie folk sworn to protect her, if only they could stop boozing and brawling among themselves. They provide most of the comic relief in the novel, because Tiffany plays it pretty straight. As a bonus, they also welcome back into the fold Wee Mad Arthur, a policeman who grew up believing that he was a gnome.

I Shall Wear Midnight feels darker than previous Tiffany Aching outings, especially toward the middle, before she understands why the Cunning Man is after her. Once she does, however, she gets right down to kicking ass and taking names.

I think the best part of the story is Tiffany's strong characterization. She's very young, but she knows who she is, and she knows what needs to be done. She has the pride, power, and bossiness that comes naturally to all great witches. The second best part of the book is the supporting characters. No one can go it alone, and our Tiff gets plenty of help. There are the faerie folk, the young castle guard Preston, and other witches and possibly even a wizard. I shan't spoil the surprise, in case you're an avid Discworld reader who's plowed through all 30+ novels.

Tiffany Aching stories are marketed as YA, but I recommend this one for anyone who liked, say, The Hunger Games trilogy. It's got a strong female lead, plenty of colorful side players, a creepy villain, and great lessons about self-confidence, duty, and doing what's right.

Mr. Pratchett, the ending almost made me cry. How wonderful. Well done, sir, well done. I would bow and raise my pointy hat to you, if I had a pointy hat!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Bowling Sucks

My company just had its holiday party yesterday. We had a bowling tournament, and a lot of people signed up. I got out of joining by reminding the organizers that I was one of the few women who volunteered to play basketball when we had our summer office sport event. But the real reason I opted out is that I think bowling sucks.

Let's examine this activity. You fling a heavy ball onto a flat wooden surface with the goal of knocking down ten pins. You get two chances to knock down as many pins as you can, then it's someone else's turn. To be the bomb at bowling, you practice your ball release techniques, which are limited to a grand total of two. You can swing it straight and hope for the best, but the ball will usually gravitate to the gutter. Or you can do a fancy hook move, crossing one leg behind the other as you release. This makes you look like a penguin with a hip problem.

Then you need to master a delivery style. Wikipedia says there are three. Basically, it's these: fling it, spin it, or fling-spin it. Fiancé says he does a combination hook-spin, and I have no idea what he looks like when he does it, because I avert my eyes to preserve his dignity.

I see you shaking your head and thinking that I hate bowling because I suck at it. I do. But bowling sucked at me first. I've played enough of this travesty to know it's a waste of my time.

Why would you play a game with a ball that does not involve parabolas? That's just lazy. Basketball, football, ping-pong, heck, even badminton -- all these fabulous games require that you move to a spot and select an angle from which to launch a sweet, sweet parabolic strike that will destroy your foes. Soccer half-sucks because most of the time they kick it across the ground. Snore. The game gets exciting when someone kicks the ball at another player's head or chest, or when a player does that thing where he flips upside down to shin the ball into the goal. Now that is some delicious aerodynamics.

In short, the only way to lure me to a bowling alley is to promise me food and beer. Then I will eat and drink and cheer you on. I hope you understand that it's not you. It's bowling. Or to use its anagram: it's blowing. And not in a good way.

Let's just play pétanque, okay? Or better yet, let's just watch The Big Lebowski.

This rant is brought to you by Tequila Tuesdays.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Don't Join the Harvard Club

Do you have standards? Then don't join the Harvard Club.

Sure, the Downtown Club offers beautiful views of the Charles River and downtown Boston. Yes, the food is delicious and the service is unparalleled. And I'm sure the Main Clubhouse is a veritable hall of delights.

But their member services staff can't get their act together. Allow me to expound.

At Fiancé's urging, in mid-October I electronically handed over a few hundred bucks for the privilege of eating out and name-dropping. Were I one year older, I would have had to pony up over a thousand bucks. Fortunately, I am still 30.

A couple of weeks pass by. Nothing from the Harvard Club. In November, I email a member services person. He apologizes and says the new member packet is on its way. In the meantime, I am to use the guest member number 666* to enter the premises. Fiancé and I still need to submit photo IDs every time we want to go up the Club. The guards at the front desk of One Federal have to open the turnstiles for us. Okay, no problem.

A couple more weeks go by. At that point, we'd had a dinner there and enjoyed it. I wrote to the member services person again to check in about the new member packet. No response.

The next day, I received an email from another member services person. "Dear Peter," it began. (If you do not know me, dear reader, I assure you I am not a Peter.) The email gently reminded me that since my member dues were so low, I had to spend a minimum amount at the Club every quarter.

I responded politely that I am Fragrant Elephant, the member, and I'll definitely come again to give them more of my money. I also asked when I might expect to receive my new member packet. Again, no response.

So off we went on the day before Thanksgiving. Lunch was terrific. The wait staff were as superb as ever. I asked the girl at the front desk about a new member packet, and she directed me to member services. I could not even lol at this irony. I asked about maybe getting an ID so we could just breeze in next time. She pulled out a folder, wrote my name on a card, and handed it to me.

I gave it back. "My name is not Elephant Fragrant," I told her. "It's Fragrant Elephant."

She said the system had my name wrong, and she changed it on the computer. She gave me a new card and told me to get a barcode from downstairs.

Next, I wanted to know if I could change my payment information, since I'm there already. (I had recently changed my credit card no thanks to a scam Chinese website and my own idiocy.) When you eat at the Club, they don't give you a receipt -- they bill your credit card. So they needed my new info if they wanted me to pay for the awesome lobster casserole in my stomach. "No, just do it online," said the receptionist. "Use your [REDACTED] and your [REDACTED] to log in."

I logged in and discovered that "hideous" is the aesthetic for the Harvard Club intranet design. Turns out I can only change my credit card info by authorizing the Club to automatically charge me monthly. I am leery of this option, since I just received a bill that demanded an extra thirty bucks for not meeting my minimum. I guess they didn't count our dinner, because Fiancé paid for it. Alas, chivalry! Thy days art over!

In the Harvard Club's defense, it looks and sounds really fancy. But like the University, it seems to have its share of absentminded professionals.

In conclusion: come for the food and service, flee from the management.

This rant is brought to you by Three Drinks Thursdays.

*666 is not actual member number

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Light Books I Have Read Recently

It's Wine Wednesday! I've got a Malbec waiting for me at home.

In lieu of my joining Twitter, I will post my book reviews in 140 characters or less. You're welcome.

The books below take about three hours maximum to breeze through.



Suck It, Wonder Woman! (2010)

Olivia Munn reveals the gross insanity sometimes found in Hollywood, plus all the fun she has as a biracial TV personality with geek credit.

When You Ride Alone, You Ride with Bin Laden (2002)

Bill Maher points out that addressing oil dependency, religious extremism, and the War on Drugs will in fact help the war against terrorism.

Bossypants (2011)

Tina Fey talks about her childhood, improv, SNL, and 30 Rock (Alec Baldwin). Book’s title misleading; Fey is more workaholic than bossy.

***

Boy, that was unsatisfying. I had no space to talk about Munn's frank discussion about how her love of pie made her gain weight; Maher's belief that the US has been the nicest superpower in history so far; and Fey's anxiety that Sarah Palin would be booed by New Yorkers when she came to the SNL studios.

Oh, well! Mayhap the time for overspeaking be over?

Monday, December 3, 2012

Time Difference

Thanks to quickmeme.com!
Welcome, reader, to Sweeping Generalizations Monday!

The topic for today is CPT, or Caucasian People Time. This phenomenon differs from the original CPT, Colored People Time. For purposes of our sweeping generalization, we will label the latter CPT1 and the former CPT2. You'll pick up which is which from context.

CPT1 holds that your physical presence at an event can only occur at least 30 minutes past the time you were supposed to be there, or preferably 45 minutes to an hour. In other words, you're supposed to be always late. By contrast, CPT2 requires a commitment to reaching the party destination as close to the appointed time as possible, with cheese and crackers in tow. In other words, come on time, but bring food to tide you over.

In the CPT1 timeline, if you're invited to any sort of gathering involving food, the food will be there at the appointed time. Whether it's a full, catered buffet or a more modest, homemade spread of children's spaghetti, roasted pig, fried noodles, spring rolls, barbecue pork, and spicy pork--if the invite said 6 pm, the entire array of dishes shall be waiting for you as you casually saunter in at 7 pm.

If you bring food, the host/hostess shall be insulted! How dare you impugn their honor by suggesting that they will somehow fail to stuff you full of food and send you on your way? Unthinkable!

In the CPT2 case, a barbecue that "starts at one" will see you receiving your burger at three, if you're lucky. You're supposed to fill up on chips and dip in the meantime. You chat to catch up while the host serves drinks and more dip. Then, at a mysterious time, such as when invited Filipinos start becoming grouchy due to not having actual food yet, the host starts the grill.

If you did not bring food or drinks or a few jokes, how dare you be a freeloader! This gathering is meant to be a social occasion, and everyone must pitch in!

Clearly, the main issue here is food. The meal is the star of the show under CPT1. Meanwhile, socializing is why everyone has come together in CPT2. The food is a bonus.

As a brave young woman straddling these two phenomena, my survival depends on my ability to adapt. Since I now operate mostly under CPT2, I should always have a snack in my bag when I'm invited to dinner or lunch. Or better yet, I should have a full meal beforehand, since my metabolism will have burned through it by the time the event food is served.

However, I find that the best solution is actually beer. It's like having bread! Just give me a bottle or two, and watch my waiting-for-food-stress disappear under the influence! I may even crack a joke, like this one:

What's a government mandate?
It's when Obama and Biden go out to dinner together!

Ahahahaha!!! I kill me.

In conclusion: it's Monday and I'm not even awake yet.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Movie Review: Lincoln (2012)

Watch Lincoln. It features terrific acting, an excellent screenplay, and a gripping look back at a key moment in US history. Daniel Day-Lewis dominates this film with his portrayal of the 16th POTUS. His fellow cast members also shine, especially Tommy Lee Jones as Thaddeus Stevens. He has unbelievably great one-liners that he launches with relish.

The movie follows Lincoln as he tries to pass the 13th Amendment through the House of Representatives. Many are opposed to the abolition of slavery. Lincoln asks for help from the founder of the Republican Party, Francis Blair, who demands that the president allow him to negotiate peace with the Southern states. Meanwhile, William Seward, Lincoln's Secretary of State, deploys that era's version of lobbyists (including a delightfully sleazy James Spader) to solicit support from lame duck Democrats. There are such clashes of personalities and ideologies that the waiting for the outcome of the vote becomes tense. Anti-abolitionists roar that no more slavery means enfranchising former slaves, and even worse -- giving women the vote! In meetings with his cabinet, Lincoln quietly repeats why the amendment must pass.

There's a lot to love about this movie. Mostly it's the words. Lincoln's anecdotes reveal his keen political and social intellect. Stevens' harshness shows his contempt for "the people." Mary Todd Lincoln (Sally Field) is clearly tormented. The members of the House of Representatives are overtly racist and sexist. There's a ton of rhetoric, all delivered with high energy in extremely starched clothing. It's a wonder people could move around back then. For a change, John Williams composed low-key music for the scenes. The score becomes apparent only during quiet moments, when Lincoln starts saying something and a flute trills heroically in the background.

I highly, highly recommend seeing this film in theaters. Then, play a drinking game with your friends when it comes out on Blu-ray and DVD. For example: sip when Lincoln tells a cheerful little story. Chug when his wife lambasts a politician at a White House party. Or, you can do what I really wanted to do, 10 minutes into the movie: bring pom-poms and cheer. Rah!

Movie Review: Black Panther (2018)