9.27.2005

Moons of the Morbidly Obese:

For many years, I have been an on-again-off-again insomniac. I can go for weeks relishing the kind of sleep of which cows are envious. (Cows, as you may know, can sleep standing up and not be disturbed even by crapulent teenage cow-tippers). I wake up after 7 or 8, or occasionally even 9 hours of such profound and imperturbable sleep that I am frozen in the same spine-cracking position in which I first drifted off to meet the Sandman.

There are, however, many times when such sleep, or really any sleep, eludes me for days or weeks or months on end. I have recently re-entered one of these Dr. Jekyl-esque, somnus-absent periods. A central theme of this affliction is my inability to adequately deal with this frustrating occurence.

The night before last, I employed my usual strategy of leaving the television on at high volume, while ignoring all instincts pointing to more constructive, and perhaps sleep-conducive, activities. Although there was no clear program choice, I figured the only way to justify what promised to be a night of mind-numbing television claptrap, would be to watch something "educational"... So, as my thinly-stretched and sleep-deprived conscience dictated, I settled on a one hour documentary on TLC called "The 627 Pound Woman" (a creative title if ever there was one, given that the show was, quite to my un-surprise, about the struggle of a 627-lb woman to get her weight under control).

This woman's shocking appearance, including a roughly 60lb paniculus (a large sagging pouch of poorly-distributed excess body fat), sagging weightily towards the ground from the left side of her lower torso, made it impossible for me to avert my eyes. I even forgoed channel flipping during commercial breaks for fear that I would miss anything(I would normally, at the very least, check on MTV to see if that god-awful Laguna Beach was over yet).

I became even more tightly riveted to the "boob-tube" (a term my father has employed with aplomb for as long as I can remember, and which, in my old age, I agree is rather apt, especially considering the outcome of this particular sleepless night) during the 1am-2am TLC time slot.
As if to ratchet up the tension perceptably for all of us pathetic nail-biting insomniacs glued to the TV at 1am on a Tuesday, a program called "The One-Ton Man" was broadcast, much to my sick delight. This time, not only did I not channel flip during commercials (screw you, Talin, and your band of spoiled Cali cronies!), but I was compelled to save up all of my furious, eyeball-refreshing blinking for these pauses. Simply put, the one ton man, Patrick something-er-other, was and is indescribable. Does anyone remember the girl in Willy Wonka that turned into a blueberry after eating some 3-course meal bubble gum which had not yet reached the end of the "development pipeline"? Take away the blue, flatten her out a bit, multiply to an adult man and that was poor Patrick, no exaggeration, here.

When I finally did crawl into bed and fall asleep (my best estimate is around 3:30am), it was inevitable that I should have dreams focusing on obesity: the strange thing, however, is the form in which these dreams presented themselves. It was as if I were my own little planet, and I was being orbitted by several moons. Each moon was a super-morbidly obese person like Patrick (alhtough in this case, he was smiling and no longer covered by huge festering welts) and the 627-lb woman (minus paniculus). The irony here is that I awoke with the distinct impression of being too damn fat for my own good - we're talking giggly, chunky fat that would keep me from being able to roll over in bed of my own volition and under my own steam. This feeling plagued me for a good part of that day, which is when it finally hit me what my father has meant all these years... that tube turned me into a boob.

Account Breach - leaves you more vulnerable then airing dirty
laundry to your current special friend

When it comes to storing financial information online, never doubt your gut feeling if you start to sense that something is not right. Yesterday, I received an email from Verizon Wireless informing me that my account that had been configured for recurring payments, was no longer active. The message certainly surprised me, especially because this account had been set up over a year ago and the payments were made like clockwork. I started to think with my work instinct rather than listen to my common sense instincts. At work, we had been putting rules in place so that users of a specific software application were notified, after a certain point in time, and encouraged to change profile information (user name, password, etc.). I started to think that the email I received was a pre-set notification and I had missed the fine print when I signed up for the service.

Later in the evening, I received the real kick-in-the-stomach when I checked my text messages to find that my PIN, for the Verizon Wireless site, had been changed. I knew for a fact that a PIN could only be changed when someone logged into an account and manually triggered the account change. Panic started to set in. I couldn't remember if Verizon masked my financial account information. Further, yesterday would have been the worst possible day for a breach to my checking account. The check I submitted with my house contract was about to be deposited and if the funds had magically disappeared, well, let's just say that my usual cure for all things stressful, scotch on the rocks, was only going to the beginning of a very long night.

I suddenly found myself under the influence of Woodward and Bernstein's passion, so eloquently played out by Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman in All The President's Men while speaking with a Verizon account representative. I was going to expose this unacceptable account breach and save thousands of innocent other identify theft victims, which, are certainly out there, waiting for better online account management security. According to a telephone poll conducted Aug. 15-21, 2005 by Gallup:
  • one in six Americans say they have had financial information, such as their bank or credit card numbers, stolen.*
  • Six in 10 (62%) of those who had their information stolen say someone charged purchases against a credit card they already had. Fifty-four percent said someone charged purchases or withdrew money from their bank account.*

As far as I know, the most visible law governing account breach protocol is California Civil Code Section 1798.82. (Please note, this is a PDF file). We need a national law that addresses identity theft outside the state of California. There are companies that incur the expense and take it upon themselves to inform consumers when identity theft occurs, even if the consumer resides outside the state of California. These companies are setting the standard high, for business to customer communication. What we need now is a higher, more secure standard of protection.

I used to think that people who didn't engage in online commerce were crazy not to trust the security protocols. I can know walk in their shoes and relate to their founded trepidation. I will continue to pay bills and make purchases online, but I will be cautious, spend time with the fine print and monitor my accounts more closely.

*Results for the survey are based on telephone interviews with 1,011 adults, aged 18 and older, conducted Aug. 15-21, 2005. For results based on this sample, one can say with 95% confidence that the margin of sampling error is ±3 percentage points.


9.21.2005

Wireless internet, ingenuity, sex appeal and a partner in crime = solution to any problem!

There was a brief moment a couple of Sundays ago when Viola and I were paralyzed due to a misplaced cell phone. Frozen on the corner of 18th and Florida, debating if we should hop a cab, run back home, or search for our friend in the masses convening to celebrate Adams Morgan day, we silently racked our brains. We needed to reach Triangle, but Viola's cell phone was the sole place where Triangle's number was stored. Unfortunately, no major telecommunications company has figured out or approached regulators for permission to create a 411 directory for cell phone owners.

It was an absolutely beautiful day and we weren't going to let this small set-back keep us from finding Triangle. A plan began to form, but we needed some supplies: an internet connection and computer or some type of web-surfing device. As much as we would probably volunteer to be human wireless access points, it was something we could not deal with at the moment.

18th street certainly has bars, but it's also home to three coffee shops - all offering wireless internet access. Stellar. One component down. Now, we needed to find a computer. This also meant we needed to convince the computer's operator that our cause was just and we would only need five teeny minutes of someone's time.

Follow these simple directions and if you ever need something that is only accessible via email, but you find that you have no computer, no internet access, no hope - DO NOT FEEL DESPAIR - TAKE ACTION!!!
*Note: apply lip gloss before approaching victim
**Note: females - only approach males

Destination: Caribou Coffee Victim: Slightly overweight white male, approximate age: 27-32

Execution Line: "We are so sorry to disturb you, but we have run into a slight snafu involving a mis-placed cell phone. Could we use your computer for five minutes to access our friend's cell number?"

If Victim hesitates, offer to purchase the Victim a luring treat (coffee drink, danish, whatever floats victim's boat)

I wish I could say our operation only took five minutes, but it was realistically more like 15 minutes. We selected a more "savvy" surfer (just our luck) that prevented a timely and smooth fact finding mission. However, once we finally accessed the key information, we were on our way to contacting Triangle and making a sticky situation a successful adventure.

Mission Accomplished with only the following loss: $5 towards fatty's latte for computer use

9.14.2005


Stay Golden: The New Rule to Live By

Today is a very special day. It is the anniversary of the premier of the Golden Girls sitcom, 20 whole years ago. Can you believe it? Twenty! This makes me feel as old as Dorothy, Blanche, Rose and Sophia. I mean, OLD old.

What’s that, you say? You could not care less about the Golden Girls? You think they SUCK? Well, I offer this—you just have not thought the situation through all the way. I mean, check this: GG was the first TV show that was all about single girlfriends, doing their thing, sans males—a geriatric Sex and the City, really. Come on, are you telling me senior-but-sexy southern belle Blanche ISN’T Samantha? Sweet, dopey, idealistic Rose isn’t the spittin’ image of Charlotte? And smart, sarcastic (and manly) Dorothy—well, I dunno—maybe Mister Big??

Allow me to serenade you with the rockin theme song. You may sing along if you like:

Thank you for bein’ a friend
Travel down the road and back again
You heart is true; you’re a pal and a confidante.
[BUM, bum, bum]
And if you threw a party, i-i-i-invited everyone you knew,
You would see the biggest gift would be from me
And the card attached would say:
Thank you for bein’ a fri-e-e-e-nd!


Rousing wasn’t it? My college roommate used to deploy this song for strategic public humiliation purposes. She would wait until I was shit-housed—preferably in a large public venue—and then sweet-talk me into singing it. I always obliged. I do a damn fine rendition of it when blind drunk. Or at least it sounds damn fine to me.

But all public disgrace aside, my only REAL worry is that there is a piece of gray matter in my head exclusively devoted to retaining for all eternity the Golden Girls theme song lyrics--which I can summon to mind even in the utmost state of inebriation. YET I woke up Sunday morning having totally forgotten at least one fairly significant bit of information.

The following is my chain of thoughts, in real time: “Urpfh! Wha? Whozzis? Whas’ this strange blue blanket-y thing, and why is it so freaking bright in this room? Have I been transported to the face of the sun? FUCK! What is the FIRST NAME of this dude next to me? Oh god, think, think! Perhaps he has some decorative item which has his name on it!? Wait--what if he DOES have a decorative item with his name on it? That would be so weird! Maybe I can get into his wallet without him noticing and check his license? Oh. Shit. I am an asshole. I give up. I will think on this more after I get a Diet Coke the size of my head.”

But, I digress. To summarize my (albeit scattered) thoughts on the Golden Girls: It occurred to me today that the show is a good metaphor for my life. Seriously!

Take one group of saucy single gals-in-the-city, add some madcap hijinks, some random guys that drift in and out on a show-by-show basis, substitute late-night boozing for late-night cheesecake, and IT. IS. TOTALLY. FUCKING. US!!

And, by god, it ain't all that bad. So, the New, Improved Golden Rule: Cherish your gal-pals. They will hold your hair while you puke and judge not your slut-tastic escapades. And if you are reading this, thank you for bein’ a friend.

Viola

9.12.2005

The dreaded "How was your weekend? What did you do?" questions -
how to respond without horrifying your coworkers.
On the other hand, don't underestimate the full-on "jaw drop" response...torturing fellow co-workers can be a great way to start a Monday.

One day, I will have the following chipper response (note: must start consuming coffee or some form of caffeine before arriving at the office; if you have the "don't talk to her before her first cup" reputation, I highly recommend the pre-work caffeine routine):
The weekend was really nice! I met up with friends on Friday night and on Saturday, I spent the morning volunteering. I helped out a friend on Saturday afternoon by watching her son, so she could attend an art class. Saturday night was again spent with a different group of friends; we ordered pizza and enjoyed the humidity-free evening. On Sunday, I had my weekly check-in calls with my Mother and Grandmother, then I accomplished my errands to get myself ready for the week.

Please don't gag violently at this point; under-the-breath cursing might be more appropriate. Yes, the response is a little "Stepford"-ish. They have pegged you as the "wild and crazy" one - I mean, you are the only one without a spouse and one of the few without children. And, because you have been truthful in the past, they secretly wonder about your alcohol consumption and how many "sleep-overs" are, um, planned before they actually occur. Now, you are simply charming and reformed - those wild "girls gone wild days" are so totally over and done with!

Like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, the weekend response must change and morph for the inquiring audience. Simply remove the "work filter" from the above response and you will have the following adventuresome quip:
I think I might still be drunk. I can't remember what I did on Friday night. Saturday night, now that I remember! I decided that bartenders at posh bars shouldn't be the only ones preparing inviting and experimental cocktails; I was going to get my hands dirty in that field too. My drink of choice was Rum, Rum, Rum, cranberry juice and Rum. Oh - and ice. Lot's of ice. While enjoying the spectacular view from my friend's roof deck, I downed this new drink while touting the fabulous antioxidant-type properties that are found in cranberries. Every one knows I'm a health freak, not an alcoholic. Later that night I puked up the entire content of Saturday, including julienne carrots from my Cosi salad, on the front porch of my condo building. Oh! I cleaned it up though so no one else would have to deal with it, look at it or come knocking on my door to blame it on me. I'm such a good resident - I woke up at 7:30 to clean it up!

Truly angelic - sometimes you can see a halo above my head.

9.09.2005

Weekly Vitals. Pick your flavor: New Orleans, Big Easy or Katrina

I never liked descriptive adjectives such as "good", "cool" and "best"; these words are more conditional than matter-of-fact. The word "good" to you means something entirely different than my interpretation of "good". Of course, circumstance plays into the definition of "good" or any other word such as "great", "poor", "fair" etc. This is one of the reasons I dislike the following Gallup poll. I would be more interested in the raw decriptors people would choose on their own, when decribing their feelings about Katrina.

Bush's response to Katrina:

Despite widespread criticism of the response by Bush and, separately, the federal government, to the problems caused by the hurricane, the public seems on balance only mildly critical.

* Forty-two percent say Bush did a "bad" (18%) or "terrible" (24%) job
* 35% rate his response as either "great" (10%) or "good" (25%)

Source: Gallup
Poll performed on .09.05.05 & 09.06.05

Federal Agencies' response to Katrina:

Federal agencies received a similar rating:

* 42% of Americans giving a low rating and 35% a high one
* The public was about evenly divided on state and local officials in Louisiana -- 37% giving a high rating and 35% a low one.

Source: Gallup
Poll performed on .09.05.05 & 09.06.05

Who is most responsible for the problems in New Orleans in Katrina's aftermath?

When asked to identify who was most responsible for the problems in New Orleans after the hurricane:

* 38% of Americans said no one was really to blame
* 13% cited Bush
* 18% cited the federal agencies
* 25% cited state and local officials.

Source: Gallup
Poll performed on .09.05.05 & 09.06.05

The poll, conducted Sept. 5-6, finds almost all Americans, 93%, agreeing that Hurricane Katrina is the worst natural disaster in their lifetimes.

9.06.2005

Good Hair + Good Deeds = Happy Vitals Girl

On Sunday, Sept. 18 from 9 a.m.-9 p.m at Urban Style Lab, a WHITE HOT new salon near the Dupont metro (yeah, this is where Viola gets her hair cut, people), 75% of the haircut price will go to the American Red Cross for hurricane relief efforts.

Appointments are not necessary (but might be a good idea). Stylists will work on a first-come, first-served basis. Ask for Kelly if you can--in addition to cutting a mean head, he's serious eye candy, ladies. MeeYOW!

Cuts are $75 women, $45 men

Urban Style Lab
1341 Connecticut Ave NW Washington, DC
202-223-2066

9.01.2005

This Just In: Area Restaurants to Hold Katrina Benefits

Information posted on DonRockwell.com, a DC-area food and dining blog, indicates that over the next several weeks, the Neighborhood Restaurant Group (consisting of Vermilion, Tallula & Evening Star Cafe) will be holding a number of fundraising events to aid in relief efforts for victims of Hurricane Katrina in Mississippi, Alabama, and Louisiana.

The group is planning a number of different opportunities for patrons and employees to contribute to the overall donation to the American Red Cross.

Fundraising events planned include:

Total Sales Donation Night - September 7
A percentage of total sales from Tallula, Vermilion & Evening Star Cafe will be donated to the cause.

Sweet Tribute - September 5-11
50% of sales from all desserts sold during the week will be donated

Taste of the French Quarter--Dates TBA
Tallula and Evening Star Cafe will bring a taste of the French Quarter to Virginia with a tribute to the famous Cafe Du Monde. Beignets and hot coffee will be served with 100% of proceeds going to the fund.

Check Donations - Month of September
Guests will be given the opportunity to contribute to the American Red Cross on top of their check. Those who wish to contribute to the fund can indicate a desired donation amount on a card enclosed with the bill. That amount will then be added to their bill.

Donations will also be collected during the live music performances throughout September at Vermilion and the Evening Star Cafe. Visit the website for Vermilion and Evening Star for live music schedules.

Planet Wine will also be collecting donations at both shops.

**Also, the employees working the lunch and dinner shifts at Vermilion on Labor Day have pledged to donate at least 50% of their tips from the day to the American Red Cross. So plan to celebrate Labor Day at Vermilion and tip BIG to help out your fellow man (PS--the food is damn tasty too!)

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Brickskeller and RFD
For the entire month of September, 5% of all draught beer sales at both the Brickskeller and RFD Washington will be donated to the Red Cross to help those affected by Katrina. The Brickskeller and RFD Washington will match those totals collected from draught beer sales and double the contribution.

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Acadiana Po-Boy Benefit
Area blogs have reported that Acadiana, the new Cajun/Creole themed dining destination (I'm excited about this one!!) from Executive Chef Jeff Tunks and the team that brought DC Ten Penh, Ceiba, and DC Coast has a benefit in the works.

On the opening day of Acadiana, September 12, Tunks and other area chefs including Robert Wiedmaier, Michel Richard, Roberto Donna, and Cesare Lanfranconi, to name a few, will make brown bag carry-out po'boys (meat or seafood) all day, for a donation of $25 each.

Acadiana
901 New York Avenue, N.W.
Washington, DC 20001

For more information:
Simone Rathlé - Headquarters for PoBoy Power
(800) 496-1733/(703) 534-8100/(703) 534-8102
simonepr@aol.com / simoneink@aol.com