Monday, May 31, 2010

Minidresses in Las Vegas

I spent Memorial Day weekend in Las Vegas for the first and last time. The last time due to the crowds. Bad economy? What bad economy? The tables were packed, the restaurants were packed, the malls were packed, and the clubs were packed.

Club clothing attire is the topic of this post. I don’t typically go to clubs anymore, since I’m old. I prefer a place to sit, a pint of beer, a jukebox, and NFL on television these days. I’m over ridiculously expensive table service and the thump, thump, thump of the music. But I certainly did my time on the club scene back when I was in my twenties. The clubs were always the place where the skimpiest clothing and highest heels reigned supreme. That is still the case. I hadn’t realized how apparently out of it I was with respect to clubwear until I went to a couple of clubs over the weekend while in Las Vegas.

I saw hundreds of young women wearing mini mini skintight dresses. And when I say mini, I mean of a length that barely covers the buttcheeks and crotch. (Nothing spells hot like a woman stumbling out of Tao drunk at 2 a.m. barefoot, clutching a pair of four inch heels, and wearing a dress that shows off the bottom of her buttcheeks.) One woman at the Christian Audigier club failed to notice that her dress had creeped up two inches and was showing off the crotch of her pantyhose. Another woman was wandering through the Venetian lobby with her buttcheeks hanging out. I’ve seen celebrities wearing these dresses, but here in Chicago I hadn’t seen such a thing – at least not in the quantity I saw in Vegas over the weekend.

To each her own, I suppose. If the 21 year olds of today want to stumble around looking like streetwalkers, that’s their business. (I mean, when I was 21 flannel shirts, Doc Martens, and baggy jeans were in style.) Other people’s fashion choices really aren’t my business. But I just have one question:

How does one sit down in such a dress?

The dynamics of skirts and dresses demands that they ride up when one sits down in a seat. (Seriously, put on a skirt or dress that you own and try it. Then hike it up until it barely covers your butt and sit down. Did you see what happened there?) A dress that barely covers the butt has nowhere to ride up, and there is no dress for the woman to sit on. Meaning? Probably every chair in front of every Blackjack table, Roulette table, Craps table, or slot machine at every casino in Las Vegas has had some woman’s bare or nearly bare butt or crotch on it. This is also true for every chair at every restaurant or club. Gross, right? Is the name of fashion (or picking up a guy) really worth putting your bare butt on a seat somewhere? Apparently so.

Opting Out of the TSA Image Scanner

I encountered one of the new image scanner screening devices as Las Vegas airport at 7 a.m. Sunday morning. These are the screening devices – used in lieu of the metal detectors – which allow the TSA agent to see through your clothing.

The line that I was in employed both metal detectors and the new imaging screening devices. The majority of people got to go through the standard metal detector. I was lucky enough to be picked to go through the imaging device. I opted out, even though it was 7 a.m. and I had been up all night drinking. You are allowed to do this, but they do everything possible to make you never want to opt out again.

Why did I opt out? Because fuck you TSA. Every time there are random bag checks, my bag gets checked. Every time there are random searches, I get searched. I am blonde, green eyes, very white, and female. Usually I am traveling in business attire. I do not meet any “terror” guidelines. Yet I always get searched. I’ve been through puffer machines, people. Sunday was no exception. While nearly every passenger walked through the metal detector without a problem, I got pointed to this stupid imaging device.

Oh, and did I mention that it can see through your clothes? Look, I have nothing to hide. I don’t mind stripping down for a man of my choosing or for a doctor who has spent years in medical school, but it’s frankly no one else’s business what I look like without my clothes. While I generally despise the ACLU, it calls these machines “virtual strip searches.” They are. And while the agent is viewing the image somewhere else, so they don’t know who it is, and the face is blurred, I don’t care. I’ve had enough. I also can’t find anything about the pay grade or level of the person viewing the images, but it would appear that these people wear at least a D/E band, which means pay starts at around $25K per year. Nice.

The agent yelled out “opt out” and then directed me toward the metal detector, which I walked through without a hitch. Then I was told to stand to the side while they found a female agent who could pat me down. (Apparently by opting out, I “requested” a pat down. I did not request a pat down. All I wanted was to walk through the metal detector like everyone else. Newsflash: the machines won’t work if not used on everyone.) I stood there for a solid fifteen minutes waiting for this agent, while in the meantime, people poured through the metal detector, which I had just also walked through without a problem.

You see, even though they tell you it is perfectly fine to opt out of this device, apparently if you opt out you are deemed a threat, so you must be thoroughly searched, even though you were randomly chosen to walk through the device to begin with, and even though you have to walk through the metal detector anyway.

So, while I was waiting for my purse and all of my possessions to get stolen from the conveyor belt twenty yards away, I waited for the agent. She finally arrived, and we got my stuff from the conveyor, and I was escorted to a small glass booth where I got more action than I’ve gotten in the past year. She did a thorough patdown. I should mention that I had on shorts and a t-shirt. There was nowhere to hide anything unless it was inside of me, and she wouldn’t have found that anyway. She touched my boobs, my butt, pretty much my entire body. It was gross. Then she had another agent wipe something on her gloves, I guess to make sure I hadn’t put radioactive material all over my body.

Altogether, the opt out took about an extra half an hour. While it was a huge pain, I will do it every time I am confronted by one of these devices, until and unless that is the only option.  Enough is enough.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Cigarettes and Colors

With it being nearly June, the new cigarette ban is upon us. Today for the first time I had to attempt to buy a pack of cigarettes that are no longer labeled with a name. If you are confused, so am I. Apparently, the FDA has stepped in to make sure that people aren’t confused by labels like “Light” and “Ultra Light,” so they are no longer able to be used on packs of cigarettes. (The argument is that people think they are less dangerous. I mean, duh. You are sucking smoke into your lungs – “light” or not, that can’t be good for you.)

This article from the New York Times back in February talks about it, and describes the changes:

Come June, under the new federal tobacco law, cigarette companies will no longer be allowed to use words like “light” or “mild” on packages to imply that some cigarettes are safer than others.
Okay, so I smoke Virginia Slims Menthol Ultra Lights. It’s a mouthful as it is. The old pack had “Virginia Slims” and then below that “Ultra Lights” on the front, with a light green stripe along the side. Easy to identify. The new pack has all the same coloring, but simply says “Virginia Slims” on the front of the box. Like every other pack of Virginia Slims. Along the top of the box it says “Virginia Slims Menthol Silver Pack.” This, along with the light green stripe on the side, is the only identifier that these are the Ultra Light cigarettes I like to smoke.  Silver is apparently now the substitute for “Ultra Lights.” (Gold substitutes for Lights.)  But it doesn’t say “Silver” on the front of the box, so any store employee trying to find the pack I want is going to encounter some difficulties. I can see it now:

Me: A pack of what used to be called Virginia Slim Menthol Ultra Lights.  They have a light green stripe.

Store Person: (stands in front of the Virginia Slims section, scanning the boxes, all of which say simply “Virginia Slims” on the front)

Me: The light green. No, the other light green. No, lighter. They say “Silver” on the top of the box.

Store Person: (starts pulling out the boxes in an attempt to view the top of the box)

Me: To your right, your right, no too far. There! Right there!

Store Person: I don’t understand how I’m supposed to find this when there is no label.

The last statement is what the Walgreen’s employee said to me today. And I agree. Without ways of distinguishing the flavors of cigarettes, we are left without labels. (Light and Ultra Light are flavors to me.  Therer is a world of difference between them and a regular.)  At minimum, Virginia Slims needs to start writing “Silver” on the front of the box. But who knows, maybe they aren’t allowed? It seems the FDA has problems with the color method also:

And anticipating the new rules, R.J. Reynolds has already changed Salem Ultra Lights, which are sold in a silver box, to Silver Box.

“They’re circumventing the law,” said Gregory N. Connolly, a professor at the Harvard School of Public Health. “They’re using color coding to perpetuate one of the biggest public health myths into the next century.”

***

While Congress specifically banned some terms, including “low” and “mild” — present on about half the packages of cigarettes sold in the United States — it also gave the F.D.A. authority to act against “similar descriptors” that could mislead consumers to think certain products were less risky.

Last month, the agency published a notice that it could take action against colors like silver or pastels, as well as additional words like “silver,” “smooth” and “natural,” which some companies are still planning to use on cigarette packages. The notice sought public and industry comments, which are due Friday.
What will I do if "Silver" or other color coding goes away?  Play the cigarette lottery?  Tell the store employee to just pick one and hope it's correct?  So, the government wants to leave cigarette companies with no manner at all in which to allow their customers to find their brand of cigarettes. Awesome.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The Home Depot Garden Center

For the first time in my adult life, I actually have a back patio and deck all my own. Since I live in the city, I do not have any yard to speak of, and this is as good as it gets. In fact, it is rather perfect. I bought this townhouse at the end of last summer, so this is the first opportunity I’ve had to deal with outdoor d├ęcor – a.k.a. flowers and crap.

I don’t have a green thumb. At least, I don’t think I do. Like fish, flowers and plants have never particularly interested me. I think flowers are very pretty, but the variety I usually have are precut and in a vase. At any rate, the nice weather over the weekend got to me, and I got the urge to go to the Home Depot Garden Center to purchase some flowers for my back porch. Rather than be lazy about it, my goal was to actually buy a pot, flowers, and dirt, and do some potting.

On Saturday I made my first trip over. Other than the flowers, I had to buy some hedge trimmers (which are like $30, by the way – who knew?) because my front porch has turned into a jungle. The hedge trimmers were the easy part, although the trimming itself is another story entirely.

It’s an understatement to say that the Garden Center over at Home Depot is overwhelming. Pots, flowers, vegetables, dirt, planting tools, fertilizer, etc. Who knows what to do with all this stuff? I wandered aimlessly around with my cart for over an hour. None of the pots were quite right. The terra cotta pots crack in the winter, so those were immediately ruled out. (Because God knows I won’t bring them inside.) The plastic ones looked chinzy, the stone ones were very heavy and I wasn’t in the mood for that, some were too big, some were too small, and on and on and on.

Finally I found a cute little wooden window box. I don’t have a window to put it on, but I thought it might look nice sitting on the ground on the edge of my patio. So one mission done. Then I had to find flowers. There are tons of different kinds of flowers, and they are everywhere, both outside and inside, lined up on huge racks. And it was very hot. I finally grabbed a plastic thing of vinca roses, which look sort of like…pansies? Petunias? I don’t know, one of those. But they’ll do. And they are pink.  In fact, here is a picture of one:



The window box said it held 20 quarts of dirt. I bought two eight quart bags. The window box lied. It took one eight quart bag, and maybe that was a little much. I failed to follow the directions on the tag inserted into the flowers, and planted them way too close together, so now they are my little experiment. But they look really pretty inside the window box and now occupy a prime spot on the edge of my patio. They also smell nice.

This inspired me to go back on Sunday and buy more flowers. It was even hotter on Sunday, and like an idiot I wore my glasses over instead of my contacts. They slipped down my nose the entire time I was wandering up and down the aisles of flowers. I wanted daffodils because they are pretty, but they apparently bloom in the spring. No can do. (Jeez, so much to know about this flower business.) I need summer flowers. There were a lot that were pretty (because less face it, pretty is all I really care about), but after about an hour, the thought of pushing around a big shopping cart (I am anti shopping cart), picking up multiple plastic trays, another bag or two of potting soil, and a pot, and having to go home and actually put the entire thing together was simply too much. I bought a prepotted pot of gerber daisies for $14.99. They look like this:



Pretty, eh?  And they look lovely. Home Depot, I will be back, but I will be upfront – I may take the lazy way out again. You do have some very cute prepotted things.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Going on a Cruise Ship

As I discussed in my previous post, I went on the New Kids on the Block cruise, which was on the Carnival Imagination. While most things New Kids related were great, I have to say that I don’t understand the big deal about cruising. This was my first cruise, and it’s possible that being on a larger boat would have provided a different experience. However, the two main things that bothered me about cruising would seem to possibly occur on any boat.

The biggest thing was the smell. You know how an airplane bathroom smells? It’s sort of a sweet cleaning odor on top of sewage? That’s how all the bathrooms on a cruise ship smell. A few hours on a plane, using the bathroom once and you don’t really notice the smell. But go to the bathroom multiple (more than usual given the booze) times a day on the boat, and after awhile the smell becomes a little nauseating, particularly when it permeates into the hallways and other indoor areas of the boat. This smell followed me and my clothing and luggage home. Gross. To add to that, on Sunday morning we woke up and our cabin smelled like a manure farm. We quickly left the room to get some breakfast up on the Lido deck (which is outdoors where the pool is), and the smell was even worse out there. Just when you think it’s left, you get another whiff of it blowing by. I know now that they were probably emptying the sewage tanks into the ocean, which grosses me out even more, even though they are supposed to purify it before dumping. But seriously, who wants to smell crap when you are trying to eat or relax around the pool? Since I got back, I read a few cruise discussion boards, and apparently it’s common on a cruise ship to occasionally smell sewage. So remind me again why people love cruising?

The other issue was that I just felt trapped. Luckily there were a lot of New Kids events to keep us occupied, but if there weren’t I can’t imagine what I would’ve done. The two main options were the pool (surrounded by seat savers) and the casino. Apparently on regular cruises there are other types of activities, but I can’t say I’m much into the Vegas type corny shows that they do on cruise ships. It’s a strange feeling, sitting on a boat in the middle of the ocean with no land in sight. And you can’t escape. You are surrounded by the same people, the same thing to do day after day…no thanks for me. I don’t think I’ll be cruising again.

Cruising With New Kids on the Block

I've often wondered who buys the “Mrs. Wahlberg,” or “Team Jordan,” or “Joey’s My Boyfriend” t-shirts. (The same would go for the “Team Aniston” type of t-shirts.) I always found them to be sort of corny – but maybe I’m too realistic. The odds of actually becoming Mrs. Donnie Wahlberg or the girlfriend of Joey Mcintyre are probably worse than winning the lottery. Yet girls and women buy the t-shirts and proudly prance around as if the saying on the front were actually true. To each her own, I suppose.

My wondering came to an end when I went on the New Kids on the Block cruise over the weekend. (Don’t judge me.) While I like the NKOTB a lot, I’m not one of these types of women who is going to head rush them if I see them walking on the street, or even scream at the top of my lungs. I’m a little more reserved about it than that. (And say what you want, but they put on a great show.) I got convinced to go on the cruise by my friends, who had gone last year and had a great time. So, I figured what the heck?

The women who go on this cruise are easily the most hardcore of the fans. Many wore the t-shirts I listed above, along with others that were much dirtier, i.e. “Insert Danny’s Wood Here,” with an arrow pointing down toward the crotch area. If a New Kid so much as set foot on the Lido Deck, there was a mad rush toward him for autographs or conversation. The whole experience was very surreal to me, I guess because I don’t get all heady over celebrities like that. When I passed Jon on the upper deck, I said “Hi” and kept walking. (I mean, even if I got his autograph, I’d probably lose it before I even got home.) I didn’t feel the need to rush to the front of the stage or scream my head off when they appeared. But that’s just me – I guess you could say I’m reserved. I even forgot at time that the NKOTB were on the cruise with us.

I couldn’t help but think the entire time that—despite the fun of the cruise—the NKOTB were actually working. They had to sit for five hours on Sunday so we could all get photos taken with them, put on two concerts, conduct two game shows, and host the beach party on Saturday. And, to top it off, they (well, mostly Donnie Wahlberg), stayed up until 5 a.m. on the upper deck singing and hosting with the D.J. Sounds like a lot of work to me, and I found myself impressed that they would do that for their crazy fans.

Would I do it again? No, once was enough. But it was definitely fun, and if you are a fan, you should go next year.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Random Thoughts at 2 a.m.

It's Tuesday night/Wednesday morning, 2 a.m. I should be in bed by now. After all, I have to work. But somehow I got all caught up in my iTunes library and the music has overtaken me enough that I just don't want to go to bed. So what has been on my mind lately?

All I have to do is get through tomorrow's (well, really today's) workday without any "fires," and then I am off to Miami and the Bahamas for five whole days. You can't imagine how much it means to me to get out of work for this long. I just need tomorrow/today to pass without any huge incidents so I can leave with a clear head.

I've been stocking up on cigarettes for the trip, since I will be on a cruise, and I'm assuming no cigarettes will be available for purchase. I didn't have time to drive down to Indiana to buy a (cheap) carton, so I'm just buying a couple of packs from the 7-11 near my house, and the two store guys at opposite ends of my building. Six packs should do it. But maybe I'll buy eight just to be safe. Nothing worse than having to ration cigarettes while on vacation!

I've been using this self tanning product called Towel Tan, and it truly rocks. I'm shocked at how tan, and yet not orange, I look. It's amazing. Buy it. And itsn't it amazing how much thinner one looks when you aren't completely pale, shockingly translucent white? This fake tan has done wonders for my swimsuit body.

I freaking hate riding the brown line to work every day.

My new favorite dress brand is BCBG. They have some supercute stuff out now, if you weave your way out of their 80s styles.

For some strange reason, I've been listening to Fuel, in particular, Shimmer. I remember this song when it came out, and I remember not caring for it much then. But now I'm obsessed with it. Isn't it funny how that happens?

That's all for now.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

My DVR Addiction

I was well behind the bandwagon on the whole DVR/Tivo phenomenon. I mean, really behind. I only got a DVR last August, in large part because I put off getting a new TV for way too long, and it seemed a little ridiculous to me to have Tivo or DVR on a ten year old tube TV.

Thus, not only do I now have a 42” flat screen Samsung, but I have DirecTV DVR. I don’t know how I lived without DVR. This device was invented by a genius. I can record anything I want at the push of a button and watch it later, fast forwarding through the commercials along the way. I never again have to worry about being home on certain nights to catch my favorite TV show, or be dependent on Hulu or iTunes to download an episode, or being without something decent to watch. (Because God knows there are days when 600 channels results in nothing to watch.) I can watch my shows anytime I want, whenever it is convenient for me. And the recording is so simple! No worrying about whether the clock is set right or the tape speed is set right, like in the old days of VCR recording.

Of course, this has led to some problems. I got somewhat overzealous with the DVR when I first got it, and recorded any and every show I could think of that I somewhat remotely liked. This quickly filled up the DVR, and watching my shows turned into an obligation rather than a pleasure. I began to have thoughts like “I can’t go out tonight…I am at 92% on my DVR and I have to watch and delete some of these movies and shows so I can record more.” It became a neverending cycle. What got me into trouble initially was my attempt to catch up on shows like CSI:NY, Cold Case, and Bones. You see, TNT and TBS like to show these shows multiple times a day, so at times I would come home to five new episodes to watch. I don’t have time to watch five episodes in a single evening. Nor do I necessarily want to watch five episodes in a single evening. Nor do I want to spend my weekend watching five episodes of CSI:NY when I could be outside actually doing stuff.

What saved me was winter. In the winter I don’t particularly like to be outside anymore than I have to, unless I’m participating in some sort of outdoor sporting, like skiing. Since there is a lack of skiing in the Chicago area, I had plenty of time to catch up on shows. And I stopped recording everything that looks remotely interesting. I think I’ve now seen all the CSI:NY and Cold Case shows, other than the new ones. I’ve started lapping myself on Bones, so it’s mainly only new episodes there. But now I’m newly addicted to Criminal Minds. Who knew this was such a great show, and the Ion channel plays it about twelve times a day. (Oh happiness, coming home to six new episodes of Criminal Minds!)

So now, other than Criminal Minds, I’m merely recording new shows, which are only once a week. (And trying out Treme and Happy Town, neither of which I’ve watched yet, but are taking up space in my DVR list.) Oh, and I’m DVRing movies I never would’ve dreamed of ordering on Netflix. Some of those are still hanging around on the DVR months later. But still, as of today, right now, my DVR capacity is at 56% used. That’s not bad. Almost half. Plenty of room to tape some more things. Lost and The Tudors are ending after this season. Any ideas about what shows I should record now?

Celebrity Sick

Sometimes I think life would be a lot easier if I were a celebrity. For example, if I was too tired to go to work, I could simply call in “exhausted.” I’ve never heard of a person in “the real world” being hospitalized for exhaustion, yet celebrities are constantly exhausted and getting IV drips. I can imagine the conversation with my boss:

Me: I’m not going to be in today.
Boss: What’s going on? Are you sick?
Me: Actually, I’m exhausted.
Boss: I am, too. That’s work. Get your ass in here.
Me: No, really. I need an IV drip because I’m so exhausted.
Boss: (muffling laughter)
Me: Hello?
Boss: We’re all exhausted. That’s no good reason to miss work. And this is law, we have deadlines.
Me: But…I’m..just…so…exhausted.

I mean, seriously? I’d like to know the trick to getting away with this one. Anyone who works a normal job is going to be exhausted from time to time, particularly if you have to work extra late and be in extra early to meet a deadline. Exhaustion? Yes, I feel so sorry for you.

The other “out” that has become quite popular is being labeled a “sex addict” because you cheat on your spouse excessively. I’m looking at you Tiger Woods and Jesse James. Rather than calling a spade a spade or an asshole an asshole, said asshole gets to claim addiction and go to rehab. Because they are sick. I have no doubt that sex addiction is real and there are people out there who have it, but you can’t convince me that someone like Tiger Woods is a sex addict. He’s a guy who is massively talented and wealthy who had a gaggle of women after him everywhere he went and took advantage of it. And Jesse James – are you insane? You cheated on Sandra Bullock, who is one of the most fabulous people on the planet. Honestly, if a guy I was married to tried to pull the “I’m a sex addict” card after he took on twenty mistresses behind my back, I’d tell him to pound sand.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Obama's Commencement Speech

If I had been one of the new University of Michigan graduates sitting in the audience during President Obama’s recent commencement address, I certainly would have been disappointed. Why? Because the President focused his entire speech on the political process. While politics is certainly part of the world, it isn’t everything. This could have been a great opportunity for Obama – our first (half) black president – to discuss the struggles, challenges, and problems that life throws at you, and how to overcome them. It could have been a great opportunity for Obama to discuss what he did to end up where he is. It could have been a great opportunity for Obama to discuss his own college days and feelings when he sat where those new graduates were sitting.

Instead, President Obama talked about the government. He talked about politics. He talked about the media’s spin on politics. He essentially gave a campaign speech to a group of brand new college graduates, when he already has the job. In fact, he gave basically the same speech we’ve all been hearing for the past two years. Democracy, participate, great country, and blah, blah, blah. I’m surprised he didn’t yell “Yes you can!” before he left the podium. More and more, Obama feels like less of a real person than a cardboard cut-out. When he speaks, he’s so smooth that everything seems carefully orchestrated rather than from the heart. It feels like a person who has no idea what the average American is dealing with trying to pretend like he does know what the average American is dealing with. Rather than reading off a teleprompter what clearly appears to be something someone else wrote, how about something from the heart, Obama?

As of December, the unemployment rate in Michigan was at 14.6%. Yet President Obama did not mention that crisis during his speech – surprising, since presumably many of the audience members were seeking to find jobs, either in or out of Michigan. Matter of fact, Obama didn’t talk about the economy at all during his speech. Certainly a few words of encouragement on that front couldn’t have hurt? Overall, a disappointing speech, and far from inspirational. I’m glad I wasn’t there.