Monthly Archives: May 2012

Visual literacy, or how to tell if that guy in the next office is going to drive you out of your mind before he ever opens his mouth

Unless your photocopier is broken or you run a tanning salon, you probably won’t encounter this guy, but just in case you do…

You may not be able to judge a book by its cover, but it doesn’t take much more than a glance to get a good idea what the story’s all about. And so it is with new acquaintances, both social and professional. I find that being able to get a quick handle on new people is an extremely useful skill, as it helps you avoid the undesirable, the annoying and the certifiable before they can stake a claim on your time, your attention or your guest room.

Does my tendency to take others at face value make me a bad person? Nah, shallow maybe, but not bad. What it does make me is a happier person – one who rarely has to duck a neighbor, hide behind a newspaper in the employee cafeteria, or make good on a threat to file a restraining order, though of course that misunderstanding with Anthony Bourdain did involve an order of protection…sadly, not on my behalf, but we’re well past all that now. At least I am. I’m not so sure about Tony.

Anyways, for those of you who are not familiar with the more common hallmarks of the crazy and/or obnoxious and what they communicate, here’s a little primer on how to pick out some of the most easily recognized signifiers that say, “back away now while you still can.” An ounce of prevention, as they say, is worth a pound of Tums.


Blond Dreads
“I hate my parents almost as much as I resent my trust fund. Sooner or later I’ll hate you, too.”



“High heels reduce women to sex objects. I refuse to be objectified.”



French Manicure
“How’m I suppostah know wheah ya’ check is?
I’ll ax Mistah Nussbaum when he gets back, ahright?”



Scraggly, Bald Ponytail
“I still got it, baby. You want some?”



Adult GRRanimals
“My wife dresses me (so I behave like an adolescent).”



Hideous, Inappropriate Footwear
“I dress myself (and I just made ten trillion dollars off an idea I stole).”

Giada is BUSTED!

Giada admits she doesn’t eat. Told ya’.

At about 90 seconds into the interview, she spills (the teaspoonful of lettuce in) her guts to Chelsea Handler.

I have long maintained you can’t trust the food of a skinny cook. They don’t eat; they couldn’t. Witness Sandra Lee, who obviously lives on White Zin, canned peas and sweet guv love. In the unlikely event she does nibble a corner of that Kwanzaa cake, I have no doubt she runs for the ladies’ and gacks it up almost immediately. Come to think of it, who could blame her?

“Another strand of linguine? Heavens no. I’ll blow up like Ina.”

Giada, too, has always been suspect in my book. Some would say that even a normal size body would be dwarfed by a head that big, but I don’t think it’s merely a question of scale. She’s just plain skinny, and the only way to achieve that is by not eating.

I’ve tried a couple of her recipes, and they’re middling at best, though they do require plenty of effort (bonus!). This just doesn’t work for me.  Except as a weight loss tool. Clearly, however, it’s working for Giada.

So while you may mock Paula, Nigella and Mario, at least you can trust them to turn out food you want to eat. And you know you want to eat the deep fried cheesecake.

Ditto normal sized chefs. Jamie Oliver is trustworthy provided you can get over the lisp and the herbs (that’s right Joe Hoover, I said ERBS, not Herbth). Anthony Bourdain, though lean, gobbles steak and potatoes with relish, and Julia Child will always be the goddess of my prep station.

Sooner or later, we must all accept that weight loss comes from eating small portions of foods we only half like (or nothing at all), while skipping the ones we do. Just ask Giada.

You can’t eat those things, can you, Thurston?

Candied violets are the Necco Wafers of the overbred.

~Fran Lebowitz, Metropolitan Life

Grannie’s candied violets courtesy eG Forums.

Tech Support Follow-Up: “It’s worse”

Now that I’ve upgraded the operating system on my laptop, I find that my printer no longer works. Neither Apple nor HP can offer any suggestions, beyond “buy a new printer.” See, my printer is too old (five years — practically stone age) to have a print driver in the sexy new Lion operating system. I wonder what’s next. Maybe my new RAM will father some lambs or I’ll have a complete plug-in failure. Worse, I may finally be forced to crack that nasty bottle of blackberry brandy Aunt Muriel sent us as a wedding gift in 1990.

“I’ve got a bad feeling about this.”

Help me Technical Support. You’re my only hope.

Computers were SO much simpler in the 80s. Courtesy

I’ll admit it. Technology has gotten away from me. Every innovation, each update, every new feature sends me into an angst fueled emotional crisis; vodka bottles are drained, the medicine cabinet must be locked, and Dr Feelgood Feldman rises to the top of my speed dial list, or whatever we’re calling that now — iFriendFone, iTalkieFavorites, iSpeedyDial, I don’t fucking know.

Facebook mystifies me. Can you or can’t you send a private message to one of your friends? If you can, why not just email? Isn’t the point of Facebook to make your every breath, utterance and rest stop into a public holiday? And why does my page now look like it was laid out by an ADHD-addled first-year graphic design student with a psychotic disorder and an astigmatism? I can’t find ANYTHING on my own page. So I never look at it. Ever.

I can just about cope with Twitter, though I have no idea what the point is. Tumblr, I am told, is a new social media must, as is Pinterest. I tried to set up a Pinterest account but they put me on a waiting list. Apparently it’s very exclusive — some kind of virtual country club or ivy league college. Later, they sent me a congratulatory email when they magnanimously bestowed an account upon me. Am I supposed to feel thrilled at being included? Again, I don’t fucking know. And I don’t much care. After fifteen hours of trying to find some kind of technical support I gave up. The social media world will have to spin without me.

Remember the little stylus? I LOVED that.

Hardware poses even greater challenges. While others eagerly seek the newest, shiniest, most cutting edge gizmos on the market, I sit pining for my Palm Pilot and the long dead Vindigo application. I know there are other ways to find a piano bar near 70th and Park, or a shoe repair shop within limping distance of Gand Central, or a bathroom in the Financial District, but they’re all different applications. I just want my one source, and the late Vindigo was it.

I recently got an iPhone because I wanted one simple thing: to be able to see the same calendar and address book on my phone and my laptop. That’s it. Instead, the simple act of syncing my phone to my laptop unleashed a tsunami of technical difficulties requiring no fewer than six calls to APPLECARE, a $50 operating system upgrade for my computer and a $150 RAM upgrade. I got the phone a month ago and I still haven’t figured out how to keep it from duplicating every appointment in my calendar and switching the listings from last-name-first to first-name-first. Nor can I color code the events in my calendar without a slide rule, an HTML brain implant and a TIME MACHINE.

What it really comes down to is this: technology exhausts me. So much so, in fact, that I can barely cope with my own little blog. For example, what is an RSS feed and how do I use it? If I add it to my site, what will the implications be? If I click it on someone else’s post will it inundate me with unwanted comments, put cookies in my laptop (sure there are plenty of crumbs in there, but a whole cookie strikes me as a bit too much), or worse, send loads of unwanted Spam my way? I hate Spam. How come other bloggers have RSS feeds and I don’t?

Here’s what WordPress has to say on the subject of RSS.

Subscribing to a feed is very easy and only requires a feed reader. Most browsers can already read feeds, as can many email clients. In addition, you can download special desktop clients for this purpose, and other websites even provide feed reading services, as well.

By the rest of us, do they mean everyone who didn’t get into Pinterest? Beats me.

Feed reader? Clients? When did I get clients? I don’t want clients — that’s why I stopped working in business. Are desktop clients different from regular ones? Will they be expecting cookies? I have absolutely no idea what any of this this means, so I looked it up in my Dummies book. Here’s what they have to say:

RSS is a format that allows readers to subscribe to your blog and read it in an application — an RSS reader such as Google Reader…The best way to keep track of your RSS subscribers is to replace the RSS feed created by your blogging platform with a feed from Google’s free FeedBurner service…etc.

Feedburner service? Sounds like dinner with my inlaws. I’ll spare you the five step process for affecting this change. It’s full of redirects, logins to accounts I don’t have and hyperlinks. For example: “Use the new Feedburner address in the hyperlink for your Subscribe button or link, not the original one created by your software.” Is it me? Can you follow this?

All of this is entirely too much like a flashback of sophomore Geometry, which I slogged through for what seemed like decades and barely managed to pass. It was all well and good when we were looking at shapes and vectors and points and angles, but then one day we turned to theorems and proofs, and we might as well have been talking about feedburner plug-ins.


Interestingly, the following year I scored highest in my class on some kind of standardized math exam. At the time, owing to some very high grade under the counter substances, I couldn’t even recall taking it. The teacher gave me a filthy, accusatory look, like I’d been hiding algorithms in my bra, and promptly started calling on me in class, which made it a lot harder to skip doing my homework.

So I’m wondering, if by some remote chance I master RSS, SEO, XML, DNS and the myriad other ingredients in the electronic soup of the world wide interweb, does that mean I’ll have to start showing up for class and turning assignments in on time? If it does, I’m out.

With props for inspiration to the tallest and the baddest, our own Cristy Carrington.

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