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Terms Considered Difficult or Impossible to Translate Into English

8 Aug

Every so often, my brain shorts out toward the end of my work day, and I fall into an internet hole and find poetry at the bottom. This Wikipedia entry on terms that don’t translate is possibly the ultimate example of one of those holes.

A few examples:

cafuné: Brazilian Portuguese. The act of fondling someone’s hair.

pinchar: Spanish. To call a mobile phone once and hang up, either so that the other person can call you back and save money, or so that they can store your phone number. Could also mean to sting, flirt (or be flirted at), puncture, pierce, prick, or fuck. (I can see how the progression worked from puncture, but I’m wondering who was the first person to suggest that someone, uh, pierce their phone by calling it once, if you see what I mean.)

Sitzriese: German. A person who appears tall when sitting.

saudade: Galician or Portuguese. The feeling of missing something or someone.

Language is amazing and beautiful and enough of a miracle for anyone, really.


Image: Basilievich/Flickr

So You’re in Hell: 9 More Things You Can’t Do in This Christing Heat

16 Jul

Dear Con Edison,

I recently received, via my internet mailbox, a helpful missive from you entitled “9 Tips to Stay Cool in the Heat.” I used to compose email newsletters for one of my thousands of jobs, and so I was surprised and impressed at the helpful information contained in your message, which included such advice as “buy an expensive new air conditioner, and wait for us to mail you $25,” “close your blinds,” and “don’t turn your oven on.”

I couldn’t help but notice that all of your advice, except for the bit about the air conditioner, was appropriate for either a heatwave or the zombie apocalypse. Or, as my friend Kate put it, “Sit in the dark and don’t bake a cake.” Since that’s generally how I behave when I’m at home — sitting in the dark, not making food — I’m not sure that it will make a big difference in my quality of life, but I appreciate the thought anyway.

To show you how much I appreciate it, I thought I’d compose a list of things that you, Con Edison, the anthropomorphized corporate entity, should not do during this horrible heatwave. You are welcome in advance. I’ll not see you on the jitney, as I’m too broke from buying new energy-efficient ACs to go to the Hamptons.

1. Do not bend over and kiss your own ass. As amusing as this would be for me, I know from trying to do basic physical therapy exercises in my living room that it’s far too hot for anything that strenuous.

2. In fact, do not do anything other than lie on your sofa and suffer like the rest of us dumb animals. The good news is, it’s too hot to care about how boring you’re being.

3. Do not do anything involving the suffix “-out.” That includes brownouts, blackouts, wipeouts, etc. It’s very hard to get to my roof. I have to climb up the side of the building or out through a hatch with a wobbly ladder. This makes it very hard to catch a breeze and/or leap to my death when it gets to warm to live. Please have pity.

4. Do not suggest solutions that involve money. Your clients are already paying approximately $1.3 million each per month to have air conditioning. We don’t have any more money. You took it all.

5. Do not propose suggestions that involve leaving the house. How would I get this miracle AC unit of which you speak? I imagine I’d have to go out and get it. This being New York, I would also have to hump it home. It’d be like portaging a canoe, only without the refreshing river breeze. I’m a heavy sweater. You don’t want to see what happens when I try to do my own shopping in the heat.

6. Look, I know about AC vents. Stop with the AC vents. We all know we’re supposed to clean them and we never do. We’re all growing a new and deadly breed of Legionnaire’s Disease in our lungs, the bunch of us, but we’re too hot to be arsed.

7. Do not try to cool off by sticking your head in the freezer. I just tried it. It works for a minute, but then the ice cubes start to go and pretty soon you start to worry about the ice cream. And since we’ve already established that no one is going out until October, we need to hold onto all the ice cream we have.

8. About this item: “When you set your thermostat, keep in mind that every degree you lower it increases costs by 6 percent.” How much do I increase my bill if I keep turning the AC down, but the temperature on my thermostat continues to climb? Eventually, does it cancel out, causing money to spontaneously regenerate in my bank account? Is this a mystery of finance or physics?

9. Do not send me any more fucking email updates. I understand that this is my own fault for not unsubscribing, but it’s to hot to click links.

Thanks again for your assistance and understanding.

I am hot, and not in a fun way,

Your customer


Image: Todd Morris/Flickr

Things That Will Apparently Make Me Cry When I Have PMS

24 Jun

Obviously inspired by this genius Tumblr.

1. My hairpins are the wrong kind, and won’t stick into my bun easily on the first try.

2. Adam found out that “Ace Ventura: Pet Detective” had allusions to Sherlock Holmes. I hate “Ace Ventura.”

3. I found a typo on a second read of something I was editing, which is the whole reason I do second (and third) reads.

4. It’s too hot outside and the AC is too cold.

5. Adam wants to know what’s making me cry, and I can’t explain it.

6. We’re out of milk.

7. Something smells like garbage and I don’t know what.

8. I can’t find my favorite headband.

9. Seriously, the movie “Ace Ventura” exists on the earth. Is that not enough reason to weep?

10. Thanks to bloating, I don’t actually fit in my own underpants.


Image: Sethoscope/Flickr

Democracy Inaction

6 Nov

Dennis: I woke up early to go vote before going to work, but instead ate cookies and drank juice and took a long shower. Sorry democracy!

Me: Ha!

Dennis: I will be one of those schmucks on the line at 7 tonight.

Me: I haven’t been yet! Going soon.

Me: I just took an election-day picture of myself with my new camera and deleted it. I look like a portrait of Middle-Aged Worry.

Dennis: Definitely try to find the ideal time when it won’t be crazy busy. Whenever that is.

Me: I’m a) stressed, and b) not sure about these new 8 megapixel cameras.

Dennis: Every pore in full detail!

Me: Eye bags from Ambien! Wrinkles I won’t see regularly for another five years!

Go vote, everyone. Don’t let America look like a terrified freelancer with a brand-new phone.

Image: Yumbies

Here’s That Marriage Post You Never Asked for

17 Oct

So, I wrote this whole long post for our anniversary about marriage in general and Adam in particular and blah blah blah, but then I didn’t publish it, for the following reasons:

1. It would have embarrassed Adam, who does not share my compulsion to offer every little thought to the world.

2. It made me sound like a self-satisfied dick. There was a portion with advice in it, which in true internet rhetoric fashion, wasn’t really advice, but it came off like I thought I’d discovered something about relationships, when in fact, all I’ve discovered is that it’s a good idea to marry Adam.

So there’s my actual advice, for anyone who wants to know: don’t overshare about your relationship, marry Adam. The end.

Manderley, Again

9 Oct

I reread “Rebecca” yesterday, instead of doing any work, because I couldn’t face it. I just came off of about ten straight days of either slogging along on various projects at home, or sitting in a conference trying to cram more facts into my poor little head.

Monday morning, I woke up with every intention of getting ahead on a few things, only to find that my brain didn’t work anymore. I mean, it was on strike. I tried to convince it to do a little light editing, but it insisted that we stay in bed til 11 and read gothic fiction from the 1930s. What are you going to do?

The whole thing apparently turned me into an English Literature student again, because I’ve been thinking about the book ever since. This is not making work any easier today, but it’s making my IM conversations more fruitful. For instance:

Me: I feel like it’s secretly time for a vacation.

Dennis: Oh god, right?

Me: I can’t even. I just want to look up conflicting theories about Daphne du Maurier all day long. She was a lesbian! She was a man! She was a transman! She loved parties! She hated them!

Me: The antagonist in “Rebecca” was a) Rebecca, b) Mrs. Danvers, c) THE PATRIARCHY. (The answer, as always, is C.)

Dennis: Hahahaha.

Dennis: It was the Swiss nuns who made all of Rebecca’s PANTIES, let’s touch them together!

Me: Wow, that really was the gayest movie in all creation, wasn’t it?

Dennis: Thanks, Hitch!


Home Sweet Uh-Oh

26 Sep

Ma and Pa Smash are coming to visit us this weekend. We are very excited, and only a little nervous to play host.

The main issue is the squalor factor. We live in a large, beautiful, totally unrenovated and only sporadically cared-for apartment. There are weird little scraps of linoleum in the corners and permanent dust on the baseboards. Seriously, I took a sponge to it once, just out of curiosity. That shit is on there. It’s like dust epoxy.

“Tell me the truth,” Sgt Lucky said. “How bananas do we need to go with the cleaning?”

“Not totally bananas,” I promised. “Just the usual, weekly cleaning. Or you know, what we mean to do every week. We should just really do it.”

Then I opened the fridge and found an aluminum-foil covered bowl that I seriously do not remember ever putting in there. Maybe elves are cooking and leaving leftovers in our fridge? I mean, I vaguely remember storing some chicken, but I’m afraid to look under the foil.

“It’s OK, it’s OK,” I caught myself chanting. “This is just how we live! Everything will be fine. We can just blindfold them.”

Perhaps we will eat out.

I Totally Understand Now About Fad Diets

24 Sep

Back in the good old days, when I had a normal metabolism, I used to roll my eyes at my friends whenever they said they were going on a weird diet. It wasn’t like I was a stranger to weight loss. About a decade or so ago, over the course of a year, I lost 30 pounds on the American Diabetes Association diet, which is about as un-fad-like as you can possibly get. It’s so balanced, in terms of carbs and fat and protein, it’s practically a science project.

People would often ask me how I lost weight, but lose interest once I told them. No one wants to hear about how you miraculously lost 30 pounds in a year. Thirty pounds in a month? Yes. But that’s not what I had to offer. My friends, meanwhile, were all mainlining diet cookies or eating nothing but grapefruit and losing water weight, which they’d then gain right back as soon as they ate anything with more than two ingredients.

Nowadays, it’s all about juice fasting and paleo diets and gluten-free for non-celiacs. The difference is, now I’m not rolling my eyes. Now, in fact, I’m eager for any and all pseudoscience. And that’s because my thyroid crapped out a few years ago, and I haven’t been able to lose weight since.

OK, that’s not totally true: I’ve lost about twenty of the forty I put on. But it took two years. That’s slow, even for me. Also, it’s been awhile since I’ve lost. And there’s something extra-infuriating about being twenty pounds away from your goal for so long.

Weight Watchers and ADA, my two mainstays, didn’t work for me this time around, which isn’t weird. A lot of thyroid people have trouble on diets that aren’t designed for them. About the best luck I’ve had has been using Mary Shomon’s formula for calorie counting, and then logging everything I eat on my phone. Also, if I don’t exercise, like almost every day, I can forget about it.

But the problem with all of this is that it’s a lot of work. So I’m asking you: What oddball thing should I try next? Is it time to eat nothing but beetles and lettuce?

Pictured: Me in my nightie, thinking about the many options I’d have in the ’80s.


A Few Good Things That Have Happened to Me in Hospitals: The Triage Nurse

19 Sep

I’m a hypochondriac, so you could be forgiven for thinking that I hate hospitals. Nothing that could be further from the truth. Although I wouldn’t choose to spend time there voluntarily, I’ve had some pretty good experiences in hospitals over the years. All were due to amazing people who worked there. For instance…

I. The Triage Nurse

In the spring of 2009, I started feeling dizzy. Not all the time. But every so often, I’d be going about my business when the world would tilt sideways for a moment, and stay there. It wasn’t when I stood up suddenly, or right after I got out of bed, or after I drank too much coffee or beer. All of a sudden, I’d list suddenly to port for a minute or less, and then things would right themselves.

I let this go for a few months. I have an autoimmune disorder called Behcet’s Disease. Usually, it causes minor circulatory problems and can be treated with gout medication (really) or steroids. But sometimes, it causes blindness or neurological problems or, oh, death. So you can understand why I might decide to pretend that nothing was happening.

One Sunday, I was hanging out in my old apartment when everything went sideways. I sat up and shook my head, which made things worse. I put my head between my knees, shut one eye and then the other, and nothing changed. After awhile, I texted Sgt. Lucky, who was on duty at the reserve center that weekend, and staggered down the street to the emergency room.

Everyone I ran into on the way clearly thought I was drunk. People gathered their children to them as I tilted to one side and then the other, like a lady who hadn’t had her V8. When I finally got to the hospital, people steered their wheelchairs around me as I staggered up the ramp and slumped against the reception desk in the emergency room.

“I’m dizzy,” I told the staffer at the desk. “Really, really dizzy. I think I have vertigo.”

“OK. Have you ever had vertigo?”

No, but option B is that I’m having a stroke or my brain is full of lesions and I’m going to wind up in a facility. “No, but I’m sure that’s it.”

They call your number very quickly when you can’t stand up straight. I went into a little room between reception and the rest of the emergency room. The triage nurse regarded me calmly. She was a late middle-aged black woman, wearing scrubs decorated with cats that seemed to be chewing on each other’s tails. I couldn’t look at them for too long without feeling dizzy.

“Hello, Miss Hubley,” she said, looking at my paperwork. “You don’t feel well today.”

“I feel nauseous,” I said. “Nauseated. I feel dizzy and I think I probably have vertigo.” And not any sort of a a problem with my brain. For example.

She nodded, and entered something into a computer. Then she smiled, stood, and opened the door behind her, and called to a colleague.

“Can you bring a basin in here?” she asked pleasantly in a light Islands accent.

“Why?” an irritated voice asked.

“Because this child is going to throw up.”

“I’m not going to throw up,” I said, indignantly. She handed me the basin. I vomited elaborately into it.

“You feel better now?”

I really did. I was obviously in good hands.

You Are Not Doing Anything Wrong

19 Sep

Jezebel tells me that it’s Unmarried and Single Americans Week which, while less fun than Talk Like a Pirate Day (today!) is definitely worth celebrating. I say this as a person who enjoyed being single just about as much as most people enjoy a morning at the DMV. Single persons, you deserve to have every week be your week. For real.

This is not to say that people don’t enjoy being single. Many of them do. I was not one of them. I also wasn’t totally crazy about the idea of being married, and I had no idea how to date. You can see the spot this put me in.

When I was single, I received horrible advice, all the time, from some of the most well-meaning friends and acquaintances. Among the most popular were “there’s someone for everyone” and “it’ll happen when you least expect it.” There’s nothing wrong with either of these pieces of advice, except that neither one of them, in my now-expert opinion, is true.

There is not someone for everyone. There are probably several someones. This means that you can’t just twiddle your thumbs and wait for the perfect person to come along. In your bunch of possible people, there are bound to be some folks who will make you less happy than others. If you passively let things happen to you, you’ll wind up with whomever the fates choose to toss your way. I don’t know about you, but I’m a little nervous about the fates’ taste. I’ve seen some of the political candidates we’ve wound up with over the years.

As for the second piece of advice, I met my beloved when both of us were very much looking. True, we weren’t as lonely as we’d ever been, but we also weren’t totally disinterested in having a boyfriend or a girlfriend. To say otherwise would be the straight-people version of how a gay friend once explained his online dating experiences: “If were both ‘straight-acting,’ would we be on Manhunt right now?” People don’t fall into relationships, in my opinion. They might tell you they’re not looking, but that’s only because saying they’re looking makes them sound like they’re desperate. We’ve lost a lot in honesty and communication, as a society, because of people who wanted to look cool.

My point isn’t that I think you should play really hard-to-get, or that you should, on the other hand, tell every date you meet that you want to get married. It’s that no one has any idea how any of this works. So you might as well be yourself.

I mean, take a look at these fools. They got lucky. Why not you?


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