Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Ferreting out the details

I've been out of college for six years now, but it's really good to know that the whole kids vs. institution battle of "you, like, totally have to let us do whatever we want because otherwise you're compromising our well-being and that is SO not cool" is still alive and well.

This article is all about students getting colleges to allow more pets in dorm rooms as "service animals." The cover photo, which unfortunately I can't find online, depicts a girl holding her pet ferret which she claims helps her through panic attacks. I've never had a pet ferret, but someone in my hall sophomore year had two of them, so I feel that I have enough ferret experience to ask the girl from the article the following question: Does your ferret help you through your panic attacks by running into other people's rooms and shitting on the floor? Because it seems to me that that is the modus operandi of your average ferret, and if I'd only known that behaving in such a manner was helping its owner through panic attacks, I would have had way more patience with all that.

By the way, ferret girl goes to Our Lady of the Lake University in Texas. I don't have as much to say about that as I would have thought, since a cursory glance at its website revealed it to be not really all that scary. However...

There is the matter of this. Yes, that's armadillo racing. Clearly there's some speciesism going on at this school -- or actually, orderism since Wikipedia tells me armadillos are of the order Cingulata (superorder Xenarthra) while ferrets belong to Carnivora.

I wonder if ferret girl mentioned this issue in the complaint she filed with the Department of Justice (yeah, she actually did that). It would have been very entertaining to see the armadillo take the stand and then be cross-examined by the ferret.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Peet's: The Reckoning

Previously on Yes, I Pretty Much Know I'm Crazy And This Is But One Aspect Thereof:

I visited Peet's for the hell of it and discovered they're a bunch of wacked-out Mormons and I more or less vowed never to return.

I was forced to break said vow due to renovations on Starbucks.

And now we reach present day, or at least almost. Because Starbucks STILL isn't open, the sign now says "through September 9th" but there's no way in heaven (good TV), hell (bad TV) or purgatory (CBS) that they'll actually meet that deadline. If it were going to be finished by then, the progress report by September 7th would probably be something like "espresso machines installed, going through final quality checking" -- whereas I believe it's currently more along the lines of "you can sort of tell they're building a counter." So, in spite of my boastfulness about just how far I'd be willing to walk/drive/swim/astral project to reach my beloved Starbucks, the sad reality is that I've ended up going to Peet's fairly often over the past few weeks.

But that doesn't mean I've liked it. On the contrary. I've gradually learned that the magnitude of the effusive Mormonosity is bested only by the gargantuan suckitude of the service. It's even worse when you consider the ratio: at Starbucks, there's usually 1 cashier and maybe 2 people making drinks, or 2 cashiers and 1 person making drinks. And generally, the drinks get made and pushed out with an appealing level of quickness -- whereas at Peet's, they often have 3 cashiers and 2 or 3 people at the bar, but it takes them decades to take some espresso and add it to milk (or worse, take espresso and add it to an EMPTY FUCKING CUP).

Speaking of which, even the cup they've been serving the espresso in has been cause for bitterness (even more bitter than the espresso, which, by the way, kind of tastes like ass). See, apparently it's too wasteful to put 2 shots of espresso into a 4-ounce cup, so now they've taken to putting it in, basically, a Dixie cup. Good luck adding a splash of skim milk to that, unless you have years of clinical experience and a medicine dropper under your belt. But no, even that wasn't enough to turn me away forever (though it should have been) -- I came back again the next day, only to be given the same Dixie cup with about half as much liquid in it.

"Is this a double?" I ask, expecting the barista chick to apologize profusely and add more espresso to the cup (or better yet, put it into a REAL CUP).

"Yes," she says with a straight face.

What can I say to that? Do I put on the asshat and tell her no, this AIN'T no freaking double espresso and I'm not leaving until it is? Or do I down my half-teaspoon of fluid and walk out dejectedly?

Duh; I do the latter.

But back at my desk, with that mere smidgen of acidic coffeeish stuff still on my tongue (the "angrycaffeine," as my surrogate sis Ashley puts it), I feel just pissed off enough to head over to the Peet's website and fire off an official complaint. "Contact us," I click on. Website issues? Coffee/Tea questions? Nope, I'm selecting "Peet's Stores" as the target of my righteous venom. Here's what I write.

I have been going to Peet's in Westwood Village regularly for the past couple of weeks, mainly due to the Starbucks across the street being closed for renovations (might as well be honest). Compared with Starbucks, I have certainly found the cashiers/baristas to be more cheerful and amiable; however, the actual quality of the service itself leaves something to be desired. I only ever order a double espresso, one of the easiest things there is to make, and yet it seems to take an eternity even when there are not many others waiting for drinks. Also, lately the baristas have taken to putting it in a small dixie-sized cup, which makes it impossible for me to add even a tablespoon of milk to it. Finally, the "double" I received today appeared to be less than a single shot, though I was assured by the barista that it was, in fact, a double. Even though Peet's is not my preferred shop to patronize, I had hoped that the couple of weeks I spent going there during the Starbucks renovations would be enjoyable. It hasn't been; the result has only been that I hesitate to recommend Peet's even as an alternative.
But you know, it's like leaving a comment in the box at the grocery store, or filling out the feedback card at IHOP. Just something to vent frustration, right? I mean, shit, nobody reads those things. (Fun fact: In I temped for about a month at the corporate headquarters of Pizzeria Uno in Dedham, Massachusetts, where I assisted the lady who responded to all the complaint letters. And yes, I read some of them, because they were way entertaining. But mostly, they were just given a brief glance and a $5 voucher or two and tossed away.) Well, on the contrary. Because today, fewer than 24 hours later, I actually get an email from Peet's in my goddamn GMail inbox! And here 'tis:
Dear Nick,

Thank you very much for taking the time to write to us about the speed
of service and other issues you encountered at our Westwood Village
location. We do strive to provide outstanding service to every
customer, every day, regardless of whether they're daily regulars or
one-time visitors to our stores. I'm going to immediately pass your
comments about your experiences at the store along to the district
manager so that he can look into your concerns. He or someone from the
store will be following up with you personally about your feedback.

Thanks again. Please let me know if I can be of any more assistance.

Warm regards,

[Dude with a job worse than mine]
See that? Someone's going to contact me personally! How freaking scary is that? Good thing I didn't give them my phone number! Or address! The last thing I want is a pair of highly caffeinated Mormons on my doorstep wanting to "have a talk" with me about things like espresso bean grinding and polygamy and all that. Thus far, I have heard nothing, but I'm sure it's only a matter of time before this district manager finds me and... aw, hell, it won't be the district manager. They said "the district manager or someone from the store." You know what that means? It's probably going to be the same goddamn barista who gave me trouble before! She probably just wants to come down here and throw a drink in my face. Which might cause me to worry, but then I remember that she's incapable of adding more than like 0.1 ounces of liquid to a cup. So I think I'll be okay.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Plan P

Well, shit, if there's anything that could get me blogging again after lo these many months, it would have to be the 2-week closing of my precious, precious Starbucks for "renovations." I first was alerted to this news about 10 days ago via a helpful little placard in the store displaying a Starbucks cup with saws and hardhats and stuff protruding from it (so, either that's a giant cup or those are tiny tools -- I'm hoping for the giant cup, though, because it would make a great hot tub). Since then I think I've progressed through the usual stages of grief quite well. To wit:
  1. Denial. "Eh, that's weeks away, I might not even be DRINKING Starbucks anymore by then."
  2. Anger. "Who the fuck am I kidding? Of course I will. How can they do this to me? Don't they realize that I once swam all the way from the Southern Highlands of Papua New Guinea to Jakarta for a venti iced nonfat latte? (Yes, I normally just get a grande, but I figured the 250 mile walk would at least partially negate the calorie gain from the additional 4 ounces of beverage.)"
  3. Bargaining. (This part is not really all that made-up.) "Okay, if they're going to be renovating the store, clearly they won't be using any of those kick-ass industrial strength espresso machines. And moreover, they probably need a place to store them. I'll just keep them in the office kitchen and brew myself a nice murky cup of espresso every day. Can't be that hard if people who can't even spell my name with a Sharpie can do it."
  4. Depression. (Experienced while walking past the currently-in-renovation Starbucks.) "Wait a second, they're like gutting the entire place. There's no way they can finish that in two weeks. They even took out the floors! What if it's not even a Starbucks when they're done with it? What if it's, like, a Build-a-Bear Workshop? What if I never have ready access to a compact, sort-of-reasonably-priced caffeinated beverage ever again? It's over. It's all over."
  5. Acceptance. (Shortly thereafter.) "Fine, I'll just go to Peet's, strange smell and Mormon tendencies notwithstanding."
And so it was. Assuming they get done on schedule, it's only 10 actual work days that I'll have to deal with this misery, so I'm now 20% done; that's about as near to completeness as I ever get to with anything else in my life, so by 9:46 A.M. tomorrow I'll already have made a level of progress that's mind-boggling by my own standards.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Westwood: The definitive treatise (or something)

Part One: Intro

[bass thump] Wassup wassup! I just wanna say [double-orchestra blast] dis one goes out to all the hataz up in here dat said I'd neva cut a record again, y'all feel me? [vintage guitar riff] So ladies and gentlemen... fresh from da lab in Palms... Death Row now pruh-zents... [scratchy vintage drum roll]

Oh. Uh, whoops. That's not the intro to the essay; that's the intro to my next album, Tryz II Killz Me N I Jus' Livz Longa , due out sometime this fall. Just a little cut-and-paste snafu. You know how it is.

Anyway. The real intro.

I don't know L.A. all that well, at least not as well as people who grew up here (though perhaps at least as well as people who say they grew up in L.A. but actually grew up in, like, Bakersfield). Then again, what does it mean to know L.A. well? Who can say they really do? How many rhetorical questions with extraneously italicized words can one get away with before one needs to make some kind of point? Don't you hate when people use "one" instead of "you" or "I" even though it's gramatically correct in the most technical sense? Don't people realize it sounds about as dorky as actually saying "that man is taller than I" even though that's also, technically, the correct way?

Okay, I think that's it for the intro. This is why I self-publish.

Eventually I might have some stuff to say about Westwood, and why some aspects of it are cool while others pretty much suck. Like the fact that one 50-foot stretch has Bebe, Ann Taylor Loft, and Victoria's Secret, but if you're a guy and want, well, anything garmentlike, you're basically shit out of luck. Yeah, I'll talk about some of those things later.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Nothing to say

The more you blog, the more you can find to say. And vice versa. I haven't blogged in a month and a half; therefore: nothing to say. But if I want to get BWD back on its feet I'm going to need to create something from nothing -- not unlike, say, the creators of any given CBS sitcom. But I digress (even though I have nothing from which to digress yet).

I can talk about shirts. And how I hate tucking them in, because they inevitably come untucked, but not completely untucked; just partially untucked, so that they balloon around your waist and make it look like you just need a few more pumps before you're ready for the Macy's parade. And how the worst part of all that is that I'm usually blissfully unaware of that chain of events until I either look in a mirror or feel cool air-conditioned air against my no-longer-completely-insulated stomach, meaning that the ballooning phenomenon has already been occurring for quite some time.

But that's boring. So I could talk about water (always one of my favorite subjects). And how the Brita filter is clearly a more fiscally sensible solution than bottled water, not to mention far better for the environment, but on the other hand doesn't provide an easy way to drink just enough water but not too much. With the Brita filter the water's dispensed into a glass of indeterminate volume (probably around 12 ounces, I guess), and then consumed, usually while still standing in front of the sink. Then that might not be enough, so I'll immediately refill the glass and drink another. Now I'm up to, I guess, 24 ounces. Is that enough? Did I drink enough the rest of the day? How soon do I plan on going to bed? How do I weigh the risk of dehydration versus the annoyance of waking up at like 3 AM and really having to pee but even more really not wanting to, and trying to force my brain to ignore any signals from the bladder area and only listen to my otherwise-ready-to-go-back-to-sleep self.

But that's boring too. And it made me thirsty. Be right back. Okay. So, I could talk about how cool it is to have a wireless keyboard and mouse at home, thus rendering the "but then I'd have to get out of bed" argument moot in a variety of instances. And how it's almost creepy to look down at the desk and not see any cables coming out of either device.

But that, if possible, is even more boring than anything else yet discussed. So what now? The new TV series Celebrity Cooking Showdown? No, because this is the wrong blog. U.S. immigration reform? Not likely. Tic Tacs with "Bold Fruit Flavor," yet another instance of a breath-freshening product branching out into fruity versions of itself, which I've never understood because I've never heard anyone complimented on their "cherry-fresh" breath?

Nope. See, I really don't have anything to say. But that's only because I haven't been saying anything. (And no, I'm not going to write a treatise on circular reasoning either.) So, hopefully forcing myself to say something will enable me to actually have stuff to say in the future.

We'll see. But for now: nothing to say.

Friday, March 31, 2006

Documenting the world with my camera phone, episode 1

Rally's: Doing Our Part To Fill America's Emergency Rooms

Tuesday, February 28, 2006


It has come to my attention that I didn't credit my breakfast amigos in my breakfast post, which is really wrong of me since they were the ones who dragged me out to Doughboy's in the first place. Or rather, they caved in to my constant begging for them to drag me out to Doughboy's. In any case, the team of Myasorubka (one half of Girl on Girl Cooking) and her dude deserve their props, which I am now giving them. Thanks, and we now resume your regularly scheduled blog, already in progress.

Monday, February 27, 2006

I'm usually the car

Pretty much everyone at work is sick. When this happens, I feel like I'm playing Monopoly, the whole board is filled up with hotels, and I'm clenching my teeth every time I roll the dice, desperately hoping I keep landing on Chance and Community Chest (or at least one of the railroads).

Save me, Zicam.

If this were my last meal, I'd tell the warden to bring on the lethal injection

Overland Cafe finally has competition for my breakfast dollar, and my heart. The rival's name is Doughboy's, and while the 20-ish minute drive to 3rd and Crescent Heights means they're unlikely to snag me on a weekly basis, I can't guarantee I'm not going to be having impure thoughts about semolina waffles with mascarpone while I'm chowing down on my usual eggs benedict with veggie sausage. I'm not feeling particularly essay-ish today so let's just do a quick snapshot comparison:

  • Really freaking awesome coffee... and a whole big french press full of it for $3.50.
  • Best waffle I ever had in my life.
  • Lots of other stuff to choose from on the menu.
  • And the total money shot: a whole sub-menu of home fries. Yes. Home fries with cheddar and grilled onions, home fries with roma tomatoes and mozzarella and basil, etc., etc. That's about enough to make me wonder if Zale's has a ring big enough for a restaurant.
Overland Cafe:
  • 3 minutes from home, on foot.
  • KCRW discount.
  • Weak-ass coffee, even though they refill it every 26.3 seconds.
  • Vegetarian options on every breakfast food imaginable.
  • Great home fries, even though they're not customizable.
  • They know me.
Advantage: Overland Cafe, for now, since they have the home field advantage and I don't switch loyalties easily. But if anyone has a truck capable of towing an entire restaurant (including outdoor seating), please let me know. Actually, forget the outdoor seating part. Doughboy's chairs are too low. I'll provide replacements, probably from Ikea.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Bad With Grammatical Directions

I know I never, ever post about Starbucks. So I figured this would be a nice change of pace.

Here's my question. Who labels the pastry trays there? Has he/she passed 9th grade English?

INCORRECT: "Old Fashion Doughnut"

CORRECT: "Old Fashioned Doughnut."

Thanks for listening.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Dear PETA,

I don't normally get all political on this blog, but I kind of have to ask...

What the hell are you doing?

Seriously. Please, please stop all the nonsense. I'm a vegetarian. I avoid wearing leather whenever possible. I try to buy non-factory-farmed stuff, free range eggs, and so forth. I do this because I think the world would be a better place if everyone else did too.

But I think the world would be a better place without you. Or at the very least, it would be a better place if you channeled your energies into supporting local agriculture, lobbying for companies with good records of non-cruelty (Trader Joe's, Tom's of Maine, etc.), and generally trying to effect change in more subtle ways.

I don't see that happening, though. Apparently you people think that your goals are best achieved by throwing flour at Paris Hilton (see above), signing up Pamela Anderson as your spokesperson, and breaking into laboratories in the dead of winter to set a bunch of raised-in-captivity animals "free" so they can enjoy a long few hours of life in the wilderness before they freeze to death. It makes me wonder if you even want anyone to take you seriously, or if you're a puppet organization secretly funded by McDonald's to make every other vegetarian/animal rights supporter look like an idiot. I'd kind of rather believe the latter, to be perfectly honest.

OK then. Good luck with your craziness. My check for $0.00 is in the mail.


Thursday, February 09, 2006

The Decline of the 315

In the second half of 2005, when I'd finally developed my sought-after [minor] caffeine addiction, the Starbucks in lower Westwood Village could rely on my steady revenue stream of three dollars and fifteen cents per day for an iced grande nonfat latte. This drink, eventually nicknamed the "315", has many advantages. First off, since it's basically just a caffeinated glass of skim milk, it provides a daily supply of nutrients that those food pyramid guys would be proud of. Second, it's quicker to prepare than any of the hot beverages. But most importantly, it's completely possible to drink the entire thing in the time it takes to get from the front door of Starbucks to the crosswalk at Westwood and Wilshire. Thus, as I'm crossing the street, the milkified espresso is crossing the blood-brain barrier, and I arrive back at my cubicle fully hopped up. It was a rock-solid system that worked for many a month.


It may be less than a pack of cigarettes (I think?), but $3.15 a day adds up if you do the math. (Normally I don't do math, but I made an exception in this case.) Eventually I decided to implement the caffeination backup plan I'd considered months ago but could never pull the trigger on. The crux of said plan: switching from iced grande nonfat latte to straight up double espresso. Same caffeine content, but $1.40 less per day. (That's almost a muffin!) And Starbucks probably wouldn't want me to divulge this secret, but you know those stainless steel containers of nonfat milk by the napkins and Splenda? You can use them for free! All I have to do is dump in a quarter-cup or so and I'm good to go. With much less volume and no ice to slow me down, I'm done with that sucker within ten paces of Starbucks. Time and money saved.

I should be running the national freaking budget.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Football game?

Yeah, not even really interested in the commercials this year. But I still wanted a killer bowl of nachos washed down with a pint of Guinness. So, I chose something else to watch.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Thoughts for the day

Guy who stood at crosswalk on Westwood and Wilshire listening to his iPod but never pressed the "walk" button:

If I come to a crosswalk and someone's already standing next to the walk button, I usually don't reach over and press it. Because I don't like to insult people's intelligence. But now, because of this guy, I will be forced to do exactly that for the rest of my life. Way to go, iPod guy.

Soup I improvised last night:

One onion, chopped. Four cloves of garlic, smashed. Most of one potato, cubed. One can of great northern beans, drained. One can of diced tomatoes, also drained. Most of one container of vegetable broth. Thyme and oregano for seasoning. Grated peccorino romano on top.

Taste of above soup:

Not bad. Probably missing an ingredient or two, but I don't know which.

Cheese placed on toasted baguette slices as side dish:

Drunken Goat.

Amount of Drunken Goat left over:


Thought I had after exiting Jamba Juice today:

If I found a time traveller from the 1950's, I would totally bring him in there and tell him that this is what all food is like in the future.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Jamba, we still hardly know ye

I am, to put it somewhat mildly, a frequent customer of Jamba Juice. When it's lunch time and I really want to do the bare minimum required to alleviate hunger in at least a semi-nutritious way, it's my best option. Plus, if you go in around noon you really don't have to wait. Apparently, the rest of the Westwood business/academic community is spending that time filling themselves up with greasier, more lunch-like items possibly ending in -ito, -izza, or -ow mein. Anyway, I usually choose to spend my minimal waiting time reading some of the literature that they offer for sale. In the past, this has included such stimulating titles as the Juliano Raw "uncook"-book, which teaches you that it's possible to make authentic mayonnaise out of organic nuts soaked overnight in tap water. But they stopped carrying that one, and my well of insults to hurl at Juliano should I ever run into him on 3rd Street Promenade regrettably ran dry.

Now, a new book has taken center stage on the shelf:

Jamba Juice Power
(Amazon link provided for informational purposes only; please do not buy it, because it is stupid)

I picked up this book today in the frenzied hopes that it would provide me with the recipe to produce a Protein Berry Pizazz of my very own. Not that the recipe should be all that difficult to reverse-engineer, but still... why waste all that time and soy milk if I don't have to? Well, the beginning of the book was fairly unpromising, mainly focused on health and exercise and all that crap. I flipped through page after page explaining why various nutrients were important, what times of day were best for consuming them, where to get some good horse 'roids in L.A., and so forth. Then, at last, I arrived at the recipe section. Long story short, no PBP was to be had. In fact, there was not a single recipe for any of the smoothies they actually sell at Jamba Juice. In their place were stupid just-made-up-for-the-book drinks like "Aaaah, Apple" and others of similar levels of inanity. Because guess what? Those Jamba guys may act all hippy-dippy, but they'd tie their grandmothers to railroad tracks before they gave up any real dirt on their beverages.

Well, I'll show them. I will not rest until I can manufacture a working replica of the Protein Berry Pizazz in my own kitchen, perhaps using more than $4.25 worth of ingredients from Whole Foods, but nonetheless emerging with a satisfied sense of entrepreneurial spirit and self-worth that can't be bought at any price. Or maybe I won't, but whatever.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

This should totally be the ad for that one Japanese dude

So, yeah... um, here:

You know that rule about two things not being able to occupy the same space at the same time? I think that's one of Newton's laws, or the Hippocratic Oath or something like that. Well, turns out it's, like, wicked true especially when you're talking about fingers and fancy-ass Japanese knives. "What fancy Japanese knife would that be, Nick?" you ask?

Okay, you're a little morbid, but I'll indulge you:

Ha! Just kidding. I wish. Not that the girl who sliced me isn't hot.

Anyway, the knife looks more like this:

Take that sucker and get it sharpened by a super master Japanese knife sharpener guy like a week earlier, and you've got a PARTY!

(And by "party" I mean "comfy Band-Aid brand gauze taped to your finger for a few days.")

Sometimes when you give life the finger... oops, already used that joke.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

The year begins hypothetically

Instead of resolutions, this year I offer a list of questions that may help explain why I tend to be kind of a skeptic. Because if I really believed in anything that didn't have hard scientific evidence, these sorts of thoughts would plague me.

Anyway, let the hypothetical crap begin.

How do you know that weren't born a squirrel but switched bodies with a human for a predetermined amount of time, and your lease ends tomorrow? (Naturally, during your human time you would have wanted to forget the fact that you were really a squirrel, so temporarily erasing your squirrel-memory would have been part of the arrangement.)

How do you know that you're not a character in someone else's dream? (The good news is that this person is in a coma. The bad news is it's just a food coma.)

How do you know that you never wished chicken pox on someone, got your wish fulfilled, and then wished to forget you ever wished it?

(If you were born on or after April 5, 1994) How do you know that you weren't once a world-famous garage band frontman who decided to end it all but was offered an opportunity to live a brand new life with no knowledge of your previous one?

How do you know you didn't give up a portion of your brain to find a cure for avian flu, but the cure never panned out and you never got the piece of your brain back? Naturally, it's the piece of brain that remembers the whole thing happening.

(If you're living on less money than you'd like) How do you know you weren't once fabulously wealthy but had a really annoying hangnail that just wouldn't go away, and it eventually drove you crazy enough that you paid a witch doctor to cure it in exchange for all your money? Naturally, blacking out your memories of being rich was part of the deal.

How do you know you weren't born with the highest IQ of any human being in history, with the potential to solve all the world's social and political ills, but lost it all the moment your umbilical cord was cut?

(This one I first thought of well over a decade ago.) How do you know you don't have a rewind button for your life, but it's only the size of a regular rewind button and is located on a tree somewhere in Nebraska?

How do you know that every time you go to bed, you sleep for a whole year, but the rest of the world acts like only a day has gone by to prevent you from feeling left out?

And finally...

How do you know that you couldn't cause every Starbucks on earth to spontaneously combust by concentrating really hard on a piece of celery for a couple of hours?

* * *

Well, there you have it. Welcome to 2006. Just thought I'd start if off a little differently.