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Baby, it’s cold outside.

10 Jan

Screen Shot 2014-01-10 at 7.25.16 AM

Perhaps you’ve noticed: it’s been COLD lately. I know, you may have missed it. I can see how – if you live in Florida, don’t have a Facebook account or avoid television – this newsflash may have completely passed you by.

Let me bring you up to speed. Apparently there’s a “polar vortex” hovering somewhere over the Great Lakes. As a result, the Midwest is getting buried with snow and temperatures have been stalled below zero. Even in DC, where anything below freezing is cause for angst (we ARE southern, after all), we’ve been in the single digits. When combined with some wicked winds, the windchill here has been as low as -15.

From the human reaction to these temperatures, you might believe that hell was, in fact, freezing over. My Facebook newsfeed has featured no fewer than a dozen photographs of cars’ instrument panels, prominently displaying temperatures. It’s like a pissing contest, but with low temps.

My friends who are parents seem to be split on the matter of snow days. Some (mainly those who are teachers) are rejoicing along with their children that school is canceled. Others seem to be running on fumes as their two-week holiday break gets extended – and extended – and they face their third week cooped up inside with hyper, stir-crazy children.

I think my sister is in the latter camp. She’s started sharing (and trademarking) somewhat mundane activities on Facebook that she’s creating to keep her kids occupied. And she’s referring to herself in the third person – never a good sign. For example:

On day 18 of extended break I took the kids to the basement for Alicia’s 20 Minutes of Fitness™. It ended up lasting 30 minutes and I lost (winner got an oreo).

UPDATE: It was a Double Stuff… and there was a chance earlier to win another one in Alicia’s World Series of Poker™.

I suppose I should be glad she’s creating activities for them to do inside. The other day she told me that after shoveling for twenty minutes, her oldest son returned inside and began complaining about his hands hurting. She looked at them and found that his fingertips were swollen like little balloons.  At the time I laughed, imagining him with sausage-like balloon-animal fingers.

But then just yesterday one of my high school classmates (who also still lives in Michigan) posted these photos of HIS fingers after shoveling for an extended period of time.

HOLY? WHAT?

Yep, that’s frostbite all right. Call me naïve, but somehow I thought the only people to actually get frostbite were arctic explorers, plane crash survivors stranded in the Himalayas, and anyone who lost consciousness and was later discovered in a snowbank. Shoveling snow in Michigan with gloves on???

So if you haven’t shoveled a foot of snow, almost lost a finger to frostbite, or been cooped up with children for three weeks without respite, I think you should consider this year off to a great start.

As for the rest of America? It might be worth investing in some very thermal outerwear. Or bumping up your insurance plans.

Award: Best Parenting Ever

3 Sep

If my Facebook newsfeed is to be trusted, then today was the universal “First Day of School” everywhere in the United States.

I cite this as a fact because of the number of obligatory front-step photos posted by my friends of their children. Don’t get me wrong, they were cute. But at a certain point,  cute and cliché are not mutually exclusive.

[cli·ché:  noun: overused and betraying a lack of original thought]

So I found it refreshing to see one parent who – instead of posting the expected photo of siblings heading off to school – posted this gem:

Image Source: Doulicia

OK. That parent was my sister. And trust me, she knows her way around a shutter, so I know she was going for “deliberately irreverent” with these shots.

Which is why she is the winner of the First Annual Pithypants Parenting Award.

Boo-yah!

And the runner-up is my friend Sara, who – as the mother of two boys – tweeted this yesterday:

This sentence from an article about identity theft in our local rag amuses me to no end: “For instance, if you pay for Girl Scout cookies with a check and the child’s brother gets a hold of it and gets the numbers, he can use them to make automatic, monthly purchases for porn, or whatever he wants…” Really? From Girl Scout cookies to porn?

[Side note: who can even FIND their checkbook? Please tell me the Girl Scouts accept credit cards. If not, you can’t convince me they aren’t just training those girls to become Toll Booth operators.]

Anyway, THIS is what we need: More parents willing to challenge the norm, to laugh AT children and not simply WITH them. Thanks, Alicia and Sara – for keepin’ it real.

And now you know why I didn’t reproduce. You’re welcome.

We call this independence.

6 Jul

I live in our Nation’s Capital and I love it.

It’s a great city for so many reasons: It’s super walkable; there are hundreds of miles of bike paths around the area (56 miles in the District itself!); the architecture is pretty; each neighborhood has its own distinct personality; the residents are some of the best educated in the nation; the public transit system is clean and safe; there’s so much culture – museums, theaters, galleries – and most of it is free… I could go on. And on.

But one thing I do not like about living here: The tourists.

DC Tourists

See what I mean?

I know, I know. This city belongs to all Americans, so I can’t really get territorial.

But from April to September, DC is transformed into the urban equivalent of Walmart as loud people wearing Cheetoh-stained flag shirts and fanny packs crowd the sidewalks (four-across, no less!) with their mouths agape, making it hard for those of us who live here to get from Point A to Point B. I’m here to tell you that the stereotype of “Obnoxious American Tourists” isn’t reserved for how we behave in other countries.

So then, to continue the analogy: If DC is like Walmart for six months of the year, Independence Day is like Black Friday. People show up early. They push and shove to jockey into position. There are more people than real estate. And Neil Diamond is playing over the PA system.

Most locals either stay home and watch the fireworks from their roof decks or scoot out of the city all together, choosing to relax on a beach for a week while the inmates run the asylum back in DC.

Alternate Source: www.animalcapshunz.comThis year, since Independence Day fell on a Thursday and Alan had to work on Friday, we decided to stay in the area. The forecast was hot and humid, so rather than hanging in the District, I hopped on my bike Thursday morning to head to Alan’s place in Arlington so we could relax by the pool and grill up some steaks for dinner, far from the crowds.

We thought we were clever – hatching a plan that allowed Alan to avoid the District in his car on a notoriously crazy traffic day – but apparently we had overlooked a wee detail. Namely, the fact that it hasn’t even been three months since the Boston bombings.

Meaning: Homeland Security spared no effort in securing our Nation’s Capital, something I hadn’t realized until I was on my bike, trying without luck to cross Constitution Ave in front the White House.

As I came rolling down 15th Street, I saw a crowd ahead of me, blocking my path to Constitution Ave. I could tell they were watching a parade (as evidenced by the people dressed in old-timey gear, riding old-fashioned bicycles in circles while waving over the on-lookers’ heads), but this in itself didn’t deter me – I’ve accidentally participated in races, runs and parades before due to bad timing. (The most memorable was when I accidentally became the pace car for the Gay Pride Parade because I remembered to move my Jetta just as the cops where showing up to tow it.)

Image Source: http://www.jointaction.org.uk/media/Joint%20Action%20Media/News%20Pictures/X-Ray%20Bike%20Rider%20(colour)%20(smaller).JPGSo the crowd was thick, but I was going to try to wiggle through and cross – until I saw that the Mall had an eight-food chain link fence barring access to the other side of the street. Huh? (After Googling, I’ve learned the barricade actually ran 32,000 feet in length.)

I did a U-turn and asked a cop for advice about where I’d be able to cut across the Mall. He was friendly but useless. Apparently when they’d done the briefing for the event, he had only paid attention to his specific role – not the overall design of the parade route and city plan in general.

I thanked him for nothing, then rode back up 15th Street, where I asked a Secret Service agent the same question. As expected, he was more dialed in and offered good advice. I’d have to cut up to the Memorial Bridge and take that route out of the city. No problem.

Or at least – no problem until I got to the bridge and saw that it was blocked by a series of Metro Buses parked nose-to-tail, creating a rather effective barricade, with cops monitoring the only gap that remained. Turns out, the ENTIRE Mall – from the Lincoln Memorial/Memorial Bridge to the Capitol Building, was fenced in. The only way to get out of town was to pass through one of nine pedestrian checkpoints.

So I biked back half a mile, then stood in line with other bikers and walkers trying to get to (or across) The Mall. The police inspected my bag and wiped my bike down with the chemical/explosive detecting wand typically used at airports.

The security measures ended up adding 30 minutes and two miles to my commute out of town. A headache on a hot day, but it appears the efforts were effective since there were no major “events.”

Unless you count Alan fetching me from the pool later that afternoon, blood dripping off his hand at an alarming rate after he took the tip off his finger with a potato peeler. Guess next year we’ll have to put an eight-foot fence around his kitchen.

Unwanted Perspective

16 Apr
From our office window...

From our office window…

Like most Americans, I’ve spent much of the last 24 hours trying to process the Boston Marathon bombings. When there is so much to love about living, it is truly mind-boggling to realize there are other humans in this world – structurally built from the same materials as the rest of us – who not only can’t feel humbled before it, but feel entitled to strip others of that gift.

I’ve felt this way before. After Columbine. After 9/11. After the DC sniper. After Newtown…

What is new to me is how personal this attack feels. Even though the scale is smaller (at least from a fatality standpoint), this event has rocked me in ways that the others haven’t.

Maybe it’s because my company’s headquarters is smack-dab between the two explosions.

Or because I have more than a hundred colleagues (dozens of whom I consider friends) working in that building.

Or because I’ve mindlessly walked past the two bomb sites countless times in the last few years on my way to pick up lunch.

Or because my  friends were posting photos of the finish line from the office window that morning, celebrating how lucky they were to have such prime seats.

Or because it’s all too real to imagine my co-workers cowering under their desks, waiting for the third blast.

Or because I’d tried to fly in that morning but the hotel costs were prohibitively high – so I pushed my arrival back a day.

Or maybe it’s because all the news coverage shows my hotel and my office building… landmarks that previously made me think “home away from home,” when I saw them pulling into view.

I really don’t know.

Regardless of why this events hits me square in the gut, there are a few things I am certain of:

Those runners won’t stop running because a coward tried to steal their glory.

We should stop using the term “mastermind” when referring to a terrorist. Masterminds are people who find elegant solutions to difficult problems. Killing innocent people? Pretty much the opposite.

The bravery of the first responders – the people who turned to run into the smoke instead of away from it – only serves to underscore the cowardice of the person (or persons) who set those bombs.

The goodness of humanity far outweighs the few random assholes behind events like this. 

Just watch the news or check out your social media channels and you’ll see that last point affirmed over and over again:

The Bostonians who coordinated a directory of private homes where homeless runners could stay.

The outpouring of blood donations at Mass General and the Red Cross.

The stranger who gave his race medal to a first-time marathoner who was unable to finish because of the blast. 

The spectators who rose to the occasion and found themselves pushing wheelchairs and tearing away fencing to get to victims.

The locals who – walking home from their evacuated office buildings – took runners home with them and gave them warm clothes and helped them reconnect with their families. 

Life is good. People are good.

Those beliefs are fundamental differences that separate us from the people behind attacks like this.

Cling to it. Celebrate it. Embody it.

© 2013 Aaron Tango Tang

© 2013 Aaron Tango Tang

I Don’t Think I’m Alone on This One…

21 Jan
Borrowed from "The Onion"

Borrowed from “The Onion”

Skimming the news this weekend, an article caught my eye.

“Did you know they’re removing some of the scanners from the airports?” I asked Alan.

“Oh yeah? The invasive scanners?” he clarified. “Not a surprise.”

“Invasive? What do you mean?”

“You know, the ones that show you naked,” he prodded.

I shook my head. “I thought that was a wives’ tale. I mean, they don’t actually show you naked.” I paused. “Do they?”

He nodded. “Do a Google image search. You’ll see.”

I thought he was surely pulling my leg. I mean, I fly ALL the time. There’s no way they’d allow TSA officers to take naked scans of me, would they?

I searched. Images like this came up:

Image Source: http://maxcdn.fooyoh.com/files/attach/images/1097/325/389/001/airport_xray_scanner.jpg

“Are you serious? This is what it really looks like?” I asked, incredulous.

Alan nodded. “You seem freaked out.”

“I am,” I said. “I mean, I didn’t know they could actually see my naked body!”

“What would you have done?” Alan asked.

“Um, probably stood taller. And definitely sucked my tummy in.”

He started laughing. “So what did you think the scan looked like, if not a naked photo of your body?”

“I don’t know,” I said, flipping through more images. “I guess something like this…”

Image Source: http://www.wired.com/images_blogs/threatlevel/2011/07/Screen-Shot-2011-07-20-at-3.48.29-PM.png

At this point, Alan was convulsing. “You thought people were up in arms because they resembled gingerbread men on the scanner?”

Good point.

I hate it when he’s right.