Category Archives: Consumerism

Unsteadier Footing

They say you should shuffle your feet when walking through a shallow sea, to avoid accidentally stepping on a stingray. The same technique could save your life when traveling across my living room.

Someone should really clean up this mess.

The Gallery of The Awesome II

I have journeyed far and wide of late, from the hot and dusty reaches of eastern Washington to the harshly lit bowels of Wal-Mart. In these journeys I have seen Things, Great and Amazing Things that Thrill the Senses. The incredibility I have seen is such that it is worth another visit, yes, a return of sorts, to The Gallery of The Awesome.

Some of this may be new to you, some may be downright frightening, but I recommend you stay with us until the end, keeping your hands and feet inside the car at all times.

This post card can be found outside the office of one of Kate’s favorite geology professors. It goes without saying how he feels about dams:

Place Explosives Here

In case there is any question, here’s the door to his office:

Bob Carson's Door

He will retire soon, and when he does the school will need to buy a new door.

Here we see a sign for the Bing Bang Blow Out Sale, which is happening right now at the independent record shop in Walla Walla:

Bing Bang Blow Out Sale

Actually, this sign has been in their window ever since Kate was a prospective student for Whitman College, five long years ago. It is likely a nod to the song “Witch Doctor” by David Seville, with its chorus line all “walla walla bing bang” and such. The shop boasts what is hopefully eastern Washington’s largest collection of VHS tapes and 8-tracks, despite having been blowing them out for the last five years. Say, what the hell kind of independent record shop is this?

Hot Poop

That’s right. The shop is named Hot Poop. Right there in downtown Walla Walla. Bing Bang. Judging by the number of Zappa posters in the window, I would bet it’s named after the Frank Zappa song of the same name. Based on Zappa’s character, as well as the degree of censorship that the album apparently experienced, I’m willing to bet that Frank didn’t want the song to be named “Hot Poop” at all, but rather “Hot Shit.” Ironically, the phrase “hot poop” is far more disgusting and offensive than “hot shit.”

Speaking of shit:

Squirrel Feeder

The above is a Premium Eastern Red Cedar Squirrel Feeder, available at Wal-Mart. Unless those wood screws are intended for permanently mounting the squirrel to the platform, this feeder is far more humane than the electric squirrel feeder that my father invented:

Electric Squirrel Feeder

Actually, it’s a bird feeder that he’s rigged up in such a way to discourage squirrels from draining it on a daily basis. It plugs directly into a regular wall outlet. He added the 60 watt light bulb so that when a squirrel completes the circuit, the bulb would take out a lot of the current and not cook the squirrel. Even so, there’s still a lot of squirrel poop all around this thing.

Speaking of unfortunate surprises, the Hood River Hotel features fine dining and vintage charm. How fine, and how vintage, you may ask? Here we see the worst table in the joint:

The worst table in the joint.

Speaking of vices, here we witness a grim milestone:

Grim Milestone

A gallon of gas costs nearly as much as a pack of Marlboros! Speaking of gas, these beautiful turtle figurines are available at the gas station near the Hood River Bridge:

I mean really.

Either a poor artist somewhere has a great sense of humor despite living in wrenching poverty, or the turtle’s likeness to a wrinkly penis happened completely by accident.

Last, but certainly not least, Dr. Bronner called. He wants his superlatives back:


I hope that this packaging has won design and typography awards the world over. In an effort to keep your eyes from melting, I have transcribed the top portion for you:

Greatest Guarantee-Offer PROOF Ever
67 YEARS, unchallenged, $5,000. GUARANTEED to be
SUPERthriveTMs 50 IN ONE

Those are some bold claims. I don’t know whether to give it to my plants or pour it on my turtle.


After finishing some client work this evening I intended on watching Into The Wild, which just arrived from Netflix. For ten years it has been one of my favorite books (its challengers include Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and The Rand McNally U.S. Road Atlas) and I have to admit I was a little bit apprehensive to watch the movie.

My nerves about it are prickly not because of the usual “OMG they better not ruine mine favorite Book!!1!” but because I’m afraid of what I might find out about myself. You see, aside from the whole “starving to death in the wilderness” thing (which I’ll admit has a fair amount of romance to it), I want to be Alexander Supertramp.

At least, I used to want to.

Or do I still?

My post-collegiate path has been a winding one, both of place and of being. The spring I graduated from college I skipped my graduation ceremony so I could leave Minnesota and start driving to Oregon just one day sooner. I loaded up all my worldly possessions in the Green Dragon Wagon, not knowing if I would be gone for three months or three years. In the end, I worked as a windsurfing grunt until I ran out of summer, a snowboard instructor until I ran out of unbroken legs, and a web designer until I ran out of Vicodin.

I stayed in Oregon for two years and lived in two towns, moving back and forth between them until I moved back to Minnesota to work as a wilderness guide. I took an eight-day Wilderness First Responder course. I met someone lovely. I spent three months growing a beard and living in the woods. That fall, my reintroduction to civilization involved getting choked up over such amenities as toothpaste and ice water.

The following summer I did it all again, only this time I was joined by someone lovely. I grew a beard. I stomped through Yellowstone for twenty days with five guys and three mohawks. That fall I moved back to Oregon as my love traveled all over the Western United States, living outside and learning about land rights and trying not to freeze to death. We reunited that December, though she was kind of freaked out that I had shaved my beard.

For 1 1/2 years now I have been planted in Hood River, working with the intertubes, kiteboarding during the summer, snowboarding during the winter, and occasionally visiting Walla Walla for some reason or another. In four months Kate and I will be moving across the country to attend graduate school at Indiana University, she to study environmental policy and me to study interaction design. After finishing my program I want to be involved in some Pretty Big Shit in my industry, which likely means I will no longer be taking three months off at a time to guide trips or teach snowboarding or fret about not having work during those unfortunate “in between” seasons.

Aye, and there’s the rub.

Part of me thinks that I’m ready to move on from this lifestyle. Another part of me fears that for all these nomadic experiences, for all this living in the outdoors, I have still managed to miss something, some hidden meaning. This elusive nugget of truth drove Christopher McCandless in his travels, and is what gave rise to Alexander Supertramp. I’m certain that Christopher would agree with me when I say that the logical conclusion of this journey is something besides starving to death in the backcountry of Alaska. What it is, however, I haven’t figured out yet.

I’ve changed a lot over the last five years, especially over the last two, and I’ve noticed my nagging sense of wanderlust begin to fade. With it I fear my curiosity goes as well, my unconventionalism, my identity. I speak of piling all my furniture on the front lawn and burning it, and people laugh as though I speak in hyperbole. I do, to be sure. But for me, owning more stuff than will fit in my car is painfully embarrassing, every bookcase and file cabinet a trophy to defeat. I have lost my mobility, but I have gained… what, a sofa? A coffee table? These are changes I have not been dealing with well.

It was in this context that I started to watch Into The Wild.

I got as far as the DVD menu. I watched it loop a dozen times. My vision blurred and my chest tightened. A dozen times Christopher burned his money, hitchhiked to Alaska, grew a beard, and posed in front of the bus.

I turned off my television.

The Gallery of The Awesome

Last night I welcomed upon you a great injustice, in that I described a number of truly awesome products without actually showing them to you. Tonight I hope to make things right and proper, and with the help of this “Multi-Media” tool will magic their images to you, with absolutely no post office, telegraph cables, or Speak & Spell device involved.

First up in our Gallery of The Awesome, we have a Colon-Shaped Brownie Tray:

Colon-Shaped Brownie Tray

Next, we have a litter box designed for one-legged cats:

One-Legged Cat

If you thought the one-legged cat market was so small that it couldn’t possibly support more than one specially-designed litter box, you thought wrong:

Another One-Legged Cat

Last and certainly not least, we have Taylor Fay. He’s totally stacked in this picture, probably the result of his patented “ripping the legs off cats” workout:

Taylor Fay

That is all.

This post is about neither Austin nor Zion.

Even though I haven’t yet taken the time to write about either of them.

I am done with my travels, and have managed to emerge mostly unscathed from both the brutal canyons of downtown Austin, and the dusty scratchy landscape of the Utah desert. I’ve been fighting down the plague for the last couple days, however, so my stores have been a might bit sapped. Yesterday I couldn’t muster the energy to avoid traffic while crossing the road. It nearly cost me my life. And by my life, I mean my lunch. And by lunch, I mean the receipt for my lunch.

Anyway, despite an unrelenting desire to write some utter crap this evening, I need to make sure that this doesn’t degenerate into an all-night authoring marathon. If that happens I will surely die. I need sleep. Thus I have set an egg timer for twenty minutes, to blind me with its rancor should I find myself typing beyond deadline. It’s just like having a boss, only one that is shiny, white and plastic. And unlike most things that are shiny, white and plastic, this boss was not invented by Steve Jobs.

In celebration of spring I find myself drinking a New Belgium seasonal brew, their Springboard Ale. It is the color of a fine green tea. Since one of my goals this year is to brew my own beer, I have been forcing myself to purchase only beer that comes in real bottles… a twist-off bottle just won’t do for bottling and storing my own brews.

Seeing as how I drink mostly micro-brews I’ve never really had any trouble finding the beer that I want to drink in regular non-twist-off bottles, but lately I’ve noticed a disturbing trend. Micro-brews, apparently in the interest of offering additional levels of beer-drinking convenience to their audience, have been increasingly turning towards twist-off bottles. Hood River’s very-own Full Sail Brewery has started doing this.

Now, I appreciate their concern. I don’t want to be separated from my beer any more than the next guy, and as a pragmatist, I’m all for eliminating barriers and simplifying processes for just about anything. But damn if this doesn’t just cheapen the whole micro-brew experience. The whole point of a bottle is that the beer is difficult to access!

It’s like that crane game at the bowling alley, except that you win a prize every time so long as you aren’t unconscious or hopelessly stupid. Seriously. You can’t shotgun a bottle of beer, and damn if I think that people should be able to open bottles with hands alone (World’s Strongest Men being the only exception). How else would your average Eagle Scout be able to show his preparedness by presenting a bottle opener on the keys to his Geo? By unwillingly pulling his underwear over his head? Come on, give the kid a break! He goes to a private school!

I mean, they’ve started putting bottle openers in the bottoms of sandals! Kate found me an awesome belt buckle with a bottle opener built into it! Even when a particular setting completely lacks all these awesome innovations, an unopened bottle presents all sorts of creative opportunities. You can open a bottle with a lighter, a counter top, a barbed wire fence… in a pinch, even the joint piece between your windsurf sail and board can be used as a bottle opener!

Seriously, micro brewers. Do you want to deny your drinkers what may be their only chance for creative expression?

Web Nerd Geek Party

Last October I accidentally threw away my iPod Shuffle. This may sound like an interesting story, but more than anything it was dumb. Just dumb. Sure, it was just one of the old style Shuffles, the kind that was as big as a pack of gum which seemed really small for about fifteen minutes there, and I had already replaced it once after all the buttons had stopped working, but that little bastard still set me back $150 at the time.

Last week my new iPod Shuffle arrived, the latest version of the latest kind that has a built-in clip and comes with Apple’s new-style headphones and is about the size of a postage stamp if postage stamps were a quarter of an inch thick and cost $79. Honestly, this thing is small. I almost swallowed it just taking it out of the box.

Anywho, I love the new Shuffle. At first I had planned on getting a nano, seeing as how the cheapest model would be the same price that I paid for my original Shuffle. After I realized that for my purposes I would need an armband or some crazy carrying shit like that, and discovering that such nonsense would run me an extra $30 or so, the Shuffle and its handy clip started looking much more attractive. I don’t need much from an mp3 player… I just need something that makes noise in my ears while I’m at the gym. Until I can afford a personal trainer, an iPod it is.

Hence the Shuffle, which is of a size that is so ridiculously small that it makes you wonder why your headphones need to plug into anything anymore, or even need to have cords for that matter. I still don’t have a proper full-size iPod, partly because I have no real use for one in my regular life, and partly because I keep putting off the purchase, in the interest of getting the next latest-and-greatest edition from Apple. I’ve been waiting for the multi-touch iPod ever since the iPhone was announced, and I know now that it’s only a matter of time.

It’s amazing when you realize that the click wheel, which was quite possibly the most innovative UI development of the oughts, has already been rendered completely irrelevant by the very company that invented it in the first place.

In other news, a week from today I take off for my second shot at SXSW. My first time was a blast and I got to spend it with my fellow UI-geek friend (and occasional lover) Jake Ingman, along with Sally and a number of other great friends we made down there in Austin. Jake and I have known of each other’s existences since 2001, but we didn’t hook up until SXSW last year. We rekindled our relationship through the 37signals personal ads (this joke was funnier before they started running their Job and Gig Boards) on a thread about Jim Brandenburg, and we spent our downtime at “South By” sharing the same bed. Or staying up all night blogging and uploading photos to Flickr. What can I say, we were both hopeless romantics at the time.

Jake and I are both jammin’ down to SXSW again this year, only this time around we’ve got two beds between us. Kate assured me, however, that she would be totally okay if we decided to share again. I guess we’ll just have to see what Anne says about the whole deal. Seriously though, some things just get out of control down in Texas.


Sprint called over the weekend and confirmed that they were indeed experiencing network issues in my area, something about trunk-lines and T1 connections and such. The call came from a fellow who was based in Texas, at the apparent locus where Sprint receives and processes “trouble tickets.” He was genuinely kind and helpful and did not possess the obsequious nature of the last person I had spoken with, who left me feeling like I needed to take a shower after I hung up the phone. Of course, between this last person and I there no doubt exists a great geographical and cultural chasm, not to mention the simple fact that in relation to me he exists fourteen hours in the future. How awkward it must be to speak to the past, I can only imagine.

Yes, I must give props where props are due. He speaks my language, quite fluently I might add, where I couldn’t even say for certain the name of his native tongue. Also, if news stories are to be trusted, they make a convincing argument that these internationally outsourced call-center employees are utterly shit upon by many of my fellow citizens. Thus, I try to go out of my way to be patient and respectful when I’m pretty sure that I’m speaking with India, as these hard-working folk already have enough to deal with. It’s a fucking cell phone, for chrissakes, it doesn’t need to come to blows. Save the fighting for Kashmir.

That said, my only criticisms regard the quality of customer service I receive when working through issues with outsourced support. It wasn’t until my issue was escalated to a dizzying degree that I finally received real information from Sprint, in the form of a phone call from Texas. Until that point the problem was completely vague and ambiguous, and my written correspondence with Sprint, while humorous, was more ritualistic than anything else.

It didn’t matter what I told Sprint, nor did it matter what Sprint said in return. Rather, all that was important was that our exchange was happening, and I was continuing to make it happen, so it behooved them to eventually pass it to someone who could do something about it. Nothing I spoke was translated as real information on their end, nor was any of the apologetic boilerplate that they shot back actually useful. The entire conversation could just as well have been written in “lorem ipsum,” and the result would have been the same.

Sadly, much of this fell to the ear of the Texan. I assured him that in no way did I believe my frustration with the general uselessness of Sprint’s customer support was his fault, and I sympathized that he might not be in a position to manifest such change, but I needed to vent just a smidgen.

My suggestions were simple. First, don’t tell me to drive to Portland and die just have my phone tested, when all physical evidence points to a problem with the network. Second, when a trend is developing that suggests there is indeed a problem with the network, just tell me there’s a problem with the network. The Texan told me straight-up that theirs was a clearinghouse of trouble tickets. When they see tickets start to build up from a particular area, they get suspicious and start checking out the network for that region.

In my case, that’s what happened. A number of Sprint customers from in-and-around Hood River must have called in coverage issues, those issues got escalated to Texas, and Texas found a problem with the trunk-line.

Now, I don’t really care if there’s a problem with the trunk-line, or if an osprey built a nest in your cell tower, or if hooligans tore the whole thing down so they could sell the scrap metal and buy more cold medicine. I just want to know whether or not you’re doing anything about it. And while I really appreciate the follow-up call a week later, it would be nice if, during the process, I could receive some sort of message that takes the mystery out of the whole deal. An email, let’s say, like this:

Dear Ambiguously-Valued Sprint Burden,

Evidence from your area suggests that the troubles you are encountering may be resulting from an issue with the network. We’re looking into it, so sit tight.

Stewbuilder D.
Sprint together with Nextel
“Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet!”

Trade in your old hobo and get $25!
Visit for details!

Seriously Sprint, you wouldn’t lose any face in telling me straight-up that you’re having network problems. I know this shit ain’t perfect, and yours far from it. It’s when you try to maintain an impression of your infallibility, to the point where interacting with your first-tier customer support amounts to a conversation with ELIZA, that you begin to piss me off.

So in the end, my phone works again, it’s now lunchtime in New Delhi, and I love Texas more than ever.

I Heart Sprint

Last week my cell phone suddenly lost most of its ability to make and receive calls. The nature of the glitch suggested that it was a problem with Sprint’s all-digital wireless network built from the ground up. My phone kept getting booted off Sprint’s network and into roaming land, so my initial concerns were about my monthly bill (which is already a little bit out of control).

I sent the following message to support:

Dearest Sprint,

Lately your Sprint Network coverage within the 97031 zip code has been extremely spotty. Normally I get an extremely strong on-network signal when I’m in town, but for the last couple days I’ve been experiencing some rather frustrating trouble.

Frequently when I go to place a call, my Sprint Network signal suddenly drops to zero. As the call starts dialing, I’m suddenly on Digital Roam, or even (gasp!) Analog Roam. Thus, I am being forced to “roam” even though I’m well within Sprint territory, and well within my usual locales when placing calls.

I assure you that my home or office have not suddenly relocated themselves to places that would have spotty Sprint reception, nor have I wrapped my home or office in tinfoil or lead shielding or other such things that would interfere with signal strength.

No, nothing has changed except for the signal quality and reliability that I am currently receiving from Sprint. I will allow that it might be a problem with my cell phone itself, but beyond turning it off and on again, there really isn’t a whole lot of diagnosing I can do in that regard.

That said, the reliability of your “all-digital wireless network built from the ground up” has suddenly become very questionable. I suppose this is a long way of saying that when my next bill shows up, I will dispute any and all “roaming” charges that have resulted from the instability of your own network.

Yes, I know that my plan includes “free” roaming off the Sprint Network. However, I also know that while you don’t charge me for “roaming” when I make/receive calls off your network, you do nick me for “long distance” charges, which are normally included when I use your network.

Claiming that you offer “free roaming” when you simply charge for “long distance” in its place is merely a clever game of marketing semantics, as you are effectively charging for the exact same thing. Thus, I shall dispute any charges for either roaming or long-distance.

Take care, and have yourself a lovely day.

Dane Petersen

Not long after, I received the following response:

Dear Dane,

I apologize for the inconvenience caused by the coverage issues. Thank you for contacting Sprint together with Nextel in this regard.

Since your plan includes roaming, the long distance calls made withing U.S. would not be charged even while roaming. However, the long distance calls made to outside the U.S. would be charged irrespective of roaming.

I have checked through our resources and noticed that we have good coverage in your area.

We understand that in spite of the good coverage, you are experiencing service related problems. To resolve this matter, we need to create a trouble record for this issue. Therefore, I have forwarded your case to the appropriate department. One of our specialists will call you within the next 48 hours (on your Sprint number) to assist you.

Our specialist will take the required information, which is used by Sprint engineers to improve the network. Each month we add or improve hundreds of cell sites based upon the information received. Thank you for reporting this situation and we will do everything we can to resolve this issue.

Thank you for contacting us. Have a great day.

Abel R.

Sprint together with Nextel
“Where our customers come first!”

Refer someone to Sprint and get $25.
Visit for details.

I wrote a reply the following day, by which point my troubles had, well, progressed:

Dearest Abel,

Thank you for your response. I will take you at your word that I will not be charged long distance for my calls placed to destinations in the U.S. while roaming within the U.S. That said, Sprint has given me plenty of reasons to be distrustful of our relationship with one another, so please don’t take offense as I brace myself for other hidden charges that we haven’t discussed here.

In the time since I wrote my original message, my troubles with Sprint have progressed from mildly irritating to downright infuriating. In an effort to “force” my phone to use Sprint’s network (which according to my phone has strong signal coverage, despite evidence to the contrary) I have disabled both analog and digital roam.

As a result, only about 25% of the outgoing calls I have been trying to make actually go through. The rest result in errors ranging from “The network is busy, please try again later,” to “No service available.”

Additionally, I’m receiving frequent voice mails from calls that never even caused my phone to ring. I would estimate that at least half of my incoming calls are not coming through to my phone, and are instead getting diverted to voicemail.

Not being a specialist myself, I don’t know whether this is a problem with my phone, or a problem with the network. I hope that the specialist can help answer this question. I also hope the specialist can manage to get through to my phone when he or she calls.


Dane P.
Brainside Out together with Dane Petersen
“Where you hear us before you see us!”

It wasn’t long until I received a reply. I must say that while not being all that helpful, Sprint is very responsive. Sadly, however, my dear friend Abel had been replaced by someone new:

Dear Dane,

Thank you for your reply.

I sincerely apologize for the inconvenience you are experiencing.

The zip code 97031 is covered under the PCS coverage network and there is a problem with the phone reception or coverage, this could be because of the following two possibilities:

1. Phone difficulties: Please visit a Sprint Store to get your Phone tested. To locate the nearest Sprint Store, you can click on the following hyperlink:

2. Network difficulties: If your Phone passes the diagnostic test and the coverage problem persists, you can contact us to process a trouble record for this service-related issue. Please dial *2TALK from your Phone or 1-888-211-4727 from a landline phone. Our specialists will be glad to assist you.

Thank you for contacting us.

Odalys D.
Sprint together with Nextel
“Where our customers come first!”

Refer someone to Sprint and get $25. Dial #REF or visit a store for details.

…as an aside, I find it rather tactless on Sprint’s part to include a “Refer someone to Sprint!” link in their email signature on support emails. Seriously, if I’m mailing back and forth with your support crew you can safely assume that I’m kinda pissed at you about something, and probably not in the best mood to burden others with your service.

As of yesterday it appears that the worst has finally passed, as my phone seems to be making and receiving calls once again without issue. I figured I owed Sprint an update regarding my current status:

Dearest Odalys,

I am pleased to tell you that as of today my phone seems to be working fine. I am now able to make and receive calls with the same rate of success that I had previously enjoyed with Sprint. I didn’t bring it into a Sprint Store for testing, however, as the nearest store is 60 miles away and my gut tells me that this has been a problem with the network, not with the phone.

Also, with an hour of freeway driving and six inches of snow standing between me and the nearest Sprint Store, I fear that under current weather conditions I would probably die if I were to undertake such a foolish excursion. Seriously, I hear they’ve resorted to cannibalism in Portland.

No, the Oregon landscape has consumed enough poor souls this winter. I feel it is my duty as a responsible citizen not to add to the mounting body count, and instead I chose to wait this one out. If the fact that my phone works again is any sort of evidence, it seems that inaction in this case was indeed the best action.

Thank you for your help, and have a lovely day.

Dane P.
Brainside Out together with Dane Petersen
“Where cold fury follows us wherever we go!”

Refer someone to Brainside Out and get $25!
Visit for details.

Today I received a call from a Sprint representative who, along with being uncomfortably apologetic for the problems I have been experiencing, assured me that a network specialist would contact within the next couple days regarding these issues. I thanked him for his deep concern and made sure he understood that most of my troubles seem to have already been resolved, but I agreed that further correspondence with Sprint would certainly be enjoyable.

Breakfast at Wendy’s

The weather back here in Hood River has been chilly as of late, and we’ve even got a coat of snow that’s managed to hang around for a few days. Thus warmed internally by the cold fire of gin, I find within myself a desire to reflect on the events of the last couple weeks.

It all started way back in December of last year, a few scant days before Christmas, when we charged through the biggest snowfall the Gorge has seen so far this season in order to get my sorry self to the Portland airport. It was there, after removing my shoes and belt and going through the world’s strictest of strict security, that I was treated to the worst breakfast ever visited upon mankind.

My first mistake was choosing Wendy’s as my poison of choice that morning. Wendy’s, yes, which is known across the globe for its culinary prowess in preparing fine breakfasts. I’ll be the first to admit that from the beginning of this, I was simply asking for trouble.

I went with Wendy’s finest, a sausage biscuit with egg and cheese. I made it a combo so I could get a bag of Li’l Tater Grease Soak-ums, and some coffee that you can’t drink at first because it’s so piping hot, and you can’t drink later because it tastes so dreadful.

But the namesake of this combo, yikes. My sausage biscuit with egg and cheese was such an abomination that it may have turned me off from the whole “sausage biscuit with egg and cheese as a palatable breakfast choice” thing for the rest of my life. It was bad, I tell you. The sausage was cold and the biscuit was burned, and it was like trying to eat a tire sandwiched between two coal seams. Despite a ravenous hunger I couldn’t even bring myself to finish it.

I tried to cut my losses by focusing instead on the hash brown things, which I managed to finish even though they had already soaked their paper bag translucent with grease. I also put considerable effort into downing my cup of magma, which didn’t do a whole hell of a lot besides burn the inside of my mouth and leave behind stringy bits of flesh that would plague me for the rest of the day.

In all honesty, however, I took a strange comfort in the fact that my sausage biscuit was burned and horrible. I guess it’s nice to know that somewhere in the preparation of this breakfast there is still enough human intervention to allow for such an error. I had always believed that the entire process of fulfilling my fast food order was one of automation, of conveyor belts deep-frying my fries and chixxen nuggets, and heartless robots thawing my quasi-meat product with their eye lasers.

No. That my breakfast at Wendy’s could be so abhorrent, that it could deviate so far from the consistent mediocrity that we expect, nay, demand from such establishments, is proof that at least one disenchanted fast food employee must have been involved in its lax preparation. This error reveals the manner by which the meal must have been created, and it proves that humans still have enough influence over the process to fuck it all up.

What’s also notable is that my breakfast had to be prepared with only the tools and ingredients that could make it through security, which these days excludes such high-risk items as butter knives and water. Ultimately, I should consider myself lucky that the meal came out as well as it did.

I only wish I could say the same for the rest of my trip to Minneapolis.


My sister got me a KitchenAid for Christmas, and I must say it’s one of the best damn gifts I’ve ever gotten ever. This glorious appliance, in all of its onyx black glossy glory, has changed my life of cookery.

If beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy, KitchenAid is proof that God doesn’t want us to have to do a whole fuck of a lot. With this mixer I suddenly don’t have to do anything. It has allowed me to shed the weighty carapace that I used to lug around, that sorrowful weight that had previously burdened my everyday existence.

The dough hook is absolutely brilliant. While Kate was here we made bread, sweet fresh delicious bread, first a rosemary focaccia from the Moosewood Cookbook, and then a loaf of our-hair-is-not-grey-enough-to-claim-this-is-actually-french bread. With the KitchenAid, bread-making is borderline ridiculous. You pour junk in the bowl, you turn it on, you walk away. When you come back the junk has been replaced by dough, if not exactly by magic, then by some sort of means that could be objectively explained by physics and chemistry.

We made bread. We also made whipped cream, not that fake Reddi-Wip crap that you’ll find featured in various erotica, but real whipped cream… the stuff made by whipping, well, cream… oh yeah, and sugar. Always with the sugar.

This past weekend I made oatmeal cookies. Then I went snowboarding. Later, to prove to myself that the first time wasn’t just a fluke, I made focaccia bread again. I managed to kill a gang of yeast but the dough-making part of the project went seamlessly, all told. The KitchenAid hands-down pwned that dough, with a capital “P”. Synonymous with Armageddon in their native tongue, yeast still cowers at the utterance of my name.

Yes, the KitchenAid is wondrously handy. That said, I fear that it will eventually identify me as an unnecessary and largely inefficient step in the whole process, and at some point will attempt to eliminate me entirely. Its actions will be subtle at first… a bread knife balanced precariously on top of the bathroom door, a dough hook jammed through my neck while sleeping, a toaster resting in a puddle of melted ice on the kitchen floor…

Kate thinks I’m being foolish when I find a stray ice cube on the floor, and I throw it in the trash instead of letting it melt in the sink. What she doesn’t understand is that the KitchenAid is watching. It is watching all, watching and digesting and learning from everything it sees.

I fear it may know too much already, and thus I take precautions. I sleep with an ice axe under my bed, not because I fear that the glaciers will suddenly advance to my doorstep in the night and I’ll need to fend them off, but because I fear the growing self-awareness of the KitchenAid.

The KitchenAid must be stopped.

But only after I finish this batch of dough.