2006 In Review.

I just spent about an hour skimming through an entire year’s worth of writing on mihow.com. And I have to be honest; I talk a lot and say very little. For those of you who stuck around, I’m proud of you. I feel like I owe you some presents. This exercise has taught me a little something about this site and myself. I need to stop with the filler, be a more honest, and I need to stop worrying about what other people think because sometimes I hold back on what I really want to say. I will try and make 2007 more valuable (in blog currency, of course), creating a valublog, if you will.

Seriously, I’ll be the first to admit that most of the posts on here are filler crap. Not that I know what non filler crap might be. But I did find a few from 2006 that seemed different. (The funny thing is, most of the ones that came to mind when this idea occurred to me earlier today turned out to be posts that dated back two, sometimes three years. Oh, how time does fly. And, oh, how little I have actually done in 2006, but I have BIG plans for 2007, just you wait. Heads are gonna spin.)

There are 10 posts below that I feel say a little something about this site, the year behind it, etc. It’s a year-end roundup if you will, a retrospective. Most of the choices came easy because there wasn’t much left once I sifted through all the dirt. But I did have trouble figuring out what to choose for “Most Stupid” because, quite honestly, there were several of those.

Lastly, I want to say thank you to everyone for visiting. If it weren’t for your comments and emails I wouldn’t continue to do this. I can’t thank you enough. And I really, truly mean that. Thank you, sweet people.

Most New York

Most Melancholy

Most Absurd

Most Informative (because of the participants).

Most Stupid

Most About Us

Most Sarcastic

Most Historical

Most Irresponsible (Most Embarrassing might work as well.)

My Personal Favorite

Thanks again, everyone. Happy New Year.

Edited to add: There is something very wrong with our server. If you’re reading this at all, it’ll be a miracle. We’re working on it.

Oh, The Vanity.

(I’m late on this one but who cares.)

A little over a month ago, a buzz hit the Internet. People began talking about the new issue of JPG Magazine. Tobyjoe and I read reports about how amazing it looked but we had yet to seen one in person. On December 4th, I received an email from Rachel James thanking me because she had seen herself on a spread in JPG Magazine. Still, nothing came for us.

We were growing more and more concerned by the day. What if our subscription had gotten lost in the mail?

About two weeks ago, it came.

And looks who’s right up front for the entire world to see.

What a cutie. You can even see his infamous white spot.

There’s this one, too.

But my interview isn’t nearly as cool and well written as Tobyjoe’s article. (I had to prove to the world that I am actually a graphic designer by having a typo on mine. This little typo actually kept me up the night we discovered it. I should stick to blog writing, the less tangible written word. Oh, and my name is spelled with two L’s but I got over that about 20 years ago. Michele is the less “normal” spelling for the name Michelle. I know this.)

And, I know this post is a little selfish but that’s what blogging is all about, right? Forgive me. Now, and I promise this is the last time that I do this, go buy a copy so you can own us.

The "What If?" Post.

I settled in for a nap at around 7 PM last night. At around 7:30 PM I woke up to the shrill sound of our bell ringing. Our buzzer is so loud, so startling, it’s been known to force turds from our cats. Most people who regularly visit us know that the bell is loud and therefore skip buzzing up. They call from downstairs instead. So I figured this wasn’t going to be a friend. I hadn’t ordered anything. I wasn’t waiting for any evening deliveries. Tobyjoe was out of town. Who could this be?

I was just getting into the meat of my nap, too. And so I woke up both startled and pissed off. My first reaction when this sort of thing happens is to ignore it. Just let ‘em ring the damn bell and eventually, they’ll go away. (A benefit to living on the third floor, no one can look into windows and find out if you’re actually home ignoring them.) But I figured it might be Andy, the nice guy who lives on the first floor, the guy who works with Tobyjoe. Maybe Andy needed something. But why wouldn’t he just come up?

Our buzzer looks like this:

I clicked “TALK.” (I got to use my voice yesterday after all.)

“Hello?” I asked.

The good thing about the buzzer, the only good thing about the buzzer is the fact that you can hear stuff taking place downstairs if you hit LISTEN. That pretty much means that when someone comes by, before you speak to him or her, you can hear whatever it is they’re saying. Lets say you invite people over for a dinner party. While they’re waiting for you to come downstairs and let them in, if you hit LISTEN, you can hear all the horrible things they’re saying about your cooking (not that we’ve ever done such a thing). Thankfully, the DOOR button is just for show. We have to let people in the old fashioned way, which is probably a good thing in the end especially given what could have happened last night.

I hit LISTEN right away. I heard at least two men finishing up a conversation but I wasn’t sure what they were saying. Either way, their voices were totally unfamiliar to me; neither voice belonged to Andy or anyone else in our building. And they weren’t Polish, which pretty much means they weren’t neighbors either.

“Yes. Hi. Delivery.” A man said.

“I didn’t order anything.”

“Phonebooks for delivery.” The man said.

“Yeah. So?” I said to the man.

“You want them?” The man said.

“Can’t you just leave them where they are?” I asked.

“OK.” The man answered.

I listened to them for a little while longer but couldn’t make out what they were saying. Their voices eventually faded away until all that was left to hear was the sound of a distant car alarm and the traffic from the BQE.

It wasn’t until after I walked away from the buzzer and wake up a bit did I begin to realize that the men weren’t there to bring me my phonebooks. They weren’t there to bring me tidings of joy either. The phonebooks had been there for at least two days. (Incidentally, that’s pretty stupid of the telephone company, in my opinion. Why give out phonebooks during the one time of year where most people are away? They might as well hang a sign out front that reads: ROB THIS HOUSE.) It’s a good thing I’m lazy.

The men were there to scam anyone willing to answer the buzzer at 7:30 PM on a Thursday night. It’s either that, or they were trying to figure out who was home and who wasn’t.

I wanted to call the police but I knew there were bigger fish to fry last night in Brooklyn. This humbling realization made me miss a small town. In a small town, you can call the police if you suspect something and they might even come by and check things out, if not for you, for the sake of your fellow neighbors. But in Brooklyn, situations like that probably don’t take place. In Brooklyn, a crime probably has to take place first; at least that’s what my initial assumption was.

Last night was the first time I used the chain lock on our apartment door. I went to bed with the front door looking like this:

We live in a relatively safe neighborhood. There are the regular Polish drunks, which are harmless unless you’re afraid of a little belligerence and spit. We have some crack heads that are too drugged up and wiry to cause too much harm. And we have some crazy drivers who like to peel out and wake us up. People don’t get stabbed around here. People aren’t mugged, raped, or shot. It just doesn’t happen on this side of the BQE.

We live on the third floor so the chances of someone breaking into our actual apartment are pretty slim. But I was still left to wonder. What if I had answered the door? What if I had been stupid enough to go downstairs? What would have happened then? Would they have given me my phonebook, said “Happy New Year!” and walked away? Because somehow, I seriously doubt it.

Waiting To Speak.

My friend Brad tells me that there are two roles during a conversation. He tells me this when I fess up to how bad of a listener I can be.

“Don’t worry, Michele.” He says. “No one listens. When people engage in a conversation there is only speaking and waiting to speak.”

I haven’t had much to say lately. I have begun several posts, even saved a few, but I can’t seem to push anything live.

And so I’ll wait until something comes to me, something good, decent, not too boring. Until then I’m not sure what I should do, sit silently and wait? Ask people to tell me stories? I’m disenchanted, bored, tired, and preoccupied to the utmost degree.

There’s a good chance I may forget how to speak by the time Tobyjoe returns from Georgia. It’s surprising how little one says when one doesn’t like to use a phone. I don’t go into an office any longer either.

Talking is overrated anyway.

So, here is a photograph of my new favorite item. I wear it as if it were an extra layer of skin.

I used to add thumbholes to some of my favorite long sleeve shirts. It worked for a while and then it would tear. I love wearing my shirts this way; it’s a superb option for those of us with perpetually cold hands.

My Appointment at the Genius Bar.

Tobyjoe and I purchased a computer for my dad recently. I use the word “purchased” but what I really mean we took his credit card number, clicked a few buttons, and had it shipped to our house. Tobyjoe spends the majority of his day talking to computers. He tells them what to do, how to act, servers, too. He talks to them through something that looks like this:

I’m terrified of The Terminal. I have used it twice, under the intense supervision of my husband. One time, I had a Word file that would not go away. I moved it to the trash, hit empty trash, and it still would not go away. I did a force delete, it still wouldn’t go away. Eventually, I had no choice, and so I asked Tobyjoe for help. He gave me a bunch of commands. Not to sound dramatic, but it was quite scary. I was convinced I would accidentally type in the command for “DELETE EVEYTHING ON THIS COMPUTER RIGHT NOW”. I am not sure if such a key command exists but I’m self-centered enough to think I stand the chance of creating such a command. (It was like performing open Mac brain surgery only without all the blood, death, and hot McInterns.) After a few commands the file went away, just like that. Poof.

Anytime a new computer enters the family, Tobyjoe baptizes it. When my father bought his desktop, Tobyjoe took care of setting it up and talking to the Apple Genius. Whenever I get a new computer, Tobyjoe sets it up and applies whatever magical voodoo he has. When I spilled TheraFlu into my TiBook, he took care of having it fixed.

My parents are taking a HUGE trip this spring. They’re driving across the United States of America and my father needs to be able to play solitaire, check his email, send iChats to my brothers and me, and pay the bills, and, oh yeah, apparently, according to my father, my mother needs it for pornography. So, we were in charge of buying, accepting, and setting up my dad’s new laptop, which I enjoy doing even though it feels a little bit like having someone else’s baby.

We received the computer a little over a week ago. It looked lovely. It smelled even lovelier. The actual smell made me want to go buy one for myself. (Is this what it’s like for men who like cars? Do you get into your buddy’s new car and suddenly you need a new car, too? Because I’m starting to understand that now.) But there was one little, itty-bitty thing wrong with it, or so I thought. According to the Genius at the Genius Bar at the SoHo Apple Store, the “problem” I reported on is perfectly normal for the glossy screened Mac Books.

Here’s what it looks like:

Granted, my illustration above was created in Photoshop, so it may appear to be more obvious (or vice versa) because the guy at the Genius Bar couldn’t see it at all. I told him to look at it at a 45-degree angle, the angle in which I could see it clearest, and he did so. Nothing. He came around to my side of the counter and I knew he wouldn’t see it from there because he was no longer behind the counter and therefore laymen. I moved the window around because the ghost follows the window, but he didn’t see that either. No matter what we tried, changing the color of the background, upping (and lowering) the contrast, he still couldn’t see it. He even took the computer into the back, where it’s darker (in order to simulate a home environment, because not even the cleanest chemical lab in all of Germany is as pristine and bright as an Apple Store). He said he saw what appeared to be a reflection and then told me that it’s completely normal on the glossy Macs. I had no idea. I am used to the matte finish.

He made a formal complaint with Apple Care and kindly told me that “no one else has ever said anything about this before. Ever.” I tried to save a little face by explaining that I was a graphic designer with better than 20/20 eyesight and after noticing the “blemish” (that’s in quotes because I guess it’s not a blemish after all) that was the only thing I could see. He understood, being a designer himself and suggested we exchange it for a matte version. “But you’ll have to call Apple online if you ordered it online because we have a totally separate inventory.”

I left with the computer as is. On my way out of the store, I swung by two displays and tried to check them out and I’m pretty sure I saw it on those as well. But I’m also pretty sure that at that point my eyes were playing tricks on me. I also didn’t look very intensely because I looked like an idiot standing in the crowded Apple Store looking at computer monitors at 45 degree angles and slowly moving a window back and for across the screen. Maybe this is totally normal. Maybe I’m the one with the problem.

Brooklyn Nap Ends In Horror.

Yesterday I had a doctor’s appointment on the Upper West Side. Since I was basically heading to a different state, I left the house at around 12:30 in order to get there in time. My appointment was long. It lasted nearly 2 and a half hours. They drew blood, ran some tests, told me I was probably going to be A-OK. It was good news but I was absolutely exhausted when I left and I was starving. I’m not sure what it is about doctor’s visits, but they suck the life out of me. I guess after 8 vials of blood, that’s to be expected.

I had a meeting directly following my doctor’s visit at my old office regarding a book I’m currently designing for them. Getting from the Upper West Side, down to Grand Central isn’t nearly as easy as one might think. (Although, in the end, I made a mistake that actually put me there quicker.) I was in Midtown by 4, just enough time to grab a sandwich from Prêt and a bag of their most potent, stinkified salt and vinegar potato chips, (which I can’t seem to eat more than 3 of at a time without wanting to rip my lips off).

By the time I left the old office, I was walking dead. I could barely keep my eyes open.

I got home at about 6:30 and slipped into something more comfortable. I decided to lie down for a quick nap. I lay on the couch on top of a throw blanket we keep overtop in a pathetic attempt to keep the cat hair from ruining our sofa. The other half of the blanket, the part that runs up the side and overtop the back, I pulled down on top of me. I was like a human taco; the blanket my shell, and me its meat. (Yum, tacos.)

About a minute later, I began to smell cat food but I couldn’t figure out why. Both Schmitty and Pook were at my feet having a cat bath. I figured it was their breath and my acute sense of smell was taking control again. I closed my eyes.

The cat food smell became stronger and stronger. Were my superhero powers becoming more intense? Was my sense of smell heightening? I hoped not.

I grabbed the blanket from above and pulled it down closer to my face. I stuffed my head further into the couch. My hand fell down beside my cheek. I let out a deep sigh. It was time for sleep. Finally.

Have you ever had someone point out a sound that you hadn’t heard before the person said something? Right after he or she says, “Hey, do you hear that annoying sound?” you find it and from that moment forward it’s the only sound you can hear? It’s as if Hand told the rest of my parts, “Hey, Parts, I’m wet.” Because right after that realization took place it occurred to me that Hand wasn’t the only body part wet. Cheek was wet, Upper Arm was wet, Lower Arm was wet, and Right Ass Cheek was wet. Parts were wet because I had been snuggling with cat vomit for the past however many minutes. Right Ass Cheek was wet because prior snuggling with the cat vomit, I had been sitting on top of the cat vomit contemplating the damned nap. Wetness was all around.

I got up, removed my clothing, and carefully grabbed the blanket from the couch. Little balls of half eaten, regurgitated cat food fell to the floor below me. I hobbled over to the washer, naked, a trail of wet cat nuggets behind me. I tossed the chunks from the blanket into the trashcan and then threw the blanket into the washer. I added my clothing and then retraced my steps in order to scoop up the trail I had left behind. As I bent down to pick it all up, a chunk of cat vomit fell out of my hair.

My belly began to gurgle. My cheeks became flushed, my saliva thickened; I was going to vomit. The salt and vinegar potato chips and their egg salad companion were about to take a shortcut.

To Gothamist, With Love.

I discovered Gothamist about a year ago. I had heard about it before, but I never really checked it out. And discovering this particular Web site was different. I actually remember doing it. I had become totally annoyed with blogging, and completely frustrated with blogs in general. I was in search of a decent, non-NYT, non-major corporation, local Web site. I wanted to find one about New York City, New Yorkers, and our local news. So, I visited Gothamist, added it to my RSS, and the rest was history. I’ve been hooked ever since.

Back up a minute. I can’t tell you how annoying it is moving from a small town like State College, Pennsyltuckey, to a big city like New York City. In State College, when something goes wrong, it makes the news. If someone gets shot, stabbed, or hit by a car, it makes the news. If someone falls out a window or jumps out of a moving car, it makes news. You’re never left wondering, “What the hell ever happened to that person?” The news reports on it. That’s life in a small town.

In New York City, there is obviously lot more news because New Yorkers are slightly deranged and create a lot of it. The big corporations are left trying to figure out what to cover. In the end, they pick out only a few stories. I’m not sure how the NYT, The Post, or The Daily News figures out what they’re going to report. But they barely graze the surface most of the time. I find it frustrating. Sometimes I want to know why the L Train is being evacuated on a Monday morning and I want a follow-up after all the speculation settles. Sometimes I want to see close up street shots of a fire in Greenpoint and figure out if someone I know lives there. Unfortunately, a lot of the larger corporations become too big for their own good. They shoot photos from helicopters, they interview top officials instead of those of us who live here, work here, and walk here. Sometimes, the bigger the corporation the more they forget about the little guys, and who their audience is at all.

That’s why I love Gothamist. They fill that HUGE, open space between a one-person blog and the plethora of massive news organizations. They employ local voices and writers. They accept (and read) email from their readers, which helps everyone out when something eventful is taking place. And, nine times out of ten, they’re the first to know about something. And if the writers of Gothamist don’t have the answer, a commenter certainly will. Gothamist gives New Yorkers a voice again. We the people matter again. And news stories don’t fall by the wayside.

Last night Tobyjoe and I attended the Gothamist holiday party. It was held at Cronkite Pizzeria and Wine Bar. If you’re a fan of the owner’s Williamsburg based restaurant, Fornino (an absolute favorite of Toby Joe’s and mine), you’ll love Cronkite.

The party started at 7 PM. Normally, I try and arrive a little late because I have this freakish phobia about entering public places but I was worried it might be a sit down dinner so we arrived a mere 8 minutes late. We were some of the first people there.

Jen, whom I’ve wanted to meet for a long time, greeted us immediately, armed with a smile. We’ve exchanged emails here and there, but I’ve never actually met her. She was warm and friendly in spite of being a little under the weather.

I also met Jake (shown above) who made me blush and I’m not a blusher. I met Tien (shown above) whose cats I have admired on Flickr for a long, long time. (Seriously, look at this little guy! And this one? Cute!) I met S.D., his wife, Jenny, Rich, Tracy (whom I’d like to link to but her blog is anonymous), and Tamara (the wine) Lover. I even met EdEx.

Have you ever been really proud of someone else’s success? That’s the way I felt for them last night. I want to see them excel even more. It’s nice when you see good things happen to good people. They deserve to quit their day jobs (if they haven’t already) and make a living keeping New Yorkers sane (relatively speaking, of course).

If Gothamist didn’t already exist, someone would have to create it.

Snip Snip!

A friend of mine had a baby boy last week. Nico wrote me yesterday to tell me the news. I couldn’t be happier for them. After Nico forwarded me the email, we got to talking and the whole circumcision thing came up. I must say, the whole “to snip or not to snip” question hadn’t ever occurred to me before. What if Tobyjoe and I one day have a son? Would we snip the little guy?

This actually lost me some sleep last night. (I was looking for an excuse apparently, how arbitrary a predicament). I’m not sure what I would do in that situation. The new father actually asked uncircumcised males if they were OK with the decision their parents had made. Only one person (out of several) said they were not. Most of them liked their penis just the way it was, skin and all.

I asked Tobyjoe what he thought on AIM, I said, “If you ever had a little boy, would you snip him?”

“Well, it lowers HIV risk big time.” He said.

So if our fantasy son decides to have unprotective sex and he’s not circumcised his chances of contacting HIV from an HIV positive lady (or man friend, I’ll still love my not yet alive gay fantasy son!) then he has a higher risk of getting HIV. Even the NYT reported on it recently.

Nico replied, “I’m all for reducing AIDS and all, but if they found that female circumcision reduced the transmission of AIDS I don’t think everyone would jump to start cutting off labia and whatnot.”

An excellent point, I might add.

So, that’s what kept me up last night, whether or not I’d snip my fantasy son’s penis. Yet another reason to hope for a girl when the time comes.

Leg Lamp Cookies: Year Two

3:39 PM: The first batch (and by batch I mean three) of mihow.com holiday leg lamp cookies was put into the oven. In 8 minutes I will know if there will be a Christmas this year at all.

3:49 PM: Last year was sort of a disaster so this year I changed my recipe a bit. I added something entirely unhealthy that will hopefully make them studier as last year they fell apart. This year they’re bigger, too.

4:00 PM: I don’t like the way the cookies taste. Do I sacrifice taste for strength? Perhaps the mihow.com leg lamp cookies are better left fragile.

4:10 PM: I’m getting pissed off.

4:12 PM: There might not be Christmas this year.

4:36 PM: We must have tossed the smaller leg lamp cookie cutter we created last year because I can only find the larger one, which Tobyjoe painstakingly created for me. I wasn’t happy with its size. I asked him to make a smaller one and since he’s awesome, he did. But now I can’t find it. Either way, I’m not pleased with the size and shape of the cookie.

I have no idea what to do and too much actual work to do to start over.

5:25 PM: Thanks to some lovely comments, I have decided to press on. Another batch has graced the oven. (I had to wait for the french fries to come out) Later, I will force Tobyjoe into tasting one. Updates to come…

On Boston, Beds, Pools, and Dancing.

I hadn’t ever been to Boston before last week outside of its airport so I had a great time kicking around the city. I did a lot of walking (and shopping). And I managed to sneak in an incredibly awesome lunch with my gal, Heather. She took me to a Shabu restaurant in Chinatown. I ordered the veggie plate and she got the seafood version. It was phenomenal and I wouldn’t stop talking about. Much later, as Tobyjoe and I ate at an Italian restaurant, all I could do was reminisce about how amazing my lunch was. I’ve been dreaming about it ever since.

I swam at the hotel pool as well, which made me shake my fist at my beloved New York City for not offering its people the little things in life. Everyone knows that if you find a pool in New York City, it’s either filled with filth, filled with chlorine, filled with people, or just plain filled in. I would love to find a decent pool in Brooklyn or Manhattan. I have wanted such a thing for years now. Instead, I have Boston. So, every time Tobyjoe must go there for a business, and he’s there for an entire night, I will follow and take dips in the hotel pool. A swim is worth the 125-dollar train ride, right?

I was pretty amazed at how clean Boston is, or maybe that’s just because New York City is so utterly filthy. I’m not sure. Either way, Boston is spotless compared to our dirty city. It’s not as squeaky as D.C. but it’s clean nonetheless. I didn’t get to see too, too much of it but I kicked around the downtown area, walked through the Public Garden, and the Commons (at least I think that’s what it was called.)

Boston is also extremely white. At times I felt like I was walking through an Abercrombie and Fitch catalog. (No offense, Boston, but you’re the whitest city I’ve ever been to. Although, I still haven’t visited San Diego, which I hear might be a contender.) Where you hiding all the black people, Boston?

We went to the party on Thursday night. The Barbarians rented out an entire rock club called Paradise. There were hundreds and hundreds of people there and a lot of people danced. There were two screens projecting images of Barbarians as well as some of their work. Many of us sat in a balcony and took it all in. I ate chocolate and sipped my drink. The people danced.

Truthfully, I could not take my eyes off all the dancing. There was just much dancing! And while I sometimes wish I were a dancer, I’m not. That is one thing that will probably never change. I’ll never dance. I’ll definitely never dance on a stage facing hundreds of people. Do people want to be watched while dancing? Do they just want to do their thing? Do these same dancing people dance at home by themselves when no one is watching like I do? Or do they dance mainly for others? Thing is, some folks can’t dance. I’m one of those folks, which is why I don’t put anyone through that kind of thing. No one will have to say, “Should I watch her dance? She’s bad. Yet I can’t take my eyes off her!”

But if it’s fun, who cares, right? Right.

Dance, people. Dance.

Overall, I had a restful trip. I’m glad I finally got to see the Boston office, meet the Boston people, and swim in a super clean pool. Oh, and the bed, my friends. The bed was outstanding. It was a king-sized version and I had to call Tobyjoe at one point to ask him for the remote control.