Monday, April 7, 2014

Blended with love

I’m not sure if the makers of my blender ever imaged the concoctions I came up with a couple of weeks ago, but necessity is the mother of invention. And when your teenage son gets his wisdom teeth removed and can’t eat anything solid for three days you get really inventive – quickly.

I should have my own show on the Cooking Channel, although I don’t know that anyone would watch. I could barely watch what I was doing myself. Some foods were just never meant to be pureed.

Granted, food preparation can be a bit gross at times in normal circumstances (raw chicken, anyone?) but there are certain foods you just never want to see blended, let alone eat. Let’s just say I think I’ve ruined Ramen noodles for Natty forever. (Which is fine by me: Have you examined the sodium amounts in those deceptively tiny packets?)

When Nathaniel’s friends from school stopped by with ice cream, I made some milkshakes, but noticed my son eyeing the chocolate chip cookies coming out of the oven. Have you ever blended chocolate chip cookies before? Neither had I. But it is blended heaven, I tell you. A Dairy Queen blizzard has nothing on this concoction.

Of course not all experiments were winners. During one of the rounds of milkshakes, I accidentally left the spoon in the blender before pressing the “on” button. I don’t think my ears (or the spoon) will ever be the same. I let it go for some time, frozen trancelike by the screeching metal sound, until one of my son’s friends simply yelled out “spoon!” and jolted me out of my stupor.

Another time I left the lid off and sent the contents flying through the air onto my window, cupboards and toaster. I’m here to tell you that fruit smoothie is downright tricky to clean out of a toaster.

I’m just thankful I didn’t leave the spoon in at the same time I left the lid off, creating a projectile object hurtling through my kitchen. Perhaps that’s why Nathaniel and his friends stayed a safe distance from the blender at all times.

As you can see, I had some kinks to work out, but by the end of his recovery I had this blending thing down. Therefore, if the Cooking Channel is interested in a 30-minute show starring me and my blender I already have some name suggestions:

• For a simple, to-the-point title that encapsulates the disgusting dishes I can create I give you: “Iron Gut.”
• For a motherly-centered show I propose: “Blended with love.”
• For a more literary reference I offer: “But soft, what food from yonder blender make?”
• And to go head-to-head in competition against “Throwdown with Bobby Flay” I suggest “Blenddown with Eileen B.”

I’m flexible on the title, mind you, but I think the promo should read something like this:

Join Eileen as she helps you make one of the milestones in your child’s life the tastiest. When the time comes for your progeny to undergo the coming-of-age wisdom teeth removal, follow her steps so that you’re armed and ready to create some liquefied goodness, or turn them off their favorites forever.

Bon appeteeth.

Eileen Burmeister is a Winchester-based freelance writer. She can be reached at burmeistereileen@gmail.com or you can follow her on Twitter at EBurmeister.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Parting shot produces pungent after life

Dear Skunk:

After two weeks, I am waving the white flag. You win.

Until we met 14 days ago, I would listen to people talking about how their pets were sprayed by skunks and be ever grateful that I had never had to deal with such a stinky mess. Then I accidentally ran over you on Garden Valley.

Granted, running over a skunk isn’t the same as getting sprayed by a skunk, right?

That’s what I thought. I was so very wrong.

I assumed you sprayed me at the last minute, before my headlights overtook you (again, my deepest apologies). But when I mentioned this theory to my friend Julie she laughed out loud. Did I really think you had time to aim and fire as I was barreling upon you at 50 miles per hour, she asked.

Turns out Julie used to work for a company that cleans up messes in homes after a catastrophe occurs, including a skunk coming inside and spraying the interior. She gave me the low-down on what really happened.

Apparently, when I hit you I ruptured your scent sack (who knew?) which, put simply, means the joke’s on me. Not only do you have my full attention, but my deepest respect; I had no idea the wrath you were capable of unleashing.

I had to park the car in the driveway outside of our attached garage that first night because the stench was permeating the entire household. My son, who was a passenger to this joyride of death, inadvertently left his clothes on the floor of his room, and refused to sleep in there two days after the clothes were washed. This was the time it took for your stench to evaporate. According to Wikipedia: “The smell aside, the spray can cause irritation and even temporary blindness, and is sufficiently powerful to be detected by a human nose up to a mile down wind.” I am here to say “true that.”

A few days after I hit you I had an appointment in Eugene. It was raining that day so I thanked my lucky stars and assumed that the rain water would wash away any lingering proof of my crime against the Garden Valley Skunk Gang. Silly me. Again, Julie explained that skunk spray is an oil-based substance, and had I ever noticed how well water and oil mix?

In retrospect, I do believe Julie was having fun at my expense.

So I headed over to Champion Car Wash and asked them to give me an underbody wash. The guy taking the money acknowledged my predicament by admitting that he wasn’t breathing through his nose. Unfortunately, the guy at the end of the car wash, the one who’s there to dry off the car, was not breathing through his nose either.

Again, from Wikipedia: “Frequent encounters with dogs and other domestic animals, and the release of the odor when a skunk is run over, have led to many myths about the removal of skunk odor. Due to the chemical composition of the spray, most of these household remedies are ineffective.” NOW you tell me.

Finally, after day 14 we are able to park the car in the garage, but it still stinks to high heavens when you walk out of the house into the garage.

I’m not sure where I’ll send this letter, especially given the fact that you’re dead, but I had to write it to pronounce you the victor of our competition. I admit the error of my ways, and I tip my hat to you and your kind.

Sincerely,
The Stinky Burmeisters

Eileen Burmeister is a Winchester-based freelance writer. You can reach her at burmeistereileen@gmail.com or you can follow her on Twitter at EBurmeister.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Beware the acronym: Your message may be LIT (lost in translation)

In 1943, David Davis of Bell Laboratories coined the term acronym as the name for a word created from the first letters of each word in a series of words (such as SCUBA, which stands for self-contained underwater breathing apparatus). Since then, generation after generation has created more and more acronyms, causing more confusion than clarity if you ask me.

IRA could be something you put money into for retirement, or it could be a group of rowdy Irish revolutionaries. IOU stands for I owe you, so in actuality it should be IOY. IEEE could stand for Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers or it could be the sound a hyena makes.

See how confusing it can be? And really, if there’s any truth to evolution, shouldn’t we be getting better at communicating more effectively? Instead, this upcoming generation is adding to the problem with texting acronyms. Thankfully we have a 18-year-old son and 11-year-old daughter to help us navigate our way through the labyrinth of LOLs, TTFNs and BCs or I fear we’d be TL (totally lost).

I got an email the other day that had CYA in the text and it stopped me in my tracks. What does CYA mean? Can you ask? Can Yosef act? Cathy’s yelling again? (Because I know Cathy, and she does have a tendency to yell, but I digress…)

I feel like each year I understand less and less, setting me up to make disastrous mistakes in communicating to the younger set. And I know I’m not alone.

My sister Peg is in the same boat. She is a high school English teacher in Ohio and she’s one of the coolest people I know. Of course she’s a hippie, but in the best sense of the word (meaning she showers regularly but still wears Patchouli and cool clothes). All that to say she’s a pretty hip teacher, with her finger firmly placed on the pulse of teenage culture. So when she was talking to her class about some surprise and told them to “keep it on the LD” she wondered why they all started laughing. “Mrs. G---,” a student said, “I think what you’re trying to say is ‘keep it on the DL – down low.’”

Another teacher came to Peg wondering why students were sprinkling “101” in various places throughout their written work. It took them a while to figure out that students were actually interjecting “LOL,” which stands for laugh out loud.

If this is happening to people my age, I can only imagine what happens to our parents’ generation. One person shared that her aunt thinks that the aforementioned LOL means “lots of love,” so she’s been sending notes, cards and messages that are wildly inappropriate, unbeknownst to her. Think of the disastrous results that can occur from not knowing that LOL means “laugh out loud.”

• “It’s your birthday. You don’t look a day over 40! LOL!”
• “So sorry to hear of your loss. LOL.”
• “Happy anniversary. I don’t know a couple that seems better made for each other. LOL!”
• “Your baby is adorable. LOL!”

See what I mean? It’s important to nail this down.

So let’s KISS (keep it simple, Sherlock) and stop with the acronyms already. Say what you mean, even if it takes a few more seconds out of your day. It’s not like we’re in such a hurry that we don’t have time to complete our sentences with good old-fashioned words. Besides, it’s the LYCD (least you can do).

Eileen Burmeister is a Winchester-based freelance writer. She CBR at burmeistereileen@gmail.com or you can FHOT at EBurmeister.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Who needs Wii when you have rabbit-ear aerobics?

Maybe it’s just me, but it seems the sizes of televisions today is an embarrassment of riches.

I grew up in a middle-class Midwestern family, so the fact that we had one, 19-inch television for all six of us was normal. (We also only had one bathroom and one car for all six of us as well, but don’t get me started down that “when I was a kid” road.)

This television was a Zenith, and it sat on a metal trolley on wheels, for easy transition from one area of our small house to the other. Not that we ever moved it, but just having the option felt like we were important, on-the-move kind of people. Clearly my bar for extravagance was set pretty low.

In the ‘70s, there were exactly four stations to choose from: ABC, NBC, CBS and PBS. Once the ‘80s rolled around, we caught whispers of another option out in the big world called “cable,” but we still hadn’t upgraded to a color television at that point, so cable seemed like a pipe dream.

Most Americans made the transition from black and white to color in the mid-1960s, according to Wikipedia. But my family held out until 1985. Keep in mind, however, that my mom refused a microwave until well into the ‘90s, claiming, “Life moves fast enough as it is. Why would I want to speed it up any more?” So my sister took matters into her own hands and bought my mom a microwave for Christmas one year. The tag may as well have read, “Time to move it along, mom.”

The rabbit ears are what I remember most about the Zenith. “Rabbit ears,” for those of you under the age of 40, was the term we used for the antennae that sat atop every television to help with reception. The box had a dial and the two antennae, which resembled a rabbit’s head. I’m not sure if this is true or not, but the accepted belief was that if your reception was bad, you simply moved the antennae in the direction of the closest television tower and it would improve the picture.

This resulted in some hilarious escapades between me and my three sisters performing acrobatics just to get a clear picture. I remember wanting to see one episode of “Welcome Back, Kotter” so badly that I stood through the entire episode with one hand on the antennae and the other pointed out the window in the general direction of the television tower. Hey, you made sacrifices for John Travolta, even back then.

If the reception was extra bad, you’d bring out the tin foil. For some reason, wrapping foil around the ends of the antennae seemed to improve the television rays beaming to our house from the tower. It was all very mysterious, but we did what we had to in order to ensure that we saw the next episode of “Barney Miller.”

Of course there wasn’t the option of taping shows back then, so you had to be at home at 8 p.m. on Tuesday (sharp) if you wanted to see “Happy Days” in its entirety. And if you had to use the bathroom, you had better not take more than the allotted three minutes for a commercial break. Television viewing was an exercise in efficiency.

This is why today’s television viewing is such a contradiction.

Not going to be home Tuesday at 8? No problem; you can just DVR it. Have to use the bathroom during a football game? Go ahead and push pause and take all the time in the world. See? It’s just different.

Do we own a big-screen television? Yes. Do I like to watch television shows on demand, what I want to watch, when I want to watch it? Yes. But I also pine for the days when television was an event, and you couldn’t wait to get home Sunday evening, make popcorn and watch “The Wonderful World of Disney” at 7 p.m. on Channel 5. And I must admit, there was something magical about knowing that many other children across American were doing the same thing at the same time.

And their antennae probably had tin foil on them, too.

Eileen Burmeister is a Winchester-based freelance writer. She can be reached at burmeistereileen@gmail.com or you can follow her on Twitter at EBurmeister.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Her vs. Siri: What's love got to do with it?

I recently saw a trailer for the movie “Her,” starring Joaquin Phoenix. In it, Phoenix’s character decides to purchase an OS1 which is advertised as the world’s first artificially intelligent operating system. The OS1 is named Samantha, and the main character falls in love with her, hence the movie’s title.

Now, I’ve not seen the movie, the IMDB synopsis goes on to say that “Samantha has powerful intelligence that she uses to help Theodore in ways others hadn’t.” This made me laugh, thinking about my own “relationship” with Siri, my artificially intelligent operator on my iPhone (and I use the term “intelligent” loosely).

Siri and I have been in a relationship now for three years, and contrary to this movie’s theme of falling in love, I can barely stand her. One of the first times I ever called on Siri to “”help me in ways others hadn’t” was when I was in search of vodka. Let me explain.

I had never in my life had a need to buy vodka, but after ordering vodka penne pasta while in Portland, I decided to try it on my own. I went to Fred Meyer and asked someone in the produce section where I could find vodka. He answered, “At a liquor store.” Turns out Fred Meyer doesn’t sell hard liquor. Who knew?

So I got to my car and had to admit that after 17 years of living in Roseburg I had no idea where a liquor store was. I picked up my iPhone and hit the Siri button. “Siri, where is the closest liquor store?” I asked.

She answered, “Let me check … it looks like the closest liquor store is 1 mile away, would you like me to get directions?”

“Yes,” I answered, smug in my mastery over my circumstances, with Siri’s help of course.

After a minute, she said, “Follow these directions to 2152 NE Vine Street.”

Easy peasy, I thought, as I started following her verbal instructions. As I turned past Coastal Farms and Ranch, I thought, “This doesn’t seem right” but I soldiered on, trusting Siri’s intelligence over mine. Big mistake.

As I pulled up to 2152 NE Vine the sign read “Vine Street Baptist Church.” Ummmm, what are these people using for communion?

I picked up my phone again and started yelling at Siri this time “WHERE IS ANOTHER LIQUOR STORE?” Had someone been outside my window listening, I wouldn’t have blamed them for calling the police.

This time she directed me to an actual liquor store in the strip mall at the corner of Garden Valley Boulevard and NE Stephens, you know, a location I had PASSED ON THE WAY TO A BAPTIST CHURCH.

“Idiot,” I mumbled … to my phone.

It was not one of my best moments. But it wasn’t Siri’s either.

Next up, I needed to call our son. His name is Nathaniel, but he goes by Natty, and I have him programmed as such.

“Call Natty,” I said to Siri.

“What is your daddy’s name?” she asked.

“No, Siri, Natty!” I said louder, as if she was just hard of hearing.

“Why don’t you just tell me who your daddy is.” She chirped, as if nothing was wrong and she wasn’t actually an imbecile.

“N-A-T-T-Y!” I screeched while at a red light, averting my eyes from the person stopped next to me, gawking at the lady in full meltdown mode next to him.

“Who would you like to call?”

Seriously? And they call this INTELLIGENT.

Finally, I pulled over into a parking lot and dialed Natty’s number the good old fashioned way. I guess I sounded edgy because he asked, “Are you all right?”

“Yes, it’s just that Siri is stupid,” I answered, them immediately realized how ridiculous I sounded, even to myself.

“Okay…” he said, checking his own smart phone for a good therapist for his mother, I’m sure.

So, if I do happen to go see “Her” at the theater, I’ll be the one scoffing at the screen, intermittently yelling, “Yeah, right!” when Samantha actually gets something right.

As William Congreve wrote in 1697, “Hell hath no fury as a woman scorned by her OS1.” Or something like that.

Eileen Burmeister is a Winchester-based freelance writer. She can be reached at burmeistereileen@gmail.com or you can follow her on Twitter at EBurmeister.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

When the heart of rock and roll requires a defibrillator

I’m not handling the aging process very well. I fight it constantly, trying to stay relevant in an ever-changing world. I fancy myself a hip mom who “gets” the humor, music and movies that our kids like, but the older I get, the more my plan of eternal hipness is unraveling. And to be honest, I’m not sure I have the energy to fight it anymore.

Take the Top Ten Albums of the Year. When the list came out at the New Year my husband said, “Do you recognize any of these artists or groups?” I looked over the list and had never heard of any of them. “Neither do I,” my husband said sadly. Keep in mind, this is the same man who followed U2 on a set of concert dates around Ohio and Michigan in the late ‘80s, got his 55-year-old Dad to listen to an entire Rush album with him in high school, and spent the night outside in a lawn chair so he could be first in line for Huey Lewis and the News tickets (not one of his prouder moments).

And me? I sang in a garage band until I had to quit because our jam sessions conflicted with volleyball practice (I had my priorities). I knew the lyrics for every song ever written by The Bangles, I got my hair cut just like Pat Benetar, and I had my very own “Born in the U.S.A.” t-shirt from the Boss’s stadium tour in 1985. Oh, I was cool all right.

So here we were, two previously hip and relevant parents, who didn’t know a single Top Ten act in 2013 and we … wait for it … couldn’t care less.
“Ah, well,” I said, handing the list back to Craig. “I’m going upstairs to take a nap.”

This whole interaction reminded me of one of my favorite Jeff Foxworthy sketches where he’s telling how his parents can still embarrass him. He explains, “Especially the way they dress. See, 'cause I have a theory. I think your parents are riding along on the fashion train, and one day they go ‘That's it, I ain't going any farther.’ True story: last year, I'm in the grocery store with my dad. He is wearing a pair of platform-heeled Dingo boots, wide flair-legged Levis that only miss the floor by ten or twelve inches, and an "Over 40 and feeling foxy" t-shirt. I'm like, ‘Dad, people are staring at you.’ And he goes, ‘Well, son, there's something about a Dingo man.’”

What I’m saying is, when it comes to music, I’ve become Jeff Foxworthy’s father.

I’m the one who’s now asking, “How can you understand what that guy’s saying when he’s singing?” Or I ask my son, “Why does he have to sound so angry all the time when he’s screaming those lyrics?” Or I scratch my head and say, “Can’t she just wear normal clothes instead of trying to dress like an extra-terrestrial on stage?”

And then I remember how confused my parents were when I had my boom box cranked up so high the paint was chipping off the walls, playing Bruce Springsteen (“How can you understand a word he says?)”, Adam Ant (“Why is he screaming and wearing girl’s makeup?”) and Madonna (“You call those clothes?”)

The apple doesn’t fall far from the musical tree. I’m just sayin…

Maybe we’re not entirely off the charts musically. We’ve managed to stay up to speed in some genres thanks to our 18-year-old son. So we’re not hopeless, just tired.

I could fight this, I know I could. I could buy a Lady Gaga CD (or download it, however you do THAT), and listen to the lyrics and discuss them with the kids, but I simply don’t have it in me. These days, I’d take a nap over a Lady Gaga CD any time, and I’m hunky dory with that (kids, see your parents/grandparents for the definition, or you can use The Google).

I’ve spent my time on the Music Train and I ain’t going any farther. That train is now off the rails.

Eileen Burmeister lives, works and plays her Bangles cassettes at extraordinary high volumes around Winchester, Ore. She can be reached at burmeistereileen@gmail.com or you can follow her on Twitter at EBurmeister.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Srsly, Oxford Dictionary? I'm not going to squee over this year's added words

It’s that time of year again. Time for me to put down my copy of “Anna Karenina” and stare into the abyss that is the new list of words added to the Oxford Dictionary Online, an institution that is clearly doing its best to ruin my children’s generation by adding ridic* words to the dictionary. (*Ridic — short for ridiculous. It was added last year. No, seriously.)

Now if I sound hoity-toity, it’s intentional. I understand that new words that make their way into our culture SHOULD be added to the dictionary, but sometimes the additions are just a sad commentary on the culture in which we live.

Like “selfie.” Not only did it make it on the 2013 list of new words, it was named the Word of the Year.

What is a selfie? It’s a picture you take of yourself, typically with a smartphone, and upload to a social media website (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter).

In an article in The New Yorker, Katherine Martin, the head of U.S. dictionaries at Oxford, was quoted as saying, “The concept of a Word of the Year is inherently subjective: We analyze frequency and historical evidence, but our real goal is to identify an emerging word that embodies the zeitgeist of the year, and that is the driving force behind the choice.”

So the “emerging word” and our culture’s “driving force” is … ourselves. I don’t think the “Me” generation of the ’80s can even hold a candle to our current cultural narcissism.

Here are a few other additions for this year’s Oxford Dictionary Online (and my editorializing comments. You’re welcome).

• Srsly: Short for seriously. Because those extra vowels take too long to add, what with all the selfies we’re taking.

• Digital detox: A period of time during which a person refrains from all electronic devices in order to actually speak with others sitting nearby. Much-needed addition, in my opinion.

• Flexitarian: A person who is primarily a vegetarian, but occasionally eats meat or fish. First it was vegetarian, then vegan, then pescatarian and now flexitarian? I have no words.

• Tray bake: A type of cake or food that is baked in a square or rectangular container and cut into individual pieces for serving. In my day, we called that … cake.

• Apols: (informal) apologies. Srsly?

• Babymoon: A relaxing or romantic holiday taken by parents-to-be before their baby is born. When Craig and I were expecting our firstborn 18 years ago, I think we went out to the Olive Garden the night before I went into labor and called it good. I feel robbed.

• Derp: Informal exclamation used as a substitute for speech regarded as meaningless or stupid. So which word do we use to describe how stupid the word “derp” is?

• Food baby: A protruding stomach caused by eating too much food. As in “No, I’m not seven months pregnant. That’s just my food baby from Christmas dinner.”

• Squee: An informal exclamation used to express great delight or excitement. You mean, squeal? Yeah, there’s already a word for that. Derp!

I know I sound like an old fuddy-duddy who is about to yell at the neighbor kids to get off my lawn, but how many kids are taking a break from their selfies long enough to play on my lawn? Srsly, I just think we need to draw the line without apols. Amiright*?

*My prediction for 2014 Word of the Year.

Eileen Burmeister is a Winchester-based freelance writer. You can follow her on Twitter at EBurmeister or you can email her at burmeistereileen@gmail.com.