Nerd to the power of infinity cubed plus 42

In the correct nerdly order of operations:

I still can’t believe I got to marry this guy. 42 is every day because of him.

Happy nerdy number day, Ten Ten Ten-ers. 42 is finally here!

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Things that suck. Literally.

That sound you’re hearing is a nerd alert. Proceed with caution.

A couple of months ago I was lying around the house sick for a few weeks, scouring eBay and other online haunts for crap-I-didn’t-need-but-had-to-order because my sick brain was, like, “If you don’t have the entire Where the Wild Things Are set from Kubrick, etc., you’ll never be able to live with yourself later.”

During my bout of pharmaceutically enhanced internet mania, I made two important discoveries:

  1. There’s something magical about ordering something online and then receiving it three days later without ever leaving your house or taking off your stinky, sick-person robe;
  2. The Vader Project was finally holding its long-awaited charity auction, and there was going to be a fancy-pants catalog — perfect for folks like me who don’t have several grand laying around to spend on an artist’s rendition of a Darth Vader helmet. More importantly, it was perfect for Russell’s Father’s Day gift. I snagged one immediately.

Although there were a ton of fantastic designs, I was surprised that NYC’s Suckadelic, artist/musician/entrepreneur Morgan Phillips, created the only diorama within the grouping. Of course, the concept was completely up his alley; Suckadelic’s work stems almost exclusively from sci-fi pop culture specific to Star Wars. Hand it to the guy: Phillips understands that without its Lucasfilms giants, the oxygen would totally be sucked out of my generation. And our adult wallets. Okay, and our principles, too, maybe.

Dunny Sucker

Having never been able to afford Suckadelic’s art schtuffs before — largely because they always have sold out within nanoseconds — I was psyched when I got the chance to nab one of these bootlegged bad boys this afternoon. Yeah, that’s a Dunny Sucklord. You’re seeing straight, alright. “Made in Chinatown NYC.” How many toys these days can wear that badge?

If you’d like one of your own, check it. Chances are, though, you’ll be coveting mine. These productions are generally limited to runs of next-to-nothing.

It’s not a Vader Project helmet, but, hey, the little guy’s wearing his own variant. Maybe one day I’ll find out I’m a long-lost Kuwaiti princess and will be able to afford the VP diorama for Sucklord’s display. Until then, I’ll keep busy stalking Suckadelic’s Microsexuals, his Original Villain Network, the photosteam on Flickr, keeping score with Paul Budnitz, and trying to convince the tween Bella that she needs to listen to more of this on her iPod. Seriously, this Morgan Phillips guy? He’s got a hand in every kind of honey jar you can imagine.

But today, I leave you with this brand spanking new first installment of Toy Lords in Chinatown: Episode One, guest-starring Sucklord himself.

May the Force…hurry up and arrive in the mail.

The Great Toilet Flood of 2009`

Today, our toilet flooded everywhere as I was standing helplessly in the bathroom, totally in the nude. After panicking like a little girl, I turned off the water, called Russell, and got his voicemail.

Then the toilet freaked out a second time, so instead of calling a plumber or any of our five million retired neighbors — gossiping and drinking their mid-morning cocktails in one another’s garages — I ran to Facebook Chat and summoned Amanda, Russell’s co-worker.

There can’t be anything more ridiculous than instant messaging someone about how your toilet is out-of-control. If Hanna-Barbera had to transcribe my chat with Amanda for a television audience, it would’ve looked just like this:

If you have to have a catastrophe, you should at least find the best way to deal with it. I’m all for bad animation and monotone vocals any day of the week.

Behold This

A few years ago, I realized I started off an awful lot of sentences like this: “Oh, I have always wanted to [insert whatever it was I’d always wanted to do here].”

You know. You’ve heard people chatter like that, too.

“Oh, I have always wanted to visit Japan.”

“I have always wanted to learn how to play the tuba.”

“I have ALWAYS wanted to change genders.”

Alright, well, I have never really wanted to play tuba or have a penis, BUT I have caught myself wanting to do a lot of other stuff in my life — stuff that wasn’t unrealistic, but for one reason or another kept getting put on hold. Indefinitely.

Until now. 

I haven’t managed to figure out some kind of grand solution for ensuring world peace or ending genocide or anything along those lines, but I did pony up and take chess lessons with Bella last year. It’s a step. 

bwchessbellcraig

My good friend and polar opposite twin, Craig Von Hutson, agreed to teach us chess history as well as basic techniques as long as Bella didn’t rattle on too much about Hannah Montana. Since she couldn’t manage to keep her end of the deal — spewing random Hannah schtuffs right and left, I just made sure Craig got all the free lattes he needed in order to get through the undesired Disney tween mania. It worked. Bella pulled checkmate within the first few weeks. 

It took me a bit longer, but, hey, I got there. 

I’d always wanted to. 

Since then, I’ve crossed other activities off the To Do list — some successful, some comically unsuccessful. Last week, I was particularly psyched about conquering item #31: The Wire Crochet Necklace. (Yes, I realize how cool that sounds. Heh.)

The Modern Art Museum in Ft. Worth has some amazing jewelry…for people with much fatter wallets than mine. I’d been pining for the wire crochet necklace that’s been on display there forever and decided to attempt to figure out how to make my own, rather than forking over a week’s salary to the gift shop at the museum. After having spent the hours learning how to crochet wire and attach beads into the form, I gotta admit: it would have been a lot easier to have handed over that week’s salary.

Still, victory is mine. Take that.

NECKLACE

I think I’m almost ready to learn how to boil water now. Almost.

“The voicemail you are trying to reach is full.”

 

Robot scavenger hunt for Russell's birthday

Robot scavenger hunt for Russell's birthday

 

Two reasons for failing to return/answer calls and chronic lateness:

  1. I got rid of my purses two months ago, keep forgetting to buy a new one, and am toting around a record bag that looks more like a diaper bag than anything a normal person might use. Thus, I can’t hear or find my phone inside that enormous thing;
  2. There’s been an extra amount of ass-wiping going on at work recently — both good and bad varieties;
  3. I’ve been slammed with an awful lot of What I Always Wanted.

I guess that’s more than two excuses. Cut me some slack. Let’s time travel.

April 1st:

Russell turned really old, and Tyson Summers was cool enough to crank out a super-fast commission even though he was moving at the time. I was expecting something really simple because of his circumstances, but within the first twenty-four hours, Tyson wrote:

I’m almost finished. It’s a risque piece based on deep ellum / fair park. I love the statue at fair park of the lady and cactus. I’ve used a very pretty nude model in halftone dots standing in the middle of a cartoon cactus. The two big characters of the cactus are landlord / property owners fighting. On the cactus will be 4-icze and a boarded up tunnel. Shazam, I think I’m almost done. The background is pink with my stars looking on. I added a halftone dot Uni looking after the lady as well.

T

Tyson's Cactus Lady of Deep Ellum

Russell loved it.

First Weekend of April:

The Bell and I met Madre in Austin to celebrate this year’s ATPE awards; she was one of the top three contenders for Texas State Teacher of the Year. While Mom tried staying awake during boring meetings, Bella and I toured the Capitol, the Austin Museum of Art, and T O Y  J O Y. 

Texas State Capitol

Texas State Capitol

Bella took this one. What a fantastic weekend.

Bella took this one. What a fantastic weekend.

April Never Ending:

The Bell needed a new bed, so we punished her with hours of IKEA. Sometimes, IKEA can be so sad. Luckily, Russell had a plan.

sadbedbed2bed3bed4bed5Alas, another case of IKEA blues was defeated.

Ongoing Family Bidness with the KLG (is gonna rock you…):

Grace asked me to quit calling her “Gracie.” Sniffle, sniffle. 

"Hey, Grace, do your Dio rock hand."

"Hey, Grace, do your Dio rock hand."

Here, Ken and Lindsay reenact a scene from 'Jacob's Ladder'.

Here, Ken and Lindsay reenact a scene from 'Jacob's Ladder'.

With a side order of May:

Isata and her family deserve more than just Honorable Mention; she’s a great kiddo with great parents and an incredible back story.

I loved Isata about five minutes after I first saw her as she handed my very sad Bella Monster a toy and patted her on the back. It was 1999, and I’d just dropped Bella off for her first Mother’s Day Out, which — for neurotic moms like me — was more like Mother’s Day to Freak Out. 

Isata came with a bonus prize — her parents. Idrissa and Ada left their native country of Sierra Leone in the early nineties. Recently popularized by the film Blood Diamond, Sierra Leone was amongst one of the world’s most unstable regions at that time due to, perhaps, the cruelest gang warfare and rebel fighting in modern history — fueled entirely by our greed for diamonds and Sierra Leone’s corrupt leadership and shaky relationships with its Liberian neighbors. Isata’s folks tell incredibly sad stories coupled with extreme optimism. They understand what matters in life in a way that isn’t as humbling or demoralizing as much as it is liberating for me. Truly, their spirits set me free.

Last week, I drove Bella over to Ada’s braid shop in Irving. (Ada has superhero fast braiding fingers.) Idrissa ordered pizza for us while we chatted about the girls and foreign affairs and how Bella had been handling the divorce all this time later. We talked about their African Muslim wedding in which Bella stood in Isata’s place of honor when they were four years old. I listened intently as Idrissa shared stories about his sister still living in Johannesburg, South Africa: “They asked me to come, but I cannot. The region, it is too dangerous even for someone like myself.”

Bella and Isata talked on the other side of the salon about the Black-eyed Peas and Hannah Montana and Paramore and The Jonas Brothers, though. That part of the world was far away.

There is so much more to add, but for the sake of sacrificing another five million in text, I’ll wrap it up with Isata’s most recent parting words: “Kristan, I love you. You are my second mother.”

I needed that an awful lot this past week. I love my families and am immensely grateful.

kristan and ada

kristan and ada

the bell and my other daughter, isata

the bell and my other daughter, isata

You can’t stop this party:

On Friday, I accompanied Bella’s honor choir to the yearly competition at Sandy Lake Amusement Park. (I need some coffee and a pretend cigarette already, and I haven’t even gotten but one sentence into this excuse for not being able to return your calls.)

O.

K.

One parent. One grandparent. One teacher who is retiring next week and can’t walk. Twenty-six fourth and fifth grade WIIIILD and CARAZAY KIDS. When I think “Last Friday,” I also think “Xanax.” 

To the four parents who canceled at the LAST MINUTE: you lost out, but there was no fun lost (except for the little guy who threw up all day, but you know…poor kiddo).

bellabumper

First Place Division!

First Place Division!

Is there a collection somewhere of past gum trees from other years? Hm.

Is there a collection somewhere of past gum trees from other years? Hm.

scrambler

Saturday, Saturday, yes, Saturday, oh, Saturday, Saturday:

I wrote all about the whale scarf Julie made in L.A. via her Spiderbot Etsy store. Well, Russ and I managed to make it through the morning rain to the Etsy Dallas convention at Southside Lamar, and it was something else. I didn’t see anything I liked more than the whale scarf, which I wore like a medal, but I did find some interesting items for our jewelry-making endeavors. Russell stopped to investigate a funny doll.

Etsy treasure by Deb at anklebiter.etsy.com

Etsy treasure by Deb at anklebiter.etsy.com

I tried to be sneaky, but Russell knew I’d gotten the monster for him before we even got home.

“Let me see if I can find those snacks in your purse.” [Grin]

“Russell, why are you smiling like that?”

“Oh, I don’t know.” [Grin]

“Ugh, here’s your monster.”

“Thank you.”

Later that afternoon at the Grapevine bead convention (yes, you read that correctly), we found loads of cool stuff for projects. I bought black, bead wiring for jewelry crocheting, so if you receive something that looks like a bird’s nest, well, just humor me. I’m trying. I have to do something besides bitch and moan about politics, you know. After waging war on the Vote Yes campaign for the past two months, I’m ready for something less controversial — like wire crocheting the Big Bang Theory. Wait…

Don't call it "crafting." It's a scientific experiment, cough, cough.

Don't call it "crafting." It's a scientific experiment, cough, cough.

There were so many booths at the bead convention that we lost track of time and spent four hours inside that thing. I call it the “IKEA Phenomenon”. At one point, I stopped to admire a woman’s wire coiling and button bracelet, and she was kind enough to demonstrate her technique. Everything was fine until she added, “…and if you will recall [insert famous beading guy’s name here, unknown to non-fanatics]’s 2002 cover for Bead and Glass Magazine, there was, I believe, an instructional guide to this method in that issue.” That was when I realized I was way out of my league, thanked her, and quickly turned around to giggle with Russell as we made our way into a different room of the exhibit.

“Russell, I think I know what I sound like now when I talk about stuff like, ehhhh, I dunno…4AD record cover art around people who aren’t V23 fans.”

“Yes, that’s exactly how crazy you sound.”

Luckily, I spotted a ring artisan in the next area and quickly forget about my plaguing new revelation.

Last Night:

Lori is thirty-seven this week. I don’t know how that happened so quickly. Russell and I attended her anniversary dinner with Xtos, so I could present her with trinkets appropriate for an old lady, heh. I explained to Lors that my company recognized my ten years of service this past week, so I’d decided to give her a similar token celebrating her twenty years of service as my girl. There was sushi. A glass of wine. Oh, god, there was creme brulee. Then we both fell asleep during the movie while X-tos and Russell laughed at us (but not before Lori’s top semi-fell down at the restaurant). Hurray for pocket cams times ten thousand.

Birthdays come but once each year.

Birthdays come but once each year.

As dinner ended, Russell passed a napkin across the table.

“I love you!”

I got out my pen and scribbled, “I love you more!”

That’s when he dug around in his pocket for a moment, tucked something into the napkin, and passed both back across the table toward me. He said, “You don’t love me more than I love you.”

Wrapped inside the dinner napkin, was a beautiful new ring:

xo, totoro.

xo, totoro.

 

Maybe you guessed it: from the aforementioned ring artisan at the bead convention. He’s a sneaky guy, that Russell.

Right now:

I think I’ve covered much of the “What I Always Wanted” portion of my excuses for not checking voicemail and returning many calls. One of the great lessons Idrissa (and Ada) taught me goes something like this:

“In America and in no other country in the world, there is a sense of nothing but work, work, and work. It’s 24/7, this working. There is no time for family or happiness because so much emphasis is put upon job and career. Here, you are only about your job; it is who you are, and people think they must achieve success in that way only. In Africa, my father was surrounded always by his council and many bodyguards, yet from the time the sun came up until the time the sun went down, I was by his side. He made the time for me because I was important to him; I meant more to him than his duties. He made sure everybody knew this, too. In America, we must remember to love each other and to care for one another as if we are also family.”

I have time left for Now. I’ll call you back later.

Rock Star of the Month: Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson

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It was about eleven-thirty last night when Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson recognized the guy in front of us in line at the post-lecture signing.

“Your name is Kirby, right?”

0217092316

Beyond amazement, the guy responded: “That’s good. Wow, it’s been thirty years. I didn’t think you’d remember meeting me.”

“Of course, I remember! We all swam in your pool, and you fed me that incredible sausage. MAN, that was some good sausage! You still make that?”

Sensing the pressure of the incredibly long line and all of the folks waiting in it, Kirby politely inched forward. Tyson yelled, “Hey! Look me up on Facebook, man. There are some impostors, but you’ll figure it out. Let’s catch up.”

Russell and I swapped awe. The real Neil deGrasse Tyson is on Facebook?! He has fond memories of backyard barbecue delicacies?! Snap. He isn’t just the world’s coolest astrophysicist; he’s also mortal. Insanity. Raise the roof.

Let me back up, though. About a week ago, I was wigging out about what to do for Russell’s Valentine’s Day gift, or, rather, the lack thereof. I didn’t have a lot to spend, but even worse, my efforts to wrangle creative solutions fell short. An attempted beading project looked like something from church camp, 1981.  A Valentine’s recipe search yielded nothing suitable for my pre, pre, pre-beginner cooking level. Randomly, a friend sent a link to Dr. Tyson’s local appearance the following Tuesday, and, as luck might have it, the tickets were FREE. I purchased his latest book The Pluto Files and designed a card, which read:

 

Dear Russell: 

Hello. It is out of dire urgency I write to you this day. 

Allow me to introduce myself properly. I am one of the largest masses within the cosmic Kuiper belt, but you may remember me as: the Planet Formerly Known as Pluto. 

In 2006, I was stripped of my noble title and scientifically reclassified as a “dwarf-planet.” Dwarf planet, my ass. Pfft. 

On Tuesday, February 17, 2009, Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson, one of the chief culprits responsible for my planetary demotion, will presumably be talking smack about how I’m not good enough to rank number nine anymore. Your mission is to attend Tyson’s 8 o’clock lecture, during which he’ll blather on about me and other items of astrophysical interest. 

Refer to Ms. Austin for necessary data. 

Sincerely yours (and happiest of Valentine greetings),

Pluto

Dwarf Planet, Kuiper belt

Milky Way Galaxy 

P.S. “PLANET” Earth is a tiny, nearly indiscernible speck stuck in the armpit of the cosmos, and, no, I most certainly do not suffer from planet envy.

So, er, voila! Valentine’s crisis averted in the nerdiest way possible. Nothing says “I love you” like astrophysics, right?

On the evening of the event, we arrived at Texas Hall an hour early, but the front half of the lower level was already packed. That’s right, for a scientist. In Texas, even. Russell and I selected a decent enough spot and got our laptops ready to take notes while the guy behind us was loudly telling everybody within listening proximity why the speaker wasn’t a real scientist. I wondered what you had to do to be a “real scientist.” I mean, is being on NASA’s private advisory council not science-y enough? What about physics degrees from Harvard AND Columbia? Teaching astrophysics at Princeton? Hosting NOVA? Directing the Hayden Planetarium? I could go on, but you get the idea. Eager to draw my own plebeian conclusions, I was relieved when the lights finally dimmed at 8 o’clock, and the President of UT Arlington, James Spaniolo, addressed both levels of the crammed auditorium.

“Is it coincidence,” he began, “that Dr. Tyson was born in the same week of 1958 as NASA was founded?” I decided it was, in fact, mere coincidence after a quick jaunt to Wikipedia revealed no mystical occurrences during the week of my own birth. Heh. Nevertheless, Spaniolo’s question was inadvertently fantastic. Do the laws of physics allow for coincidence?

He continued, “…and if that is not enough, Tyson also won a national gold medal in ballroom dancing.” Really?  Had he also discovered the secret of the pyramids or the whereabouts of Jimmy Hoffa’s dead body? Was there something this nerd hadn’t done? The guy hadn’t even taken the stage, and I already was fantasizing about Being Neil deGrasse Tyson, the sequel in which I manage to redirect the portal from John Malkovich to Dr. Tyson.

Then he appeared: Isaac from “The Love Boat” in jeans, a sports jacket, and cowboy boots. The crowd went bonkers — rock star bonkers. I loved it.

ted-tyson1

“Hold on. I forgot to empty my pockets. I have so much crap in here,” he announced. Placing his “crap” on the podium, he paused, looked at us, and then proceeded to yank his boots clumsily from his feet. “Now I feel like an astrophysicist. Everybody comfortable?”

For the next hour and a half, we listened to Tyson’s diplomatic, sensitive-to-religious-zealots views about our country’s lack of scientific interest and funding apart from times of war or economic competition. “Guess what? If China announced it was going to Mars, we’d be there in ten months. Ten months! Faster if we discovered oil, of course.” Standing on the stage in his socks and with his arms stretched w  i  d  e, he loudly warned us twenty minutes into the discussion:

“There’s no funding for science in this country unless we can make a weapon or the face of God appear at the end of a particle accelerator.”

Tyson told us, “I respect the religious freedom of our nation. It is what we were founded upon. However, that doesn’t mean science is wrong. Science knows what it is and what it isn’t.” When someone asked about the effects of Intelligent Design being introduced into classrooms along with the Big Bang Theory, NDT answered, “It is non-science, the beginning of the end. That’s what the Philosophy of Ignorance is for students. There’s no history of scientists protesting outside of churches. Do you ever see that sort of thing? No. They’re [Creationists] free to believe what they want, and we don’t interfere, but the minute you quit teaching science — it’s just the beginning of the end.” Dr. Tyson elaborated with examples of avoidable, recent occurrences, which he felt were directly related to our societal reluctancies toward progress. “Katrina was a class three hurricane when it hit land. The levees broke after the storm passed. After, OK? AFTER! Faulty engineering is responsible for what happened there. That’s bad math.” He flashed images of the extreme devastation.

Total quiet all around. He truly felt this dumbing down of society. Furiously.

“Bridges collapse. Faulty engineering, again. A steam pipe exploded a couple of years ago. Remember this one? This is New York City, folks. What country are we living in that we can’t move steam in a pipe from one place to the next without this kind of thing happening?! OK, here, look, this is a good one: Two trains collided, and, by the way, this isn’t some podunk town. It’s Los Angeles. Los Angeles! This is technology that we perfected in this country in, like, 1903. What is going on!?” Then he let us in on the obvious answer: “Smart people went elsewhere.” We’re not generating interest amongst youngsters, and they know they can make money doing other things.

Naturally, I thought about my own kiddo. Bella was wildly irritated with me recently because I forced her into joining the science club. The school even tried to bribe the reluctant kids with the Golden Calf — a non-uniform day. Behold! Still, it was a hard sell until The Bell actually reported back from her first meeting: “Oh, my gosh. Mom! Science club was sooooo much fun. We did an experiment where we…and then we…and…and…and…thanks for making me do it.” That’s all it took. I am all too familiar with the validity of Tyson’s previous point regarding funding and urgency of promoting math and science. Our teachers generally do their best with the resources they can afford from their allotted and, frequently, personal budgets. Unfortunately, it’s the initial spark that seems to be most absent, and that’s what is truly crucial, I think. He’s right; we need to step up our game or continue to decline.

Earlier in the discussion, NDT presented several versions of the Periodic Table of Elements color-coded according to melting point, compatibility, as well as years and nationality of discovery. Then he pointed out the most common elements found within our planet as well as those found most frequently within the universe. As it turns out, Earth and its universe share four of the top five from both lists. With sextillion stars, Tyson noted, it would be, perhaps, the most conceited thought to believe we’re alone, that there aren’t beings looking at us exactly the way we’re looking at them through reversed images of the vast galaxies and universes between us.

We sat, all five bajillion gawzillion batillion of us, in the dark now, silent and thoughtful as the last image of the cosmos lingered on the screen. Russell held my hand, and I put my head on his shoulder.

“The universe is you, and you are the universe. There can be no greater reward than that.”

Doubting Thomas behind us broke the silence, “This guy is fucking genius.” I guess Tyson’s not just a rock star after all. He might even be a real scientist.

Or, perhaps, NDT is more aptly also a minister of science, a reverend of astrophysics, preacher man of the stars. Why? Because as the daughter of one Reverend Dr. Jack P. Busby, I spent my entire childhood held captive in a church pew listening to the quirkiest, smartest, most articulate theologian in this area — my dad — peddle Christianity every Sunday. He meant it. He BELIEVED in it, and I really wanted to feel the connection his congregation members obviously felt when they raised their hands and voiced their Amens and praise-to-be’d their Jesuses. It just never happened. Something wasn’t there, and I was pretty sure I was gonna end up somewhere on the dark side of Satan’s lair eternally confused. However, as I sat there with my head on Russell’s shoulder and my hand inside his, listening to Dr. Tyson’s evidence, feeling new and undeniable fellowship with Doubting Thomas and the other five bajillion gawzillion batillion people around us, it occurred to me that I was at church. Finally. It only took me thirty-five years to get there. Scientifically speaking, that’s not such a bad rate of evolution, I guess.

As the lights came up and Neil deGrasse Tyson began taking questions from the peanut gallery, Russell quickly ran to grab a place in line for the book signing. He texted my phone: “You’re so hot when you’re in student mode.”  We smiled at each other from across Texas Hall. Success. My Valentine scheme was triumphant.

The questions continued for an hour and a half: “What do you think about string theory?” “Does it bother you that you’re light years away from everything you’ve studied in the cosmos?” “Should we break up the NASA monopoly and initiate private launches?” “What do you think about PETA — People for the Ethical Treatment of Aliens?” When Dr. Tyson announced he’d taken the last question of the evening, a little boy stood in the far aisle somewhat dejected as the rest of the audience members settled back into their seats. Dr. Tyson interrupted the low muffle of the crowd:

“Wait, there’s a little kid right there. I would like to take his question if you don’t mind.”

The kid stepped up to the microphone and adjusted it as Dr. Tyson asked, “OK, how old are you?”

“I’m ten.”

“Ten? I was your age when I became interested in the stars. I used to look through my telescope at night and wonder what all was out there. You ever do that?”

“Yes, I do.”

“You’re up kind of late, aren’t you? You must have a good question.”

It was almost half past eleven on a school night. The kid stood there for a minute before his voice filled the auditorium, “Dr. Tyson, I was wondering…what would you do with a black hole if you could control it?”

(Sigh) You know, sometimes there are moments in my life I know, as they’re occurring, I’ll never forget. This was one of them.

“A black hole, a black hole, a black hole of my own. Hmmmm. You ever do laundry at home?”

“Yes.”

“Well, you know how sometimes you wind up with one sock and always wonder what happened to the other one?”

The kid laughed, “Yeah.”

“Well, if I had my own black hole, I’d use it for throwing all those ‘other’ socks into. And garbage. I’d let everybody throw their garbage in it. That’s probably the best thing you could do with a black hole.”

“Thank you.”

“Wait, you know, if you ever just happen to find a black hole, you shouldn’t get too close because this thing called spaghettification will occur, and you’ll stretch ooooouuuuttt, which wouldn’t be very good. That’s why you should just stick to the lost sock and garbage idea.”

Gosh, I know it sounds crazy, but the whole thing made my eyes kinda mist up. I closed my laptop and joined Russell, who was still texting me sweet messages from his place in line on the other side of the room.

Even though he was absurdly late and totally off-schedule, NDT happily settled into a seat at the table on stage and signed books, etc., for the crowd. The line stretched around the entire auditorium. I couldn’t get past his enthusiasm. It was contagious. As he signed Russell’s book, I asked about the Rubik’s Cube next to him: “Do you always carry one or what’s going on here?”

He laughed, “No, they [pointing to a couple by the side of the stage] brought this and asked if I’d sign it for them. See, it’s only solved on one side, so if I sign it, it’ll just be scrambled if they ever try to solve it entirely. I’m going to solve it for them when the line’s died down, and then I’ll sign it.”

Astrophysicists are incredibly kind, patient rock stars, apparently. At least, this one is. What a super cool guy.

A little after midnight, we dragged our weary brains and feet to the confines of our vehicle. Dr. Tyson was still wiling away the night signing autographs, of course. Russell thanked me all the way home: “I really enjoyed that. I want you to know tonight was the coolest thing ever, and I love you so much.” He might have ruined Pluto’s rep, but NDT saved Valentine’s Day for me.

The next evening, Bella asked, “Mom? Didn’t you say you got a NASA sticker for me?”

After giving it to her, she immediately put it on her school binder,”This is so cool! Thanks.”

(This Neil deGrasse Tyson guy was scoring me all kinds of street cred, yo.)

“You’re welcome, Bella. Look, I have a brochure, also, on the scientist Russell and I saw last night.”

“Neil deGrassy…”

“deGrasse. He is an astrophysicist. You know what that means?”

“Yes, he studies the stars and planets.”

Good for her. “Yeah, but look at all the other stuff he does.” I totally sold Dr. T to her like there was no tomorrow, or, rather, like she was the only one who could save tomorrow. As she read through his bio, Bella said he seemed really cool. Then, she stuffed the brochure into her school binder behind the NASA sticker.

“You’re taking it to school?”

“Yeah, Mom. This guy is awesome. My news crew teacher is always asking for us to bring in stuff about good role models.” Wow. I went from being the worst mother in the world for making my kid join the nerd squad to being a beloved Science Mom. Yep. I’d ask for my gold star right about now, but I think this is the sort of thing parents are *supposed* to do by default of, well, being parents.

The world, with us in it, is kind of a horrifyingly beautiful, yet predictably random place. When everything comes together and the seas seem calm and endless, there are twice as many stars in the sky. Last night, Dr. Tyson donned his astrophysical superhero cape and reminded us of the importance of exploration — mentally and physically. He stormed the stage with anecdotes about Sir Isaac Newton. He implored us to become patrons within our scientific communities, to go out and foster our future generations. I’m giving my kid her starter cape to wear for her closed circuit, televised school report about Dr. Tyson’s role in universal scientific exploration. But first, I had to know: “Bella, who was Sir Isaac Newton?”

“He was the guy who first talked about inertia.”

Inertia, she said — NOT “The Seatbelt Law.”

Dr. Tyson, there’s hope after all.

(Thank you.)

Holding the Vinyl Toy Fairy Accountable

With love, from the Vinyl Toy Fairy

With love, from the Vinyl Toy Fairy

Several years ago, a good friend of mine mistakenly left his Cartier sunglasses in my rental car. Thinking they belonged to the previous renter, I returned them to Enterprise. I was sure this selfless act alone would grant my access into heaven — until my friend called: “Did I leave my sunglasses in your rental the other day?”

Crap. 

Naturally, within 72 hours of returning the vehicle, the staff seemed to have no recollection of me, the car, the glasses, or anything except this: “We are not liable for lost or stolen items.” 

“But the glasses were never lost or stolen. They were left on purpose with so-and-so behind the counter.”

“We’re not responsible.”

After beating my head against a wall to no avail, I was certain of two things: (A) Enterprise? They had it coming; (B) My pal, Mr. Cartier? He was gonna have to give it to ’em:

Dear Enterprise Car Rental:

A lengthy explanation of the situation followed, complete with my friend’s sentimental reasoning for being so rabid in his pursuit of the lost-but-not-lost sunglasses. 

…and so therefore you can clearly see why the prompt return of my property is imperative.

All requests to investigate this matter at the local and regional levels have been ignored — repeatedly and rudely. Apparently, your mid-level management is under the impression I shall eventually become disenchanted with my quest and give up, thus, allowing dishonesty to champion the circumstance. This is not the case. I can assure you I have all the time in the world to devote unto this tragedy.

When I use the phrase “all the time in the world,” I mean just that: I really do have nothing better to do. My schedule allows for my availability during the entire extent of your store’s hours of operation. Additionally, one of my great joys in life is preserving the lost craft of letter writing — such as this charming billet-doux I’ve penned in this instance. Therefore, the concept of spending the rest of my worldly afternoons in your cozy, climate-controlled lobby armed with an ink well, a quill pen and varying papyrus samples, with which to manufacture and distribute my thoughts regarding this unfortunate matter unto the ascending ranks of Enterprise’s supervisory stratum, sounds thoroughly engaging.

To conclude by suggesting I look forward to your expedient reply is a comical understatement. Good day.

The company responded quickly, which I felt was a good call considering my compadre’s communication weighed in like a final warning from Hannibal Lecter. Enterprise stepped up to the plate and assumed responsibility — not for what I did by returning the item unnecessarily, but for acknowledging that my potential good deed was thwarted by its carelessness and/or dishonest staff. Eh, so crisis averted. 

What 22K worth of damage looks like. Thanks, Ford.

What 22K worth of damage looks like. Thanks, Ford.

Sometimes bad customer service sneaks up on you — like the time it took Ford four months to admit my brand new Mustang was totaled and couldn’t be repaired, although I’d been making non-refundable payments on the vehicle AND its insurance policy while the car sat unusable in one of their service bays at an official repair center. Yep.

Sometimes, however, bad customer service hits you in the face right out of the gate, though: A few years ago Verizon purposely drilled a hole the size of a half dollar from the interior to the exterior of my home for FIOS, stuffed the hole with toilet paper until the tech could return, and then, well, never returned. When somebody else FINALLY came back out (after I’d taken several days off from work in order to accommodate Verizon’s scheduling conflicts), the company had adopted a new and improved way of installing FIOS, which made the whole drilling thing unnecessary in the first place. To the company’s credit, months later a structural engineer was sent out to correct the violation. After everything was said and done, Verizon assaulted me with such an ungodly amount of follow-up calls that I began daydreaming about legal loopholes for placing a restraining order against them. 

“We’re just calling to ensure your excellent customer service experience with Verizon.”

“Again? Really?”

“Ma-am, would you say you received excellent customer service from your technician?”

Oh, brother. They needed a new system of pandering for those poor folks isolated in the calling centers. And a new script. Making matters worse, I was convinced Verizon put some kind of spybot in my home which alerted them to “convenient” calling times. You know: She’s giving the dog a bath. Call her about our excellent customer service. Or: She needs to pee and just unlocked the front door. Hurry, call and make sure she’s happy with our excellent customer service. 

The creme de la creme of terrible customer service episodes occurred in 1994 when my mother ordered an anchovy pizza from Little Caesar’s, which arrived smothered in tuna fish salad. When the mistake was reported and after a second tuna fish pizza arrived, Mom promptly called the sixteen year-old manager in charge. He wasn’t expecting her to hang up, drive to the location, and continue the barrage until they gave us, I believe, a cheese pizza, which was most likely infested with special, flavorless “revenge” toppings. Of course, the final straw was when the staff attempted to convince Mom that there was little difference between tuna fish and anchovies. That’s when Mom went “corporate”. 

The common, binding thread of any customer service debacle is silliness. Well, silly in the sense that something ridiculous occurred. These days I like to gauge the impending battle by asking myself, Is this story gonna later translate into a past episode of Seinfeld? And if the answer is Yes, that’s when I roll my eyes and let it go. However, I’m having a tough time forgiving Kidrobot, my vinyl toy fairy. 

Kidrobot makes very nerdy, trendy, LOL generation designer toys. For some reason, I got trapped in a crack within the demographic and began collecting the company’s Dunny series. My boyfriend hid the little guys under my pillows and in my truck. When a new edition debuted, he’d bring home a million gazillion “blind” boxes of Dunnys, and we’d sit on the bed forever, ripping them from their cardboard homes and tinfoil pouches.

“Oh, my God! I pulled the Kozik chase!” We learned the secret Dunny language, you see. (If you don’t have a nerd decoder, that means, Excellent news. The hard-to-find Frank Kozik toy was in this box.) Oh, how I couldn’t wait to rush home when Russell would text: Dunnys and coffee waiting for you. They’d evolved into a sentimental event between us — inane, physical tokens shared and understood only within our Dunny club for two. *sigh*  

Because the consumer can’t see what s/he’s “pulling,” which I think adds to the fun of it all, sometimes you end up with duplicates. Russell and I have at least several good sized boxes in the garage full of, oh my gosh, twins and triplets and quadruplets and…you get the swing of it. At 6.95 a pop, these little vinyl toys really put a stealthy, unexpected hole in your wallet, so we started buying them in bulk. 

(And, yeah, I know this is really more “Friends” than “Seinfeld” at this point.)

There was more than just the thrill of going broke on Dunnys, though. There were…Golden Tickets. *awe* Having spent so much of my life looking for some kind of portal into the world of Roald Dahl, I’d finally found it. I was Kristan and the Dunny Factory. 

You didn’t get eternal life or a dream vacation or anything like that if you pulled a special Golden Ticket from your Dunny box. Instead, you got a really special prize: an ultra-rare, highly limited, incredibly nerdy, BRING-DOWN-THE-HOUSE-TOTALLY-AWESOME, to be announced Dunny. I had to get a friggin’ ticket. Had to.

A year ago, Russell brought home a tanker full of boxes, and we opened and opened and opened until Russell froze. In his hand was the Golden Ticket. The super-secret Dunny was going to be designed by none other than one of the most noteworthy and collectible of all Dunny designers, so we were psyched as we abandoned our box-ship to register the ticket’s code in an email to Kidrobot. Moments later, a confirmation arrived; We only had to wait eight months for our new, little guy to arrive in November. You would have thought we were expecting a baby by the way we behaved. I began rearranging the shelves in anticipation while Russell put pictures of our “sonogram” as a joke on social networking sites. Clearly, we were having way too much fun with the whole thing.

November came. November went. The spot for our new baby was still empty. Russell wrote Kidrobot and nothing. We browsed the forums and learned there had been an accident. Someone in the shipping warehouse reportedly mixed our special guys with the “general population,” who were in turn distributed to stores and sold as regular Dunnys. Russell wrote the company again. No reply. Other Golden Ticket holders reported similar trouble. I’d waited for almost a year for nothing, and it really pisses me off. 

I pointed out to Russell that I wished we’d spent the money to save an African village or something. It’s embarrassing, and I feel like I’ve lost a friend in this young company that seemed to “get” me — the same company that plagued me with false advertising and failure to respond or correct the situation. But, really, what’s the point of pushing the issue? The story, like I said before, is awfully silly in the grand scope of things. I hate to bitch and moan about stuff like this when there are more important things going on in the world. The whining just doesn’t hold up:

“What’s wrong?”

“Oh, woe is me. WOE is me. I didn’t get my Golden Ticket Dunny. I can’t sleep, and quite frankly I’ll never be the same again.”

“Ah, well, did you hear about all the layoffs this week?”

“Yes.”

“Bummer. Man, speaking of bummers, I watched that movie ‘Blood Diamond’ about how folks in Africa are dying and being held as slaves for diamond mining by their own people to meet American demands. You should see that.”

“I saw it.”

“Yeah, oh! Did you hear about the little girl who got a heart transplant this week, and now her older sister needs one, but she is still on the donor list? Man, that’s awful.”

So many bummers, and mine is at the bottom, the very bottom, of the list — thankfully.

The new series came out a couple of weeks ago. I had the money to buy them all and didn’t. If Kidrobot isn’t willing to step up to the plate sometime in the real immediate future, I’ll just have to give them the Wal-Mart treatment, which is a heavy dosage of Fuck You. Spare me the trouble, K-bot. I just want the damned toy. Heck, give me another kickass, supercool toy. Say you’re sorry. Let’s be friends again, so I don’t have to belt out another two thousand words of text. I love you, man. Why you gotta be like that?

We didn’t even make it into the chocolate factory. The game was over before it was a game, and Roald Dahl is probably shooting darts at Kidrobot from atop his eternal magic carpet right about now.

Perhaps, a call is in order for Mr. Cartier, letter writer extraordinaire. He’ll have just the perfect nine-syllable word for this mess.