Schrödinger’s Kitchen

In a recent episode of This American Life (#399: Contents Unknown), one of the stories is about people who go to abandoned/seized storage locker auctions. There, they open up the locker (but no one gets to step inside) and after seeing the stacks of boxes and things contained, they’re auctioned off. You never know what you’re really going to get until afterwards; they talked about how usually you just end up with worthless stuff, but occasionally you hit the jackpot and find jewelry or such.

While listening to this at the gym earlier in the week, it reminded me of an old roommate of mine, whom is now referred to solely as “AR.” AR ended up being a living example of how having a friend become a roommate can sometimes result in no longer being friends. (It’s why when my friends Rob & Peter mentioned they don’t rent their English Basement apartment to friends, I absolutely understood and agreed instantly.) Within about six months of moving in he started paying his share of the rent and utilities later and later, he was an absolute slob, and generally an unpleasant person to live with. My biggest regret is that we believed him when he promised things would change (and let him renew the lease for another year with us), but as he turned out to also be a pathological liar and a thief, we were hardly the only ones to ever get conned by him.

We got rid of him by ending the entire lease when it expired. My other roommate was going to school at American University for a law degree and got an apartment near campus, and I got a one-bedroom place and have lived by myself ever since. AR skipped town still owing us two months rent and utilities, going initially all the way to Arizona (having burnt all bridges here) and then off to Greece to live with family for a while. Fortunately right before he left, I had the foresight to go through his bookshelves and retrieve all the books of mine that he’d taken (including a few that he’d even put into boxes already!). But it’s the boxes that are the heart of the story here.

About a year after he moved in, an aunt of him gave him some boxes of stuff; I think she’d moved out of the area, or at least into a different home, and given him things she didn’t want any more. One of the boxes was marked, “AR Kitchen” and it sat in our kitchen for months on end. When AR finally skipped town, that box was still sitting in the kitchen, taped shut, forgotten in his haste to get away. My other roommate and I had been wondering for ages what was inside the box, and had taken to calling it Schrödinger’s Kitchen, after the famous cat in the box that is both alive and dead until you finally open it up and see what’s inside.

With AR gone, the mysteries could finally be revealed. What excitement was inside this box? Would it be something good? Something bad? A dead cat? As it turned out, mostly garbage. I remember there was an old phone in there that had mold on it (ewwwww), which was promptly thrown into the garbage. Some old plastic plates and cups. The one exception, though, was a straight-from-the-’70s fondue set that was still in great shape. I’ve still got it today. And if AR ever finds out and objects, I’d be happy to sell it back to him for the cost of two months rent. (I’m offering a discount, no need to pay the utilities.)

There’s something about that mystery of what’s in the box that is always so exciting; it’s part of why I love Christmas, with the idea that anything could be under that tree even though you know the majority are things you’ve asked for. There’s that eternal possibility that you’re going to open up the box and find something you never saw coming. (I think it’s part of why I was so entranced by the “anything can be in the box” Disney Vinylmation figures on my recent trip to Disney World.) But I think I’m going to draw the line at storage locker auctions. I have stuff of my own to start buying it from other people!

Overheard in the Post Office

While waiting in line to buy stamps this morning, I watched the woman in front of me bring a large Flat Rate Priority Box up to the counter.

Postal Employee, weighing the box: Do you want to use a different box? This is so light it will actually cost less if we put it in another box.
Customer: No, I want to use this box. It needs to get there this week.
Postal Employee: We can use another Priority Mail box but with the weight…
Customer: No.
Postal Employee: After insurance and tracking it comes to $12.55.
Customer, angry: Why is this so expensive?
Postal Employee: That’s why I was saying we should put this in a different box.
Customer: You’re over-charging me! I’ll take this to the McLean Post Office and they’ll charge me less.

I’ll bet you anything the customer has no idea what the phrase “flat rate” actually means. I wish I could have overheard what happened at the other post office, for an encore.

So Much Awesomeness

I’m not even sure what to mention first, there’s such an astounding amount of greatness in this video from the 1974 Miss America pageant. The outfits? The feathered hair? The music? The song? The dancers? (Oh god, the dancers.) Or the fact that Miss Michigan is almost certainly a man???

Seriously, I think I could watch this for hours on end. I’m also struggling to not keep watching all the other similar sequences from other years that were uploaded. (Thanks for the tip, Del!)

Frozen Florida

*blows dust off of the website*

Er, yeah. It’s been a busy month. But I suppose I should at least briefly mention my trip to Florida two weeks ago, to run the Goofy Race and a Half Challenge at Walt Disney World. It probably would have been an unremarkable trip (aside from running 39.3 miles over the course of a weekend), except for one little problem… that horrible cold front that ripped through a lot of the country, including Florida.

When we signed up for these races a year ago, I honestly didn’t imagine us bundled up with three layers of clothing, winter hats, gloves, and still being cold. Which is, of course, exactly how we felt.

Brrrrrr (pt 2)

Yeah. Cold. Very cold. So cold that on Sunday we bought additional pairs of gloves, rain parkas, and towels for additional insulation for before the race started. (Once you’re running, it doesn’t so matter that it’s 25 degrees out. And sleeting. No really, it sleeted on us on Saturday for the half marathon.)

On the bright side, we did get to pose for all sorts of silly photographs with various Disney characters; for the full marathon we stopped at literally every single one we saw. We figured it would be a good way to combat having run the half marathon the morning before.


I mean, hello, it’s Stitch! Only from my favorite (non-Pixar) Disney animated movie Lilo and Stitch, after all. As the race went on, we got a little sillier and punchier, too. So we ended up with photos like this:

Launchpad McQuack

So yeah, we froze during the races. But it was a ton of fun. And the other days were nice, too. We went to all four parks over the course of three days, which was a blast. We ate at two of the nice restaurants in Epcot (Le Cellier and Teppan Edo), something I’d never done before and quite enjoyed. And thanks to an iPhone app that tells you wait times for rides, we went on a lot of rides.

Oh yeah, even when it wasn’t 6am, we still froze. Oh well. It would have been nice to wear t-shirts instead of coats, but it was none the less a great trip. But now I need to go back sometime when the weather is a little more cooperative, right?

The Gang

Books and Movies: 2009

For the past few years, I tracked which movies that I saw in the theatre. It was fun to look back and see how many (and what) I’d seen, and this year I decided to take it a step further and add books and graphic novels into the mix, with the help of Goodreads. (I also decided to allow movies I saw on DVD, even though that tally turned out to be just one.)

I ended up tying 2007’s movie tally with 20 films, and amusingly enough that was also the number of novels I read. As for graphic novels… well, let’s just say the final tally was a wee bit higher.


  1. The Women (the 1939 version)
  2. Frost/Nixon
  3. Watchmen
  4. Every Little Step
  5. Star Trek
  6. Little Ashes
  7. Away We Go
  8. Up
  9. Public Enemies
  10. The Hurt Locker
  11. (500) Days of Summer
  12. Paris
  13. Inglorious Basterds
  14. An Education
  15. Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ By Sapphire
  16. A Room With a View
  17. A Serious Man
  18. Fantastic Mr. Fox
  19. Up in the Air
  20. A Single Man


  1. Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë
  2. Altered Carbon by Richard Morgan
  3. Wicked Gentlemen by Ginn Hale
  4. All Seated On The Ground by Connie Willis
  5. Consider Phlebas by Iain M. Banks
  6. Dead Until Dark by Charlaine Harris
  7. Sea, Swallow Me and Other Stories by Craig Laurance Gidney
  8. The Cabinet of Light by Daniel O’Mahony
  9. The Player of Games by Iain M. Banks
  10. Shell Shock by Simon A. Forward
  11. Farthing by Jo Walton
  12. The Baum Plan for Financial Independence and Other Stories by John Kessel
  13. Listening Is an Act of Love edited by Dave Isay
  14. A Companion to Wolves by Sarah Monette and Elizabeth Bear
  15. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Seth Grahame-Smith and Jane Austen
  16. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz
  17. Psycho by Robert Bloch
  18. After the Quake by Haruki Murakami
  19. The Host by Stephenie Meyer
  20. Kindred by Octavia E. Butler

Continue reading Books and Movies: 2009