Today I learned that Google has decided to kill Google Reader. I knew it was coming, but find it heartbreaking none the less.
I’ve been an avid Reader user since 2006 and am better about going through my entire Reader feed than any inbox I’ve ever had (I will not include voicemail inboxes though because that would be a joke)*. I currently subscribe to 121 blogs through Reader with categories for People I Know, favorite food blogs, top news outlets, and obviously much much more. I can’t imagine too many good friends of mine haven’t received an article I sent straight from Reader to them (afterall, email is the original form of digital social sharing…) What I fail to understand is why Google has put little effort into improving Reader in all this time.
Digital content consumption is increasing; mobile content consumption is increasing exponentially, and Google never once created an app or made it easier to check one’s Reader feed on the fly. You have a platform where people are committed to reading and sharing their favorite content regularly, but it’s not integrated with any social network other than Google+. In a blog post for my previous job, I suggested pulling Reader into Google+ as I’m confident that would have actually turned a committed base of passionate Reader users into Google+ users.
Instead, as part of spring cleaning, Google has killed the service that is my lifeline to my favorite sites and writers. It was, in particular, a friend to sites like mine — where a writer posts erratically as my (few but committed) readers didn’t have to remember to check back.
The cold-blooded murder of Google Reader combined with an email from WordPress that my domain mapping expired did, however, trigger a reminder that much as Google is doing “spring cleaning” of services so they’re not spread too thin, I should do the same. If I’m going to keep this site attached to my name, I need to write on it.
I used to love blogging because it was a space where I could share the things I loved, my random and scattered thoughts, and had an opportunity for more creative expression than I get in my day job. I loved the feedback from friends, family, and strangers; I’m still flattered that just in the last month three or four people have asked me why I’m not blogging more.
The truth is: this (formerly) safe space has felt less safe to me. While putting yourself out there publicly immediately opens you up to criticism, it’s hurtful to know that there are people who are sitting, searching my name, and sharing the things I write or say with mean commentary and chalking my posts up to “Gen Y Ramblings.” It made me question what was worthy of posting if it was going to be read a thousand times by people and over-critiqued for secret meanings.
How silly though — to let someone who devotes energy to unkind thoughts ruin a place where I was able to share my well-intentioned ones! My extended family has an amazing saying: “not my pig, not my farm” and I’ve chosen to apply it here: the hateful words and feelings of others are their problem… as is their wasted energy.
I am, technically, a Millennial and I do ramble and overuse ellipses and cheat and use bullets when I can’t handle real sentences. With that in mind, I hereby pledge to not let fear of others’ stop me from using a space that has maintained friendships, annoyed my mother, and kept me sane.
*Seriously, please don’t leave me voicemails. I will reply to your email. Promise.
UPDATE: This post on Google Reader is amazing. And should be reason enough for Google to keep the service.
This weekend, I tried to introduce a friend to a fun new game called “Guess Whether or Not Karen Likes This Waiter.” Unfortunately, I was informed that this game would probably not be very much fun as the answer is generally obvious within seconds. So, for those who don’t have the pleasure of dining with me, or who just miss the experience, I present:
My Top 10 Things Waiters Can Do to Make Me Hate Them*
- Ask if I want more water. Well, if it’s empty, that means I’m drinking it and since it’s free for you, why don’t we go with yes. Yes, I do want more water. Keep that glass at least half full.
- Bring the check while I am still consuming dessert and/or before asking if we’d like coffee or anything else. This is actually just rude. Not only does it reduce the chance of a final few items being put on the bill (thus adding to the tip) but it leaves a pretty sour taste in my mouth. I’m not a starving writer camping out at Starbucks for Wifi, I promise I’ll leave when I’m finished.
- Use the royal “we.” This KILLS me. “What are we having today? Are we enjoying our hummus? Do we need some more Diet Coke?” This is both grammatically incorrect and could lead to some uncomfortable moments. What if I said “we are” and she replied “well actually you haven’t let me have any yet?” How awkward would that be?
- Not have an opinion on the food they’re serving. I’ll admit it, I ask a lot of questions when I order. I’ve been called a “high maintenance orderer” before (albeit by someone who didn’t know the difference between brioche and a popover so take that for what it’s worth). The point is, if I ask which is better the burger or the chicken and you ask me “which are you in the mood for?” that doesn’t actually help me at all. If I was in the mood for one, I would have ordered it.
- Try to upsell me on a “signature” appetizer before I’ve ordered my drink. This used to kill me at Dos Caminos when I still had my menu, hadn’t thought through my meal, and had $15 guacamole forced on me in a lava pot. Just give it time, I promise I’ll order three courses, but I don’t want overpriced avocados just because you put it in a special box on the menu.
- Act too Disney-esque. Maybe I’m cynical, but when someone is that cheerful with me, I assume it’s a front and they’re thinking of stabbing me in the face. It’s tough to feel at ease when you’re looking over your shoulder all night for a steak knife-wielding maniac with a big Disney grin.
- Explain the restaurant “concept” to me. “Have you been here before? No? Great, let me explain what we’re about to you. We’re into a locavore dining experience specializing in small plates with Mediterranean influences. We recommend you order 2-3 items from column A, 3-5 items from column B, and at least 2 items from column C, but if you order 3 or more items from column C you should probably eliminate everything from column A.” Guess what, I went to your website, I figured out what your concept is, and it’s called pretentious, but the Yelp reviews are good so just bring me some wine.
- Add to my own personal anxiety. When you seem nervous or flustered or brusque or distracted, I start to assume my food has been poisoned.
- Not be around enough. I may be paying to eat at your restaurant, but in some ways, I’m a prisoner. When I’m out of bread or want a lime wedge or need a utensil, I just have to sit there and hope that you’ll remember to come back and get to me. And if it takes too long, I have to contemplate eating with my hands and bringing shame to my mother from afar.
- Be around too much. The third time you ask me if my meal’s okay, it starts to taste a little funky. Save all that personal attention for your loved ones.
*I should note that I don’t believe any of the reasons above are cause for poor tipping unless they’re over the top (or they really do stab you per #6).
And if you are a demanding diner, you should certainly reward those on their feet getting your meal for you.
Last week, I checked a major Someday/Maybe item off my to do list (also the sole item in the “Fun” section of my task management system… feel free to judge accordingly): an introductory culinary knife skills class.
I’ve always loved cooking, but these days it’s not a practical hobby: I travel a ton, I live alone, and if I were to spend a weekend home cooking, I wouldn’t be able to consume the food before either it went bad or I got sick of it. Also, my kitchen is an ugly, sad, poorly ventilated room with hideous cabinets and thus, I don’t spend much time there.
Anyway, you should run — not walk — to take a knife skills class (and if in DC, I highly recommend the one at CulinAerie with Susan Watterson as the instructor). Here’s why:
- You are probably not holding your knife correctly. I know this because the last four friends I told this story too (who love to cook) were not holding their knife correctly.
- You are probably not be efficient with motions while chopping or slicing.
- Deboning a chicken will be one of the more satisfying experiences of the week.
- You’ll learn a number of ways to be more efficient with your shopping — both of knives and food.
- You will produce a beautifully cut carrot within the first 20 minutes. Please see mine:
That said, I’m a big fan of optimizing experiences. Here’s what I would keep in mind if you are taking an introductory cooking class on a Saturday morning:
- Apparently a lot of people give newlyweds/newly-engaged/cute couples in their lives cooking classes as a present. Here’s the thing: the cute couple in someone else’s life is not a cute couple in my life. I spent three hours behind two hippies making out between cuts. And I had a big knife at my disposal. It was quite an exercise in restraint.
- A lot of people see knife skills as a good intro class and, literally, have never cut anything other than the packaging around a microwave meal. Be prepared for people around you to be confused about pretty much everything. Wait… when you said keep the root on to hold the onion together, did you mean this root that I just cut off? Ooopsies!
- You just might be forced to work next to Mary Jane. Because I did and she was a complete moron who will likely have to repeat the course several more times. Mary Jane was a delightful Southern belle in a relationship with a hairy and verbally abusive man whose name I’ve already forgotten. What’s great about WhatsHisName is he doesn’t let his own lack of knife skills slow down his criticism of everything Mary Jane does. And what’s great about Mary Jane is like a goldfish, by the time she swims around the bowl, she’s forgotten everything he’s said.
Since I’m solutions-oriented, rather than offer a multi-paragraph, detail-studded “Ode to Mary Jane,” I’ll give you this advice: if you take this course, you should call and find out a) if you work in partners and b) if you’re at small tables or in small groups. And then, you should take the class with however many friends you need to use as a buffer from everyone else in the room. Sartre was right: hell is other people, but if you’re going to be stuck there, you don’t want to be while learning how to wield sharp objects.
Something you should know about me: I spend so much time at the Henry Hotel that I have an uncomfortably close relationship with their staff. Some recent incidents have forced me to venture elsewhere:
- The dining room manager (who is a lovely human being) is also a mouth-kisser. I’m barely even a hugger so… that’s not going to work
- They’ve been promising a new menu for 6 months and it was supposed to arrive two weeks ago… still not here and I can’t have another lamb taco
- They “changed the prices on select wines” forcing my favorite $35 pinot noir to now be $80
Anyway, no biggie, it’s fun to venture out of a hotel. Especially when your hotel is located in a mall parking lot. J and I decided to hit up PizzaPapalis on Michigan Avenue and it was such a letdown. No roaches or inedible food but just a terrible disappointment.
My Yelp review is below. I gave it two stars.
I remember a time when sticky floors, bad pizza, and cheap wine were available in abundance: it was called college and even then I didn’t pay $66 for a meal this mediocre.
We were greeted at the door and seated… Oh no, wait, we weren’t. But after a few minutes of waiting, a sad teenager walked us and another guest back, threw 2 menus on a table, and walked off without saying a word.
The menu is simple enough that we planned our meal quickly: a small VIP deep dish, Greek salad, and garlic bread (based on the yelp reviews). When our waitress arrived to take our drink order, we informed her we didn’t have drink menus, and she then told us we were wrong and searched both our menus before concluding we, in fact, hadn’t received any. Some might have been turned off by her attitude but I found it comforting: her warmth was reminiscent of that of my middle school bus driver.
One mediocre $24 bottle of Pinot Grigio later, the garlic bread and salad arrived. The garlic bread was fine but didn’t merit raves and was served with jarred grocery store marinara on the side — a sign of what was to come. Both the sauce and salad dressings were served with lids in to go cups, which sugests that perhaps PizzaPapalis is a better choice for takeout in general.
Short description of our pizza: meh. It was a little overcooked (so the crust wasn’t as flaky or buttery as it could have been) and the sauce was just poor quality (I imagined a vat of Ragu simmering in the back that someone sprinkled extra oregano into to “kick it up a notch”). Basically, we wandered into a take out joint with mediocre food and from start to check (which took an hour and 45 min) were treated like an afterthought. Not the worst experience, but you deserve better, Dearborn.