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Saturday, July 31, 2004

Does Anyone Actually Care...
....if I drop the weekend games? (This is not a game, but it's pretty darn funny.)

Friday, July 30, 2004

General Info
Like many women, I have what might be termed an uneasy relationship with my body. When I played sports, it was evident that I was no jock. What's my definition of "jock"? Someone who can run - preferably fast. I can't run fast. In point of fact, I hate running. Running pounds feet into hamburger and turns knees into leg-migraines. Who needs it?

Well, if anyone who wants to play any of the team sports so ardently loved by this great nation needs it, that's who. And team sports are the ne plus ultra of many people's definition of physical fitness and "jock-ness." I've done my stretch of playing those team sports, and I do believe I am done. In addition to disliking running, the competitiveness that sport engenders often turns people ugly. I've seen enough shoving and heard enough trash talk sitting on the sidelines of our suburban adult league. I don't need to be in the middle of it any more.

So where does that leave me? Well, as most of my readers know, that leaves me with yoga. Yoga has obviously become very popular lately - some would say too popular, as too many marginally qualified teachers are springing up and encouraging new students to proceed too far, too fast. And yet, for every person who knows that yoga is a serious pursuit that can be very physically challenging, there are five yahoos who deride it as "passive" or "just sitting" or "just stretching."

Therefore, I am still not a jock. In fact, at various points in my life, I have been a very decent cross-country skier, a fair-to-middling cyclist, a rather skilled downhill skier, a horseback rider of many years, and a dedicated yogini. I guess it's no wonder I have such an uneasy relationship with my non-jock physique - my body is just useless, isn't it?

Thursday, July 29, 2004

An Old Favorite
Bar None, Part II
Maine, 1995, the Bar Exam. Mood: Irritated and Nervous.

...And there were only two more days of this sort of hell to come.

Flashing forward to New Hampshire and the "Multitstate" portion of the test, we enter a whole new variety of agony. The Multistate is a multiple-choice test. It penalizes you for wrong answers (taking more points off for wrong answers than for unanswered ones) and the questions tend to be so finely balanced that the final two choices a test-taker tends to have are not "Defendant is not guilty because of A," or "Defendant is not guilty because of B," but rather "Defendant is not guilty because of A," or "Defendant is guilty because of B." Everyone gets the same questions, but there are two different scramblings of the order the questions come in - the two versions are handed out so that the people on either side of you have the other version.

So, I opened the book, poised my #2 pencil and... question number one was really, really tough. Almost unanswerable. I think one of the answers contained a legal theory I had never even heard of. Okay, breathe... On to number two. Number two was really, really tough. And so it went. Questions 1-25 were so fiendish, I felt like I had not studied at all. Never entered a law school. Never heard of the law. Panic.

Then, suddenly, question #26 was comparatively easier - and the panic started to ebb. Comparing notes with other test-takers at lunch, it seemed that those of us who got the version I had all had the same experience. The 25 hardest questions just happened to be lumped at the beginning. Evil, evil, evil. Guaranteed to throw the most hardened test-taker completely off of her game.

Day three - the New Hampshire State portion. Let me pause a bit and explain what the surroundings looked like - as opposed to the giant cave of wonders the Maine bar was given in, the New Hampshire bar was given in the legislative office building. The individual rooms held 30 or so people, and the chairs were comfy leather - they tilted and swiveled and didn't make you feel as if your butt and back were on fire.

So, in such comfortable surroundings, with an exam that was parceled into nice, neat 1/2 hour questions, it felt like comparative heaven. And when rain started drumming on the roof, and I leaned back in the nice, soft chair to take a breather and collect my thoughts, I almost fell asleep. It must have been comical to see me rocket forward in my chair and begin to write feverishly. Yes, it must have been. Hoo boy - it's almost funny now.

So, that's my harrowing tale of the bar. I finished, got my car back, slept like a log for I don't know how long, and let the world slowly flood back to normal proportions.

And a few months later, I found out that I had passed.

So much for drama.

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

BILLY Bookcase, C'est Moi
Bar None
It poured with rain this morning - and for some reason, as I sat curled up in my chair, it reminded me of the bar exam nine years ago. Reading Cooped Up, I understand that it is just about exactly nine years since I sat and took that storied exam.

My experience with the bar was, in many ways, a comedy of errors. Having spent the time since graduation studying feverishly, I went to my mother's for the last few days before the exam. My hometown is a pastoral little place, and the woods where my mother lives are quiet. I'm not sure that the tranquility of my surroundings really helped my jangled nerves any, but it was a sensible idea on the face of it.

The day before the exam, I hopped into my car to head for Maine, which was to be Day One of the three-day ordeal of taking two bar exams in one go. Approximately two miles from my mother's house, my car began to roar like a demented lion with a toothache. My exhaust system was shot, and suddenly, so were the last remains of my nerves. I went back to Mom's and called her at work, inches from tears. I was a student living on a patchwork of grants, loans, and work-study. There was no room in the budget for expensive auto repairs. Mom told me to call Steve, a family friend who also owned a car repair place, and that she would loan me the cash to get the car fixed. After a couple of hours of sitting in the waiting room of his shop, staring blankly at my study notes for the bar, Steve came out and told me that he couldn't locate the parts needed to fix my vehicle - BUT - he noted, in response to my despairing, hollow-eyed stare - he would spring for a rental that would get me to Maine and back. "Go - pass your exam and don't worry about a thing," he said. "Come get your car when it's over."

So, off to my apartment in Maine, to try and laugh off the misfortune with my roommate. I doubt I slept much that night, though I don't remember. I do know that the Maine Bar, given in a massive ballroom, was an exercise in intense frustration. A section of definitions, which had been part of the exam for about fifteen years, was replaced by a "short answer" section that carved the test into funny, spiky little segments of time (the bar is almost as much of a time-management exercise as it is a test in legal knowledge - spending twelve minutes on a ten-minute answer means you have to carve those two minutes from somewhere else, and that way lies absolute madness as your overages cascade into a complete loss of control). Trying to keep track of how long I had been answering this five-minute, or that twenty-minute, or those ten-minute questions just about sent me around the bend. On top of that, taking an exam in a big room with about 200-300 other people somehow amplifies the tension, and worst of all, they handed out so few blue books that the exam-takers looked at the exam-givers in astonishment. "No problem," the exam-givers said. "Simply raise your hand and we will bring you another one." Of course, when I raised my hand for a fresh book, one of the proctors came over to ask me what the problem was - and had to return to the front of the cavernous ballroom for a book when I told him that was what I wanted. Screaming in frustration is frowned upon at the bar exam, so I simply clenched my teeth and got on with things.

So why did the rain remind me of the bar? Well, tune in tomorrow. Because the thrills and chills ain't over yet, folks.

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Quasi-random Search Generator
Summer Reading
Books. Yum. Ever since I was a kid, I have charged through books, rampaging through the pages like a deranged elephant. My mother used to get irritated with me when I would just about finish a book coming home from the library, because that meant she would have to take me back all the sooner. I have always been surrounded by stacks of books - books I have bought, books I have borrowed, books from the library. I read for pleasure even when I was in law school (many, if not most people who go to law school get burned out on having their nose in a book - any book - from the sheer volume of reading that has to be done for classes. Not so with me). Those who know my penchant for the written word are not at all surprised that I married a librarian.

But there is reading and there is reading. In late spring/early summer, our neighbor (whom I have often shared literary recommendations with) asked me what I was reading and I pulled myself up in shock. I hadn't been reading. I had been re-reading, and I had been doing it for some time.

For those who read books once and are done with them, let me explain my love of re-reading. When I re-read a book, it's like having my favorite meal at my favorite restaurant, wearing a much loved, cozy old sweater, and hearing a great old song on the radio all at once. It is soothing - I know what is going to happen, and it gives me a comforting sense of order in a universe gone mad. Generally speaking, I re-read in between sprints through new books. It is a way to rest and re-charge my brain - comfort food for the little grey cells. But re-reading for months on end is unusual for me. I am not sure I have ever done it as long as I did this year, and it frightened me a bit. I considered that it was a warning sign of sorts.

So, I have been at the library again recently. I have charged through the newest mysteries by some of my favorite authors, I have started Terry Pratchett's "Discworld" series (something I have been meaning to do for some time), and I have examined some modern literature I knew I didn't want to re-read (and therefore did not want to own). The elephant is back.

I am reading again, and things are better in the world.

Monday, July 26, 2004

Just Like Those Cheesy Radio Promos.
A site where you can enter your own "lyrics" and they are "sung" as snippets from already-recorded songs.

Foregone Conclusions
So, all of you who are not bike-racing fans will be glad to know the Tour is over. Armstrong swung safely over the line back a bit from the frantic jockeying for first place in the last stage, but as he was already more than six minutes ahead of his nearest rival in the overall standings, he won handily.


I'm not crazy about foregone conclusions in sport. I'm even less crazy about the fact that the commentators basically threw in the towel days ago and have been calling Armstrong the winner since the time trial up L'Alpe D'Huez. In a race where more than one spectacular crash has caused major riders to drop out, they still blithely ignored the forces of Chance. In my experience, when I do that is when Chance tends to bite me in tender bits not best talked about on a family blog. But Armstrong (and the Tour commentators) seem to be immune from such a harsh fate.

Well, good for him - he's got his record sixth straight win, and certain other folks can latch onto his victory to make themselves feel superior about America. I'm looking forward to some non-Lance international cycling in the near future, so here's some other random cycling stuff, just to get it out of my system:

- On to the Olympics - Hamilton is apparently in, despite his injuries. The Marblehead Peloton will surely be excited... (Warning - the last link contains awfully cute pictures of kids and dogs.)

- Additional notes regarding my post on the time trial: in addition to the international goodwill that was visible on the mountain, there was also some unpardonable behavior that was not visible on TV. And there was some very visible stupid behavior as well - some fans apparently confuse a cycling event with the running of the bulls in Barcelona, dashing along with, and sometimes in front of, their favorite cyclists. Though I am normally a nonviolent Heroine, I cheered to see Andreas Klöden (who ended up coming in second in the overall Tour standings), reach out and sock a flag-waving German who was sprinting alongside him in an already fan-choked route. Too much booze and too few brains can lead to dangerous behavior. I'm sure if the idiot had actually caused Klöden to fall, he would be less popular in Germany than that hapless guy in Chicago who caught the fly ball...

Friday, July 23, 2004

Speculation Explosion
Big White Sheet O' Paper
Space.... the final frontier. Not outer space, not inner space, but white space - a blank sheet of paper.

What is it about an unblemished sheet of paper that makes our minds go blank in hopeless mimicry? It's the same for paper's cousin - a blank screen with a blinking cursor. That blinking cursor in the upper left corner seems to amplify the blankness, to crank up the need to get something down now. As the wordless minutes tick by, it almost seems to flash more quickly, as if it is tapping a toe and looking at its watch in fidgety irritation. "I've got stuff I could be doing, you know. I don't have to wait for you," it seems to say.

So, what do we do? Sometimes we just start blathering, only to delete everything and end up contemplating the emptiness again. Sometimes we fidget, rearranging things on our desks or lining up our paper clips. Me - when I'm procrastinating, usually I have to do something productive. When I was in my first year of law school, my apartment was generally spotless, as cleaning seemed to be marginally virtuous enough to give me a temporary get-out-of-jail-free card from my unwritten papers.

But sooner or later, we all have to return to the blank page and fill it. Otherwise, we'll fail the course, Grandma won't get thanked, or our resumé will remain unwritten. Somehow, we have come back to that nightmare expanse and filled it - all of us have done it. And yet, most of us continue to dread its empty whiteness. It seems to be an almost impossible trick to figure out what tips the bucket of your mind so it spills its contents out on the page, rather than remaining stubbornly closed.

Me - well, I have a deadline and few restrictions on what I can write. So I free-associate and end up writing variations on nothing. Lucky you, hapless Reader.

Thursday, July 22, 2004

Hey Kids! Got Questions?
The Human Race
Generally, I don't find time trials make for terribly interesting TV viewing. Single racers or teams go out at pre-determined intervals and usually they pedal like hell for the finish, racing only the clock and not other racers. Aside from the commentator letting you know how the latest guy is faring against the split times of prior riders, there is little context and therefore little excitement from the whole deal. The people who cover skiing have fixed this to some extent - they have a system that allows them to digitally "ghost" in a prior run from another skier, making it look as if there are two skiers on the mountain racing one another (and sometimes occupying the same space). You can compare form and see where one skier shaved a second (or fraction) off of his time. It might be an interesting bit of tech to use with bike racing. I do understand that time trials round out a big race like the Tour de France, but as a viewer? Ehh...

Yesterday was a bit different.

First of all, the time trial was 15.5 kilometers, straight up a mountain. Second of all, the course was lined with approximately one million fans, some of whom crowded close enough to the top cyclists to make it look as if they were parting a vast human ocean in front of their fore wheels (post-race, it was noted that a volatile combination of booze, sunshine and one million people packed onto the side of a mountain made for some dangerous cycling). Third, Lance Armstrong actually passed Ivan Basso, the rider who had been launched onto the trial course two minutes before.

But here was the most amazing thing for me, and it had little to nothing to do with cycling: the fans packing the roads up the mountain for the individual time trial were from a multitude of different nations. The frantically waving flags lining the vertiginous climb up to the village of L'Alpe D'Huez looked like an unusually boisterous United Nations General Assembly. The really significant bit, though, was that all the flags were waving for all the riders - Norwegian flags flapped at Italian riders. The French flapped their standard eagerly at Americans. Every flag was used to cheer for every nationality. In amongst the crazy bacchanal there were, of course, insults and the perennial doping allegations against Armstrong, but from a TV-viewer's standpoint, the scene seemed to be largely one of benign goodwill to all of the racers.

Is this the beginning of a utopian vision of the future: human machines powering up a mountain, drawing formerly fractious countries together in common cause? Don't be silly. But it was nice to see.

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Excuse Me?
In brief: supporting someone does not mean supporting everything they do, think, or believe.

For quite a while now, there has been a cheap rhetorical dodge allowed in our political discourse: if you support a candidate, then you support everything they do. Ludicrous. Think if this was applied to the rest of life. Have you approved of everything you loved ones have done? Have you had to distance yourself from everyone you believe has made a mistake or done something you disapprove of?

If your answer was "Yes" to either of those, either you are lying or you have no friends.

So let's knock off the sanctimonious posturing. Choose your positions carefully, select whom you support based on those positions and know that it's never going to match 100%. Life is compromise. Life is real. I may daydream about living on my own island where none of this affects me, but that is it: it's only a daydream.

Aiming for a civil discourse is at least more realistic than thinking that you could ever find two humans who agree all the time.

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Tour de Pain
Yes, I have known about Tyler dropping out and losing his beloved dog, Tugboat. It's been a rotten Tour for him all the way around. Maybe next year, and best wishes and hopes that he can get better in time for Athens and/or the Vuelta.

Movie Madness
Good morning. I have a question.

Why do people always get their undies in a bundle over movie adaptations?

Don't get me wrong - I've done it, too. There is always the urge to be a grumbling purist when someone has taken a beloved work of fiction and turned it into a screen gem (or screen turd, as the case may be). For instance, as a Jane Austen fan, I was quite cross about the Gwyneth Paltrow adaptation of Emma, mostly because the screenwriter seemed to think that a lot of seemingly innocuous plot points didn't suit him, and he changed them wholesale to suit his vision. Thus, we end up with a movie that was precious and jarringly clowny. Alternatively, there are changes that make sense - Emma Thompson's Sense and Sensibility added a whole new plot device (the Atlas, for those of you who care) that doesn't exist in the book in order to allow some of the characters to bond swiftly and believably in the space allowed by a movie's running time. The only movie I have ever seen that seemed to match the novel almost word-for-word and note-for-note was The Princess Bride. It's probably no wonder that it's such a beloved film.

So, there are changes and there are changes. There are changes that make a story fit into a movie's structure and there are changes that are imposed because a screenwriter hired to adapt a novel believes his bits are better. (Side note - I heard Douglas McGrath, the man who adapted "Emma" for the screen, interviewed on the radio once. He kept going on and on about Austen's "genius." So his arbitrary changes seemed like a severe case of hubris to me.)

Then, there is the movie that has been so worked over that it bears little or no resemblance to the original work it is based on. Yes, I'm referring to the latest blockbuster, I, Robot. It appears that it shares only a title and Asimov's famous "Three Laws of Robotics" with Asimov's original collection of stories. This has been reported ad nauseam in every newspaper, magazine and weblog out there. Yet Asimov fans still go to the movie and come out aghast at what that screen hero, Will Smith, hath wrought. What happened to their beloved Asimov plot?

Here's a suggestion - if you're an Asimov purist, it might be better to skip "I, Robot." At the very least, don't pay $8-10 to see it. Just a thought.

Monday, July 19, 2004

Why I Hate Microsoft
No, it is not too strong a word. Their many sins have been well-documented elsewhere, and don't get me started on the evils of monopoly power. However, for the average user who wants to take a sledgehammer to their screen just to get rid of "Clippy" once and for all, this story will ring all too true...

What is it With People, Anyway? II
Before I even begin this rant, let me introduce a caveat: everyone has moments where they are irretrievably spacy. Everyone has moments where they inadvertently block the aisle at the grocery store while they mull over which type of soup to buy. Everyone has had several instances of embarrassment in their lives when they came into a new situation and unwittingly committed a faux pas. The following rant is not about the occasional witlessness of Everyman. It is about the bone-deep, navel-gazing sort of obliviousness that is committed by people who believe - nay, know - that if they are not the only person on the planet, well by jingo they are The Most Important One.

Okay, on to rant:

I have noticed a disturbing trend lately. I wondered for a bit if I was just going through a phase of oversensitivity, but have since seen too many egregious examples of disturbing behavior, and I am pretty sure it's a bona fide phenomenon. The most pervasive example of the behavior comes while driving. Somehow, at least in the greater DC area, there seem to be thousands of people who not only don't know what a lane is, but don't care to know either. Examples of this range from some idiot making their drifty way down a local road, oblivious to the funny marks on the tarmac, to high-octane morons weaving in and out of traffic at high speed, straddling lanes and pretending they are on the NASCAR circuit. It has gotten to the point that I cannot get in my car without witnessing an example of this. I seem to recall entire days and perhaps weeks when I could drive somewhere without seeing some chucklehead endanger himself and those around him. No more.

Other, smaller examples of this sort of thing have always existed at the grocery store - it's such a common sight to see someone blocking an entire aisle that it's not worth ranting about. But one particular witless wonder John and I recently encountered deserves special ranting attention. This smug, self-righteous little git in front of us in the checkout line informed us that the cat food brand we were purchasing "tortures" cats and then went on to torture us by spending ten minutes arguing with the cashier about a rain check. This argument eventually involved several employees of the store and boiled down to the fact that this self-appointed Defender of Cats cannot subtract round numbers. Oh, the humanity....

My last rant is one I am somewhat conflicted over. I do want to be a yoga teacher one day, so that argues for my acquiring a more forgiving nature. However, I am on a rant-roll, so: I give you the incident of "That Bloody Woman." A brief explanation before I start. I bring my own mat to my yoga class on Sunday mornings for a couple of reasons. First, Yoga has a tradition of treating your mat as a "sacred space." On a more prosaic level, I don't particularly love placing my hands (and sometimes my face) where someone else's feet have been. So - I arrived at class yesterday, rolled out my mat and went to the bathroom. Upon my return, I found Someone sitting on my mat. In my best, politest voice I said, "Excuse me - that's my mat." She quickly rose to her feet, wittering away in a defensive voice that she didn't know - she thought the teacher laid the mats out for people, etc. etc. (The fact that it is a deep blue and the mats provided by the studio are pale purple had completely escaped her notice). I smiled, and said internally, "Let it go." And I did let it go - until later in the class, when she walked across it several times and then during the final relaxation somehow managed to inadvertently kick me as I lay still, trying to relax. When she later told my teacher that she probably would not be a regular attendee of our class due to her church activities, I reflected that I would not miss her.

It's not like I need any more encouragement to rant.

Saturday, July 17, 2004

Weekend (7/17/04)
On the weekend, blog rests.

Friday, July 16, 2004

DIY Network, Eat Your Heart Out
Baby Things
Here's a pretty universal conundrum: what is it about baby animals?

As usual, I have a specific impetus for my seeming non-sequitur. We have deer in the forest behind our house. Lots of deer. Lots of trample-on-your-garden, bone-stupid, hosta-eating deer. Many animal-loving gardeners who live in deer country would tell you that they would cheerfully give a deer lead poisoning - preferably with a shotgun. It's hard not to get just a smidgen enraged when some mindless ruminant comes picking her delicate way out of her almost completely edible forest home and eats your carefully-tended border instead.

So, deer: I'm not a fan. Especially since we have just way too many of them back there - due to lack of predators, they are getting overcrowded and inadvertently culled by passing motorists on the local roads. It's not a good scene.

Cut to yesterday. The dog is barking his head off and wagging his tail at the next-door neighbor's back yard. And what do I see? Two fawns, all snub-noses and spotted hides. Cute as the dickens. Melt.

Yet, they're just going to grow up into the mindless ruminants I was just wittering on about. So what gives? What shorts out that logical connection in the brain?

Cuteness. It has to be one of the most powerful forces in the universe.

Thursday, July 15, 2004

But Do They Have a Chef?
Good News from Around the Web
Warning: today's post is unremittingly frivolous and may cause whiplash or other severe injuries to anyone expecting serious contemplation of - well, of something. If you are not a fan of the pop culture icons in the following post, Our Heroine advises you to google up whatever pop culture does, in fact, turn your crank.

As I have previously mentioned, the movie version of "Firefly" is being made. I have further good news for Whedon fans - the official Serenity production website is up, and it has a blog. For fans of Mr. Whedon's oeuvre (no, no -- not his egg. His body of work. Sheesh), this "Dusty Bottoms" critter who is allegedly penning the blog has a suspiciously familiar "voice." However, Joss has a stable of writers who somehow manage to imit his seemingly inimitable style, so who knows who is actually writing it. It is very funny, though. My only critique is, "More! Want more!"

Alton Brown, TV's Bill Nye the Science Guy/Julia Child mashup also has a website. If you've ever wondered where to get a salt cellar like his, or lusted over his little plunger/measuring cup devices, here's where you can get them. He also has a blog, though unfortunately there does not appear to be an archive. His original post about Kathy Cox, the Georgia State Superintendent of Schools who was toying with the idea of eliminating the "inflammatory buzzword" known as "evolution" from school curricula and replacing it with "changes occurring over time," was truly priceless and also apparently lost to posterity. He posited that in the same spirit of eliminating those pesky "inflammatory buzzwords" we should replace the term "slackjawed ignoramus" with "Kathy Cox."

Tomorrow: Our Heroine's studio pitch for a show featuring a science-loving chef forever on the run from a scary intergalactic bureaucracy....

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

I Happen to Think the Windows Startup Chimes Sound Like an Evening Network News Theme...
But the "Windows Symphony" is really cute.

What is it With People, Anyway?
I have a new correspondent. It's a one-way correspondence. Someone styling himself "Dark" has been sending me malware (probably Windows malware, silly git). I have received probably 20 of these missives. Some of them go straight to my junk mail folder, some end up landing in my inbox. None of them get opened. And yet "Dark" keeps trying. Someone needs to tell the poor sod that one of the definitions of insanity is repeating the exact same action over and over, expecting a different result.

One of my regular correspondents has been getting similar messages from "me," and she has received bounced messages purportedly from "her" to other people she knows. This has been a low-level problem over on Making Light for a while - someone harvests a bunch of addresses from the comment board, and starts sending malware "from" one of the participants to other participants. The theory is that these regulars on the same board will consider e-mails from other regulars to be trusted communications, open the attachment, and badaboom: you have a broken box where once your sweet data sang.

Here's the catch with my new friend "Dark." He's my new friend. I had never before visited the URL associated with the address that he is purportedly e-mailing from. So whoever is pulling the strings behind the Dark-puppet is pretty darned stupid. "Dark" looked like spam to me from the very beginning. Despite my love for all things that come out of Joss Whedon's mastermind, I am not a 16-year-old Goth vampire-wannabe, and I don't frequent the blog known as "The October Country."

So, here's the $64,000 question: if someone is bored enough to work these things out and execute them, why do they have to do (or intend) damage and mischief? (Yes, I've got my "Naiveté" union card and I'm holding on to it). What sort of potentially neat, useful thing is being held up (or not implemented ever) because that person's head is too full of "Let's blow something up, huh, huh..."? Why is malice invariably (and throughout the ages) considered cooler, stronger, muy macho by a certain segment?

I suppose that's a zen koan. I'm never going to get an answer to it, and it's never going to change, either.

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

The Ultimate in Randomness
Taking Charge of the Future
I think most people have one of those, "Someday, I will..." thoughts or daydreams that recur in their lives. In our someday place, we are going to go around the world, learn to knit, fly-fish in Wyoming, or jump out of an airplane.

Me, someday I'm going to be a yoga teacher.

I've been saying it out loud for at least a year now. John knows, various friends and relatives know, my outplacement counselor knows, for crying out loud. But at a certain point in time, I realized something significant: I had never said it within 100 yards of a yoga studio. I had never said it within the hearing of my teachers. I was not ready to let them know. For some unfathomable reason, I was afraid of telling them.

About a month ago, I had a meeting with the woman who owns the studio I take classes at. She had formerly been my teacher, but had cut back her teaching in order to focus on other aspects of the business. Since I have more experience in business (and some time on my hands), I have been helping her plan and get things in order. Suddenly, I had the impulse to tell her that I wanted one day to be a teacher. Oddly, it felt like a confession - the same compulsion to tell, but fear of the repercussions. "What repercussions?" my logical brain demanded. I didn't have an answer for that.

Since then, I have also told my current teacher. And I think I know now why I was afraid: change is scary. Having expressed my intention to the people who can help me implement it, I suddenly feel myself moving forward. My own yoga practice has more meaning to me. I want to start studying and working toward that goal - even if it is out in the future, the future is suddenly less hazy. I can see my intention start to manifest, and I am not daydreaming anymore.

So, someday might come sooner than I thought. And that feels good.

Nature Update
We've finally got the photos out of John's camera, so...

Here's our friend the Wolf Spider:

In case John's manly watch is not enough to let you gauge the scale of this critter, the scrape in the paint she is sitting on is 2 3/4" long.

And John got a better shot of the children of our tenants:

Further bulletins as events warrant. That is all.

Monday, July 12, 2004

There's a Group for Everything
The Slum Lords of Montgomery County
We have an $800 bird house.

I say this - not to brag, not to show off our vast wealth (ha!), not to keep up with the proverbial Joneses over in Potomac (home of multi-million-dollar McMansions) - but to illustrate an absurdity. Avid readers of WoT? (all three of you) may have noticed that John and I have a soft spot or four for animals. So, behold the $800 bird house:

The inverted tip of the bow is currently home to a family of Carolina Wrens. Note the actual bird house, a lovely, elegant structure which we had specifically provided for their use and enjoyment.

It sits only a foot or two from where they actually decided to build their twiggy little home. The wrens magisterially ignored its cozy enclosure, drainage holes and obvious intended purpose for a damp, uncertain future in the canoe. It's like saying, "No thanks, Donald - I prefer the basement to the penthouse." And so, we are involuntary slumlords.

I tried to take photos of the nest itself, and other than thoroughly irritating one of the parents (who sat in a tree and scolded me with his or her finest imitation of a crow), all I could come up with was this:

And that, admittedly is a lousy picture.

"So?" I hear some of you cry. "Evict the little squatters - feel no remorse, just do it!" Well, we did evict them earlier in the year - at least twice - when they had just started arranging twigs and bits of flotsam into the canoe. And then John stuffed wads of bubble-wrap in the bow and stern to serve as a sort of avian padlock-and-chain-link-fence complete with "These Premises Not for Occupation" sign. Then we removed the bubble-wrap when we took the canoe out the first time and it never went back, since we thought we were out of the nesting danger zone. Now there are four little eggs in that nest. And they grow up fast, and well... we can't bear the idea of having little peeping feathery things on our sappy consciences. So, we're going to have tenants for a bit.

We'll just have to listen to their songs in lieu of rent.

Saturday, July 10, 2004

Weekend (7/10/04)
On the weekend, blog rests.

Friday, July 09, 2004

Enjoy the Warm of the Sheets
But beware thesauri in foreign languages.

What the Heck Would I do Without Google?
It's that time again - a roundup of the amusing searches that have brought people to WoT?

blog about writing - I'm assuming this search probably had about thirty zillion responses.

typing quotations - You've caught me. I do sometimes type quotations to jazz up my essays (or pad them...)

get paid to write blog - Get real. Go talk to Kevin Drum if you want to find out about a gig like that, but let me give you a little tip: you're gonna have to do it unpaid for a long time, and during that long time you'd better have something to say that people want to read.

lance is king lyrics - Well, we all know that I'm more fond of Tyler Hamilton, but I did link to the funny ABBA spoof.

writing fiction advice blog - Wow. I don't run a blog that claims to give fiction writing advice - I wish I were that useful. The gang over at Making Light would be of definite help to any aspiring fiction writer, though.

cicada metaphor - Nooooooo!!!!!!!!!!

nielsen-hayden wot - I can only marvel and wonder. I'm a big, geeky, unabashed fan of the Nielsen Haydens' work, but that's the only linkage.

sat writing blog - Okay - does someone want to find a blog about taking the S.A.T., or does someone want to find a blogger who blogs from a seated (as opposed to standing, prone or supine) position? We may never know.

google parking garage answer - That is all well and good, but what is the Google parking garage question, Grasshopper?

Happy weekend, all.

Thursday, July 08, 2004

Hey Kids!
Don't be like Britney - if you get a tattoo, spell it right!

What Next?
The Ten Plagues (or something like them) have been visiting our house lately - and I'm not sure what we did to deserve this.

Over the weekend, John lurched from his seat in the living room, exclaiming loudly. When I asked what was wrong, he responded with something I'm not sure anyone ever wants to hear. "Do spiders freak you out?"

"Err.... only if they're really, really big. Why?"

The fact that he didn't respond was not something I took as a good sign. Instead, he went outside on the deck (for which I was grateful. I'm not sure that a spider scaled to freak-factor was something I wanted to confront inside the house. I peered out to the deck, and sure enough, there was a gi-normous Wolf Spider, just hanging out on the side of the house - a momma with her egg sac. shudder...

Yes, I understand that Wolf Spiders are shy and that they eat bugs. No, I wouldn't kill it. Whatever. There's still something creepy that goes off in my hindbrain when I see an eight-legged beastie that big, that close.

John took pictures, but they're currently incarcerated in his camera, and I don't have the cable to get them out, so no photo (if you really want to see the thing - complete with John's watch next to it to provide a sense of scale - just ask nicely. I'll get the photos out when John comes home).

So, plague #1 - no flies or locusts, but spiders (yes, plural - remember the egg sac. She's going to be carrying her babies around with her in a bit...). If I were really stretching a point, I suppose I could observe that we had cicadas earlier this year, but I don't work for The Washington Post.

On to plague #2 - I was sitting at home yesterday, trying to make a cover-letter sound so incredibly compelling that the University of Maryland simply must hire me right now, when great booming was heard, the heavens opened and we got rain complete with HAIL. Again, not car-damaging, need-to-repair-the-siding, "Get the Bucket and make ice cream, Esther!" hail, but hail nonetheless. Upon his arrival home, John said the storm was pretty localized. Hmmm... What is it about our house?

Final plague: I went to the basement yesterday to feed the cats and the fish (and no, not the latter to the former). Part of the evening chore fun is to go into the cats' lavatory and scoop the litter boxes. Under the toilet lid was a small, sluggish tree frog, icy to the touch and probably too dry for his poor little amphibian system. How he got into the house (and how he escaped getting consumed by the feline contingent) is unknown. He seemed glad to be back in warm, humid air when we returned him to the great outdoors.

So, okay: these "plagues" of mine are pretty tame. But coming all within a few days of one another like that... I don't know.

I just know that If the stream out back starts to run red, I'm heading for the hills.

Wednesday, July 07, 2004

Does it Get Any More Random than Cows?
Everything Old Is New Again
I used to work for NASDAQ (hence my cheap swipe at Dick Grasso the other day - but hey, has anyone ever seen him stand next to the Six Flags Dancing Man? Have they?). I was at the market during the great bubble and the start of the great popping of same, I left for a job in New England and I came back to it about a year later when my New England job was about to turn into a New Jersey job. Fun fact: the NASDAQ Composite's valuation when I returned to work for the market in 2002 was about 200 points lower than it had been when I originally joined up in 1998. It was the best of times and the worst of times, but which was which?

I used to have a terminal bursting with information about equities and more esoteric forms of investment. I had plenty of colleagues who were active investors, who loved the ride - loved to pit their wits and skill against the market. Mostly they ended up even, as lucky investors dabbling in small equities do. I was never keen to waste my substance on figuring out which company was going to be The Next Big Thing. Part of it was because I was (and am) risk-averse by nature when it comes to putting down my own cold cash. Part of it was that I had little extra substance to waste. And mostly it was because I was like the woman who works in the candy store: I lost whatever taste I might have had for playing the market because I worked for the market.

Now it is several months since I have looked at a screen frantically blinking with green and red numbers, and it appears that someone has taken the world of blogging and turned it into a fantasy stock market game. Perhaps it is that I now have some distance from the candy store, but I am finding this more than vaguely interesting. It takes the term "Marketplace of Ideas" and realizes it in clickable electrons. Ideas, memes and "karma" all start to get valued in imaginary dollars. A blog's valuation is set by incoming links from other blogs and orders by the players. All in all, it mimics the multiple influences of a real stock market pretty well.

As for WoT? Well, since they took my alternate URLs on board, it has graduated from being a complete penny stock, but it's definitely languishing in that sub-$10 place that many stocks (in the real world) never recover from. Thank goodness this is a labor of love.

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

Apprenez le Hype
Un-Mellow Yellow
It's summer, and our heads are filled with thoughts of France - quaint and winding streets, broad fields, and mountainous crags. Not to mention crashes, broken bones, and nailbiter sprint finishes.

The Tour has landed.

With The Man From Texas trying for his sixth straight win (unheard of in the sport), it's all Lance, all the time in the media. But there is someone else I believe needs to win this thing before he bows out of the sport. Tyler Hamilton went down last year in a spectacular multi-bike crash in the first stage, broke his collarbone, and still managed to finish fourth overall. His account of the crash and its aftermath is well worth reading - I was traveling quite a bit this time last year, so I didn't get to see a lot of the Tour, but I do remember seeing him win stage 16 as well as other milestones. I've dipped into his journal here and there, and what I see time and time again is his appreciation for the team around him, his modesty and his utter lack of strut. Just a nice guy from Massachusetts, gutting out what was probably the worst pain of his life to get the job done.

So, the more I see of Lance, especially in endless commercials for Subaru, Dasani water, Nike, his soon-to-be-ex-sponsor, and all of the other companies that are slavering for his endorsement, the more I get this feeling that they're celebrating the wrong guy.

Yes, Lance - go for six. Enjoy your fame and the endorsement money while it still comes in. But I will always think that 2003's fourth-place finish was a more amazing accomplishment than anything on the record books. And though it means nothing to you, I'll be rooting for the guy from Massachusetts.

Saturday, July 03, 2004

Weekend (7/3/04)
On the weekend, blog rests.

I'm Just Asking....
Anybody have any notion why former NYSE Chairman Dick Grasso, with more than $140 million in the bank, needs to shill for Six Flags?

Friday, July 02, 2004

Support Your Local Cartoonist
Very, Very Strange
I got three hits on my FAQ page yesterday - this is very odd, considering I probably get about one a week on average. Looking deeper into the stats, someone ran a search for "Hilary Price" and got my FAQ page. My first thought was, "Odd." I mention her there, it is true: it is something of an homage, as I believe she is one of the funniest cartoonists out there, and once upon a time we went to the same school (she was funny then, too).

Hilary has been something of a celebrity in the world of cartooning (as far as I'm concerned, anyway) for some time, though. Why on Earth should anyone go to my site if they're looking for information about her? In the world of Google rankings, I rate rather low, so how many other pages would someone have to plow through to get to my FAQ?

For inquiring minds who want to know, the answer is twelve pages of Google results. Yes, my FAQ is on page thirteen. This is even further down in the rankings than the infamous "Neda Ulaby" search noted in "Today's Essay Brought to You By Google."

I think the most Google results pages I have ever plowed through might have been five. What possesses someone to scan through (or, god forbid, actually click on and click back through) thirteen pages of Google results? Especially as her page is (as it should be) tops in the Google rankings on a search for her name?

Odd. Just odd.

Thursday, July 01, 2004

I Had Heard a Lot About It
But I had never really looked at it. Interesting.

Metro Did a Dumb, Dumb Thing
Well, it appears that the DC Metro Board did a colossally stupid thing this week: on top of raising fares, they have cut trains back to two cars after 10 PM.

For those who live outside the DC area, a bit about why the DC Metro Board is unique: all other subway services around the world serve a metro area with (at least in theory) one government chain of command. Metro is managed by three, as the service runs through the District, Virginia and Maryland. All three governments get a say, all three have different voter profiles. Three governments would be bad enough, but when you add the DC government to any situation, it's like putting a folding chair just offstage at the Jerry Springer show: a really complicated folding chair that only opens from ten AM until 2 PM on weekdays except Tuesday and only if you fill out the right form.

So, while I don't find it surprising that the DC Metro Board would do something, er, how do I put this delicately?... bloody imbecilic and irrational, I do find it rather surprising that they managed to coordinate it so neatly with a fare increase that has, I believe, been in the works since Whitney Houston actually had a career outside the tabloids.

A few fun facts about DC - it has bars and restaurants (duh). It has large population under the age of 30. It has a lot of people who work very, very (insanely) late. It has parking garages that tend to close at 10PM, leaving you stranded if you were unlucky or stupid enough to park in them after dark. It is also very hot in the summer - hot and muggy and leaving you saying, "Why not?" when your coworkers say, "Let's get a beer after work."

So, tell me: why on earth would the Metro Board bottleneck one of the most convenient transport services at a season when people are most likely to be out late and at a time of night when trains already run 15-20 minutes apart? Lack of brain cells is certainly one answer. Lack of empathy is certainly another. I've been stranded on those metro platforms during one hot summer when breakdowns were rampant (all the trains had been bought at approximately the same time - so all of them were failing from age-related disorders at the same time). It is truly awful to stand on a metro platform with hundreds of brand-new best friends, tired and hot, standing in uncomfortable shoes for long periods, only to see that long-awaited train pull into the station, as full as it can hold.

So, for Metro Board Chairman Robert Smith (no relation, thank goodness), who said this, "If we have people standing on the trains, I don't have a problem with that," and who had no idea that people were left stranded on the platforms or forced to sprint to get to a door on the unnaturally short trains until the Washington Post reporter told him, I have a suggestion. Go downtown, Robert. Get dinner reservations for 8:30. Take your time, bring a large party. Order hors d'oeuvres and dessert. Perhaps an after-dinner coffee. Relax.

And be sure to take Metro.