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Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Who Could Not Love This?
Sometimes I have a vague notion of what a word means (it's all about the context), and go on for years without actually looking it up. Then, suddenly, I realize I think I know what the word means, but I'm not sure. Then I look it up. In that spirit, I looked up neologism the other day (go ahead, click. We'll wait.)

Are those not simply wonderful definitions for the same word?

Because Sometimes it is More Fun to Edit.
I'm obviously on an "Other People's Travel Stories" jag and lately my friends have done much more interesting things than I have (really - my friends are quite possibly the most interesting thing about me). Mel went to New York this past weekend, via the Chinatown Express bus. There is something Fellini-esque to me about going to New York on a Chinatown Express bus during the ramp-up to the RNC (yes, I used the term, "Fellini-esque." Beat me with a slim volume of Sartre, for I am un poseur). I attempted to add to the surreality by calling Mel on her cell phone during her trip back, leaving a message starting with, "Ni hao. Ni hao ma?" It would have been better had she answered, seeing the familiar caller ID and expecting English, but one does what one can with whatever one has. She apparently contemplated asking her seatmate to call me back and talk to me in Chinese, but decided against it for some obscure reason. Her story follows:

All in all, $35 return to NYC is a bargain. On the way up we cruised at 80 (based on the observation that we were passing all other traffic). Coming back resembled a polite version of the fall of Saigon. Regardless of what tickets were purchased on what bus line for what time, it was first-come first served for a long line of buses all heading in the same direction. An Asian woman with a sign stood by the door of each bus and let people on. If people came out again she knew it was full. By not speaking any English she avoided having to answer questions, thus maintaining a high-level of efficiency: after all, no bus was going anywhere but DC (famous last words). People shopping in Chinatown’s busy streets had to maneuver through the lines of people getting on the buses, but it was all done nicely. Unlike Amtrak/Penn Station, nobody was the least bit interested in security.

Going up was far less exciting. I joined an orderly queue of people at the designated address in Chinatown round back of the MCI Center. The bus arrived. We got on. Easy.

I passed two little groups assembled outside my parents' apartment in preparation for their protest further uptown. The Bell Ringers for Peace, all four of them, were being filmed by a cop. Other cops were arriving on the scene as backup. Just behind this group and thus far unencumbered by law enforcement were the Cyclists Against Oil. There were maybe a dozen of them debating which road would garner the most publicity/cause least punctures. Have to say NYC streets were unusually terrible to discourage all vehicles and pedestrians equally. The police may have scraped clean the tarmac while removing protesters and irrelevant pedestrians. Out in the harbor there were numerous little police and Coast Guard speedboats flitting about trying to make themselves useful by escorting dodgy cruise liners and suspicious-looking sailing school yachts. Each speedboat had at least one heavy machine gun mounted on the deck, pointed safely skyward - towards the downtown skyscrapers.

The Chinatown Express bus was beautifully ignored, indeed the entire operation seems to be under transport authority radar (but so clean!)

The sound from the pirated movies ("I, Robot" and "La Femme Chat" - "Catwoman," pirated from the French edition of the film, which must have been the one shown with subtitles in Hong Kong before being re-pirated and dubbed with the words from the English version. So much work, such a bad film. [Ed: Is Halle Berry rendered more or less annoying in an American movie dubbed into French on a Chinese bus? Discuss.]) was dubbed back in. This was most noticeable in "I, Robot," when explosions could sometimes be heard before they happened. More importantly, both "I, Robot" and "La Femme Chat" featured a tabby stunt cat (sometimes he was CGI in the latter, particularly where he had to breathe tuna-scented life into Halle Berry). Was it the same one, I wonder?

I may not have mentioned that in addition to just-released movies, we retreated to Chinese pop videos of the universal "he or she does not love me/am unhappy" variety, filmed in pretty train stations and shopping malls. Young Asian John Cougar look-alike in shades and blue denim saunters down train tracks, guitar over shoulder, looking at feet, singing of love (thinking of bullet trains?). In other scenes he sat in open boxcars, on deserted platforms, up against train wheels. Sometime he held the guitar, but he never appeared able to play it. Other songs were similar. Man waits by fountain in park for lost love, woman wanders through park (same one?) singing to the trees of love. I want to learn to speak Chinese -I don't know which dialect, but I suspect Cantonese, as I believe Mandarin is historically the language of government, not love songs and bad movies.

Monday, August 30, 2004

Why Did Nobody Tell Me About This Woman Before?
Mimi Smartypants. Good lord, but she is funny.

Gaschnozzz, Snert, Honk
Yes, it's everyone's favorite: the summer cold!

I would like to thank my husband John, for giving me the summer cold, and also whomever gave it to him. That is a beautiful chain of giving there. I feel honored to have received its scratchy, gooey presence in my life. It is absolutely perfectly annoying in that non-debilitating way. I cannot legitimately remain home, as I do not feel as if I have been run over by a truck. Nay, I feel okay enough to go out into the world, whereupon I may give unto others and continue the circle of viral life.

Cue the "Lion King" music. It's just that beautiful.

Seriously, that is one clever little viral infestation. It takes a certain amount of devious parasitic strategy to leave the host mobile enough so she doesn't go burrowing into her hidey-hole until she feels better. Congratulations, Wellington of viruses! You are a strategic master.

Enough sarcasm. It's Monday, I'm mildly ill, and it seems to me that Tim must be back. Pictures of Russia to share with other WoT? readers, Tim? Shall we make this an interactive week? I mean, if you're doing your usual routine, you will see that I have kept up my posting schedule the entire time you are gone. That should blow more than the usual transitional five minutes, I should think.

Then again, after a vacation, you need more than five minutes to transition back into work. At least I think I remember that that is the case. Boy, I'd love to test that theory soon.

Tim's Travelogue
Hello (or Privet, as they say in Russia!),

I am indeed back . . . after a nice vacation and a really wonderful week in Russia during which, yes, I did keep up with you on a daily basis.  It was extra nice since all other media over there is in Russian! [Ed: So this explains the Russian Domains in my SiteMeter. Duh.]

St. Petersburg is a beautiful city . . . a little rough around the edges from all the years of neglect and abuse, but still beautiful.  Definitely one of the world’s great cities.  I would put it right up with Paris, in fact, and for anyone who knows my love of Paris, that is really saying something.

Here are a few shots . . . the weather was not the best, but even with the clouds I think the beauty comes through.

Spas has got to be one of the world’s most beautiful churches.  Built on the site where one of the Czar’s was attacked (he later died as a result), the building was used to house potatoes during Soviet times!

The Hermitage was equally impressive inside and out.  It is a truly remarkable building in its own right.  The fact that it happens to house one of the world’s great art collections is almost a bonus.

Catherine’s Palace was a “summer” residence outside the city.  It is home to the fabled “amber room” . . . a room decorated entirely in amber (walls and everything).  The original was stolen by the Nazi’s in WWII.  It was recently recreated from pictures and re-opened to the public.

And the river view is a shot of St. Petersburg’s first official construction, the Fortress of Peter and Paul.  The city is built mostly on water so bridges and canals are prominent.

Hope you and your readers enjoy the little trip.  I loved it and am anxious to return.


Sunday, August 29, 2004

I Just Need You to Know...
My FAQ has a gentle stance against curse-words on WoT? But you need to know that I have, apparently, been using the - ahem - "F-word" a lot lately in ordinary speech. Mel noticed it first. John concurred two days later.

Finally, in a conversation with my mom, I confessed that I had been called on "cursing" quite a bit and noted that it was a rather cyclical thing with me. My mom said, "That's my girl."

Just so you know. Our Heroine embraces her inconsistency.

Friday, August 27, 2004

Need WiFi?
Warning: Random Brain Contents May Tip Out
First of all, I woke up with Duran Duran's "Rio" playing in my head this morning. If there are worse ways to wake up, I don't want to know about them.

Second of all, I had a midnight thought that I actually was able to hold on to until morning.

Thirdly, Mac seems to think that he is helping me by sliding his nose under my elbow as I type, begging for belly rubs. He's wrong about this, but hey. He's a dog.

So, the midnight thought is garbled up with dog fur and some chick who, on the authority of that noted intellectual M. LeBon, "don't need to understand." Bear with me.

The midnight thought regards Rana's recent thoughts about anonymity in "academic blogging' and how people seem to get all het up over whether or not they know her name or not. It struck me that there are a bunch of different misconceptions that may be playing into this. First of all, what the heck is "academic blogging," anyway? In Rana's case, it's about how she left academia and is coping post-academe. Others may use blogging to play with "scholarly" ideas in their pre-publication phase (risky, given plagiarism, but apparently it is done). Others such as Mel at In Favor of Thinking uses the blog format at times to talk about her teaching. I would say all of these are probably "academic blogs" in one sense or another.

(Somebody tell that damned woman to stop dancing on the sand. Thank you.)

I would guess (it's a reasonably educated guess based on what I have read) that the majority of people who are keen to know names are consider the second type of "academic blogging" to be the only type. And in those realms, knowing names, CVs, degrees, etc. can help as a kind of shortcut to gauge whether or not this person knows what they are talking about. Of course, there are always scammers who claim degrees they don't have or manage to be the one who coasts by on a paper written by a group. Alternatively, there are self-taught polymaths - "Good Will Hunting" types who know a lot more about a subject than their formal education would indicate. So it's potentially a bit of dangerous laziness to rely on a degree (or lack thereof) to automatically indicate competency in a subject.

(I know her name is Rio. I don't need to be told again!)

So, why do others really care about who those "second type" academic bloggers are? I have a suspicion that along with control-freakishness and a potentially misplaced trust in credentials that there is a not-so-subtle attempt (conscious or not) to redefine that person back into the academic fold. You spend all that time getting a degree, and people need to see you in that role. It certainly happens to me, so I could see how it would easily happen to someone who achieved a Ph.D. in any given field.

Of course, those people who are trying to define you by something you are trying to escape? They need to get over it.

(Yes, Rio - dance across the Rio Grande. And don't come back, that's a good girl.)

Thursday, August 26, 2004

I Have Not Seen This Yet...
Downtown Girls
Don't you just hate when circumstances make you inconsistent? Oh, dear, we've covered that, "Don't you just hate..." thing before. Anyway - I hate it when circumstances make me inconsistent. I am referring to my general allergy to clubs and organizations. Last night, I went to the inaugural function for the DC chapter of the Downtown Women's Club.

I'm slightly more consistent than this activity would make me seem. The "Club" has no dues, does not generally charge for events, and is very loosely organized. Essentially, it is designed to allow women to network amongst themselves and also to have fun. And despite my skepticism about networking when I first entered the workforce, networking definitely works.

Single-sex clubs and events are more interesting now that women have more clout. And I can speak from recent experience when I say that co-ed networking opportunities can have some ooky unintended consequences. I went to a networking event a while back with two former NASDAQ colleagues and had some bozo actually hit on me. (No, despite having recently told another story about ooky pick-ups, this does not happen to me a lot). Some guy at a local "shameless networking" event approached me, and noted that I had "formerly NASDAQ" on my badge in place of a current employer.

"Yes," I said brightly. "And Bill and Maggie worked there as well." I gestured to them, standing on either side of me. He didn't even look at them. Oh no...

Boring story, except for the fact that Maggie went to the world's slowest bartender to try to arrange a diversion by getting me a drink, and when Bill turned away a little bit, I feared being abandoned completely and took advantage of my admirer's unwavering stare to snag Bill's jacket sleeve in a grip of iron under Mr. Stare's line of vision. Finally, Mr. Stare did get the hint when he referred to the ubiquity of my last name. "Yes." I said firmly, "I got it when I married my husband."

Somehow, I don't think I'll have to deal with too many people at the DWC who mistake shameless networking with speed dating.

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Law Geekery
Federal Court Justice Richard Posner has taken over Larry Lessig's blog while he is on vacation. Fascinating.

Dr. Highway and Mr. Traffic
It should probably be a rule that interviews must begin about the same time the prospective employee will be required to show up for work should she be hired. This is important for managing expectations in high-traffic areas. It's easy to take your 1 PM, leisurely drive on the Beltway, tack on some marginally arbitrary number on to the time it took to get there and call that your "probable commute."

It's another thing entirely to get up and heave your body into rush-hour traffic, either on the Beltway or the back roads, sit still for long periods, listen to the traffic reporter, and feel yourself steadily growing older.

I'm just saying this because DC's highways have a psychotic break that makes Jekyll/Hyde look like sanity and normality. In the middle of the day? Your drive is going to take whatever Mapquest says it's going to take. Get close to rush hour? Remortgage the house to pay for your psychologist's bills, because you are probably going to have rage issues stemming from those thoughts of just how much time you are wasting sitting still in your car.

Not to mention the strained tendons in the left legs of those of us with standard-shift cars.

This non-sequitur of an essay is brought to you by your friendly, still-unemployed blogger, scrambling to make her self-imposed 9 AM deadline. Have a nice day.

Want, Want, Want.
There's some kinky stuff out there on the internet, so I have to confess. I have serious bag lust. Note, this has nothing to do with Maslow's Hierarchy. I need absolutely 0.00 new bags. But the law geek in me really wants this one:

Because it has secure zippers and pockets and to further ensure its security, it has this printed on the other side:

I also want this bag:

Mostly because that roll with the quick-release straps on the bottom holds a yoga mat very securely and efficiently and the rest of the bag has keen pockets.

That's all.

No, that's not all - improbably enough, I have an update: My friend Mark tells me he has purchased the Fourth Amendment bag for me as random giftage. Mark rocks. The purchase of Bag #1 should in no way make any WoT? readers feel like they should purchase Bag #2 for me. Really. One day I'll have a job again and be able to buy Bag #2 on my very own. I look forward to that day.

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

"Oh My God, Iggy Pop Wants to Eat My Brains For Elevenses."
A choice quote from "Go Fug Yourself."

- via Rana.

Autumn in August
We've had a dip in the temperature around here - with the salutary effect of Our Heroine being less grumpy about summer than usual. Yes, for readers who are new to WoT, Our Heroine is mostly descended from the denizens of the northernmost reaches of Europe and her system doesn't particularly love the hot and the steamy. Some folks bask in the heat like lizards - Our Heroine, when exposed to extreme heat and humidity, is generally sure she is about to die. Why does she live in the DC area, where the heat and humidity impress folks from southern Florida? Let's just say it wasn't the weather that lured her here. She may do yoga, but nothing in the known Universe would get her into a Bikram class. Nothing in the unknown Universe either, for that matter.

So, considering the fact that the job-searching has been re-energized and suits will be the fashion order of the day, I am very happy to be contemplating temps that don't get upwards of the mid-80's. Because nothing says "hire this woman" less than a sweaty, frazzled candidate stuffed into a business suit on a day where the heat index is pushing upwards of 115˚.

Wish me luck.

Monday, August 23, 2004

Weekend Update
Photos of Mac and a Virginia vineyard from this weekend's fun and games.

It Happened Again
I had an idea last night - it seemed intelligent at the time, but again I was half asleep. I may have been delusional about the intelligence of said idea, whatever the heck it was. Coffee isn't bringing it back.

I can inform any interested readers that I had a nice weekend, but that I am also incredibly sore. I am suffering from a spasmed trapezius muscle that refuses to completely go away, as well as a sore knee. Cliché but true: getting older really stinks. The body just doesn't rebound the way it used to.

So, I'm off to take a couple of ibuprofen and start my week - it's a big one, so I hope my brain engages sometime soon.

Friday, August 20, 2004

Really Cute... In a Sick Sort of Way
When I was a child, I had a fairly typical child's view of family. Crayola stick-figure people, proudly standing in front of an improbably-colored house. Mommy, Daddy, Me. There was a vague notion that another small stick-person might come to join us one day. It happened to other people, after all, it might well happen to us. But for the time being, MommyDaddyMe was a fixed constellation, a part of a larger system that also contained star-clusters like GrammyGrampa, and UncleAuntCousin.

I remember one kid in my first grade class whose parents were divorced. It was so outside my six-year experience that it was frightening, an unknown condition that was potentially contagious. As time went on, of course, it happened more and more often as the mid-70's wound down into the late 70's and all through the 80's. Other people's constellations were more like volatile molecules, whizzing around and bouncing off of one another. MommyDaddyMe, though, we continued. We mostly stood still like one of those time-lapse movies where people flow like a spastic river around a statue or monument. Everything else changes. The monument endures.

I like to say that my life turned into an after-school special when I was 26. It used to be a way to deflect unwanted sympathy - make people laugh so they don't feel they have to try to figure out how to make it better. Now it's just something I say: an old, tired laugh-line I have a hard time letting go of. The fact was, the monument was gone, and its component elements entered the shifting, passing flow.

Entering the speedy world of the molecule after spending years in the still, changeless silence of space can bring on some sharp shocks. About 25 years after I had stopped wondering about the possibility of another little stick-figure, I suddenly had a stepbrother, five years my junior. This does strange things to the part of your brain that controls definitions. People ask me now if I have any siblings and my automatic answer is still, "No." And then, "Well, sort of." After all, it's pretty silly to call Brian "My father's second wife's son" when there's a perfectly good three-syllable word for his place in my constellation. At the same time, using the bare term "stepbrother" seems disingenuous. We didn't grow up together - I didn't get to lord it over him until he got bigger than me (I could say he's my made-to-order big little brother). There's something strange about calling someone your "brother" when you've never lived in the same household. Yet anything else is inefficient.

Whatever I call him, though, I am fond of him. We have a quirky, funny sort of friendship that I have grown to value. I look forward to the years ahead, when perhaps the word stepbrother will come without the air quotes. He comes from his home in Florida to visit today, and I am looking forward to it.

Thursday, August 19, 2004

Gorgeous Blog
A Sucker for the Clichés
Paul Hamm, winning the men's all-around gold medal with a clutch performance and a sore shoulder, identical twin brother and teammate Morgan there to cheer him on.

Mariel Zagunis, thrown high in the air by her teammates after winning the first fencing gold for the U.S. in 100 years.

Tyler Hamilton, after all the troubles he has had this year - a horrific back injury taking him out of the Tour de France, his beloved dog Tugboat dying from cancer - winning the men's time trial, Tugboat's dog-tag tucked in his jersey.

Yeah, I'm a sap.

The Olympics always seem chock-full of these stories, especially the recovery-from-injury stories. Naturally, injuries occur when a person is pushing to compete at the pinnacle of international sport. But each injury magnifies the achievement, and the potential for disaster in so many events can make athletes seem as if they are dancing on a razor. Fall on one side, triumph, gold medals and accolades for the athlete. Fall on the other, disaster, injury, perhaps even an end to a career. The drama of the back-story only enhances the current drama of effort, nerves, and talent..

I can say that the one bit of "drama" I can do without is the American Entitlement Drama. Far too much has been made of the "No American Men Qualifying for the Men's 100 Freestyle" swim event. As the mutual fund prospectuses say, "Past performance is not an indicator of future success." Get over it, NBC. The false-entitlement talk that you have been indulging in regarding this is one example of the reasons why "Ugly American" is another cliché. It is one we can do without.

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

More Word Stuff
"Go Old Guy!"
There's a recurrent cheer from our house when John and I watch sports. "Go old guy!" we enthuse whenever we hear that an athlete is competing on the national stage over 30 years of age. In an era where teenagers seem to rule the international sporting roost, it's inspiring to know that 30 is not necessarily over the hill.

Yesterday we watched as Bjorn Maaseide (36), of the Norwegian Beach Volleyball team win over a highly favored American team. "Go old guy!" Actually, he's not the first Norwegian over-30 that we've cheered for. We've also cheered for Lasse Kjus, the Norwegian downhill skier.

Certain sports skew older, at least in terms of their team makeup. The captain of the French Equestrian Team is over 50, and there are plenty of riders well into their 40s. But the leader of the Equestrian Eventing competition is in his mid-20s. (Random note - horses, despite being classified as "equipment" by the Olympic Committee, have to have passports to compete internationally.)

Talent seems to explode in the young. But experience can tell in the clutch. Last night, 25-year old Mohini Bhardwaj stepped in at the last minute to take over for an injured teammate on the balance beam. Her gravitas and calm demeanor, the gifts of age, seemed to settle her rattled teammates. "Go old guy."

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Silliness of Dubious Literary Merit
This one's for anyone who's ever chuckled at "It was a dark and stormy night."

Thanks, Mel!

A Distraction of Olympian Proportions
Athens, we have a problem. Some of us have things to do. Yet you persist in showing us human beings impossibly leaping, twisting, stretching, spinning, powering through the water like speedboats, and tearing across the land like cheetahs. It seems the least of each Olympian's skills are beyond the reach of most of us. The competition comes down to tenths of points, hundredths of seconds. Even more incredible, some athletes come back from catastrophic injuries to compete at the highest level. The bare achievement is impressive. The achievement plus context is often staggering.

Talent, hard work, and focus have brought thousands of athletes to Greece. It is insanely compelling. TiVo helps somewhat: I need fear neither commercials nor sitting through long stretches of table tennis. And given how just about everything is being televised via the utilization of several networks, I can actually see more than snippety highlights of the Three Day Event.

But no - I have things to do. Must.... Not.... Turn.... On.... Television.

Monday, August 16, 2004

Lost Opportunity
If I'd had this when the crazy guy was hitting on me, my story might have been shorter.

The Persistence of Memory
Some part of my mind still thinks I am supposed to go to work this morning. There's a stubborn little brain cell or four that didn't get the memo and isn't feeling the bone-deep weariness that the rest of me is facing over the prospect of picking up my job search and moving forward with it again. The rest of my brain would cheerfully kill that little section, as it is now chirruping cheerily away like a demented alarm clock. "Today's the Day!" it says with blithe ignorance.

That bit of my brain had no problem letting go of the concept of going to work back in December. I slid into my severance period as easily as a seal into the sea. I had survived so many rounds of layoffs that I had stopped panicking over the possibility of losing my job and had started making plans for what I would do when (not if) it happened. And so, when that Monday rolled around and I didn't have to suit up and go into the office, there wasn't a trace of that "aren't you forgetting something?" feeling.

So the flip side is this - I had made my plans for re-entering the work force. In the big picture, I had started to think about how I was going to organize my time and my thoughts for this new challenge. In the small picture, I knew where I was going to park, where to go to get coffee, and what sort of personal administrative details I would have to take care of before today. And all of that preparatory energy now has to be re-channeled and re-focused to the job search again. Fine - I'm a pragmatist, if that's what I have to do, then I'll do it.

If only I could get that irritating alarm clock to shut up.

Friday, August 13, 2004

Sort of Like a Thesaurus...
Interior Interiors
I dream about interiors. Not daydream, but dream. Periodically, I will have a dream about a house, an apartment, even a hotel suite. With the exception of one dream about a claustrophobically tiny apartment (filled so tightly with my boxes of stuff that there was no room left for me), these places always have hidden rooms, concealed passageways, and odd proportions. When John Cusack and crew went around bent-over on the 7 1/2th floor in "Being John Malkovitch," I had already been to a similar place. It just existed inside my skull and instead of an office, it was a sumptuously decorated studio apartment, filled with lush and glittering textiles.

I suppose there is a prosaic, psychological reason why my head periodically spits up fantastical glass houses, Escher-like hotel suites with crazy stairways and apartments designed like chambered nautilus. If there is, I'm not really sure I want to know what it is. For some reason, these are the dreams I remember the best. I remember the funny way the light came in the gothic windows of the crazy library with its ladders that curved right up onto the ceiling (predictably, one of the bookcases slid back to reveal a hidden passageway). The tiny apartment filled with boxes still gives me a shudder of claustrophobia. They have a certain eldritch mystery that might rub off if I knew hard, cold facts or theories as to why people dream about rooms, and which room supposedly "means" what.

I enjoy exploring these spaces. There is a certain calm "aha" moment every time I discover that the inside is really bigger than the outside. And that, I suppose, is what they really "mean."

Oh, Dear...
This is my friend Melanie's projected flight from Miami:

She may never get home.

Thursday, August 12, 2004

As If the Real One Weren't Bad Enough
"It looks like you are typing a letter. Would you like some help with that?"

"NOOOOooooo!!!!" Click, click, click "&%#%@ off and DIE!"*

I can only imagine what a person like me would do if something like this was installed on their machine...

Well, tomorrow was supposed to be the day. I was planning on issuing my last "Unemployment" posting tomorrow, as I was supposed to start a new job on the 16th. I was to be employee #2 at a startup.

Yesterday, employee #1, the founder, called and told me he was putting the project on hold indefinitely. Entrepreneurial opportunities have tremendous "upside potential." They are also incredibly fragile, and subject to derailment from individual crises.

So, instead of typing a nervous-yet-happy posting on the 13th, letting you all know that if my posting in future is irregular it would be due to a fortunate shift from a jobless schedule to a work-full schedule, I am sitting here on the 12th delivering bad news. And I'm back to my old routine - searching job ads, applying for positions and networking like mad.

That's all, really.

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Getting Off the Slippery Slope
Scary Pick-Ups
Again, I have Making Light to thank for the inspiration today. I love the way discussions shift and diverge over there. One such digression is about men who have used scary (or sleazy) pick-up lines and other behaviors. I believe I have the humdinger of all bad pick-up stories, and I thought I would share. It starts in 1996.

Having immured myself in more-or-less rural fastness for some time, I went to Boston with a "friend." I put quotes around friend, well, you will see why as the story goes on. We were set to meet some of her friends at a bar downtown. Upon getting to the bar, I was approached by someone with a standard sort of get-to-know-you line ("What's your name?" or one of its cousins). It was fairly clear that he was on the make from his body language (standing too close, staring too hard), but I'm reflexively polite, and I smiled and made some sort of response that was intended to say, "Not interested." He tried to continue the conversation - doing one of those conversational gymnastic things some guys do where they immediately tell you that you're attractive and they want to get to know you better (note: this might work only when more than one sentence has passed between the two people in question, or if the woman just really wants to sleep with a stranger. Neither of these were true in this case).

The actual progression of this dialogue was fairly tedious in a surreal sort of way - he tended to respond to my ramp-up from polite but repressive through increasingly agitated variations on "What part of 'NO' don't you understand?" with standard conversation-starters. One such interchange consisted of me saying that my "friend" (who had been standing by, watching this wacko's efforts at courtship with ill-disguised amusement and ignoring my intermittent looks of mounting panic) and I were going to go now and look for our other friends, goodbye. He responded with "Can I buy you a drink?"

"No. Goodbye."

"Can I have your phone number?"

"NO. Goodbye!"

Further discussion on my part (as he followed me around the bar) went from, "Leave me alone," to "I will get the bouncer to chuck you out," to finally "If you don't leave me alone, I will call the cops." This last threat triggered a sea-change from pursuit to verbal abuse, which was somehow easier to ignore. He finally went away.

Fast-forward to two years later. I was in DC with some work colleagues, at an outdoor bar in Georgetown. Suddenly, I hear, "Don't I know you?" I turn around and immediately recognize my nut-case from Boston. Semi-frozen, but with enough sense to say, "No," I responded to his next conversational gambit with, "I'm sorry - I'm really not interested."

Note to men: "What? I'm just trying to be nice," is an attempt at emotional blackmail. I don't go on guilt trips, but I do resent being presented with a ticket. I told him I didn't ask him to be nice, go away and be nice to someone else. I could see he was on the verge of pursing the sledgehammer tactics with which I had become far too well-acquainted in Boston and started looking around for a bouncer, when my work-colleague Jessica spoke up from my side. "I don't think you understood - the lady said she's not interested."

He turned on her and actually snarled, "What's it to you?" (I know this sounds like a bad movie script, but it's the absolute truth).

Jess didn't even hesitate. "She's with me," she said calmly. As our friend the fruit-loop stood back and contemplated the implications of the significance which Jess placed on the word "with," I leaned over (with body language that was intended to communicate intimacy) and whispered to her that yes, indeed I had met this guy before and he's crazy as a loon - thankyouthankyouthankyou for helping me out, Jess!

Predictably, uninspired verbal abuse followed (and was ignored). As a post-script, I actually saw this guy in action again (yes, third time was the charm), but from a distance. I was at another DC watering-hole a couple of months later, but happened to have the good fortune to be talking with a man when this freak of nature walked into the bar. I pointed said freak out to the man I was speaking with, and we watched him trail around the bar, bouncing from woman to woman (even moving in on one woman when her boyfriend went to the bathroom!). He didn't even appear to see me: I presume it was because I had my male friend as an invisibility shield.

The point of this? None, really.

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

"In" or "Out"
Rana over at Frogs and Ravens has been mulling over the issue of folks who choose to use their names (or not) when blogging. Who knew there was an issue? Well, actually I did - but mostly because Andrew Sullivan took Atrios to task for it back in January and it caught a lot of general airplay.

Pardon me for being reductionist, but it seems that the people who are flapping their arms and squawking over the "issue" are mostly trying to justify their own choices. "It's the way I do it, therefore it's the way everybody should do it." Well, no surprise - there's a lot of that going around these days.

The fact is, there's a lot of latitude on the Internet (and in the "blogosphere"). There is room for all - as Rana notes, "Read my ideas. Either they are sound ones, interesting ones, ones that are worth thinking further about -- or they are not. A Big Name doesn't ensure quality (haven't we all encountered a stinker here or there?) nor does having a Small Name mean mediocrity. It merely means that the field is large, there is a lot of competition, and some of us haven't had the time, money, connections, or inclination to become Big Names."

I chose to use my name for several different reasons. Mostly, there didn't seem to be any reason not to. There are thousands of Jill Smiths. As time went on, and I decided to write an FAQ, I deliberated whether or not to put my maiden name and other identifying characteristics in. I decided to do it on the general theory that there are a few folks out there in the world whom I have lost touch with - if they ever want to look me up, fine. There are a couple of people I'd rather not hear from, but I'm pretty confident that they know who they are.

I don't read Rana's work because of her name. I read it because she thinks interesting thoughts and writes about them well, and we have yoga, knitting, and gardening in common. If I sometimes get a mental image of a frog in downward-facing dog or busy at a spinning wheel, who cares?

As for the rest of the world, why all the kerfuffle over what is truly a personal choice? I suspect it is misdirected control-freakishness, which I tend to ignore. Like I said, there's a lot of it going around these days.

Monday, August 09, 2004

TiVo Saved Me from Advertising
But anyone who wants to find out more about music in advertising need look no farther than this site.

I've been thinking about communities a lot lately. My thoughts have been rotating around what I would call the two different types of community - the optional and the mandatory. We all belong to mandatory groups - family, ethnicity, the human race in general. Those of us who are not card-carrying hermits also often belong to optional groups - clubs, religious organizations, political parties.

In general, I am allergic to joining clubs. I think it has something to do with the way a definition tends to get wallpapered on to a person when they join a club. "Oh, her," I imagine someone saying. "She belongs to the Federalist Society." And that says it all - you have to spend a year to convince that person (if they ever talk to you or bother to listen to you at all), "I only joined so I could go to the annual skeet shoot." Despite the fact that no two people ever agree completely about everything (and few groups of people can ever agree on even one item unanimously), you are often assumed to have your DNA re-mapped so you align more perfectly to the goals and objectives of the group you have joined. It's easier to remain independent.

But I do belong to groups - they resemble Kurt Vonnegut's concept of the karass - a spontaneously formed group of individuals who are drawn together via some sort of affinity and work together towards a common goal. I have friends, fellow yogins, knitters, bloggers, Mac enthusiasts... None of these require a membership, a charter, organized meetings or the carrying of an identity card, and that's the way I like it.

Welcome to the WoT? karass. There are no meetings and membership is not tallied. You are free to stand at the edges and watch, or fully participate in discussion. We will not be collecting dues, and we will issue no identity cards. Have a nice day.

Friday, August 06, 2004

More Words
Sorry, Tim.
Today feels like Saturday - John has taken the day off and we're going up to Baltimore for the day.

So, I'm all out of whack with WoT? posting.

Actually, I'm all out of whack in general - this week has just been one of those weeks.

So, no insights, no thoughts (deep or otherwise), not even any cranky rants.

See you Monday.

Thursday, August 05, 2004

What do You Call an 800-Page, Obsessively Footnoted Work of Fantasy?
"No, no, no..."
You can’t take a break next week.  Maybe the week after as I will be on vacation . . . or even the week after that as I will be in Russia.  But not next week.  You see, some of use [sic] rely on you to get the day started.  You have become an integral part of my daily routine.  Get coffee . . . ok, well, tea actually as I have recently given up coffee . . . read latest WOT post, then work.  You are my transition from “not work” to “work” modes . . . I’m not sure I’d know what to do if I didn’t have you to read in the a.m.

So . . . . there’s a topic for you . . . . irrational addiction to routines.  You know, not quite OCD, but almost.

Hope all is well in your neck of the woods.


This is what happens when you befriend the new kid in third grade. One minute, you're hanging by your knees on the monkey bars, and he's getting up a group to play "Superfriends." (All I recall about this was some animation-inspired roleplaying and a lot of running around, pretending to fly by sticking our arms out and making "whssshhhhh..." noises. This was, perhaps, my first conscious recognition that there are too few good roles for women. After all, my very girly nemesis of the elementary school years always got to be Wonder Woman, and what did that leave the rest of us?)

Twenty-seven years later, he's flattering you and ensuring that you don't cut and run from your self-imposed project of six months. The nerve of some people.

I do understand the "irrational addiction to routines" thing, though. Sometimes it can be turned to good account - daily yoga is the only example I can come up with for me right now, though I'm sure there are more. But routines and habits can be very comforting, I know. They are especially useful in the morning, when the brain is still warming up and the body is on automatic pilot.

So, I'm on the hook for next week, at least. The week after I may indeed take some time as I will have some adjustments to schedule. Further bulletins as events warrant.

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

Speaking of Time
I'm not sure if this is true for anyone else, but whenever I go somewhere - I mean go somewhere via airplane or train - upon my return it almost always feels as if I've been gone either no time at all or forever. Upon my return from a four-day trip, excepting the suitcase of dirty clothes, I can feel like Lucy, Susan, Peter, and Edmund popping out of the Wardrobe from Narnia. No time has passed at all.

I returned yesterday from a one-day trip and felt as if I had been gone for weeks.

As I mentioned in my last post, I had a small business trip - I've been given the opportunity to consult for a former employer of mine, and so I went up to spend the day at their offices. I was in Boston for less than 24 hours, yet when I got back to Dulles, I found myself wondering what all had transpired in my absence. I had to remind myself that not much would have the opportunity to transpire in that period of time.

It is always strange to me to return to someplace I once lived. There is this over-arching sense that I know where things are, and yet when faced with a particular intersection, my mind goes blank and I have no idea where I am. In Boston, this has been exacerbated by The Big Dig. It used to be that you came over from Logan via The Tunnel (Callahan or Sumner - I can never remember which one runs which way). Then they added The Ted Williams Tunnel. Now, you hop into a cab, it enters the Ted Williams Tunnel and you become a fish - the cab dives down under the city, then takes an exit and surfaces for just a moment. You get a glimpse of skyline, perhaps you even recognize a landmark, then your cab-fish swishes down into the depths again and the world of space and air is gone. This happens several times - dive, surface, dive - until you get out of that featureless underworld and pop out to the surface roads (now strangely scrubbed-looking after the DNC). Bits of the old Expressway still loom like rusty gravestones, but the vast oppressiveness of the overpasses seems mostly gone.

Someone asked me if I missed Boston, and my answer was yes, and no. I miss some people, a few little corners of the place. Favorite restaurants, the ability to walk somewhere (we live too far into the 'burbs now to be able to walk anywhere. You can take a walk, but there's no destination). But that is all. Boston has recently been named the most difficult city to navigate by car, and I am not surprised. Public transport is an option, but often a confusing and complicated one. DC traffic may be bad, and the Metro Board may be daft (they have since rescinded the particular idiocy I was so het up about, by the way), but this is my home now.

Note: My plea for help is still open - if you have ideas, please let me know. Or, alternatively I may take a break from blogging next week. We'll see...

Monday, August 02, 2004

Go for a Walk
Imagine the dramatic music and thudding horse's hooves as the movie trailer starts up. And then, the gravelly voice that does every trailer voice-over says, "In a world [it's always "in a world"] where people write about stuff - Our Heroine was on a quest. A Quest for a Topic." Horse thuds past (over obligatory low-shot funny camera angle), montage of topic-seeking ensues. There's me turning rocks over and asking hedgehogs what they want me to write about. Perhaps a sword-fight with another blogger. "I was going to write about that!" Clash of swords. "Curse thee - thine angle on that topic is better! I flee to fight another day!" Horse thuds past, this time underneath obligatory high-shot funny camera angle).

Why the sudden bare, ruined choirs where late the sweet blogger sang? Well, on Friday I will have been doing this for six months, and topic-seeking is getting a bit more difficult. I may just need a vacation, I don't know. But if you have ideas, I'd love to hear 'em. Use the comment feature, or send me an e-mail.

I may or may not be able to post tomorrow - I have a little consulting business trip and don't know if I will have internet access.

Happy Monday, folks!