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Thursday, March 31, 2005

I don't join webrings (because of the sidebar over-craziness - I simplified recently, and I like it), but here's one appropriate for today...

I am thirty-six today.

I let my birthday go unremarked-upon last year on WoT (except for the coy title). Needless to say I did not get that job. When I re-read last year's post, I actually had to go to my calendar to even remember what the interview was for.

This year, however, I am not coy. I am, however, insanely busy. I have a bunch of freelance work to get through, and I also have to go in to DC and see the photographer to review the proofs of the photo shoot from last week.

So, happy birthday to me - I'm off to decide: mermaid, camel, or down dog? Do I feel like singing, spitting, or howling? And just exactly how kind was that lighting to my thirty-six-year-old cellulite?

From today's "Daily Hindu Wisdom" an appropriate quote for a very un-enlightened heroine:

"Enlightenment is merely an impersonal happening. We give it the taint of personal achievement. Therefore the question arises, "What is an enlightened being like?" There is no such thing as an enlightened person. Enlightenment is merely another event. There is a flood, a fire, an earthquake; there is enlightenment, just as one happening in the whole process, all part of the phenomenal process."

-Ramesh Balsekar

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

It Still Irks Me...
Wednesday Morning Office Photoblogging!
Here it is! The anticlimax you have all been waiting for! The office in all of its greeny glory! First stop on our tour is the office-y part of the office - just the essentials: a desk large enough for a laptop and note-taking, printer, shelves, and a filing cabinet.

Next stop on our tour is the "lounge" portion of the office - for when the straight-backed chair (which is more comfortable than it looks, but still - it's a straight-backed chair) gets to be a bit much. Work can still be conducted here, via the magic of a printout and a red pen or the superior magic of the wireless network.

Another view of the "lounge" part of the office, with the sari curtains and both bits of artwork that has inspired me to call this interior décor scheme "Paris on the Ganges."

And finally, a close-up of the vignette I constructed out of the detritus and kitsch I cannot bear to throw away. From the bottom, moving clockwise: a brass paperweight, which was a gift from Stuart Klipper - it has the latitude and longitude of the house I grew up in, and is ringed by the quote "Know where you are, be where you're at," my quoting of which led to our meeting one another (long story). Moving leftward, a crystal paperweight of in-law provenance (actually useful for weighting papers when the windows are open); a fleur-de-lis finial that doesn't go on the rod over the window, since the window ends at the wall; a photo of my mom and me fronted by Pinky and the Brain (I believe Pinky is doing T'ai Chi - the Brain, of course, is in an advanced form of sirsasana); a Russian spoon of unremembered provenance; a glass bead to ward off the evil eye, brought to me from Greece by my best friend many years ago (what does she know that I do not, I wonder?); and finally, a Lord Ganesha finger puppet riding a surfboard on top of a beach buggy.

And no, it is surely no coincidence that my thesaurus sits so near to these bits I am so fond of.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

I am Apparently a Schnauzer
According to the the online game they put together for this movie, I get to be stocky, loyal, and useful. Whereas my friend Monique gets to be an Italian Greyhound. Life is so not fair.

Put Down the Thesaurus and Back Away Slowly.
We had a major downpour yesterday. I'm telling you, the stream behind our house was a raging torrent. The deluge was enough to make me want to stay in for the majority of the day, aside from going out to teach a friend's Yoga class first thing in the morning. The rest of the day was taken up in being generally useful to clients and trying not to fall asleep where I sat because the rain was so soporific.

It eased off in the early afternoon, but by about three the thunderstorms started. And when it got loud outside, it got cute inside. Dash has decided he is afraid of thunder. So after trying to climb into the bottom shelf of my office bookcase and realizing he does not fit (I have rearranged things somewhat), he crouched miserably in the smallest space he could find and clearly said with his big, round eyes, "Make it stop."

Well, no - you can't see his imploring, big, round eyes in this photo. But trust me, they were there and they were cute.

In this photo, he appears to be saying, "Bugger off. I'm frightened. Must you mock?"

John tells me I cannot hang the pictures in my office until this evening, so no photos yet of its transcendent greenness.

Monday, March 28, 2005

Plush Toys Gone Wild!
What happens when an electronic Tigger gets together with a Tickle Me Elmo? Well, let's just say that apparently Elmo thinks a Tigger's a wonderful thing... (Not safe for work - sort of.)

Weekend Update
I am happy to report I have my home office back.

I know, you never knew I had lost it. The story is simple: when we moved in to our house, the entire place was painted in a slightly shiny dull yellow: the color of a really old nicotine stain. It was Ug. Lee. Ambitious new homeowners that we were, we painted the master bedroom, master bath, den, living room, and dining room in one fairly rapid swath (it helped that we started the living room and master bedroom two weeks before our furniture arrived from storage). Then, as one does, we rested. Painting our house was complicated by the previous owner's passion for Things With Adhesive Backing. Many things were stuck to the walls - hooks, a light fixture with a paste-on cord keeper, odd lucite shelving in the bathroom. If it had stickum, the previous owner of our house had stuck it somewhere (often in baffling corners - we wondered if she perhaps just had such a love for the sticking of the plastic that she had to get a fix now and again by putting a hook in an odd back corner of a cupboard).

Actually, there were just all sorts of things affixed to the walls in various ways. In addition to the "fashionable beveled mirrors" about which I have previously spoken, there was a small grandfather clock on a stairway landing that had been screwed to the wall to ensure that it did not fall over. There was also one of those wall-mounted brackets with a swing arm for a small television in the room that is now my office (there were televisions in almost every room of the house as well - we have coaxial cable in the oddest places). The bracket that had been used to bolt the clock to the wall was helpfully left behind - just in case we had our own clock to bolt to the wall, I suppose. The fact that it had been painted around instead of removed and replaced when the painters left their two-packs-a-day signature also left a shadowy reminder of the timepiece that had gone on to a new happy haven of stickum and plastic. My suggestion that we paint a trompe l'oeil clock over the shadow was met with stony disapproval from John.

The former clock-home was spackled and painted last year. The television bracket was probably gone in the first week, along with many other things she helpfully left behind ("Oh, no really - thank you! We love to go to the dump!! It's why we bought the truck - it provides us endless entertainment to take someone else's old paint cans and nasty, never-cleaned draperies to their last reward!"). The little room with its spackled bracket holes had remained more or less untouched except for a new pair of patchwork curtains made out of colorful sari fabric, which heightened rather than lessened the depressive qualities of the un-re-painted room. Since I have been getting a fair amount of freelance work lately, I have been spending more and more time in my office and I was finally fed up with its yellow dinginess. After a few weeks, I guess John became fed up with hearing me whine about it, and he proposed an aggressive Easter weekend work plan which was duly executed.

Pictures will follow once I am cleared for re-hanging the artwork on the walls. Let us just say that I am very happy with my newly green, cozy little office.

Friday, March 25, 2005

Oh, Cool.
512 MB? Yeah, that's pretty weak. But it's an MP3 in a Pez dispenser!

Yes, Indeedy
Marissa Lingen has written a lovely post about what it is like to be an only child for her. It fits with a lot of the things I experienced - a distrust of the sibling experience as the perfect recipe for upbringing, the reality of being the future caretaker for parents, the leeriness of many of the rough-and-tumble childhood sibling interactions. She is also quite eloquent on the subject of only kids as "spoiled:"

Being an only is like being one of thirteen kids in that perfect strangers will feel justified in criticizing your parents' family planning choices to you from the time you're about five years old. They will inquire after your parents' fertility, your parents' sanity, your parents' moral fiber; they will assume -- and tell you they are assuming -- that you must be really spoiled. Under what other circumstances would you inform someone who was behaving reasonably that she must be really spoiled? This is just rude. But should a kid learn that adults are sometimes rude and unpleasant, and how to deal with it without being rude and unpleasant? Yep. And is a kid going to have to learn to deal with it on one topic or another? Again: yep.

Oh, dear. I am afraid that on the cusp of adolescence I handled the rudeness of an adult on this topic in a similarly rude manner. I had heard the nonsensical equation, 1 child + 0 siblings = spoiled, pretty much all of my life. I had finally learned to question it when some woman I had just met (who had been perfectly nice to me up until the moment I had confessed to my un-sibbed state) snapped at me, "Oh, well you're a spoiled brat then."

Spoiled I could take. I had been taking it all of my life. But I drew the line at "brat." In one of those golden moments where you actually say the thing you usually only think of a week later after stewing over the incident nonstop, I replied, "Well, you're rude. What's your excuse?" and waited for the ground to open up and swallow me for being so smart-mouthed. The ground didn't open up, but the rude lady's mouth certainly did. And nothing came out. And she didn't tell my mother, and I wasn't slung into jail for all of eternity, and, well - pretty much nothing happened except for the fact that I felt I had fought back in some small way and felt both ashamed that I had been rude and proud that I hadn't been cowed by her adult status into taking something that patently wasn't fair.

That wasn't the end of people opining that only children are somehow deficient or dangerous. In adulthood, a friend's mother actually told me to my face that she thought that only children were mentally unbalanced. This was from a mother of five who had had a nervous breakdown and who had some pretty severe problems with a couple of her kids and a couple of the grandkids (none of them onlies) as well, so I didn't take it too much to heart.

What I really love about Marissa's post, though, is she puts her finger on the point I have been circling around for years but never quite landed on. When people wish siblings upon you, these siblings are purely imaginary. Just as siblings have to wish real people out of existence in order to imagine themselves as onlies, an only has to wish nonexistent people into reality to try to imagine the sibling experience. Genetics and environment being the chaos factors that they are, there is no possible way to account for the impact this imaginary person might have had on your life. Yes, I might have a sister who was as much into Yoga as I, or a brother with whom I could sing two-part harmony. I also might have a sister who was into pink hearts and crystal cat figurines and believed in angels. I might have had a NASCAR-obsessed brother who held the opinion that women should stay out of the workforce. Would it have been pleasant to have the former? Might it have done me good to be yoked throughout childhood to the latter? Who is to say? What of some of my friends? Might they have turned out "better" if they had been only children? It is pointless to speculate.

The fact is, you play the hand you are dealt the best way you know how. Any fantasizing about how things would have been better if there had been more or fewer siblings, more or less money, or different parents is veering perilously close to pedestal-placing. And we all know how I feel about that subject.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

I am a Total Sucker for Stuff Like this
I love Magritte's painting of the window standing in front of the window, so this is just perfect. If my laptop wasn't constantly on the move, I might try it.

Old News
I never did tell you about the last class of the Yoga session, did I? It was possibly the most fun I have ever had teaching, and more importantly, the class loved it. I think I made them nervous at first, because during the previous class I assigned them homework. It was fairly low-stress homework, though. Each student had to bring their most challenging and their favorite pose or type of pose to class.

This, of course, released me from the obligation to do a lot of planning. Usually I put together a class with a certain focus, getting a mix of the various types of poses, yet highlighting a certain type of pose (backbends, twists, balancing, etc.). Pre-planning gives me the time and space to think about proper sequencing and ensuring that no one type of pose gets overdone. However, knowing my class as I did, I figured that everyone would come in with a good mix of things that they liked or didn't like. I even expected (but didn't get, interestingly enough) for someone's most loved to overlap as someone else's most challenging.

All of my students surprised me, but none more than T. Her favorite was balancing - her least favorite was relaxation. I suppose I shouldn't have been surprised, as she's fairly intense and focused. C surprised me not at all with her favorite, which was warrior poses, but her challenge was transitions between poses in sun salutation.

These and the other students' homework got spun into a class that combined comfort with challenge and worked incredibly specific details, all ending up with a long and varied period of restorative poses. By the end, when everyone sat up, I was surrounded by flushed, smiling, relaxed faces.

It was thrilling. I think I have started a tradition in my own teaching.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Theoretical Mathematics and Yarn?
Please - no jokes about string theory.

Tragedy in the Smith Household
The day our coffee maker's hot plate died, we hauled its predecessor out of the basement and put it back into service. It had been retired because of the carafe's nasty tendency to seat improperly and overflow.

It was a difficult morning to get up this morning. Pouring with rain, the soporific drumming on the roof created a deep well it was almost impossible to crawl out of. John, man of steel that he is, got up at his usual early hour and started the day with the zoo. By the time I had joined him about an hour later, he was in what the British might call a right old strop. The coffee maker had done its old trick, despite his checking it twice.

I brought the really old coffee maker out in time for John to get a cup before he went out the door.

I guess getting a new coffee maker is on my list of things to do for the day.

Update from Yesterday: The photos have been taken. Clarissa lives. I have never remained in the Mermaid variation of King Pigeon for that long before... Oy!

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

What Other Reasonable Response to this Quiz is There Other than an Existential Crisis?
The Guardian's Poetry Mood Matcher.

You're experiencing a bit of an existential crisis, aren't you? Here's a poem to help you through your long dark night of the soul.

I Would I Might Forget That I am I

I would I might forget that I am I,
And break the heavy chain that binds me fast,
Whose links about myself my deeds have cast.
What in the body's tomb doth buried lie
Is boundless; 'tis the spirit of the sky,
Lord of the future, guardian of the past,
And soon must forth, to know his own at last.
In his large life to live, I fain would die.
Happy the dumb beast, hungering for food,
But calling not his suffering his own;
Blessed the angel, gazing on all good,
But knowing not he sits upon a throne;
Wretched the mortal, pondering his mood,
And doomed to know his aching heart alone.

George Santayana (1863 - 1952)

I am having my photograph taken tomorrow. The Yoga studio where I teach has lovely art shots of its teachers. Slim, bendy women dressed in white and exhibiting various poses against black backgrounds adorn the walls. I am apparently to join them, though I am not of the traditional slim, willowy, Yogic build. I am also to don whites and run through various poses for posterity.

White. Dressed in white. Clingy, cellulite-exposing white. The photographer assures me that miracles can be performed with lighting. I know I should let go of vanity and glory in the practice, without thinking about what it looks like. And yet.

I am experiencing fear.

Monday, March 21, 2005

Yo - Elektra. Stop Brooding.
Sunday Rarely Contains Such Adventures as These
It was a chilly March morning, threatening rain outside with a leaden sky. We sat with coffee and the Sunday papers, making tentative plans for the day. Saturday had been bright, sunny, and warm and our activities had matched that weather. What to do with a chill rainy Sunday?

A thump reverberated from the upstairs. John looked at me and asked if I had closed the window to my office that he had opened the day before to catch the warm breeze. I had not. Half-jokingly, he suggested that Dash might be exploring the porch roof beyond that window. I commented that Simon would be the more likely candidate, as he is an experienced escape artist. I hauled myself out of the couch's warm embrace and moved upstairs to investigate.

"John," I yelled. "Come up here and bring the Pounce™." I chirrupped and called to Dash, who was stalking about the roof like a silver-gray panther, body held low and occasionally dipping his head to sniff cautiously at the unfamiliar shingled surface. The entry of the rattling treat can drew him inside, and a quick survey of the house confirmed that Simon had not been a member of the expeditionary force. Still, it was sometime later when our heartbeats slowed to a more normal rate.

If only I had had the presence of mind to take a photograph.

Our musings over what to do with a rainy Sunday took us to IKEA for inexpensive paper napkins and additional cushions for our increasingly broken-down den couch. The toy aisle contains an odd array of stuffed animals these days - bats, rats, and dragons included. John decided to form a likely tableau with the materials at hand, and entertained me with his best impression of The Crocodile Hunter. These I did have the presence of mind to photograph.

Low-budget adventures. All you need is a cat, a window, and a Swedish housewares store.

Friday, March 18, 2005

Never go to Bed Angry
If you simply must, however, here is an instruction manual.

The hotplate/warmer on our coffeemaker is apparently kaput. The first cup I had was reasonably hot. From there, it was a fast slide to disgustingly lukewarm.

Coffee is essential to the early-morning creative process.

I am not sure I have had enough of it. I started a post explaining why I don't write about politics much on WoT, but came up short because you can only say "soul-crushing boredom" in so many ways. (Yes, there is more to it than that, but that's about 80% of it. That and I would be lousy at it and I don't want to expend the effort at getting good at it).

My brain is sludgy, but I think I missed my "coffee window." I don't really want any more of it now that I've been up for over an hour.

Bleah. Happy Friday.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

I love this idea.

Change and its Discontents
Mel at In Favor of Thinking has "development" occurring in her urban neighborhood. As I noted last year, yuppification and rampant change are not confined to the city, so I have some sense of her feelings at this moment.

When my parents built the house in the woods that my mother still lives in, I am sure we were looked upon as interlopers, cutting down trees in a five-acre woodlot to accommodate the little Cape. Gradually, in the manner of New England towns (that is to say, glacially), our family became part of village life. I was too small to know that there was much else - I didn't pine for sidewalks or corner shops, though I did wish sometimes that our road and driveway were not dirt, as it would have been fun to roller-skate or play tennis against the garage doors. My parents had a vegetable garden, I went to the local elementary school, and we attended the town events: Strawberry Festival, the Fourth of July parade, horse shows sponsored by the 4-H. Looked at from a distance of many years, it sounds faintly idyllic, but it was really just daily life in a little town. I don't know if we had many illusions about small-town life, but if we did I am sure they were swiftly depressed by the realities of Hollis.

Idyll-making is as dangerous an enterprise as pedestal-placing. Expectations of a utopian ideal, be it urban or rural, are bound to be disappointing. I hear that some of the newer people who have moved to my little hometown for its small village charm have found that the charms of a small village have their offsetting elements. The politics are sisyphean. Old houses are - well, old, and they have old-house issues. And those picturesque horses? They poop.

Yes, it seems that some newbies called the town and objected to the passage of horseback riders on town roads who did not then come back and clean up after their beastie when he left his steaming calling card. In a similar fashion, I am sure some of Mel's new neighbors will be charming people who are easy to live with. Others will over-imagine their idyll in the city. When they come face-to-face with reality, they will object to the noise, the shopping carts left in the street, the litter that is every city's swirling calling card.

And, like the horrified newer residents of my hometown, they will just have to get over it.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Oh, Man...
I used to love the snooze alarm. I'm not sure if I would have survived this, though. Or let us just say that two would enter the bedroom... only one would survive.

Sarcastic Much?
Michael Jackson caused a gigantic brouhaha the other day by wearing pajama pants to court.

Wow. Imagine if the neighbors called the local news stations because, as usual, I'm out on the center island of the cul-de-sac in my pajama bottoms, a sweatshirt, heavy coat, and furry boots? I mean, call the fug girls, because this is a FASHION EMERGENCY. I clearly require some sort of intervention, complete with $5,000 New York shopping spree, new high-maintenance hairstyle, and makeup tips.

I can imagine the panicked 911 recording being replayed over every media outlet for weeks - or until something else catches the public's attention. "Yes, I can see her - sort of. It's not light outside yet, but I'm pretty sure I caught sight of a 'Life is Good' logo. Yes, there she is - OH MY GOD! There are little doggies sledding all over those flannel pants! Yes... now she's - she's walking back to her house!"

What? You say I am exaggerating? You say there is no comparison between an international celebrity wearing pajama bottoms to a serious courtroom in broad daylight and a local nobody wearing her PJs out for five minutes in the predawn light scant yards from her home so her dog can have his wees?

Well geez. I was just trying to do that "balance" thing. I hear all the cool kids are doing it.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Flirtation in the Age of iTunes
Is there any kind of historical analogy for this?? Perhaps a masked ball?

There are People Living in My Head
I have always wanted to write a long piece of fiction - a novel or novella. The problem was, I wasn't sure I had a compelling story to tell. I had heard some writers say that the characters in their stories simply "showed up" one day and demanded that their story be told. I envied that. I had had one instance of this - in college, I was supposed to write a one-act play for my senior thesis in the honors program. I worked like crazy on something that just wasn't coming together. One morning I woke up with four characters in my head. I got up, turned on the computer, and the whole story just poured out of me. It was insane - almost like automatic writing. I don't really think the thing was particularly good, but it was a lot better than the tortured drafts of the other project that I had been squeezing out.

I get too attached to vignettes sometimes. I will see, feel, hear, or otherwise experience something and suddenly have the urge to put it down. I do, and it sits there. It is a photograph, not a story. I don't want to write a photograph. But those vignettes, they seem to stop the creative process dead in its tracks. It's like the muse is saying, "Here. That's all you get."

Well, I had a photograph moment a few weeks ago, when Annabelle snuck in and out of the room as I lay in relaxation. I liked the ancillary images that came with the photograph, and I started fooling around with them. I allowed the vignette to remain in my head (I still like it), but moved it off to the side as other images started to flow. A character started to emerge. She didn't stride in and demand her story be told - she's not that kind of person. But inevitably she has started to have a life. A living space, a town, a job, a very unusual problem have all slowly emerged like a developing photograph.

I don't have an ending yet, but pretty soon something will request to get written down. And write I shall. Be careful what you wish for.

Monday, March 14, 2005

Once Vital, Now Nearly Obsolete
The art of egg-candling.

We Regret to Inform...
Spike, my iBook, a machine that has served me well and faithfully for lo these three years, is getting old. His case is webbed with a thousand tiny scratches. His battery runs down in about two hours now. He has a scant gigabyte and a half of remaining memory. I seem to wait longer and longer for him to figure things out as his G3 processor struggles with ever more data. But for all of that, he is a reliable beast. We have gotten on very well for these three years, and despite his age he still has the ability to attract lustful glances from the iBook-deprived. We have traveled the world together (yes, Spike is an international computer. He accompanied me to England in 2002).

I dropped him last night. He clattered against the edge of the coffee table and tumbled to the floor, shutting the case and leaving me wide-eyed and horrified for a long moment. He still works, but now has a checkmark-shaped scar on the lower right portion of the screen. It almost looks like someone has drawn a representation of a small mortar attack in black pixels. It is whimsical, yet ugly. It doesn't make Spike unusable, but it does underscore his age and decrepitude.

Now is not exactly the best time for me to go out and buy a new computer. It's not the worst either: I do have some freelance work for now and the foreseeable future. And I feel a strange unease typing about Spike's potential retirement on his own keyboard: it feels like a betrayal of this machine I have such foolish affection for.

Spike and I will muddle along for a while yet. But this black mark is a harbinger. The day I bring home Spike's successor, I will be thrilled with my new toy. But I will also undoubtedly harbor these sentimental soppy feelings for dear old Spike.

Friday, March 11, 2005

I am a grammar geek, but I would hope I am not a complete idiot about it. Yes, Virginia, there are legitimate uses for the singular form of "their."

Tortured Analogies for Everyone!
I have mentioned before that Simon has a slipper. The slipper is Simon's near constant companion. He carries it around the house, emitting a muffled yowl, dropping it with a plasticky splat when he is spied committing this strange act. The slipper is a substitute for the cow, which was the first thing Simon carried through the house, yodeling and wailing. Cow was a charming little critter, who eventually was nibbled to death by the dog. Here is the last known picture of cow, before he lost horns, tail, and everything else to the puppy maw.

Simon obviously feels the need for some sort of companionship, for the slipper tends to appear in Simon's most-frequented areas: the couch, the stairs, the cat-tower in the basement. The slipper is at Simon's absolute mercy, for no feet will ever inhabit its fuzzy fastness again. Where once slipper and his mate padded briskly about the house on John's errands, now they simply lie still and separate, waiting for Simon to decide that they must be moved yet again. Slipper is a pawn in Simon's polydactyl paws.

Lately, I feel a bit like Slipper. The task of mapping out the absurd borderlands of this analogy is left to the reader.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Busy, Busy, Busy...
My schedule for the day has blown up on me again (ah, the life of an independent contractor). In the spirit of yesterday's rant, a site that showcases 100 milestone documents of our nation. Civics-geek-cool.

Impulse Control Department, How Can I Help You?
Does anyone else want to hoot out the names of these PEN/Faulkner finalists just to hear the funky sounds?

The Dew Breaker by Edwidge Dandicat
War Trash by Ha Jin
The Green Lantern by Jerome Charyn

No? Just me? I thought so. ::sigh::


Wednesday, March 09, 2005

I Don't Know Whether to Laugh or Cry
This is what happens when there are fifteen billion channels on basic cable.

First Thoughts
It is really old news by now, but more than one out of three high-school students thinks the First Amendment "goes too far." Those who know me know I find the results of this survey incredibly frightening. This story brings out all of those premature octogenarian, "What are they teaching them?" thoughts in me. These kids display a remarkable lack of ability to think through the law of unintended consequences. I wonder if this sparked any discussions about the fact that these kids' freedom to express disapproval of a Constitutional Amendment is protected by that very Amendment.

At the opposite end of the scale are the Internet denizens I call the "Poo Flinging Monkeys." These are the uber-trolls that show up on personal websites, sneering and taunting. When the sneering and taunting turns into abuse and foul language, and a warning gets issued from the site's owner, the monkeys start to gibber about the site's owner being anti-First Amendment.

A quick word about the First: it is meant to apply to the government. As a private citizen, you are not required to give people free bandwidth and a platform so they can abuse you. It would seem obvious. You aren't required to invite people to come into your home and harangue you either.

As in most areas, there is a balance. On the one hand, we have teenagers thinking that the First goes too far, on the other hand, we have PFM thinking it does not go far enough. Living at the balancing point is not easy - it requires thought and a willingness to tolerate ideas you emphatically disagree with.

But meditating on these two extremes really makes me fantasize about that island, let me tell you.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

More Un-Successories
I hate "Successories," I really do. I covered this dislike in another Random Thing last year. Now, it seems that Marvel Comics are whoring out their fictional characters in a successories-like fashion. Predictably, there is a response. (Semi-work-unsafe)

Books, Covers, and Demography...
I have been thinking lately about television and demographics. According to this article, the "...'holy grail' of advertising is knowing exactly who's sitting in front of the television at any moment..." Of course, the programmers and advertisers usually only have the shows themselves to work backward from in order to figure out who is doing all that sitting. Therein lies a bit of a problem.

Let's take some of the shows I watch regularly these days and extrapolate what an advertiser might assume: As Time Goes By (a 50-year-old female!), Battlestar Galactica (an 18-year-old male!), Daria (a 15-year-old female!), Good Eats (a 40-something food geek of indeterminate gender!). Am I perpetuating a gross generalization? Sure. But when I view a show and the advertisements (or in the case of As Time Goes By, the PBS lead-ins) are obviously directed at another age group or gender, I feel sure that someone charged with selling high-priced advertising is making a convincing argument to advertisers about the core viewership of this show - a much more expensive gross generalization, to be sure.

Do I really care? Not so much - I don't watch many commercials. But I have seen time and time again that conventional assumptions about what people will prefer based on age, gender, and even previous purchases* are wildly off the mark. Both the overt and subtler cues about who is "supposed" to be watching this show (or reading this book - etc.) also lead to arbitrary lines outside the world of advertising. I have been on the receiving end of superior glances, snickers, and even lectures because I watched things like "Buffy," for instance. I, a thirty-something, well-educated woman, was not supposed to be filling my mind with such adolescent silliness. What were the opinions usually based on? They focused on the outer trappings of the show - its title, its young cast, its occult-laden subject matter. Few had actually seen it.**

All of these assumptions about what I am supposed to be viewing, reading, etc. are tiring. Indulging in this "match the age with the gender with the clothes with the income with the viewing habits" outside of advertising smacks of stuffing people in restrictive little boxes. I neither know nor care what your viewing habits say about you, but I do believe I know what box-stuffing says about the people who indulge in it.

*Could Amazon's recommendations be more wrong?

**Full disclosure: I thought it looked dumb when I first saw it as well. It took me until the end of season two before I gave it a real chance.

Monday, March 07, 2005

If You Ever Saw "Office Space"
...it is likely that you will find this pretty darn funny. (Link is to movie with sound)

Day Off
Spring is in the air - we had the windows open yesterday to catch the warming breeze. Birds in the forest behind our house are tuning up their voices for their summer calls. In the midst of all of this life, I felt like the walking dead yesterday as I shambled stiffly around. My last few weeks have been Yoga-intensive ones, and to top that off, I woke up in the middle of the night between Saturday and Sunday lying awkwardly on my upflung right arm. My hand was numb and tingly, and my shoulder (which has been aching anyway recently) was stiff and sore.

I normally go to a Yoga class on Sunday morning, but given how I felt, I gave myself the day off. John and I did a massive grocery shop and I made pizza crust. The first stage of the Paris-Nice was on (John laughed at me every time I reflexively flinched when Bob Roll said "Toor day France") and we caught up on the latest Battlestar Galactica. It was quiet and relaxing. I gave my body a chance to recuperate and rest.

It seems to have worked. This morning I am not only ache-free, but bouncy and optimistic. I have been warding off optimism lately, as optimism has resembled nothing so much as Lucy snatching the football away from Charlie Brown in recent months, but what the heck. Optimism can come together with the fresh air and the warm breeze and the birdsong. Let it all come. Welcome, spring. I am rested and ready for you.

Friday, March 04, 2005

Cultural Diversity
Want to learn how to cuss in Estonian, Esperanto, or Tagalog? Consult the Swearasaurus. No, it is not work-safe.

Human Progress is Rarely Linear
Categorization is a dangerous game when applied to human beings, yet our chaotic brains continue to try to sort order out of the shifting experience that is life. Early learning is a good example: when I was about four, time and again, my parents and family friends tried to teach me to tie my shoes. My brain resisted the retention of this knowledge and frustrated me (and the ones who tried to teach me) no end. Then one morning I got up, dressed myself, went downstairs, sat at the foot of the stairs and tied my shoes. I just did it. And knowing how to do it, I probably flaked out a few times and forgot until it was completely settled in my growing little brain.

There were probably more "advanced" things that I already knew when I learned how to tie my shoes. For instance, if I recall correctly, I was already well on my way to being able to read at about that age. But the human mind that insists that one thing comes before another will often skip around the "easy" stuff, finding it difficult, and latch on to the "hard" stuff because it is more intuitive.

I know all of this. And yet, I still struggle with it. I look at Light on Yoga and note the detailed difficulty ratings for various poses and think, "I should be able to do handstand now. I am capable of much more 'difficult' poses." Alas, it does not work like that. My frightened brain conspires to keep me from this inversion, even as I am able to do others with relative ease.

Practicing with my teacher as a friend has been particularly helpful in learning this lesson. I lift up into Paripurna Navasana - a relatively "easy" pose for me - and she comments that she has a really hard time with it. I stop and think about this for a moment. Progress is not linear. Development is messy. But if you worry too much about the route, the journey may never happen at all.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Busy Morning
...I have to go running around this morning, so no essay. To fill up those three minutes you would usually take up with coffee and WoT, I give you this New Yorker article instead. Have fun and see you tomorrow!

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

This was fun.

English Genius: You scored 100% Beginner, 100% Intermediate, 100% Advanced, and 88% Expert!

Well, go me.

Google Searches - Volume Six
Yes, I know - it has barely been a month since Google Searches Number Five, but the latest crop of Boolean fruitbattery is just too good to let it wait.

spongebob's typing skills - Well, you know the poor little guy only has three fingers -

I'm thinking even Mavis Beacon would find him to be a challenge. The three fingers would require some adjustment to the usual keyboard placement. Also, there is the fact that, well - he's a cartoon sponge.

kundalini yoga blog - I've tried Kundalini Yoga, but only once. Sorry. I have no insights on that practice.

camilla parker bowles+prediction+horoscope - Prediction? She will marry her prince. They will do just fine. I will continue not to care in the slightest. (Take that, Zoltan Mason!)

jill little - No, Jill big. Jill five-feet, seven inches. Jill also strong. You no mess with Jill. She kick you butt.

jill valentine music video - Would you settle for me singing "One Man Dog" to Toshie, accompanied by his barking? Because we've been working on that one lately. We are really getting quite good.

bring me to a i want too learn how to type fast - I think you are typing too fast already there, buddy. Slow down. You're leaving things out. Like any vestige of sense.

suburban mom - I live in the suburbs. I am not a mom. I do drive a station wagon, though - I can see how you might get confused.

define navel gazing - Well, dictionary.com has a perfectly serviceable definition: "Excessive introspection, self-absorption, or concentration on a single issue." How's that?

waiter rage kitchen blog - Ooooh! Do they serve exploding head at this restaurant? As an alternative, you can check out Gordon Ramsey. He seems to have enough kitchen rage for 12 people.

googleiciousness - Would you believe that as of this publication, there are only three instances of this (completely made-up) word out there on the 'net? Of course you would.

western misconceptions about yoga - ::groan:: Where do I begin?? I could probably give you an entire encyclopedia of my own misconceptions about Yoga!

kings ghost in hamlet - Okay, this came from an edu domain. If the query was for the purpose I suspect, I have this to say: "Do your own term paper!"

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

My [Least] Favorite Nightmare
Okay, to be completely honest, I have two least-favorite nightmares: my house burning down and this.


It's About Time
I am a bit of a compulsive re-reader. I come by my compulsions honestly - according to the lore, my mom used to read Jane Eyre every spring for years. Once I thought that re-reading was completely normal, but I have since met people who think it is bizarre in the extreme. I don't really differentiate re-reading from listening to a CD or watching a movie more than once. You notice different things, you remember scenes you had forgotten. You revisit places and people you have grown to love.

In some ways, re-reading also reminds me of the various other points in my life when I read the same book. Lately I have felt that it is time to revisit Jane Austen. If I were doing one of those "desert island" quizzes, Jane Austen's six completed novels would probably suffice as my only entertainment. In fact, the first time I read Pride and Prejudice was 1991 on the desert portion of the island of Cuba, in Guantanamo Bay.

I do not remember if it occurred to me at the time that reading an iconic English novel in warmth of the Caribbean midwinter sun was a bit odd. I do remember that I had finished all of the books I had brought with me, and had turned to my aunt and uncle's bookshelf of leatherbound classic editions. Lying in the heat, I did not bring my full attention to the book until the scene at the first country assembly where Darcy snubs Elizabeth. Suddenly, my attention was properly caught. "This is funny!" I thought. (Ed. Hindsight: DUH!) I started the book from the beginning again, giving my full attention to the plight of the 20-year-old heroine, and being able to escape for a bit from my own 21-year-old plight of having recently graduated from college and having no idea what I would do next.

It is midwinter again, fourteen years later. We are at war in the Middle East again. I feel the need to read Elizabeth Bennet's story again. I am no longer in my 20's, but I still don't know what I will do next.