lundi, octobre 31, 2005


While studying for the evil econ midterm today:

A: "At least we learned derivatives this weekend."

H: "For all the fucking good that's going to do me ..."

A: "Wow. That was just a major role reversal. You usually point out the silver lining and I'm the one to be all bitter / negative / sarcastic."

H: "Shit. You're right."

Obviously constrained demand, profit optimization, and elasticity have warped our minds and our personalities.

on becoming vulnerable

Last night, I told Ben that vulnerability is a beautiful human quality, but that neediness is not.

This morning, I read the following article, which resonated with me on so many levels. Several details jumped out at me. The last line virtually screamed at me today, especially after last night's conversation.
This is my struggle still, to learn how to be vulnerable in love, to be able to show my naked underbelly and trust that it will be neither smothered nor starved of devotion.
I value vulnerability in a partner precisely because it's so hard for me to show my belly, to love and trust someone else in the way I do myself. If he shows that vulnerability, then I feel safe enough to also show mine. I think it stems from many experiences, not the least of which are my own romantic history and a childhood home rife with unhealthy (and unresolved) conflict.

I've yet to have a partner who takes as much care of me as I do of him. That's probably my own fault. One lover once described me as "so fucking self-sufficient" and went on to seethe about how I was "unwilling to let [him] do anything for [me]." It was an oversimplification, to be sure. But there was also truth in those anger-filled words. In that situation, I had reverted to my core tendencies, and had been taking care of myself because the sad fact was that I didn't trust him to take care of me.

I loathe relying on someone else for my basic needs. I despise asking others for favors (but I'll do it). I hate feeling like I'm imposing on a friend. The flip side: I'm the first to offer help when someone needs it, the first to do someone a favor. I don't expect anything in return, I just dislike the feeling of depending on someone else. So I underplay my own needs until push comes to shove.

I really need to get over myself. And, hopefully, to find a partner who strikes the right balance between being caring and giving me my space. At this point, I want to experience a relationship where my lover is a true equal — someone who actually does as much for me (emotionally, intellectually, and physically) as I do for him.

Please no needy men, though.
Modern Love: Love Me, Love My Dog. All Right, Love My Dog.
I was married, and feeling the stirrings of loneliness, when I started thinking seriously about getting a dog. In broaching this subject with my husband of a year and a half, I didn't mention the loneliness part. I simply told him I wanted a dog and waited for his reaction.

Back in junior high school I had bonded fiercely with our family dog, a yellow Lab who everyone thought belonged to me. When that dog died - I was 19 - I remember telling myself, as I lay sobbing on my bed, that it was time for me to try bonding with a man. Over the next decade I bonded with several. And then I got married.

Glenn, the man I married, wasn't sure a dog was such a good idea. He kind of wanted one, but the reality seemed to scare him. I remember standing in the living room of our town house in Los Angeles as he laid out his concerns. He spoke methodically in his mild Southern accent, his anxiety showing through, the way it often did when I presented my deepest desires.

Mostly he worried that a dog would breach the no-pets rule of our condominium complex in a much riskier way than his cat already did. I assured him that a very small dog - my research had led me to the miniature dachshund, "a big-dog personality in a small-dog body," according to the books - would be easy to sneak in and out via a tote bag. Still, he hesitated.

Even so, the following weekend I found a breeder in the classified ads and invited Glenn to go with me, "just to look." He declined. He didn't discourage me from going or tell me not to come back with a dog, but clearly he wasn't going to participate.

As I drove to the far reaches of Los Angeles, pretending not to notice his absence, an image from one of the cards we had received with our wedding gifts popped into my head. It was a hand-colored photo of a bride and groom in midair, circa 1950, holding hands as they "took the plunge" from the end of a diving board.

I'd never bought a dog before. Never been to a breeder. This was the kind of plunge that, if taken together, might have brought Glenn and me closer. But apparently that was not the kind of relationship we had, and I wasn't clear why we didn't. I blamed him, of course, though I should have looked in the mirror as well.

I've always had a problem with the joined-at-the-hip aspect of marriage, with, for example, women who say "my husband" to listeners who are perfectly familiar with the man's name. Behind the phrase I sense a nervous grasping for validation, an odd mix of self-congratulation ("Look, everyone, I got one") and self-deprecation ("I am nothing without him").

My mother was one of those women. Her visible pleasure upon saying the words was indisputable, even though I thought they made my father sound like a pet. Yet I can't deny that my father mostly did as he was told and came when called.

I never wanted a boyfriend or husband like that, someone who catered to my every need. But perhaps in seeking to avoid that I went too far in the opposite direction, with my longstanding preference for men who are not caretakers, who do not bestow upon me special attention or guardianship.

When I have had needs in my relationships, I have undoubtedly underplayed them and done no one any favors in the process, eventually shocking the men I have loved with sudden relationship-ending confessions of unhappiness.

Yet the type of man who wants to take care of me generally also insists on driving and paying, prefers not to be corrected when he's mistaken, and feels at sea if he can't be saving the day. This breed has always tried my patience.

Glenn possessed none of those overbearing tendencies. But neither was he inclined to rush to my aid or offer his support when I really needed it. That was the trade-off.

And so my trip to the breeder's that afternoon was lonely and awkward. After an hour of driving, I stepped bravely into the strange house with a smile on my face and proceeded to act as if I knew what I was looking for. But having known only large dogs, I was taken aback by the tiny embryolike creatures. I sweated as I handled them, convinced that the animals didn't like me, and that the owners, seeing this, would refuse to let me take one.

Not that I, by then, had any intention of doing so. Suddenly the idea of raising a mini dachshund seemed remote without anyone to support me through the mysterious anxiety that had overtaken me. I got out of that overheated house and drove back to my beautiful condo and unruffled husband, who was relieved, though also slightly disappointed, that I hadn't come home with a dog.

I pretended I was fine. Strong, self-sufficient, decisive. Which I am, a lot of the time. I didn't explain my loss of interest; I simply stopped looking, stopped thinking about getting a dog. And Glenn was happy not to reopen the subject.

A few months later, though, I went to my favorite shopping center to look at purses, which took about 15 minutes, because purses don't interest me. I'd forgotten about the upscale pet store until I was right in front of it.

Inside, they had one black-and-tan mini dachshund for sale. He was the only dog not barking his head off in the cages, which struck me as a sign, given my erstwhile plan to flout the homeowner's association. I asked to see the dog and immediately started to feel nervous and hot, the way I had at the breeder's.

An employee removed him from the cage and took the two of us to a large room in back, outfitted with a carpeted bench and dog toys. The store wanted a couple of hundred dollars more than the breeders were asking, and I'd been warned not to buy from a pet store because the dogs usually come from puppy mills. But I knew within minutes this animal was the one.

As his gentle, sleepy body began to move about on its own, there was a certain spring in his step and sparkle in his eyes. He picked up a plastic toy, brought it over to me and laid it in my lap.

Oh no, I thought. Oh gosh.

My impulse was to get out of there, but first I stalled at the front desk with questions about payment and procedure, my eyes on the employee who was putting my dog back into the cage, where he was prone to be snatched up by someone else. Then I walked around the mall to give the whole thing - suddenly more terrifying and thrilling than ever - some serious final consideration.

I walked and walked, my stomach in knots. Just do it, a passing T-shirt seemed to coach me. Just get in your car and drive away, I coached myself.

After 45 minutes I called Glenn, who wasn't home. Into the answering machine I nervously outlined the crux of my problem. He hadn't given his permission, so I was afraid to anger him by going forward. But I thought this was the right dog. But he was really expensive. But I really wanted him. And on and on until the machine cut me off.

I went back into the pet store to look at the dog, who was sleeping in a little mound. I attempted to negotiate a lower price and was offered $100 worth of supplies to go with the purchase. Damn, damn, damn.

I left the store again and this time went to my car, started it, and backed out. Then I pulled forward into the space again, turned off the motor and dragged myself back up to the mall, where I called my closest friend, an ex-boyfriend who had never understood my marriage. He wasn't home either. I babbled some more into his machine, then hung up.

No one's going to make this easier for you, I said to myself. The anguish was not knowing if I could take care of another living thing. I felt unfit, inadequate, out of practice. After all, I didn't take care of Glenn, and he didn't take care of me. Though we loved each other, it could hardly have been said that we belonged to each other.

I TOOK several deep breaths. Then I went and got my dog.

During the drive home he threw up on me. It was nothing. I cleaned up the mess and we continued on. At home Glenn was waiting for us with a huge smile. He'd locked away the cat and put out a bowl of water.

As we sat on the floor together, Glenn cooing as he rubbed the puppy's soft belly, I was surprised to find myself angered by his happiness. He had no idea what I'd gone through to bring this sweet gift, this simple pleasure, into our life.

But whose fault was that? At a young age I had learned that needing someone was the quickest way to disappointment and pain, so I had become self-sufficient and strong, which both attracted the kind of men I liked and protected me from our inevitable parting. With dogs, there was no such problem.

And true enough, Glenn and I lasted only a few more years after that, but I still have the dog. Actually I have two.

I am now one of those women who lives alone and goes in and out of relationships while depending on her dogs for long-term companionship and tactile comfort. A few weeks ago, at a party, I met one of my brethren; this woman admitted to spooning her dog, whose face is the first she sees each morning, asleep on the pillow beside her.

"Love is love," another friend said, shrugging.

But I don't know. I watch the way my dogs, a male and female, interact. She is the dominant one, aggressive when it comes to getting attention and food. When they play, he is on his back, delighting in the clumsy way she noses his ribs and nibbles his neck. Yet she takes good care of him, licking his head and ears, finding the ball when he can't and taking it to him.

This is my struggle still, to learn how to be vulnerable in love, to be able to show my naked underbelly and trust that it will be neither smothered nor starved of devotion.

scariest halloween ever

An unexpected text message from Phil today led to this exchange:

P: Wow ... The workers at Pannikin (a local indie coffee house) have the scariest halloween costumes! They are wearing starbucks uniforms! It's a riot!

H: Nice. I'm having the scariest hween ever ... taking an econ midterm tonight. : 0

P: Yikes!

H: Indeed.

dimanche, octobre 30, 2005

me and pablo

Picasso is a recurring theme in my life right now (exhibit a, exhibit b). Here's the latest incarnation:

The Pablo Picasso Alzheimer's Therapy
Sitting the other day in front of Picasso's rapturous "Girl Before a Mirror" at the Museum of Modern Art, Rueben Rosen wore the dyspeptic look of a man with little love for modern art. But the reason he gave for disliking the painting was not one you might expect to hear from an 88-year-old former real estate broker.

"It's like he's trying to tell a story using words that don't exist," Mr. Rosen said finally of Picasso, fixing the painter's work with a critic's stare. "He knows what he means, but we don't."

This chasm of understanding is one that Mr. Rosen himself stares into every day. He has midstage Alzheimer's disease, as did the rest of the men and women who were sitting alongside him in a small semicircle at the museum, all of them staring up at the Picasso.

It was a Tuesday, and the museum was closed, but if it had been open other visitors could have easily mistaken the group for any guided tour. Mr. Rosen and his friends did not wear the anxious, confused looks they had worn when they first arrived at the museum. They did not quarrel in the way that those suffering from Alzheimer's sometimes do. And when they talked about the paintings, they did not repeat themselves or lose the thread of the discussion, as they often do at the long-term care home where most of them live in Palisades, N.Y.

At one point, a member of the tour, Sheila Barnes, 82, a quick-witted former newspaper editor who suffers from acute short-term memory loss, was even uncharacteristically aware of the limitations of her memory. "If I've told this story before, then somebody just say, 'Cool it, Sheila,' " she announced, laughing.

She was a test subject, in a sense, in a growing effort to use art as a therapeutic tool for those in the grip of Alzheimer's. Art therapy, both appreciating art and making it, has been used for decades as a nonmedical way to help a wide variety of people - abused children, prisoners and cancer and Alzheimer's patients. But much of this work has taken place in nursing homes and hospitals. Now museums like the Modern and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, are trying to bring it into their galleries, using their collections as powerful ways to engage minds damaged by dementia.

It seems to be working, though no one knows exactly how. While extensive research has been conducted on the effects of music and performing arts on brain function - the Institute for Music and Neurologic Function in the Bronx has been studying the phenomenon for a decade now - there has been comparatively little work done in the visual arts.

What exists mostly is a stockpile of anecdotal evidence, encouraging but murky. Why did Willem de Kooning become more productive, almost maniacally so, as he descended into Alzheimer's? Why does frontotemporal dementia, a relatively rare form of non-Alzheimer's brain disease, cause some people who had no previous interest or aptitude for art to develop remarkable artistic talent and drive?

"Certainly it's not just a visual experience - it's an emotional one," said Oliver Sacks, the neurologist and writer. "In an informal way I have often seen quite demented patients recognize and respond vividly to paintings and delight in painting at a time when they are scarcely responsive to words and disoriented and out of it. I think that recognition of visual art can be very deep."

The Museum of Modern Art began to experiment with short, focused tours a year ago, working with an Alzheimer's care company called Hearthstone, based in Lexington, Mass. The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, began to reach out to Alzheimer's patients more than five years ago, offering tours alongside those for other disabled groups. And the Bruce Museum of Arts and Science in Greenwich, Conn., also offers tours, in addition to conducting a program in which it sends educators to Alzheimer's care facilities to help with art therapy.

At the Modern, which plans to expand the Alzheimer's program next year to families and other care providers, the effects of the tours are often striking and seem to speak - in a world of reproduction - to the power of the original. (For now, the tours focus on representational art, on the theory that it's an easier touchstone for narratives and memories. There are no Pollocks, for example.)

Besides improving patients' moods for hours and even days, the tours seem to demonstrate that the disease, while diminishing sufferers' abilities in so many ways, can also sometimes spark interpretive and expressive powers that had previously lay hidden. Mr. Rosen, for instance, who had little interest in art when he was younger, talked with ease and inventiveness about the composition of Rousseau's "Sleeping Gypsy."

sunday pleasures

Reading the New York Times with my morning tea.
Noting that the temperatures in San Diego and New York City are identical today (68F/20C).
Getting smiles at the gym while I crocheted.
Buying fresh challah, pink ladies, and apple-green chrysanthemums at the farmer's market.
Seeing a billboard.
Eating hot cakes at Rudford's.
Listening to This American Life at home.
Watching Casey chase bunnies while he napped in the afternoon sunlight.

what's a modern girl to do?

Maureen Dowd's article, What's a Modern Girl To Do? left me with more questions than answers. She raises topics that I've discussed with girlfriends, on dates with men, and generally marinated on for some time now. Let's discuss ...

Power Dynamics
At a party for the Broadway opening of "Sweet Smell of Success," a top New York producer gave me a lecture on the price of female success that was anything but sweet. He confessed that he had wanted to ask me out on a date when he was between marriages but nixed the idea because my job as a Times columnist made me too intimidating. Men, he explained, prefer women who seem malleable and awed. He predicted that I would never find a mate because if there's one thing men fear, it's a woman who uses her critical faculties. Will she be critical of absolutely everything, even his manhood?

He had hit on a primal fear of single successful women: that the aroma of male power is an aphrodisiac for women, but the perfume of female power is a turnoff for men. It took women a few decades to realize that everything they were doing to advance themselves in the boardroom could be sabotaging their chances in the bedroom, that evolution was lagging behind equality.

A few years ago at a White House correspondents' dinner, I met a very beautiful and successful actress. Within minutes, she blurted out: "I can't believe I'm 46 and not married. Men only want to marry their personal assistants or P.R. women."

I'd been noticing a trend along these lines, as famous and powerful men took up with young women whose job it was was to care for them and nurture them in some way: their secretaries, assistants, nannies, caterers, flight attendants, researchers and fact-checkers.

John Schwartz of The New York Times made the trend official in 2004 when he reported: "Men would rather marry their secretaries than their bosses, and evolution may be to blame." A study by psychology researchers at the University of Michigan, using college undergraduates, suggested that men going for long-term relationships would rather marry women in subordinate jobs than women who are supervisors. Men think that women with important jobs are more likely to cheat on them. There it is, right in the DNA: women get penalized by insecure men for being too independent.

"The hypothesis," Dr. Stephanie Brown, the lead author of the study, theorized, "is that there are evolutionary pressures on males to take steps to minimize the risk of raising offspring that are not their own." Women, by contrast, did not show a marked difference between their attraction to men who might work above them and their attraction to men who might work below them.

So was the feminist movement some sort of cruel hoax? Do women get less desirable as they get more successful?

After I first wrote on this subject, a Times reader named Ray Lewis e-mailed me. While we had assumed that making ourselves more professionally accomplished would make us more fascinating, it turned out, as Lewis put it, that smart women were "draining at times."

Or as Bill Maher more crudely but usefully summed it up to Craig Ferguson on the "Late Late Show" on CBS: "Women get in relationships because they want somebody to talk to. Men want women to shut up."

Women moving up still strive to marry up. Men moving up still tend to marry down. The two sexes' going in opposite directions has led to an epidemic of professional women missing out on husbands and kids.

Sylvia Ann Hewlett, an economist and the author of "Creating a Life: Professional Women and the Quest for Children," a book published in 2002, conducted a survey and found that 55 percent of 35-year-old career women were childless. And among corporate executives who earn $100,000 or more, she said, 49 percent of the women did not have children, compared with only 19 percent of the men.

Hewlett quantified, yet again, that men have an unfair advantage. "Nowadays," she said, "the rule of thumb seems to be that the more successful the woman, the less likely it is she will find a husband or bear a child. For men, the reverse is true."

A 2005 report by researchers at four British universities indicated that a high I.Q. hampers a woman's chance to marry, while it is a plus for men. The prospect for marriage increased by 35 percent for guys for each 16-point increase in I.Q.; for women, there is a 40 percent drop for each 16-point rise.

On a "60 Minutes" report on the Hewlett book, Lesley Stahl talked to two young women who went to Harvard Business School. They agreed that while they were the perfect age to start families, they didn't find it easy to meet the right mates.

Men, apparently, learn early to protect their eggshell egos from high-achieving women. The girls said they hid the fact that they went to Harvard from guys they met because it was the kiss of death. "The H-bomb," they dubbed it. "As soon as you say Harvard Business School . . . that's the end of the conversation," Ani Vartanian said. "As soon as the guys say, 'Oh, I go to Harvard Business School,' all the girls start falling into them."

Hewlett thinks that the 2005 American workplace is more macho than ever. "It's actually much more difficult now than 10 years ago to have a career and raise a family," she told me. "The trend lines continue that highly educated women in many countries are increasingly dealing with this creeping nonchoice and end up on this path of delaying finding a mate and delaying childbearing. Whether you're looking at Italy, Russia or the U.S., all of that is true." Many women continue to fear that the more they accomplish, the more they may have to sacrifice. They worry that men still veer away from "challenging" women because of a male atavistic desire to be the superior force in a relationship.

"With men and women, it's always all about control issues, isn't it?" says a guy I know, talking about his bitter divorce.

Or, as Craig Bierko, a musical comedy star and actor who played one of Carrie's boyfriends on "Sex and the City," told me, "Deep down, beneath the bluster and machismo, men are simply afraid to say that what they're truly looking for in a woman is an intelligent, confident and dependable partner in life whom they can devote themselves to unconditionally until she's 40..."

Women's Magazines
It took only a few decades to create a brazen new world where the highest ideal is to acknowledge your inner slut. I am woman; see me strip. Instead of peaceful havens of girl things and boy things, we have a society where women of all ages are striving to become self-actualized sex kittens. Hollywood actresses now work out by taking pole-dancing classes.

Female sexuality has been a confusing corkscrew path, not a serene progressive arc. We had decades of Victorian prudery, when women were not supposed to like sex. Then we had the pill and zipless encounters, when women were supposed to have the same animalistic drive as men. Then it was discovered - shock, horror! - that men and women are not alike in their desires. But zipless morphed into hookups, and the more one-night stands the girls on "Sex and the City" had, the grumpier they got.

Oddly enough, Felix Dennis, who created the top-selling Maxim, said he stole his "us against the world" lad-magazine attitude from women's magazines like Cosmo. Just as women didn't mind losing Cosmo's prestigious fiction as the magazine got raunchier, plenty of guys were happy to lose the literary pretensions of venerable men's magazines and embrace simple-minded gender stereotypes, like the Maxim manifesto instructing women, "If we see you in the morning and night, why call us at work?"

Jessica Simpson and Eva Longoria move seamlessly from showing their curves on the covers of Cosmo and Glamour to Maxim, which dubbed Simpson "America's favorite ball and chain!" In the summer of 2005, both British GQ and FHM featured Pamela Anderson busting out of their covers. ("I think of my breasts as props," she told FHM.)

A lot of women now want to be Maxim babes as much as men want Maxim babes. So women have moved from fighting objectification to seeking it. "I have been surprised," Maxim's editor, Ed Needham, confessed to me, "to find that a lot of women would want to be somehow validated as a Maxim girl type, that they'd like to be thought of as hot and would like their boyfriends to take pictures of them or make comments about them that mirror the Maxim representation of a woman, the Pamela Anderson sort of brand. That, to me, is kind of extraordinary."

The luscious babes on the cover of Maxim were supposed to be men's fantasy guilty pleasures, after all, not their real life-affirming girlfriends.

While I never related to the unstyled look of the early feminists and I tangled with boyfriends who did not want me to wear makeup and heels, I always assumed that one positive result of the feminist movement would be a more flexible and capacious notion of female beauty, a release from the tyranny of the girdled, primped ideal of the 50's.

I was wrong. Forty years after the dawn of feminism, the ideal of feminine beauty is more rigid and unnatural than ever.

When Gloria Steinem wrote that "all women are Bunnies," she did not mean it as a compliment; it was a feminist call to arms. Decades later, it's just an aesthetic fact, as more and more women embrace Botox and implants and stretch and protrude to extreme proportions to satisfy male desires. Now that technology is biology, all women can look like inflatable dolls. It's clear that American narcissism has trumped American feminism.

It was naïve and misguided for the early feminists to tendentiously demonize Barbie and Cosmo girl, to disdain such female proclivities as shopping, applying makeup and hunting for sexy shoes and cute boyfriends and to prognosticate a world where men and women dressed alike and worked alike in navy suits and were equal in every way.

But it is equally naïve and misguided for young women now to fritter away all their time shopping for boudoirish clothes and text-messaging about guys while they disdainfully ignore gender politics and the seismic shifts on the Supreme Court that will affect women's rights for a generation.

What I didn't like at the start of the feminist movement was that young women were dressing alike, looking alike and thinking alike. They were supposed to be liberated, but it just seemed like stifling conformity.

What I don't like now is that the young women rejecting the feminist movement are dressing alike, looking alike and thinking alike. The plumage is more colorful, the shapes are more curvy, the look is more plastic, the message is diametrically opposite - before it was don't be a sex object; now it's be a sex object - but the conformity is just as stifling.


I found a dead dragonfly on the sidewalk this morning while walking Casey. It's proof that summer is dead.

Its gossamer wings were torn and its body had been eviscerated by ants. Apparently, it has been there long enough for nature to have recycled the best of it, leaving a chitinous shell that reminds us of what once was.

That got me thinking about other artifacts of my previous life. Yesterday, I picked up the dismantled components of my engagement ring. The stones and original setting will go back to Eric's family, where they belong.

As I sat looking at the empty platinum setting that I wore for several years, I wasn't sure what to do next. It doesn't fit me stylistically or physically (it's a 7 3/4, I now wear a 5 1/2), but I'm unsure how to remake the ring, because I don't know what I want it to be. Perhaps I'm thinking about it so much because its an apt metaphor for my life.

I have ideas of how I'd like it to be remade, to be sure. All of them involve destroying the old form and forging a new one, a process that's well underway.

In the end, I took the setting, put it back in its box, and told my jeweler that I'd be back when I knew what I wanted.

hey, isn't that my camera?

and the award for craftiest bitch ever goes to ...

Diana. She sewed Hogwart's robes, knitted scarves, and whittled wands out of dowels for herself and Ophy. Holy shiite!
Cho Chang, Little Red Riding Hood, and Harry Potter

samedi, octobre 29, 2005


"I feel sorry for you people who don't drink, 'cause when you wake up in the morning that's as good as you're going to feel all day."
Dean Martin, (1917-1995), Italian-American singer and film actor, at a 1964 Rat Pack Benefit Concert

vendredi, octobre 28, 2005


full time work + grad school ≠ balance

To get back in balance, I'm recommitting to doing all that I can to take care of myself physically and emotionally. Starting today, I will:
  • Exercise at least four times a week and start training for a half-marathon next spring / summer.
  • Pay attention to my food intake for nutritional value and overall calories.
  • Get at least seven hours of sleep each night.
  • Drink at least nine glasses of water or herbal tea every day.
  • Take my vitamins/ supplements every day.
  • Reach my original goal weight/ BMI by Thanksgiving (6 lbs/ 1% to go); reach my revised target by New Year's (16 lbs / 4% to go).
  • Take better care of my skin and teeth.
  • Strive to avoid overscheduling/ overcommitting myself personally and professionally.
  • Revisit my life goals monthly and gauge my progress.
  • Just 'be' in the moment.

warp speed and all that

Rock on, George. And congrats on keeping your relationship together for 18 years. That's no small feat.
'Star Trek' actor reveals he is gay
George Takei, who played Mr. Sulu in "Star Trek," has revealed he is gay in Frontiers magazine, which covers the LGBT community of Los Angeles.

Takei, 68, told the Associated Press that his current stage role as the "very contained but turbulently frustrated" psychologist Martin Dysart in "Equus" was part of what motivated him to disclose his sexuality. The play opened Wednesday in Los Angeles.

The other aspect Takei considered was the current political climate.

"The world has changed from when I was a young teen feeling ashamed for being gay," he said. "The issue of gay marriage is now a political issue. That would have been unthinkable when I was young."

The actor said he has been in a relationship with his partner, Brad Altman, for 18 years.

Takei likened prejudice against the LGBT community to racial segregation, saying he grew up feeling ashamed of both his ethnicity and sexuality.

When Takei was 4 years old, he, along with thousands of other Japanese-Americans, was moved into internment camps while the United States battled Japan in World War II.

"It's against basic decency and what American values stand for," he said.

In 1966, Takei joined the "Star Trek" cast as the starship's helmsman, Hikaru Sulu, a character he played for three seasons on TV and in six films. In 1986, he received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Star Trek fans, such as Martha Fischer, have posted their feelings on the Internet.

"I have to admit that when I read this story I actually experienced a sharp intake of breath, accompanied by a hand raised to my mouth. Yes, it was a horrifyingly stereotypical female reaction of shock," she wrote on "George Takei? Gay? Holy crap!"

"Mr. Sulu is, along with his shipmates, really sort of an icon; like it or not, in our weird culture of fandom, what Takei does has a huge impact on 'Star Trek' lovers around the world," she added.

"It took a lot of balls to do what Takei did," Fischer concluded. "More power to him, and hearty congrats to the man. Warp speed and all that."

the gift of time

It's time to set our clocks back on Sunday.

Thank goodness for that extra hour of sleep/ time to study for the evil Econ midterm.


I love language. And the little clues that tell us where someone is from, like what we call carbonated caramel-colored beverages.

Now, serious academics at Oklahoma's East Central University are looking into the Pop vs. Soda debate.

Here's a map that they've developed for how we use pop, soda, and Coke. Not to be too snarky, but I hope that their research methods are better than their proofreading skills. (Find the typo on the map.)

Via Diana


This summer, I fell under a musical spell. A few artists were put into heavy rotation, including The Divine Comedy.

Neil Hannon's music is atmospheric and layered, with lush orchestration and swelling strings. His lyrics are witty and melancholic. I liked several songs instantly. And they just get better each time I hear them. This reviewer succintly sums up what is great about this album:
Upon first listen you may dismiss this as string laden and pretentious, with nary a memorable tune to be found. But as is the case with all of Neil Hannon's albums, upon the third or maybe even fourth go-round everything becomes apparent, the lush atmospherics, the Scott Walker homages, the wistful melancholia. This is one of those rare albums that rewards over time, and I tip my hat to any artist that can pull this off in today's musical climate.
"Tonight We Fly"
Tonight we fly
Over the chimneytops, skylights, and slates,
Looking into all your lives
And wondering why
Happiness is so hard to find ...

And when we die
Oh, will we be that disappointed or sad?
If heaven doesn't exist
What will we have missed?
This life is the best we've ever had.

jeudi, octobre 27, 2005

go on, freaky girlfriend

I don't usually think of myself as odd. But I got some interesting looks tonight at the gym.

Le contexte
First of all, I should say that
  1. My gym is in Hillcrest, an area of town that's predominately gay
  2. I typically ignore everyone else when I'm getting my sweat on
  3. I am typically ignored because I'm a woman in what is essentially a gay male cruising zone
  4. I was wearing the new Mamma Mia shirt that Scott and Monika bought me in Vegas
You do the math: gay clientele + ABBA musical shirt = street cred in a very live-and-let-live gym environment. I stretched that credibility about as far I could though, because of my multitasking.

Pourquoi? et la raison d'être ...
  • Aleyda and Aaron are 39 weeks pregnant today and I'm still not done making their baby blanket.
  • The item in question looked more like a baby placemat than a baby blanket at 7 p.m.
  • I typically read my Org Behavior book at the gym (but the class is now over).
La mise en scène
I grabbed my crochet bag and "The Partly Cloudy Patriot" by Sarah Vowel, figuring that if the yarn experiment failed, I'd read.

To my surprise, I was able to get about three more inches done all around the granny square as I jogged on the elliptical trainer.

As if counting stitches and keeping my balance wasn't enough to keep me busy, I found myself playing along with Jeopardy (closed captioned on the TVs in front of me) and humming along with the mix of alternative/ top 40 music being piped in.

Le dénouement
No wonder the lovely gay boy next to me said this to me when he was done using the elliptical trainer: "Honey, that's beautiful. Ignore the looks from that bitch over there. Go on, freaky girlfriend." Predictably, he walked away with another beauuuuuutiful man.


"On a scale of 1 to 10, New York City at Christmas is a 200."
-One of my colleagues, when I told him that I've never been to New York, much less at Christmas.

building a bridge to nowhere

"Did you see the misprint in Monday's "Daily Aztec"? It says that support for President Bush is down among blacks."


"That assumes that they supported him to begin with."

Bush loses credibility among black Americans
President Bush recently suggested he was the one to bridge the racial divide in the post-Hurricane Katrina United States. Did he speak correctly? If he were truly in earnest, his bridge would have to be really big.

A recent poll by NBC and The Wall Street Journal puts Bush's approval rating at a dismal 2 percent among the black community. This rating comes at a time when Bush's general approval is at 39 percent, the lowest of his presidential career.

Hurricane Katrina raised a lot of social issues, many of which were racial. For Bush to be despised among blacks shouldn't be surprising considering the significant number of impoverished blacks living in New Orleans when Katrina hit. Bush's apathetic response is the prime reason for his already dwindling pre-Katrina approval rating to dive into the single digits.

There are a number of other reasons I can think of to explain why blacks appreciate Bush even less than the French do. When outspoken Rapper Kanye West said, "George Bush doesn't care about black people," during a Sept. 2 live concert fundraiser for Hurricane Katrina relief, according to Billboard magazine, he voiced an opinion that is well reflected by many blacks.

I disagree to a point: Bush just doesn't like poor people - of any color.

bitter, party of two

H: "So I'm feeling a little better about the MBA after last night's class."

A: "Bitter?"

H: "No, better. I mean, I actually understood the concepts last night."

A: "That's because the professor's doing this thing called 'teaching.'"


mercredi, octobre 26, 2005

my brain's gone walkabout

Elizabeth's post on standardized testing struck a chord with me.

I was one of those brats who scored off-the-charts back in the day. My punishment for gloating then is being a mediocre standardized test-taker as an adult, as evidenced by my GRE and GMAT scores.

When I was a little girl, I loved tests. In particular, I loved standardized tests. Every year, the school would administer sheet upon scantron sheet of tests. I would fill in the bubbles and then a month or so later, they would share the results with my mom. I'd get all upset if I didn't score better than the 97th percentile. Meanwhile, my brother (who is A LOT smarter than I am and just doesn't give a shit about tests) would score in the mid-range and I would be instructed not to gloat over scoring better than 98% of my peers. I was in that critical 2% of ass-kissers. You had one in your class growing up. It might have been me.

One of the key concepts in our house when I was growing up was "You are not your grades." My mother would say this to my brother when he didn't do so well on his report card. She would say it to me when I did do well. I needed to be taken down a notch. Repeatedly. I understand all this now, but at the time there was no greater thrill than filling in all the correct bubbles and being granted that slim glimpse at intellectual superiority.

Flash forward 20 years and I now despise standardized tests. Seems I've gotten a whole lot stupider in those couple of decades...

See, I am taking the GRE on Saturday ... I know that I will score really really low on the math part, seeing as how I completely lost the quantitative part of my brain a while ago. I can barely count, let alone find the greater integer or whatever. It's become another language to me, one I don't even have a phrase book for.

The real meat of this test for me is the vocabulary and writing part. I know a lot of words. I know how to string thoughts into sentences (sometimes). But when I was taking the practice tests, all the information I once knew takes a holiday. Suddenly, I have the vocabulary of a cave-dweller.

the united cities of america

Ever wondered where cultural boundaries lie (New York City vs. Upstate New York)?

The CommonCensus Map Project
is redrawing the map of the United States based on your voting, to show how the country is organized culturally, as opposed to traditional political boundaries. It shows how the country is divided into 'spheres of influence' between different cities at the national, regional, and local levels.

funny, she doesn't look druish

I've seen plenty of bar mitzvah photos and these three are onto something. Eric, this one's for you.
My Big Fat 80's Bar Mitzvah
Two years ago three bored New Yorkers in their early 30's were trapped inside an Upper West Side apartment on a rainy autumn day when the conversation came around to memories of their bar and bat mitzvah celebrations. On a whim they challenged one another to dig out their photo albums for group inspection.

A few days later all was laid bare: the boys in their tiny polyester three-piece suits, the girls towering over them with their careful yet enormous hair, the braces, the ruffled skirts, the acne, the relatives. "It was pretty startling to see how my parents allowed me to walk around with a pair of what were quite clearly women's spectacles," Roger Bennett said, recalling the queasiness he felt as he revisited photographs of himself sporting eyeglasses the size of cocktail coasters and a blue hair dye job for his punk-theme bar mitzvah party in 1983.

But their horrified fascination soon gave way to sociological awe. "What started as a joke between friends grew into an obsession," said Mr. Bennett, who works for a charitable foundation and said it had been 17 years since he last looked at his album. Soon the three created on which to post their photographs and invited readers to mail in their own to add to the collection. It struck a nerve: within months, Mr. Bennett and his partners, Jules Shell, an independent filmmaker, and Nick Kroll, a television comedy writer, had received so many photo albums, commemorative T-shirts and centerpieces via Federal Express that they had to rent warehouse space to store it all.

Now it is a book. A collection of more than 300 photographs culled from bar and bat mitzvahs from the 70's to the early 90's with essays by friends of the authors like Jonathan Safran Foer and Sarah Silverman, "Bar Mitzvah Disco," which will appear in bookstores on Nov. 2. It is at first glance a nostalgia tour through an era of unprecedented bourgeois tackiness. But, the authors say, it is also a cultural history, albeit one with a Duran Duran backbeat. The MTV-era bar mitzvah marked not only a transitional moment in their own lives, they say, but also one for American Jews as a whole. It was a time when an insular Old World ritual blew up into an all-American affair: inclusive, often suburban and, thanks to new Hollywood production values, unforgettably garish.

"That's very much the crux of the book for us," said Mr. Kroll, 27, who grew up in Rye, N.Y., referring to the late-20th-century Jewish version of the American dream, which he and Ms. Shell, 28, who grew up in Columbus, Ohio, lived out for themselves. Mr. Bennett, 35, grew up in Liverpool, England, but has lived in the United States since 1992. "We look at where our grandparents came from," Mr. Kroll explained. "They lived on the Lower East Side. Our families moved out to the suburbs and made money, and we had these big bar mitzvahs. Now we have the leisure to look back and reflect."

Traditionally the bar mitzvah was a ceremony intended to mark the assumption of adult religious responsibilities by a 13-year-old boy. The service typically involves his reading from the Torah before the congregation for the first time, usually followed by a party. The contributors to "Bar Mitzvah Disco" had the experience in towns stretching from Freehold, N.J., to Flint, Mich., and Hollywood. Several include candid entries with their photos of those parties in which they fondly recount a lucky French kiss, furtive sips from a mother's screwdriver or too many paper cups of Manischewitz wine. What links them together is exquisite awkwardness against a background of unabashed prosperity.

Of course at a basic level the construction of a grandiose stage for a four-foot boy in orthodontic headgear is the stuff of comedy. But lurking beneath the obvious jokes are deeper ironies, said Joshua Neuman, a former philosophy instructor at New York University, who is editor in chief of Heeb, a Manhattan-based magazine devoted to hip Jewish culture.

During this period, Mr. Neuman said, "the country clubs that used to not want to have us as members want us as members." So the proud new members of the Cadillac-driving gentry began organizing religious ceremonies around "enduring American themes," he continued. It's really funny to watch these kids, he noted, "and these nebbishy adults at a chuck-wagon-themed extravangza."

Mr. Neuman's magazine published pictures from the book in a recent issue. "There is this natural awkwardness that children experience on the cusp of adulthood," he said. "But it's also this kind of rite of passage for the community, which is, for lack of a better expression, becoming white. They are going from outsiders to insiders. What could be more awkward than that?"

Parents are featured in the book as well, always lavishly dressed and often posing proudly in front of banquet tables overflowing with food. Many Jews of that era, said Jeffrey Shandler, an associate professor of Jewish studies at Rutgers University, saw their son's bar mitzvah as a way to telegraph their social standing and ambitions.

"Part of the move to the suburbs is seen as a step to being more integrated with your non-Jewish neighbors," Dr. Shandler said. "It's not just a family celebration. It becomes a kind of mega birthday party. Parents are using this as a social occasion, so their business associates and neighbors get invited to the celebration."

For them, he said, their child's party was as much about networking and conspicuous consumption as about watching their child give a commentary on the Torah. Bar mitzvahs built around a "Raiders of the Lost Ark" or a Disney theme became common. Thanks in part to the introduction of the videographer, he added, the parties started to take on the look of movie sets.

And the attitude certainly trickled down to their children. In the book Ned Lazarus, who celebrated his bar mitzvah in Washington in 1986, poses proudly wearing one pair of high-price Vuarnet sunglasses on his face and another fastened in a case to his belt.

It was the larger cultural implications of the bar mitzvah that captured the authors' imaginations, and the scale of their project quickly overcame their originally modest intentions of simply posting old photographs.

With more than 1,000 people submitting treasures like vintage basketballs and commemorative ballerina shoes, the three pulled all-nighters on work nights as they searched for hidden meanings among the irreplaceable detritus. "It's very hard to smuggle these things out," Ms. Shell said, recalling her mother's attachment to the bat mitzvah album. "If my mother had her way, it would have stayed on the Lucite table underneath the telephone."

They arranged the material in every manner possible, looking for the larger themes to emerge. "At one point, we had it organized by the colors of the dresses the girls were wearing," Mr. Bennett said. At another, it was hair color. "Ginger-haired girls, we had 200 of them," he added wearily. (In its final form the book breaks down the story into simple categories: music, clothes, photographers, food.) What kept them going, Mr. Bennett said, was that each new album was a story unto itself: lust, death, the fracturing of the American family.

"It became this incredible and serious pursuit," he said. "The bar mitzvah became the prism on how we grew up and how we got to be this way."

After hiding their own albums for years, he said he and his friends were surprised at first by the urgency people seemed to feel about sharing their humiliation.

"For most of these people these pictures have been sources of shame, embarrassment and therapy," Mr. Bennett said. For his part he said he could look at his own album now and laugh, but couldn't face it even a decade ago. "Ten years ago, when you still have everything to prove, and there is some flexibility about who you might become, this is something you most certainly want to hide. But after a certain amount of time the statute of limitations on shame just evaporates."

Of course some memories are easier to rationalize than others. Stephanie Huttner of Denver, for example, is shown standing in the middle of a country club wearing a gold ruffled skirt next to an elephant on loan from the Denver Zoo for her safari-theme bat mitzvah in 1987.

The trick, Mr. Bennett said, speaking from experience, is to search for the meanings beneath the excess.

"Saying this book is about bar mitzvahs is like saying 'Animal Farm' is about horses and cows," he said. "This is sociological history."

varietal chocolate vice

Unexpected taste.
Essence of cherries and plums,

mardi, octobre 25, 2005

the mp3 experiment 2.0, part deux

Agent B. has reported back on the results of the mp3 experiment 2.0.

I need to get in on this next time.

big star back?

Big Star is quintessential 1970s power pop. This summer, I listened to "September Gurls" more times than I can count and never grew tired of it.

REM, The Replacements, and Teenage Fanclub have all acknowledged their debt to the band, and countless others have suckled at the teat of #1 Record (1972), Radio City (1974), and Third/Sister Lovers (1978). It is through these groups that most of us have come to know and appreciate what could rightfully be called the band that helped launch both alternative rock and power pop.
Now, I understand that Big Star has re-formed and released a new album with a few good songs on it.

you have got to be kidding

Protecting the Presidential Seal. No Joke.
You might have thought that the White House had enough on its plate late last month, what with its search for a new Supreme Court nominee, the continuing war in Iraq and the C.I.A. leak investigation. But it found time to add another item to its agenda - stopping The Onion, the satirical newspaper, from using the presidential seal.

The newspaper regularly produces a parody of
President Bush's weekly radio address on its Web site, where it has a picture of President Bush and the official insignia.

"It has come to my attention that The Onion is using the presidential seal on its Web site," Grant M. Dixton, associate counsel to the president, wrote to The Onion on Sept. 28. (At the time, Mr. Dixton's office was also helping Mr. Bush find a Supreme Court nominee; days later his boss, Harriet E. Miers, was nominated.)

Citing the United States Code, Mr. Dixton wrote that the seal "is not to be used in connection with commercial ventures or products in any way that suggests presidential support or endorsement." Exceptions may be made, he noted, but The Onion had never applied for such an exception.

The Onion was amused. "I'm surprised the president deems it wise to spend taxpayer money for his lawyer to write letters to The Onion," Scott Dikkers, editor in chief, wrote to Mr. Dixton. He suggested the money be used instead for tax breaks for satirists.

More formally, The Onion's lawyers responded that the paper's readers - it prints about 500,000 copies weekly, and three million people read it online - are well aware that The Onion is a joke.

"It is inconceivable that anyone would think that, by using the seal, The Onion intends to 'convey... sponsorship or approval' by the president," wrote Rochelle H. Klaskin, the paper's lawyer, who went on to note that a headline in the current issue made the point: "Bush to Appoint Someone to Be in Charge of Country."

Moreover, she wrote, The Onion and its Web site are free, so the seal is not being used for commercial purposes. That said, The Onion asked that its letter be considered a formal application to use the seal.

No answer yet. But Trent Duffy, a White House spokesman, said that "you can't pick and choose where you want to enforce the rules surrounding the use of official government insignia, whether it's for humor or fraud."

O.K. But just between us, Mr. Duffy, how did they find out about it?

"Despite the seriousness of the Bush White House, more than one Bush staffer reads The Onion and enjoys it thoroughly," he said. "We do have a sense of humor, believe it or not."

Via The New York Times

killer deer neutralized

I don't mean to trivialize this man's death. But the saying "everything is big for people with small lives" comes to mind right about now. Here's some context: Fairbanks Ranch is part of Rancho Santa Fe, one of the most affluent neighborhoods in San Diego (and the nation).

Deer shot; neighbors return to routines
Fairbanks Ranch neighbors peeked out windows before venturing into their yards yesterday morning. A sense of fear has pervaded this gated community since a buck gored a man three weeks ago. He died Monday.

But the neighbors needn't have worried. The night before, federal trackers had shot and killed the buck believed to have attacked 73-year-old Ron Dudek. To make sure, they also killed one that looked similar.

Steve Martarano, spokesman for the California Department of Fish and Game, said his agency had no choice but to destroy the bucks.

"We don't relocate wild animals that are considered a problem," Martarano said. "Even after the incident, this buck continued to just hang around. It was getting bolder.

"This is a great example of the problems people can cause when they think they can get too close to wildlife." While neighbors had hoped the problem buck would be relocated to a wild area rather than be killed, they were pleased yesterday afternoon when they learned they could enter their yards without trepidation.

"I will be glad if I don't see that big one anymore," said Ann Winters, who lives across Avenida Cuatro Vientos from where the deer attacked Dudek on Sept. 25.

Dudek, who owned Saturn Electric Inc. in San Diego, had gone into his back yard to pick tomatoes when he passed a 6-foot-tall buck with three-point antlers, according to his family. The buck, which was up against the house, gored him in the face, breaking five teeth and ramming an antler down his throat.

Tom Dudek, one of their four sons, said he was worried that the deer might attack his mother, too. At that point, no one knew the bucks had been killed.

"I'm concerned about her being in the yard," he said. "If they don't get it – I will. Plenty of people have offered me a rifle."

Via Kevin

r.i.p. rosa parks

Many people know that a seamstress named Rosa Parks sparked the Montgomery Bus Boycott when she refused to give up her seat to a white man in 1955. What most don't know is that she worked as the secretary for the local NAACP chapter and was carefully selected as the person who would challenge the bus segregation laws.

For her act of defiance, Mrs. Parks was arrested, convicted of violating the segregation laws and fined $10, plus $4 in court fees. In response, blacks in Montgomery boycotted the buses for nearly 13 months while mounting a successful Supreme Court challenge to the Jim Crow law that enforced their second-class status on the public bus system.

The events that began on that bus in the winter of 1955 captivated the nation and transformed a 26-year-old preacher named Martin Luther King Jr. into a major civil rights leader. It was Dr. King, the new pastor of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, who was drafted to head the Montgomery Improvement Association, the organization formed to direct the nascent civil rights struggle.

Her act of civil disobedience, what seems a simple gesture of defiance so many years later, was in fact a dangerous, even reckless move in 1950's Alabama. In refusing to move, she risked legal sanction and perhaps even physical harm, but she also set into motion something far beyond the control of the city authorities. Mrs. Parks clarified for people far beyond Montgomery the cruelty and humiliation inherent in the laws and customs of segregation.

The Supreme Court outlawed segregation on buses in Browder v. Gayle (1956). Parks' personal courage, dignity, and commitment to equality are inspiring, as is her legacy: " ... to bring peace, justice, equality, love and a fulfillment of what our lives should be. Without vision, the people will perish, and without courage and inspiration, dreams will die — the dream of freedom and peace."
Via The New York Times


"Not my demographic— that's too bad.
Not my area code— that can be overcome."
-My friend Diana Lai, on dating and relationships.

lundi, octobre 24, 2005

just add water

Yesterday, I visited the farmer's market and brought home an armload of blooms. It wasn't a special occasion — it's my habit.

Since I've been single, I've made the point of having fresh flowers in my home almost every week. Last week's helichrysum and cockscombs are sitting in a mason jar on my bedside table.

My bathroom and living room are filled with the sensual perfume of mexican tuberoses. Oxblood-colored chrysanthemums adorn my kitchen table. And each time I come home, I smile at how simple it is for me to make my own day.

as seen in a gila bend gas station

Take a closer look.

That's Bobby Brown's debut album, "King of Stage," placed right above Merle Haggard's "Okie from Muskogee."

The mind reels.

But I have to admit that it fits nicely with the one degree of separation experiment.

abstract thought

I'm a horrible artist, but a decent photographer. I think that's because I lack the ability to conceptualize something visual from scratch (other than words, but that's something else entirely). The hardest things for me to photograph are people in a studio setting and the occasional still life that I construct.

Let me use board games to illustrate my point: I'm a great Boggle player, but not very good at Scrabble. Boggle is about recognizing patterns within set parameters and literally connecting those dots (letters) to form a word. Scrabble is less structured— it's about creating the parameters and then recognizing a pattern. I can take a decent photograph because it's about framing things within parameters, as opposed to taking a blank canvas and creating something from scratch. That tangent had a point, which I'll come to presently.

Beauty is one of the many tools that artists use. I use beauty as my yardstick for evaluating things that are a) good and b) appeal to me. Knowing that Picasso painted gorgeous "traditional" subject matter before turning the art world on its head shows me that he's "good." And knowing that he's deliberately doing these things makes me sidestep the absence of straightforward (traditional) beauty and appreciate his cubist work as a) good and b) personally appealing. That is why I stood slack-jawed in the Musée Picasso, taking it all in, including the "Death of Casagemas" and the "Guernica"- era work last summer.

Incidentally, I couldn't remember what "Mademoiselles d' Avignon" looked like, so I googled it. The results included a Monty Python sketch and a French grammar lesson explaining that it's really "Les Demoiselles d'Avignon."
Expanded from today's e-mail exchange with Ben

dimanche, octobre 23, 2005

love you, nanny

do not stop for hitchhikers

I spent the last 36 hours with my cousin Andrea on a roadtrip to visit Nanny in lovely Sun City, AZ. I'm not a blood relative to either woman, but we've all been family for about 16 years now, so I'm not going to let a technicality like a divorce get in the way.

The drive out there was fun and filled with good tunes ranging from ABBA to Weezer. Andrea and I alternated as drivers/ DJs and did our best to introduce one other to new music. It was a six-hour rock, folk, rap, ska, punk, and country singalong each way. We also took pictures at several roadside oddities.

We saw the most gorgeous Arizona sunset as Yuma faded in the rearview mirror and the mountains at Gila Bend were purplish and hazy with atmospheric distortion. An hour later, something huge and orange was on the horizon to our left. It was the moon, looking as though it was on fire, a glowing warm amber mass rising slowly in the sky in front of us.

The roads between San Diego and Sun City are chock full of interesting signs. Over the years, I've passed Felicity, CA (population zero, elevation 280) and wondered why no one lives in that happy place. Then there's the neon-lit UFO-themed 'Space Age Lodge' in Gila Bend, AZ. It's almost the last thing one sees before setting out on deserted old highway 85. (Eric and I always called it 'the X-Files road,' feeling certain that if aliens exist, they would choose that desolate road from which to abduct us because there would be no witnesses.) Old Highway 85 also has a state correctional facility on it, complete with signs admonishing drivers not to stop for hitchhikers. Finally, there's a town called Surprise, which has another prison and a 'world-famous zoo.' Somehow, I don't think I'll be stopping to see the inmates at either facility anytime soon.

Andrea, what did Nanny say about you playing with snakes?

Blinded by the light, I don't notice the smiling brontosaurus' fangs — a tell-tale sign that he's no herbivore — until it's too late.

I read the sign and decide against picking up the hitchhiker, in spite of how sexy her leg looks.

vendredi, octobre 21, 2005

joyeux anniversaire à nous

I started this blog one year ago today, hence the new title banner and tagline.

600 posts later, I've accomplished what I set out to do:

  1. Document my life.
  2. Get in the practice of writing each and every day.
  3. Use blogging as a way to think about, process, and externalize issues that I would've internalized in the past.
  4. Keep in touch with loved ones near and far, without spamming them.
  5. Stay current in my occupation (online communications).

Here's some research on the demographics of bloggers and their audience.

jeudi, octobre 20, 2005

into ani

I've been living under a rock. I say that because until a few weeks ago, I'd never heard Ani DiFranco's music. She's a gifted and thoughtful lyricist and I now have fifteen years worth of material to wade through.

Here are excerpts of some of my favorite songs so far... Thanks, B.

"Both hands"
I am writing
graffiti on your body
I am drawing the story of
how hard we tried
I am watching your chest rise and fall
like the tides of my life,
and the rest of it all
and your bones have been my bedframe
and your flesh has been my pillow
I am waiting for sleep
to offer up the deep
with both hands

In each other's shadows we grew less and less tall
And eventually our theories couldn't explain it all
And I'm recording our history now on the bedroom wall
And when we leave the landlord will come
And paint over it all
And I am walking
Out in the rain
And I am listening to the low moan of the dial tone again
And I am getting nowhere with you
And I can't let it go
And I can't get though

So now use both hands
Please use both hands
Oh, no don't close your eyes
I am writing graffiti on your body
I am drawing the story of how hard we tried
Hard we tried
How hard we tried

"Egos like hairdos"
everybody loves the underdog
but no one wants to be him
the press will fatten you up
and then they'll dig their teeth in
it's cool to discover someone
it's hard to support them
everyone is playing life
like it's some stupid sport

we got egos like hairdos
they're different every day
depending on how we slept the night before
depending on the demons that are at our door

there're no demons here
and i don't really care
whose name is printed in bigger type
you know i live in a world full of hope
not a world full of hype
i ain't no saint
i help myself to what i need
but i help other people too
y'know i sleep soundly

"Angry anymore"
growing up, it was just me and my mom against the world.
and all my sympathies were with her when i was a little girl
and i've seen both my parents play out the hands that they were dealt
as each year goes by, i know more about how my father must have felt.

she taught me how to wage cold war with quiet charm
but i just want to walk through my life unarmed.
to accept, and just get by like my father learned to do,
but without all the acceptance of getting by that got my father through

night falls like people into love
we generate our own light to compensate
for the lack of light from above.
every time we fight a cold wind blows our way,
we can learn like the trees, how to bend,
how to sway and say

i, i think i understand
what all this fighting is for,
and i just want you to understand
i'm not angry anymore.
no, i'm not angry anymore.

Little plastic castle"
they say goldfish have no memory
i guess their lives are much like mine
the little plastic castle
is a surprise every time
it's hard to say if they are happy
but they don't seem much to mind

people talk about my image
like i come in two dimensions
like lipstick is a sign of my declining mind
like what i happen to be wearing the day
that someone takes my picture
is my new statement for all of womankind

quick someone call the girl police
and file a report

"fire door"
and i wasn't joking when i said
good bye
there were magazine quality men talking on the corner
french, no less much less of them then us
so why do i feel like something's been rearranged?
you know, taken out of context i must seem so strange

when you and i are lying in bed
you don't seem so tall
i'm singing now because my tear ducts are too tired
and my mind is disconnected but my heart is wired

And oh, oh,
Let me count the ways
That I abhor you,
And you were never a good lay
And you were never a good friend
But, oh, oh, what else can i say...
I adore you
"Falling is like this"
You give me that look that’s like laughing
With liquid in your mouth
Like you’re choosing between choking
And spitting it all out
Like you’re trying to fight gravity
On a planet that insists
That love is like falling
And falling is like this

Feels like reckless driving when we’re talking
It’s fun while it lasts, and it’s faster than walking
But no one’s going to sympathize when we crash
They’ll say "you hit what you head for, you get what you ask"
And we’ll say we didn’t know, we didn’t even try
One minute there was road beneath us, the next just sky

I’m sorry I can’t help you, I cannot keep you safe
I’m sorry I can’t help myself, so don’t look at me that way
We can’t fight gravity on a planet that insists
That love is like falling
And falling is like this.

32 flavors"
And god help you if you are an ugly girl
Course too pretty is also your doom
'Cause everyone harbors a secret hatred
For the prettiest girl in the room
And god help you if you are a phoenix
And you dare to rise up from the ash
A thousand eyes will smolder with jealousy
While you are just flying past

I'm not trying to give my life meaning
By demeaning you
And I would like to state for the record
I did everything that I could do
I'm not saying that I'm a saint
I just don't want to live that way
No, I will never be a saint
But I will always say

Squint your eyes and look closer
I'm not between you and your ambition
I am a poster girl with no poster
I am thirty-two flavors and then some
And I'm beyond your peripheral vision
So you might want to turn your head
'Cause someday you might find you're starving
And eating all of the words you said

if i was dressed in my best defenses
would you agree to meet me for coffee
if i did my tricks with smoke and mirrors
would you still know which one was me
if i was naked and screaming
on your front lawn
would you turn on the light and come down
screaming, there's the asshole
who did this to me
stripped me of my power
stripped me down

i used to be a superhero
no one could hurt me
not even myself
you are like a phone booth
that i somehow stubmled into
and now look at me
i am just like everybody else

yeah you've been gone exactly two weeks
two weeks and three days
and now i'm a different person
different in so many ways
tell me what did you like about me
and don't say my strength and daring
'cuz now i think i'm at your mercy
and it's my first time for this kind of thing

i used to be a superhero
i would swoop down and save me
from myself
but you are like a phone booth
that i somehow stumbled into
and now look at me
i am just like everybody else

"As is"
you can't hide
behind social graces
so don't try
to be all touchy feely
cuz you lie
in my face of all places
but i've got no
problem with that really

what bugs me
is that you believe what you're saying
what bothers me
is that you don't know how you feel
what scares me
is that while you're telling me stories
you actually
believe that they are real

and i've got
no illusions about you
and guess what?
i never did
and when i said
when i said i'll take it
i meant,
i meant as is

just give up
and admit you're an asshole
you would be
in some good company
i think you'd find
that your friends would forgive you
or maybe i
am just speaking for me

cuz when i look around
i think this, this is good enough
and i try to laugh
at whatever life brings
cuz when i look down
i just miss all the good stuff
when i look up
i just trip over things

and i've got
no illusions about you...

picture this

The BBC's Photographer of the Year 2005 contest is now in progress. Take a look at some of the winners.


The environment



mercredi, octobre 19, 2005

google mashups

A Google map is no longer just a Google map.

You can still search Google Maps to figure out how to get from here to there, but why would you, when you can use it to pinpoint kosher restaurants in Cincinnati, traffic cameras in Dublin, or hot spring spas anywhere in the United States? How about finding coffee shops in Seattle that provide free wireless Internet access? Or would you prefer to locate the McMansion your boss just bought and find how out exactly how much he paid for it?

I think my favorite (for now, anyhow) is A Foodie's-Eye View of San Diego's Best Thai Food.

Here are some other fun ones:
Find a hotdog stand in Chicago - Looking for some "street meat" in Chicago? Check out this Google Map which plots the location of hotdog stands. I just love the names of some of them - Toot's, Huey's, SuperDawg and Weiner's Circle! Based on the number shown on this map, there are sure to be more locations added over time.

How to Make Your Own Transit Map Mash-up - Plots your jogging or walking route and computes the calories burned. - Let's you type in a flight number as a Google search to yield a map of where that flight is.
World Earthquakes mashup
Checks San Francisco's BART schedule.
Dig to the Other Side of the World - Puts home sale data onto a Google map.
Cell Phone Reception - For sheer silliness, this is a favorite. - Find the taco trucks in Seattle. - New York City subway map overlaying a city map. - Kosher food in scores of major American cities. - The job posting company now plots listings on a Google map. - Overlays Philaladephia crime stats on a Google map. It's sortable so you can find out how many purse snatchings there were in Rittenhouse Square.
Seattle free wireless coffee shops - When you think of Seattle, you think of coffee. Here is a Google Map of places where you can enjoy a cup of it and use free wifi.
Toronto Homicides
Winery Locator
Road Sign Math
Via the NY Times and Google Maps Mania


It's no secret that I'm skeptical about the veracity of our media and the agenda of the man in the Oval Office.

It's hard to separate the spin from the truth. Is the bird flu scare more smoke and mirrors to deflect attention from the aftermath of Katrina, the failed war in Iraq, and Harriet Miers' all-but-certain Supreme Court confirmation? Now that the BBC and New York Times are running regular stories on the subject, I'm thinking that it's not all a case of Chicken Little.

After reading Sandra's posting on the topic, I know I'm not alone in my skepticism.
With headlines shouting louder day by day, warning of an impending bird-flu pandemic projected to kill 50-150 million homo sapiens (not to mention what it would do to chickens and cockatiels), it's been a real relief to learn that the U.S. government is already on the case. In fact, President Bush himself has studied the threat and delegated our protection from the deadly H5N1 virus to that peerless team of civil servants at the Department of Homeland Security.
You know, the same bunch that did such a stellar job in the Gulf States during the recent hurricanes. Washington's defense squad has hit the field just in time. According to this morning's news, H5N1 has now traveled from Asia to Turkey and perhaps Romania. From there it's only a sneeze or two away from Western Europe, where it's likely to hop a redeye from Heathrow, de Gaulle or Frankfurt to JFK, Dulles or O'Hare. Thank goodness DHS is standing guard. Otherwise, I don't think I'd be able to sleep at night.

tattooed doppelganger

Lately, lots of people are telling me that I resemble celebrity X or celebrity Y. In the past month, I've been told that I resemble four different celebrities. Thankfully, no one's telling me that I look like anyone in porn.

Student bullied over porn lookalike
A teenage girl has been shocked and humiliated after students at her private school distributed a porn video they thought she starred in.

The 17-year-old from northern New South Wales was stunned to discover students had copied footage from an X-rated website featuring an actress she looked like. The 10 seconds of film was then circulated by email to dozens of other students, wrongly claiming she was the star.

The school and police are investigating the incident. The girl, who asked not to be identified, told The Sunday Mail she first became aware when she received a text message asking if she was a porn star. Other students confronted her as speculation spread through the school about the woman in the video.

"It happened when I was right in the middle of my end-of-year exams for Year 11, when one of the boys sent a text to me. He said, 'Are you making porn now?'," she said yesterday. The girl said she was left shocked when she saw the video.

"It made me feel horrible, it was unfair and humiliating that they had done this," she said. The girl's parents have had to become members of a US porn site to track the original video and clear their daughter's name.

"As her parents we were astounded at the resemblance of the porn star to our daughter and, had we not recognised the difference in body features, we would have thought the same as everyone else – that it was her," her father said. "She was crying in her room. I asked her if she had ever been drugged at a party because the video shows the porn star with eyes rolling and acting in a possible drug-induced state. She replied, 'No, never'."

It was discovered the actress had a tattoo on her shoulder, proving their daughter was not involved.

Her father also sounded a warning about cyber bullying. "Some parents may not have had the time and money to find the original video and their child's name would be under a cloud because they could not have proved them innocent."


vote dammit!

"The most common way people give up their power is to think they don't have any."
-Alice Walker

It's election time again. Nov. 8 is the day to get out and vote. Several important initiatives are on the ballot, including Proposition 73.
Mandatory notification laws may sound good, but, in the real world, they just put teenagers in real danger. This law will put the most vulnerable teenagers—those who most need protection—in harm's way, or force them to go to court.

Also, take a look at the Vote Dammit! slideshow on why voting matters, brought to us by Ani DiFranco.

lundi, octobre 17, 2005

true that, sister

There was a mutiny in econ today. That's because most of us are frustrated because we don't understand the material and are finally making no effort to hide it anymore. And it all boiled over tonight.

After being barraged with questions about a particular equation that he was working through at the whiteboard and being generally unable to make the point he wanted to illustrate, our professor tried to use humor to get the lecture back on track.

Our professor: "Let me get to the punchline."

My classmate, her voice seething with sarcasm: "Oh good, so it is a joke."

After that verbal smackdown, the entire class completely lost it and laughed for awhile.

soup days

Outside my office, the ominous charcoal-grey clouds are pouring rain.

Today's a perfect day to be inside curled up by the fireplace, enjoying a good book or movie and the warmth of my golden retriever while eating one of my favorite comfort foods: soup.

Some of my fondest childhood memories are rainy days. When I was a little girl, I'd trudge home from the bus stop in the rain, wet and chilled to the bone. My stay-at-home mom would meet me at the front door to take my coat and umbrella and give me a fluffy towel. I'd head to my room to put on warm PJs or sweats and dry socks and slippers. Then, she'd sit me down at the kitchen table for a cup of hot, homemade potato and leek soup or caldo (broth).

I'm a grown woman, but on a day like today, nothing will satisfy me but soup. If I wake up on a weekend to the sound of raindrops on my window or roof, I check my pantry and then bundle up and head to the market for ingredients to make a ginormous pot of soup. Since it's a Monday and I'm at work/ in class until 10 tonight, I'll head to the marketplace on campus and get a cuppa corn chowdah for my evening meal.

Mmmmm. Soup is good food.


"There are no wrong notes on the piano, just better choices."
Thelonious Monk (1917-1982), American jazz pianist and composer.

dimanche, octobre 16, 2005

weather like the hearts of men

raincloud It's raining right now.
I was raised in Southern California and adore rain. I also enjoy taking photographs when it rains — everything is clean and has a bit of a sheen to it; others are taking cover from the raindrops; and there are puddles galore in which to find reflections and unusual perspectives.

I met someone yesterday who has the sun tattooed on his back. When I asked why, he explained that he got it shortly after moving to California, because there's so much sunshine here. (He's from Canada, where evidently, the sun shines much less often and presumably, much less brightly.)
Clouds Part, and Joy Breaks Out All Over Town
Something strange happened in New York City yesterday. The sun came out.

Certainly, the central star of the solar system had not entirely forsaken the other center of the universe during a record-breaking week of rain, but evidence of its presence amid the downpours was circumstantial at best. The storm that had soaked the city and the region for eight days in a row rested, blessedly, on the ninth day. And sometime about 11 a.m. yesterday - first reported sightings varied - the sun was shining bright and warm in a rainless sky.

"There are blue skies!" yelled Alan Salmen, leather-jacketed arms outstretched, as he stood with his wife, Lisa, on a patch of Eighth Avenue pavement along a street fair in Midtown. "I was starting to wonder."

Mr. Salmen, who does asbestos and lead removal in California, spent the week as soggy and drenched as millions of other tourists and New Yorkers. There he was in his hotel room at night, using the blow dryer on his sneakers. There he was on Friday with his wife on a nice romantic stroll in the rain forest otherwise known as Central Park. But yesterday afternoon, in sunglasses and dry footwear, he soaked in the rays. "You take what Mother Nature gives you," he said.

The New York region had been given, without asking, eight days of continued rain beginning Oct. 7. In a city of New York minutes, eight days feels like an eternity. It rained when people went to bed at night, and it rained when people woke up in the morning. It rained on Washington Heights, and it rained on Crown Heights, and it rained on Jackson Heights, too. The National Weather Service recorded 13.25 inches of rain in Central Park this month, making it, so far, the second-wettest October. In the only October on record with more rain, the Boston Pilgrims beat the Pittsburgh Pirates in the first World Series. The year was 1903.

In the sunshine yesterday, the yin-and-yang of the city was on display, at once dry and wet. People headed outdoors, trailing their dogs and children, stepping over leftover puddles and mushy clumps of maple leaves, trying to remember when they last did such a simple thing as stand outside without aid of umbrella, awning or hood. Children complained about being cooped up for days. Grown-ups grumbled about expanding waistlines from extended periods of TV watching and ice cream eating. Everyone preferred to talk about how miserable it had been in the rain. They let the sunshine speak for itself.

"It feels very good," said Banroy Brown, 24, a construction worker lounging in partly dry Prospect Park in Brooklyn. "You know what I mean?"

In parts of New Jersey that suffered severe flooding in the storm, officials and residents took advantage of the clear skies to assess the damage. "It feels good to be out," said Gail Lino, 45, as she stood outside her husband's flooded home in the unfortunately named Pleasureland section of Oakland, where evacuated residents returned for the first time yesterday. "Once the water goes down, there will be a lot of work to do. I'm not looking forward it."

Even in a big, bad city like New York, people like their sunshine. The view is not as splendid from behind rain-streaked windows. Everywhere yesterday, there were scenes of a town finally aglow. A young man in a ponytail trimmed white lilies at a flower stand in a place too sunny to be called Hell's Kitchen. Couples kissed in Central Park as the notes from a man's saxophone blended with the wail of a police siren, creating a jazz all its own. In crowded Columbus Circle, the explorer stared unblinking into the heart of the sun, the only precipitation from the spray of the fountains.

"It feels like summer today," said Greta Post, 8, who came to the circle with her father and brother and provided as concise a weather report as any. "It was raining all this week, and it's finally sunny again."

But it wasn't quite summertime in October. A chilly wind blew in from the northwest, and people draped sweaters and coats around their waists and shoulders, carrying rolled-up umbrellas, just in case.

Angelo Colon, a mailman, hung his umbrella between the pouches of mail on his cart as he made his rounds on West 46th Street.

Skepticism ran rampant. Some did not even believe it had rained so much, though the proof was in the evaporating puddles. "This is all a myth," said Kenny Savelson, 39, a musician from Fort Greene, Brooklyn, who had returned home on Friday night from a two-week tour overseas. "It was really raining all the time?"

Others feared the rains would return at any moment. "The weather is like the hearts of men," said D. Washington, 34, as he strolled on a street in Upper Manhattan. "I don't trust it. It's subject to change."