Friday, December 28, 2007

WTF is with this...

For the last few days, when I try to access my good ol' gmail account, I get a message that looks something like this....

It would seem that the gmail, and by extension the mighty Google Empire, is not functioning at 100%. Now I am an understanding fellow, and in fact try to be understanding about things like server errors whenever they pop up. We're only human, after all. Well they're not, the servers that is, but presumably there is some only human person involved who presumably is screwing up and leading me to get this message somehow. Or some whole group of billions of people all desperately checking their gmail at once that is causing the not-only-human server to foul up, or just something like that. So, yeah, I understand, and I'll take this in a zen-like, ultra-calm, super-cool stride. Yup. It's just that, well, bugger. Just bugger. What am I supposed to do without email?! How on earth do I get by? Everything is about email these days. At least, everything related to daily text based communication with friends, associates, and organizations who do not routinely use the phone. And that's a lot! Very nearly everything! And now thanks to someone out there, or something out there, being only human, I'm deprived of nearly everything! And I don't like that. Just bugger!

So, the moral of the story is that if you happen to be emailing me, waiting for a reply, counting on some response, wondering where I am, fuming at the delay, remember something. It's not my fault! It's Google. The Man! Sticking it to me! To you! To all of us! About very nearly everything! Thank god I've got this other forum of electronic communication, Blogger, with which to communicate with you. Thank god there is still one avenue of contact available to me! Thank god for Blogger, brought to you by, uhmmm, Google. Bugger.

Did we learn nothing from New Coke?

I'm coming down with a cold. At least, I think I am. Since I got divorced, I'm hardly ever sick any more, but I feel icky and just spent a week marinading in my mother's cold germs. I sincerely hope I'm not that sick for that long--she's been horribly ill for a week now, and naturally hasn't seen a doctor, even though she's looking longingly at all the cold medicines she can't take because they disagree with her high-blood-pressure medication.

ANYway, my standard strategy when I'm sick is to hunker on the sofa with soup and orange juice and tea and club soda and...and I'm aware that this is Tang. Yes, Tang, the astronaut beverage. Hot and really strong. It's a bizarro comfort thing that an old roommate used to make me when I was ill, and I only ever drink it when I'm sick. It makes me feel loved and marginally more healthy.

So today, as I was heading home from the doctor, having had a rotten day that involved getting lost (not exactly lost, but near enough) on the Manhattan subway, falling down in the street, not being able to find my doctor's office, and not being able to catch a local train back to my station, I thought, well, I can still salvage the day by stopping at the market and buying Tang. That way, when I get home, I can make myself a cup of hot Tang and go to bed.

It looked a little different, but I wasn't suspicious. I bought it and brought it home. It appeared to be more concentrated than it used to be. Now I was a little concerned. I made a cup, and as I sipped it I discovered that they have tried to make Tang healthy by replacing half the sugar with sucralose.

Tang is never going to be healthy. The best you can hope for is a violent dose of vitamin C and a sugar rush that either puts you into a coma or enables you to stagger around your apartment rounding up cough drops. Also, artificial sweeteners taste foul. Now, I'm aware that Tang is not going to win any Michelin stars, but at least any aftertaste it had before was orange-drink-for-astronauts-flavored aftertaste. Original Tang is apparently no longer available. This new stuff is vile, and now I'm sick and extra-pathetic.

Fie on you, Kraft! A pox on your sucralose-loving house.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Happy Holidays!

It's Xmas day, and I'd like to wish a happy holiday, of whatever sort, or a happy lack of holiday (in which case, just a happy day), to any and all readers out there. And heck, even if you're not a reader I wish you a happy day. This has been a good year for ol' Shifter and fam, and I hope it was a good year for all of you, and is an even better one.


Monday, December 17, 2007

Embiggening Our List of Alternatives for Business English

I was an English major in college. Occasionally this means that people ask me things. Like how to spell something. Or whether something is a word. I don't think I'm an above-average speller. And as far as whether something is a word, people would get very frustrated with me.

Me: Hmmm, I don't know. Can you use it in a sentence?
EB: Sure. It embiggened my budget.
Me: I see. Well, if you used that sentence, would everybody know what you meant?
EB: I guess so.
Me: Then it's a word.
EB: That can't be right.

This was never the definitive answer they were hoping for. I think maybe they were trying to piss me off and just going down the wrong track.

But here's what they could have said. They could have said "re-look at." What the hell is that? "We need to re-look at that, because I think things have changed." You bet your ass they have. That dumbass phrase that you used that's completely unnecessary? That's ILLEGAL now, bucko. Because if I have the power to say whether something's a word, this phrase-that's-not-a-word is going down.

Here are a few sanctioned alternatives. Feel free to add your own. Anything but "re-look at." Because it's stupid.

Official Alternatives to "Re-look at," which is hereby banned for all time:
  • review
  • reexamine
  • reevaluate
  • reassess
  • have a second look at
  • have another look at
  • look at it again
Okay, people? Perfectly good English words. I'm fine with y'all inventing your own English words. I'm good with playing with language--I think it's fun, and you should have at it with gusto. But re-look at sounds bad and it drives me nuts, even though technnically it's no worse than lots of things I do myself (mea culpa--just stop saying it).

Use embiggen as often as you like, but please don't re-look at anything.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Whatever You Do, DON'T Follow My Lead

I can pick a good technology. But don't buy it when I do.

I bought an iPod right before they came out with a new, smaller iPod. And also, coincidentally, right before Mac decided to start giving my employer a massive discount.

I also recently bought an HD Tivo. It's an awesome Tivo, and I love it. It's quiet (my old one was stroppy and noisy), it's full of delicious programming all the time. It records more than one thing. It's super. But when I bought it, you couldn't get lifetime service. If I bought it two months later (i.e., Right Now) I'd have lifetime service for only a little more than I paid for three years.

Tivo is great at many things, but customer service isn't one of them. They've essentially farmed out most of their customer service to their many customers (the discussion boards--both on their website and off--are your best bet if you ever have an issue). If you ever have a customer service issue, have a sudoku puzzle or two handy--it took them 15 minutes to get a supervisor to explain to me (none too helpfully) that I'm just shit out of luck on the lifetime service.

Apparently lifetime service is either for people who already have a Tivo (gee, I thought that was definitely me--this is the second Tivo I've purchased and the fourth Tivo I've owned) or for people who don't already have a Tivo (obviously not me). I fall between the cracks, as someone whose old Tivo wasn't old enough (not born before Jan 1 2000) and whose new Tivo is not new enough. I can't transfer or purchase lifetime service without dropping $700 for another Tivo that I don't need.

I like their service, and I don't mind paying for it, but I do mind being fined for eternity for buying something a month early (and, as bonus, being fined for being a loyal customer). He did point out, somewhat more substantially, that I didn't buy the "Series 3." I bought the "stripped-down, economy version"--a Series 3 with exactly 3 things missing:
  • THX certification (oh so useful in my 400-square-foot apartment)
  • backlit remote
  • a sign telling me what it's recording now
For these paltry advantages, they will charge you a whopping amount of money (less now, but at the time I bought it, $200). Since I'm not drooly enough to plonk down $200, apparently I deserve to buy my Tivo service a la carte forever.

So, yeah. Buy what I buy. But buy it at some other time. I'd tell you when, but I obviously don't know, or I'd be buying it then, too.

For Obsessive Compulsives Everywhere

You may have heard that your obsessive behavior was obnoxious. People may (ahem) have refused to go to Target with you, because it takes hours, because you have to look down every aisle and in many aisles, you have to touch every single item that you see (you know who you are--and you know I love you anyway).

But now you can tell them all to go to hell, because you're actually feeding the hungry with your obsessive desire to get to level 50 on the Free Rice vocabulary game.

Oh, wait. That's me. (Stuck at a consistent 48 with brief flashes of 49.)

Sartre Was Wrong

I love Sartre. I consider his Essay on Existentialism my bible (not in the sense that I think it was authored by a divine being, but in the sense that it steers me toward a life I can be proud of, even if I don't always make it there). But when he said "hell is other people," he clearly didn't have all the facts.

He didn't, for example, work where I work. I do not work in hell, and I work with some awesome people. But my job is hell-adjacent, because it requires e-mail. I love e-mail, and I think it's awesome, but a company that doesn't teach its employees to use e-mail is gonna have trouble. I have many, many colleagues whose inboxes are overflowing--I have actually seen at this job an icon that I did not know existed in Outlook--a little disc that appears next to a message, effectively saying, "I thought that since you were never ever going to look at this again, I would archive it for you--if you want to see it, it will take me a minute, because I honestly thought you had forgotten it was here." I didn't even know there was such a thing. I have seen it in my colleagues' inboxes.

Think of that icon and all that it means, and then think of all the CYA e-mail that gets sent in the average business day. Abandon hope, all ye who open Outlook. In vain will ye strive to keep your inbox to one page.

Which is why this should be compulsive viewing at my company, and probably at every corporation on earth.

NY Times Admits Hope Is Toxic

I've just read a thumbnail article in last week's New York Times Magazine about how hope is actually poison that can make us unhappy. That's good news, because I'm still single.

It's not even that there's anything wrong with the men. True, many of them are staggeringly boring. Ladies, the Manhattan-as-male-habitat that you see in the movies is, honest to God, more fictional than most fictional locations (more fictional than Narnia, for example). There really are some snore-inducing conversationalists here--and I'm a gal who can find a spreadsheet interesting, so my standards are not superhuman. So I'll admit, I've rejected a bore or two--I'd rather be lonely than bored to death one agonizing millisecond at a time. I've had one date that ended in that amiable mutual impasse of not calling--not a rejection so much as respectful recognition of a colleague who's pursuing a different line of research. And as for the ones I like who don't fancy me, well, when you come right down to it, guys want what they want, and what's the point of reprimanding them just because it isn't me?

Still, being single is easier here. Partly because I live in a city teeming with small charms and wacky characters--it's a lot easier to be single-for-life in a city where not everyone is a cookie-cutter mom (and the fact that I can say this from Park Slope is truly an indication of the suburban hell that I've escaped--sometimes I have the sensation that I must have absentmindedly misplaced my stroller). Partly because I am, for once, making decent money, and it turns out that money may not buy happiness, but it does make loneliness a hell of a lot more enjoyable.

I still hold out a little hope for the old folks home. I think it's possible that if I hang on to all my teeth, the tide might turn in my favor after I hit eighty or ninety. I suppose that hope is toxic, too, but I have a few years to nip it in the bud before it gets really dangerous.

Friday, December 14, 2007

This is just frightening!

And really, really funny. Scalzi's blog is pretty well known, so you've probably read it, but if not check it out.

Also check out the good ol' Flying Spaghetti Monster while you're at it, of course.

I don't know where modern comedy would be without creationists. I know, I shouldn't be so cynical. I was probably just made that way.

Shifter gets a comment!

So I was randomly looking on the blog, hoping to find that Katy had posted something (Katy, where are you??) when I noticed I got a comment! That's right, somebody read and responded to a post! Thank you, dear commenter, for your thoughts.

You see, on those rare occasions I post I try to think of who I'm writing to, and I draw a big blank, and I figure that's probably because that's who is reading the posts, a big sea of blank, i.e., a big lack of people. So then I have to somehow imagine a population of readers to whom I can address the posts. And as I'm not very imaginative I run out pretty quickly after Mickey Mouse and Daffy. Mickey and Daffy are nice enough guys, mind you, but they're not always the most attentive for the long posts.

But I was thinking about them, and all my other imaginary readers, and my 1 real reader (!) this morning when I stepped on The Scale. The Scale has been capricious lately. It turns out that while running two marathons in 2 months will help you lose weight, resting for a week after a marathon, while you continue to eat as if you're training, will help you put all that weight right back on again. The Scale was almost gleeful as it informed me of this. "204.0," it purred at me one morning. What! No way! Step off, step back on, hope it changes it's mind. Not this time. "I said, 204.0, and if you step on me again, I'll up it to 206." I jumped off the scale and walked away, a shaken, fatter man. So I started running again, tried (not very successfully) to reduce my food intake, and came back a few days later (this morning). "201" it said. Either I lost a ton of weight, very very fast (doubtful), or The Scale needs more lithium. Sigh.

By the way, I feel compelled to note that I Am Tall. What I mean is, yes 200 is a lot of weight, but if I was a stick I'd weight 190 or so, so I'm not actually huge. Don't know why Mickey and Donald needed to know that, but it's better to be clear.

Well, Happy Holidays, of whatever stripe, or just Happy Days (without Fonzee) to those who don't do holidays, to all, and to all a good, well, you know.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Something I hate...

You know what I hate? The Good Old Days. I really, really hate them. Not just them, no, more than that. I hate the concept of the Good Old Days. It idea that the old days, by virtue of being old, perhaps, are of necessity good. I get so annoyed when people wax nostalgic about how simple, how clean, how hearty, just how goshdarned right the old days really were. "When men were real men and women were real women and small furry creatures from Alpha Centauri ...".

Let me give an example. People are always complaining about how society is losing sight of its basic family values, how we've lost this or that principle, this or that right, this or that whatever. It used to be we had Communities! It Used to Be we had Respect! It Used to Be we had Family Values! Family Values are a big favorite of mine, let me tell you.

So why do I hate the Old Days? Well, because I think they're mostly a sham. What else did we Used to Have? Let's set the Wayback Machine for the 1940's! Good Family Values then, right? World basically a better place, one assumes? Oh wait! There was that World War thingie. Lots and lots of people died, didn't they? I seem to recall reading about it. And then there was this, what was it called? Oh yeah! The Holocaust! Lots of people died, but I bet more of them had family values!

Well, maybe we need some less Old Days then that. Let's look at the 60's. *Gasp* No, shut the window, let's not look there. Just too freaky. How about the 70s? Lots of good stuff then! Vietnam was a real highpoint. Thank god we had those values. And let's not forget about the clothes! If nothing else, plaid does scream Respect. I have to give you that.

So maybe we should set the Wayback machine further back, then. How about just a few years ... oops, hit the Great Depression .... back a bit more .... there's World War I, lovely time .... bit more ... oh here we are wiping out the Native Americans, well done indeed .... going back a bit more .... and so forth. Right back to the Inquisition, the Black Death, and so on. After a while maybe it's time we just take the Wayback machine out back and shoot it.

Sometimes when a person starts reminiscing about family values, I think about all of the patriarchy, cruelty, abuse, and shame that have been hidden behind those values for generations. And other times I think of the Brady Bunch. I'm not sure which ones frighten me more. I mean, there are great things in family values, there really are. It's just that there is also all of this crap hidden behind them as well. In some ways it's the same crap that people are decrying as they're calling for the Return of Family Values.

Now my point is not that the Old Days were just the worst things ever. And it's not that today is the best day yet. It's just that reflecting on the past with dewy eyed nostalgia has got to be one of the easiest and most blatant forms of selective attention, and consequent self-delusion, that I can think of. It's so easy to pick out those few things we think were there and we think we liked, and ignore all the things that were also there and that were just godawful. We've got godawful things today too. No doubt about it. And it is beyond disappointing. We have a monkey as the leader of the free world. We're fast-baking the environment. But that doesn't make the past any less horrible than the present. Or the present any less fantastic than the past.

Just remember, 40 years from now our children are going to be whining about the first decade of 2000, the Good Old Days.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Amines Are My Enemy

At least, I think they must be. The only times I've ever had anything like a hangover were once when I had an absolutely terrible reaction to a Rioja (never, ever again) and once when I drank sake.

Well, God bless NASA. Not only do they constantly espouse sound project management tools, they've now come up with a device that measures chemicals called amines, which they think cause red wine headaches. Guess what alcoholic beverages are highest in amines? Red wine and sake.

Of course, at the moment the device is the size of a briefcase and probably costs almost as much as the space shuttle. But one of these days, I'll be able to order wines from Spain again. One of these days maybe I'll even be able to face a turbulent reunion with unflitered sake. Then again, maybe not.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Can I get an "Amen"?

Belinda Luscombe pleads with Warren Buffet to pony up for a worthy cause. It is hysterical.

I often wish that structural engineers would make themselves useful. I mean, if they can build a suspension bridge or the Sydney Opera House, surely they should be able to advance us beyond the Jane Russell era. (And would it kill them to make it pretty? I know that form follows function, but I don't think that's supposed to actively preclude a little lace.) The pain and suffering of bra shopping have eased slightly in recent years. I have learned to pay more than $50 for a good bra. I cry a little when I pay my credit card bill, but it's better than crying in the fitting room. And still I say that when a corset feels like a vacation, something is wrong. (You know what the British say. A change is as good as a holiday.)

I suppose that at the moment, the structural engineers are legitimately occupied making sure our bridges don't fall down. And as a person who is scared to drive over a long bridge, I'm all for that. Good for them, I say. I just hope they take notes while they're doing it so that their knowledge can eventually benefit the lingerie industry. I'd like some support while I can still walk upright.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

You've been nominated for Who's Who in America

Anyone ever get an email with that title? I've gotten one once or twice. The email looks like this.

Dear ,

It is my pleasure to inform you that you are being considered for inclusion in the upcoming 2009 Edition of Who's Who in America®, which is scheduled for publication in October 2008.

Since 1899, when A.N. Marquis published the First Edition of Who's Who in America, business people, researchers, educators, students and others have relied upon its accuracy and currency of information. As we look forward to the publication of our 63rd Edition BLA BLA BLA BORING BORING BLA BLA

To be considered for inclusion in this prestigious publication, you need only provide the requested information by completing our secure and easy-to-use online BLA BLA BORING BLA

The information you provide will be evaluated according to the selection standards Marquis Who's Who has developed over 100 years as the world's premier biographical publisher. If your data passes our initial screening, we will prepare your biography in Marquis Who's Who format and send you a pre-publication proof for your verification and approval.

I congratulate you on the achievements that have brought your name to the attention of our editorial committee. We look forward to hearing from you.


Yadda Yadda.

(I did edit it a little bit, I bet you couldn't tell). When you get it, you get this little hiccup inside. It's like "They like me, they really like me!" Until you realize that they don't even know who you are.

In my case, it's like this. I'm not a somebody, and I'm not a Who's who. I'm a Who's That. As in "who's that over there at our exclusive party and how did he get in here and how do we get him out." Or something. So you get this email and you figure, how much are they going to charge you. And it says they don't (in a post script I didn't bother to paste here). So then you figure, do I have some old high school buddy working for WW that would put my name in as a joke? And then you realize, you only have one old high school buddy, and she writes a brilliant blog and works in a different industry and would tell you if she was working for WW (right, Katy, right???).

So what I figure they do is go through and pick out everyone, say, who has a PhD, or everyone who has published anything just about anywhere. And if they do that, they'd come up with me, just barely. I mean if someone from WW read something I published that pushes the numbers of people who have read my work up to, oh, about one reader. I am definitely among those who is "published" but not at all "read." Even a little. So I should probably be thankful some poor bastard at WW is paid to see if I've published anything. But that doesn't make me a Who's Who. Still pretty much a Who's That.

Not that there's anything wrong with being a Who's That, mind you. Most of us are, right? Let's hear a big rousing cheer from all the Who's Thats out there reading this (thank you both, loyal readers). The tricky thing is sometimes you get this feeling like you're a Who's Who, and that's a dangerous feeling. You start to feel like you're joining the elite club of people who have Made It. Don't ask me where they've Made It to. I really don't know, cause I haven't Made It there. I mean I've made it, if you know what I mean (nudge nudge, wink wink, say no more) but not in the capitalized sense. It feels a little bit like being invited to sit at the cool kids table in mid school. I imagine. And when you think of it that way, there's really only one thing for someone like me to do with an email like this.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Isn't It Supposed to Be Fall?

What the heck is up with this weather forecast? 79 today? 83 tomorrow? Where is this "fall" that I was promised? Are the trees even going to know to change their leaves?

Not that I'm complaining about it today. I woke up at 8 this morning, which was Wrong. It was Wrong because first, I've been having some trouble sleeping again (no surprise there--I have fallen off of every wagon I was on, including taking fish oil, which I suppose proves that we would still have obese people if they invented a real "fat pill"). And second, 8 is Too Late to get the washing machine downstairs. I am drowning in piles of dirty laundry.

Still, fall I was promised, and fall I shall have. This is just a slightly schizophrenic Indian summer--kids are going to be all hot and sweaty in their Halloween costumes.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Life in the Big City

Tonight I had my hair cut by a Russian woman named Svetlana who did all kinds of astonishing things with it (razor cutting and then that thing they do where they pull it in apparently random directions and cut it all straight so that when you run your hands through it it miraculously makes you look like Jane Russell straight from the hayloft). She cut very fast to the beat of dated pop music on the radio and confided to me that she hasn't liked anything since they stopped making disco. She told me 8 million times that I was beautiful, and when she was ready to dry my hair she looked at me and said words that no hairdresser has ever said to me before: "No product, right?" Oh my god. I don't know if she stole my other hairdresser's notes or what (I practically had to threaten him with a gun to restrain him from spraying me with smelly Aveda aquanet), I could have kissed her.

She also did the impossible. She tamed my hair's tendency toward the librarian. I tuck my hair behind my ears a lot. It tends to make me look like I'm auditioning for Marian the Librarian in "The Music Man." Except that the casting director would sniff at me like Michael Kors judging Project Runway and say "There's librarian, and then there's dowdy." I know that the right hairdresser can sabotage my unfortunate habit, but it's almost impossible for most of them to believe that anyone would deliberately engage in compulsive behavior that makes them less attractive. There is almost no way I can tuck my hair behind my ears. First of all it's so fluffy that it just won't stay anywhere. And secondly these windblown-looking little tendrils escape and fall over my face. It's very exciting.

And then I came home and ordered a monstrous amount of Thai food, which came to my doorstep. There are at least four meals here, and it was $20. I want to cry, I'm so happy.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

It's Cold!

I know that this is sick, and anyone who's actually reading this can feel free to remind me that I'm crazy when the dead of winter comes, but it's finally cold here!!!! First of all, that means I can put my air conditioner in the basement, which gives me like two extra square feet in my living room. That may not seem like much, but since the whole apartment is 380 square feet, two extra ones in the room you spend the most time in is a HUGE asset. HUGE, people.

Also, I am so excited about the cold weather. This is ridiculous, I know. I hate being cold. I hate it a lot. But ironically, that's why I enjoy cold weather. Allow me to explain:
  1. You can add more clothes when you are cold. There is a limit to what you can take off when it's hot. Even if you're an exhibitionist, you can be butt-naked and still feel like you're in the pit of hell.
  2. Other people think it should be warm when it's cold out. In other words, for once they agree with me!!!! No more office at 60 degrees! No more wearing a wool sweater when it's dripping hot outside!
  3. I look more attractive when it's cold. I can wear tights to hide my cellulite! I don't need to have my cleavage properly ventilated (although I do enjoy that). I can wear attractive scarves without looking like a librarian!
  4. I get to wear boots!
  5. Wool socks! Hooray!
I'm really excited. The down side is that I can't put any of my summer clothes away. I will pretty much have to wear tank tops when I'm in my home, because the baseboard heat makes it about 80 in my house. Not that I mind 80, but you can't exactly wear your wool sweater in there.

Small price to pay. Just like the obscenely expensive long underwear I just bought...

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Tivo Fakeout

Today I got my cable hooked up, which means that I can finally enjoy the glory of my new TV and my new Tivo. I had read horrible things about the cable card installation process, and the lady on the phone at Time Warner really had no idea what I was talking about. But the dude on the truck really did know what he was up to, and once he was here he got everything squared away in record time.

This is the first time I've had a Tivo with two tuners in it, though, so tonight at 7:00 I decided to check and see whether it was recording Ugly Betty as it was supposed to. I looked and saw the little red light on, and I was thinking, "ohboyohboyohboy," but when I turned the TV on, it was Iron Chef. Confused Tivo, I thought, and went back to do what it told me to, which was to complete guided setup.

Turns out I was confused. My Tivo was saying, "I'm busy recording Ugly Betty, but maybe you'd like to watch Iron Chef while I finish." D'oh. So now I have 18 minutes of Ugly Betty, which was supposed to be my inaugural program on the new Tivo. Oh well. I'm sure I'll come to terms with the luxury given time.

Kitchen Duds

I love watching Gordon Ramsay on television, and I'm even willing to watch "Hell's Kitchen," even though it's not nearly as good as any of his UK programs. But I'm not sure the American version of "Kitchen Nightmares" is going to make its way onto my regular viewing schedule. The first couple of shows were pretty good, but now that I've seen the third one they all seem...a bit samey.

There's a lot wrong with it. The voiceover narration ("we are all out of footage, so let us show you the canopy outside and tell you what happened next..."), the sheer profusion of cameras (they shouldn't ever have to resort to voiceover, with all those cameras around), the overnight makeovers. I have a lot of quibbles, but I think the last straw is the hugging. Of all the adjectives I'd use to describe Gordon Ramsay, not one of them is "huggable." But hugging him seems to be a tradition. He's going to think we're a bunch of wackadoo huggers over here in the states. Which we are, compared to most English people with a camera all up in their personal business, but still. I guess it's nice that these folks are overcome with gratitude. It just seems staged.

So disappointing! Thank goodness for BBCAmerica.

The Sound of Brooklyn

Sometimes, late at night, as I'm drifting off to sleep, I just lie in the dark and listen to the noise of the city. Or, as luck would have it, the noise of the other folks in my building, which is infinitely more entertaining.

My super and I have discovered that both of our upstairs neighbors are obsessed with cleaning at odd hours. His neighbor vacuums at midnight. Midnight! Last night I was finishing a book, and at 2 a.m. my upstairs neighbor started scrubbing something. Something hollow and resonant and on the floor. I wanted to be outraged, but I was just too tired.

But that's nothing. More puzzling is the fact that somewhere in my building, the AFLAC duck has swallowed an angora sweater. It's been hacking away all summer trying to cough it up. Someone needs to feed that duck some ipecac. I mean, it's a duck, not a billy goat. At least, I think it is. It's certainly not human...

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

3000 Hours Painlessly Donated

This article is amazing. It has to do with the effort to scan books so that they can be accessed electronically, and the issues that optical character readers (OCR's) have deciphering distorted or poor-quality texts. You know those words that you have to type in to comment at websites or to search for tickets at Ticketmaster? This program feeds words that the OCR fails to recognize into those sites, so that humans logging into websites effectively correct the OCR's mangled version of the text. So people are painlessly donating 3000 hours a day to the effort of digitizing books. How awesome is that?

My only issue with the article is this. How on earth do you get CAPTCHA out of Completely Automated Turing Test To Tell Computers and Humans Apart? I get CATTTTCHA. Does the P somehow mean that there are four T's?

Sunday, September 30, 2007

The Houseguesting

I have company coming in a week. Fortunately, it's my cousin. I lived with her for almost a year a while back, so there's not much she doesn't know about what an incredible slob I am. And, conversely, I know what an incredible slob she is. So this should be practically stress-free. And for the most part, it is.

Except that my apartment is only 380 square feet. And there will be two of us here for 5 days and nights. Now, we love each other. And, as she is always pointing out to me, we have to love each other no matter what, because we're family. But there are rules about women living together in enclosed spaces, and they are inviolable. They're somewhere in between the law of gravity (impossible to actually break, space flight notwithstanding) and things like laws against murder (bad things will happen if you get caught). You can violate the laws, but you will be caught and punished. And it ain't pretty.

I learned all of this living with ten other women in a single-sex dorm in college. Eleven women, one bathroom. Oh, yeah. Bring on the pain. My roommate, the sweetest, most gentle-tempered woman on earth, was reduced to tears on the night of the formal dance, when shower competition was extra fierce, despite a flail at scheduling shower time fairly. I also remember her exasperation the night that the cutest women on our floor came home rip-roaring drunk, sat down in the hallway, and determined to learn the words to "Breaking Up Is Hard To Do." Did I say "learn?" Oh, yes I did. Only one of the group knew the words. They had some awesome three-part harmony going (and that's not sarcasm--it was beautiful), but it was a wee small hour of the morning, probably about two hours before my roommate was going to get up, and after four or five false starts on the song, we heard the following exchange:
"I'm never going to get it!"
"Don't be ridiculous. We'll just sing it a thousand times and by the end you'll know it!"
Giggle giggle giggle
And then they false-started up again. Until that moment I hadn't been sure my roommate was awake. But just as my sleepy brain was trying to decide between righteous indignation, despair, and rage, I heard her leap across the room and rush out the door. In a restrained voice that does her credit and makes me absolutely certain she's become the best mother ever, she said, "That was really lovely. [beat] But are you really going to sing it a thousand times?" They giggled musically and quieted down.

Here's the other thing. I don't actually know what the laws are. I know I've violated them before. I know the consequences are bad, bad, bad. But if you asked me to name them, I've got no ideas. So all I can do is make the most of my 380 square feet (which means putting some stuff in the basement storage area so we'll have more space and generally tidying up as never before) and making my cousin happy (which basically means placing a giant FreshDirect order for exciting food, buying club soda by the gallon, putting fresh cold water in the fridge, and letting her nap every day).

I'm closing in on tidy, but I'm still mighty far from achieving it. My current strategy involves tequila and an oven timer. I'll update you soon.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Quote of the Day

Shifter here.

First off, no, there will be no regular quote of the day.

But there is one for today.

"No one knows the reason for all this, but it is probably quantum."
-- Terry Pratchett

What a lovely explanation for all that is unexplained - I'm sticking with this one for a while.

Not An Early Adopter

After my excruciating experience with blogger beta, which nearly made me give up blogging for good, I really, really, really didn't want to upgrade my template. But Shifter and I are both writing posts, and several of my friends have had trouble telling who was who. And the new blog templates have post signatures that don't require me to mess with the HTML. (I could. I'm not afraid of HTML. But this is just so much easier, because honestly, I've only made about 3 changes to the HTML on my blog.)

So anyway, welcome to the "new" template. It's pretty much exactly like the old template, except that the font is a little wonky and it needs some work. But now you can tell who's who.

Oh, and the conversion was painless. Probably because my blog was so bargain-basement-basic, but I'm no less grateful.

Friday, September 28, 2007

How Do They Do That?

Well, Shifter, that's an interesting question, and I think that I, Katy, have some insight here. (People are SO going to think I just morphed into Sybil. Every once in a while you should just post and say you exist--oh, maybe this whole aside proves your point better than mine. I guess I'd better get back to my post.)

I guess the chief reason I'm comfortable with people online is that I know that in person I come off like a total moron. And online (or on the phone), I think I come off as being slightly more intelligent than a moron a fair amount of the time. And, oddly, online it's easier to have a conversation about books or philosophical concepts, because writing somehow lends itself to those conversations more than...actual conversation. At least, that's how it is with a lot of people. The rest of us need to come up with a secret handshake so that we can recognize each other and have these awesome conversations in person.

Anyway, when I'm talking to someone online, I'm often thinking about them the way I think of myself. I often think that I'm talking to someone who's probably able to say things the way they want to in an e-mail or even an IM, someone who might not be able to verbalize their thoughts as eloquently in a conversation. Or I think that maybe we're free to have this conversation, whereas in person we might be horribly distracted by our bodies, which have inexplicably refused to develop toned biceps and ripped abs and whatever other accouterments we think are necessary or attractive. And so in some ways, I think you get the best of people when you meet them online.

Is there more to people than thoughts and words? Well, there's lots more. Some of it matters more than it should (waistline and hairline mean a lot less online). But you're definitely missing at least a third of the equation. The Big Three are thoughts, words, and deeds, and without the deeds, there's a lot you don't know. And truly, you have almost no guarantee of accessing a person's deeds online. Unless there's a story about them pulling a baby out of a burning building in the New York Times when you google them, you're at sea. And even then, you know what they were like (via their deeds) for a ten-minute stretch of their life. In the scheme of things, ten minutes ain't much.

Still, I've worked virtually with a lot of people. I've worked with some folks for years before I've met them, and I have to say that if you trust yourself, you're right more often than you're wrong. I've been wrong a couple of times, and they've had some bad consequences. But I've also been right a lot, and gotten some solid friendships in the bargain. Not exclusively online friends--these are people I've talked with every couple of days for a few years, working on a joint project through good days and bad days, all without a photo or anything other than a voice on the phone. Then I've met and spent extensive time with those folks in person, in real human time. These people have seen me in exactly the situations you seek to edit out of your life when you present it online--with stripey tiger hair after a bad visit to the hairdresser, or after the worst, most harrowing evening of your life when you don't think you'll ever stop crying. And when things were bad, those people's deeds typically matched up with their words.

Admittedly, people are probably slightly less likely to lie at work than in an online game, but I think the principle is similar. I've also met non-work people after lengthy correspondence online and found them pretty much exactly as I expected to find them, but more, if that makes sense. There's the aspect of them you're used to relating to online, and then there's all this extra stuff. You get "Intriguing Person X," and then as a bonus, you get infinitely more "Intriguing Person X." And this person is intrinsically more like the person you met online than ever before, and also intrinsically different--endlessly surprising, with extra communication quirks, with holes in their socks and threadbare elbows on their favorite sweater, and also an unexpected scorn for modern architecture, an endearing way of talking to the car when they drive, and an appalling propensity to get lost when driving in a perfectly straight line.

This all sounds idyllic, and indeed, it is. But I won't lie. Sometimes the person veers suddenly into talk of wife-swapping and decides to arbitrarily disrobe in the middle of a perfectly innocuous conversation, and escape becomes your only thought. And it is dangerous to give in entirely to the notion that we can know people without at least some direct knowledge of their deeds. But you can be a lot smarter about it than I was. You don't have to get into someone's car (turned out okay, apart from his questionable navigation) or to someone's hotel room (both very good and very bad experiences here).

But here's where I think we differ. Despite being labeled a pessimist by virtually everyone who knows me, I really do have a deep and abiding desire to believe the best of people. For the most part, I think you get the best from people this way. (Actually, I think you always get the best from people this way--except that for some people the best is really, really bad. I'm sure Hannibal Lecter's at his best plating up a victim, but how good is that, really?) So I'm okay believing that the person is who they say they are (while not giving them my address or credit card information or anything else that seems like it might end up being discovered in Act II of "Without a Trace"). I think it would worry you that the person was a creep, even if you were guaranteed that they'd never wage creepiness on you and even if you were guaranteed that the creepiness would never come to anything significant.

And for the record, the folks I met online often had more reason to be afraid of me than I had to be afraid of them. It was at least as dangerous for that guy to let me get into his car as it was for me to get into it. Yeah, sure, I know y'all are testosteroney and naturally dangerous. Fine, you're all born fighters. But for all he knew, I could have had a gun and a burning desire to collect his ears in a bucket. We both lucked out.

And in the end, how well do we know people, anyway? I'd stake my life on certain ideas I have about you, but the more I get to know you the more certain I am that I can't predict your response to lots and lots of ideas and situations. I think it's fair to say that people never lose the ability to surprise us in good and bad ways, no matter how we meet them or how well we think we know them.

How to win friends and influence people ... on line?

Shifter here.

So here's something I have never understood. You read these blogs, and the people blogging mention all these great people they've met through email correspondence or blogging responses or online gaming or whatever. And it always sounds really cool. But then I think, how do they do that? I mean there are two parts to that. First is, how did they do that as in, how did they manage to get all these people emailing them and connecting and so on. Cause I've done the online gaming thing, and let me tell you, it's a big leap from "Go to the corner to shoot the green Thingum after I cast the Zappit spell" to "So who's your favorite author anyway? Perhaps we should converse about this more extensively via email?" So that's question one. But question two is, how do they do that? I mean you're talking with these people, in some cases extensively, and you've never seen them! You've never even heard them! For all you know, they've got three heads! They could have three heads, each with its own online identity and you could know two of them! Or they could have a voice that is just so loud and awful it shatters glass. Or they could be an ax murder. And you may not happen to approve of those who slay innocent axes. But you have no way of knowing it. None. And don't you worry that maybe the person you're getting so close to online is someone you'd really hate off-line? I had a friend once who actually traveled to meet some online friends in person. I thought she was the bravest person in the world cause who knows how many heads or axes or whatever they might have had with them! It turned out fine, but who could have known!?

So I know that these kinds of concerns mark me as a shallow person. Which is odd because I am not usually accused of that (that I notice, anyway; it's always possible that they do accuse me in some deep way I'm too shallow to understand). I guess it's just that as much as I value words and ideas when it comes to relationships it feels like there is more to a person than words and ideas. I have no idea if that makes sense to anyone else. Perhaps I should really just try to work on that idea, try to take it apart so it doesn't get in the way. And I think I can do that, if I try. So if there are any three headed, ax-killing, high pitched sounding odd-balls out there with some interesting ideas, feel free to write. It'll help me break down my prejudices and grow into the digital age.

And I hope you all realize that it's always possible that I'm a three-headed ax-killing, high-pitched sounding weirdo who is paradoxically trying to lure you into a false sense of security by voicing these concerns. And if so, not a bad idea, eh? Both of my other heads agree.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Found a Scale Worse Than Shifter's

Hey, Shifter, guess what? At my hotel I had an analog scale and I thought, what the heck, and I gave it a whirl. It told me I weigh 95 pounds.

There's flattery, and then there's just insulting my intelligence.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

The Allen Wrench Hoedown

In the wake of my TV purchase I have discovered that I am a sucky, sucky project manager. I have a TV, but I have no cable, and the TV stand for my new, sleek TV is actually a huge square TV stand befitting the giant behemoth that my super heaved out to the curb. (It was fixably broken and gone in minutes. Brooklyn's curbs are like a magic act.)

So I've been playing catch up. Last night when I got home, my new TV stand had arrived from It's sleek and low (allowing me access to a whole extra shelf of books behind the TV and generally not overpowering my tiny apartment) and it cost $100. Now, I read the reviews of this piece before I bought it. There were a lot of comments about how the thing was too damn small. "It will only fit your DVD player and your TV," whines one reviewer. The thing has 3 shelves. I suck at math, but what kind of 3-shelved thing can only hold 2 items? Anyway, the stand is still a lot bigger than it needs to be for me personally, but the key point is that it is smaller than the one I had before, and a lot less obtrusive. It was also easy to assemble and looks almost as good as stuff that comes from West Elm, but didn't cost $500. And if I put a vase of orchids or a statue of Saraswati on it, my TV stand will look like a commercial for Samsung. It will look sexy, people. Darn sexy.

Now here's my question. If you're not so very wealthy in this country, you end up assembling a lot of furniture. On a good piece of furniture, you don't have anything left over...except the allen wrench. The TV stand came with two fine allen wrenches. I have about ten allen wrenches of various sizes in my toolbox from various assembly projects. What should I do with them? Can I fashion them into some kind of trophy? Give them to people as awards? I'll let you know if I come up with anything good, but I think I'll probably just end up putting them in my toolbox.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Yay for Yoga

Katy here.

Have I been doing the meditation every day like I'm supposed to, you ask? Well, sort of. I have been devoting 45 minutes a day to meditation, and I've been doing another ten minutes sometime during the day. But a lot of times the ten minutes is more successful than the 45 minutes. The 45-minute guided meditation you use for the first two weeks is a body scan meditation, and as I think I mentioned, it's been putting me to sleep. I have tried as many different times of day as I can, but no matter when I do it I'm out like a light. Sometimes, if I struggle, I can stay awake for about 35 or 40 minutes. A lot of times I'm out in maybe ten minutes.

This is the third week of the program, and we get to add yoga. And may I say, yay for yoga! It is actually really hard to fall asleep while doing yoga, so I don't feel like such a slacker. We alternate it with the body scan, so I'm really hoping that the awake-meditation of the yoga will rub off a little on the body scan, at least enough so I can become familiar with the last half of the body scan. But if not, at least I'll get some meditation that's not subliminal or sub/unconscious. I keep thinking of Chandler quitting smoking on "Friends."

I added a lot of different things to my life over the last two weeks (meditation, a slightly better diet, exercise, fish oil), and I have no way of knowing whether the meditation alone would have done this well for me, but I'm feeling much better. I sleep at night consistently, and I no longer worry all day about whether I'll get enough sleep. The long and nattering list of worries and doom-ridden prophesies that used to keep me awake hardly ever bother me, or if they do it's usually hard for them to gain any purchase before I fall asleep. I've had only one night where I couldn't sleep until about 3 a.m. because I was worried, which is a huge improvement after weeks and weeks of living like that. (I think worrying about not sleeping is my favorite.)

My worries are trying to find other times of day to pester me. Sometimes they are succeeding, mostly at work, because it's easy to feel out-of-control there, what with working for a pathologically dysfunctional company. (Two samples to back that comment up. One, we don't write requirements down, which means that it's a miracle if we get what we asked for, and an even greater miracle if we test for it. Two, if you are not in a room with someone they will pretend you don't exist--that's what, twenty or thirty years of stunning progress toward remote and virtual partnerships just blown off as if they don't exist. I think our corporate symbol should be the ostrich.)

Soon I'll be able to breeze along, not being bothered by uncooperative co-workers or bitchy kickboxing instructors. Have YOU been kicked out of a kickboxing class of being "just THAT uncoordinated"? I have. It makes me cranky and upset and gives me a very negative self-image. Fortunately it's nothing compared to the negative image I have of the bitchy kickboxing instructor, so at least I'm not the low worm on the totem pole.

Okay, maybe total serenity won't happen soon. Maybe I'll just settle for sporadic serenity.

Friday, September 21, 2007

My scale needs lithium

Shifter again.

Not to obsess too much on the scale (too late), but I've decided I happen to have the only digital scale I know of with a diagnosable mental disorder. That's the problem with smart electronics - as soon as they get too smart they get a personality, and as soon as they get a personality they can have a disorder. Mine has Bipolar Disorder. I mean seriously, very wild mood swings. Let me give you an example.

Last night I got on the scale. He was in a grumpy mood. I mean downright peevish. I step on the scale and he kind of snarls and ponders, then spits out "207". No way. I mean no way! That would mean I'd gained 10 pounds in the previous 4 days. I don't even think I ate 10 pounds of food in that time. I try to explain this to the scale, reason with him. Then I remember my previous post (and so do you, right? Because you've been reading them all and we love you for it, you imaginary people you!) and decide to try it again. Well, he's willing to give me a 3 pound drop. Now I'm only 204. Still a 7 pound gain. And this time he's dug in his heels. He was mad enough giving me the extra 3 pounds and he's not changing his mind. I've officially gained 7 pounds. Ouch.

So this morning I get up, go for a 7 mile run, come on in, and notice the scale is kind of smiling at me. Almost a conspiratorial kind of smile. If it had an eye, it would have winked. Don't ask how it smiles without a mouth, that's a long and almost metaphysical essay that's way too involved for our present topic. So anyway, there he is smirking without a mouth, winking without an eye, and I figure what the hell. I step on. Good morning, he chirps, today you weight 199. Wow, I think. Dropped 5 pounds in 1 night's sleep and 1 run. Pretty amazing. Better double check. So I step back on. Oh, alright you big charmer, he hums at me, you really weigh 196.5. And that's the story he sticks to for the rest of the morning. I know cause I keep asking him, stepping on again and again. To the point I'm almost late to work. 196.5, 196.5, 196.5. Heck, I'm lucky the wind didn't blow me away before I made it into the building, a skinny fellow like me!

So clearly either my body is just oozing on, and then dropping off, pounds of fat every other hour, or my scale needs professional help. Lithium should do the trick. How to force the pills down the metaphorical mouth, not to mention obtain the required blood level tests, is still undetermined. I'll keep you posted.

What a relief

Shifter here. So this morning I was taking a shower (yes, I do that from time to time and no, no further details will be provided). But as I was taking a shower and scrubbing my head I noticed that I had a loose hair on my head. As I watched it go down the drain I felt a surge of panic. Oh no, I'm losing my hair! Every man's worst nightmare! No one will ever find me attractive again! And then it hit me, thankfully, before I could really start to panic. You're already bald, you idiot! Any hair you lose now is one less you have to shave off when what's left of your hair exceeds the Jean Luc Picard level. Which is entirely true - I have few enough hairs left that it's easier to shave them off then to try to make believe they're anything more than the sad and final vestiges of my youth. What a relief to remember that. Thanks brain, for reminding me. I owe you one.

I was wondering if there might be other times my brain could help me out that way. Did I sound like an arrogant jackass in that last conversation? You are an arrogant jackass, you idiot! Whew, what a relief - nothing to hide now. Do I look like I have a double chin in this picture? Only because you do. Again, whew.

I don't know if I should feel fortunate or not, but I have a feeling my brain will delight in providing these helpful hints for many years to come. Not permanently though. Just until senility sets in. Or maybe even then. I can picture it. I just can't remember his name! That's because you're demented, you geezer. Ah, serenity.

Fox OnDemand Sucks On Demand

Up until a few weeks ago, FOX tv's shows could be seen on MySpace, where for the most part they played flawlessly. It was nice, but those days are gone.

Instead FOX has launched "Fox OnDemand," and let me just tell you that it sucks. There are the usual incredibly boring commercials (oh, and you'll have to watch the same commercial at least six times to get through an hour-long episode). If I see Jessica Alba's underwear one more time I'm going to have to hurt someone. But the thing stalls and hangs unpredictably. Every once in a while you'll be going along without a care in the world, and suddenly the show starts stuttering. It's like a cellphone conversation in an intermittent service area. And then eventually the show just stops.

And we can all see what's happened, here. They put the shows on MySpace while they developed their OnDemand player. All the other channels have OnDemand players now. And the new season is starting. So whatever poor team was tasked with delivering this OnDemand player was forced to deliver it now, even though it's piss poor and generally not ready for prime time. Dude, bad project management really sucks.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

I Learn Orange Clog Man's Name

Today I am accepted in Brooklyn. I know this because today I was walking to work and Orange Clog Man introduced himself.

I see Orange Clog Man on my way to work if I take the subway. Orange Clog Man loiters in front of his building wearing (can you guess?) orange clogs. At first, when I walked past, Orange Clog Man just scowled at me. Big frowny glares. Then eventually he'd nod to me. Then he started saying hello to me. And then a pleasantry or two made its way into the conversation. But today he asked what my name was and introduced himself.

I feel like I'm welcome in Brooklyn now. Orange Clog Man knows my name. And I know his name, now, too (just don't ask me to spell it yet). But to me, he'll always be Orange Clog Man.

The Scale and Me (Katy), or, Holy $hit!

Just to clarify, the earlier post with a similar name was Shifter's post. He's a real tall guy who runs a lot. I'm a short round gal who doesn't run unless she's being chased by something really unpleasant.

As a short, round gal, I've been avoiding the scale. I weighed myself a few months ago when the scale first got here, and I thought, huh, not so bad. I had actually, if memory serves, lost a little weight, which is amazing, because I had been in hunker-down-and-hole-up-at-home mode, which involves eating a lot of cookies.

A couple of days ago I wore a pink-and-black striped silk blouse that used to be one of my favorites. It fit me just right--I couldn't button it, but this was true of any blouse that wasn't an enormous tent, so that didn't worry me. I'd just wear a camisole under it and not button it, and most of the time it looked like it was a plan. I even thought it made me look kinda cute. I wore it on super-special occasions.

But the other day I put it on and something was wrong--it just seemed all flollopy and ill-behaved, despite being freshly pressed. I couldn't really figure it out until I saw it in the mirror at work (because my only mirror at home is so high that I can only see myself from the neck up). It was enormous. I was so angry with my dry cleaner. Somehow she had found a way to stretch my silk blouse. That bitch!

This morning I saw the scale looking at me and I thought, okay you bastard. We've been staring each other down for a few months now, and it's time for you to kick my ass. I gave myself a little pep talk, reminding myself that I had just eaten breakfast and was fully clothed (I never do either of those things when I'm planning to weigh myself), and that therefore the number I was about to see shouldn't depress me.

I stepped on the scale and saw a number I have not seen since college (and then only briefly as I whizzed past it in my quest to gain 60 pounds that totally didn't belong to me). A number that I think even Weight Watchers would consider acceptable. I actually stopped going to Weight Watchers because I could NOT break the 133 barrier for more than one week at a time, and the Weight Watchers acceptable weight for my height and age was somewhere on the other side of that number. My body just would not do it, no matter what I ate or didn't eat, and no matter how much I exercised. My body was just like, "You weigh 134. Be happy with it." And so I was. Because honestly, what were my choices?

This morning, 127. Now, yes, I joined a gym. But only two weeks ago, and I have to tell you that I have joined a gym several times in the past and that 134 never budged. I have been trying to eat more salads, but as anyone at my work can tell you, it is a halfhearted effort that consists mostly of ordering a grilled salmon salad and then eating the salmon and enough lettuce that they don't make fun of me, which is not a lot. I have been walking, but in the past I had a treadmill and walked for 45 minutes a day for probably four to six months. And guess what? Nothing. 134--if I was lucky.

It's a mystery, but for once, it's a mystery I can get behind. And even if I don't see this number again ever in my life, it's nice to see it again.

Excuse me, I need to go and buy my dry cleaner some flowers.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

An Introduction

Long, long ago, in a universe very much like this one, two friends decided that they would write a blog together. It was one of those conversations that ranges freely over this thing and that one and never ends up where it was supposed to. Perhaps each friend thought the other wasn't really serious. Later the friends returned again to the topic, but both of them were a little Afraid of Blogging. It seemed big and scary, and like the kind of thing that might get them fired.

But then one of the friends started a blog, more or less on the advice of a writer friend who assured her that she'd be very good at it (liar that he is). And then after a very, very long time, the second friend was inexplicably moved by the desire to write a blog post on the absurdity of gun advocacy in the wake of the Virginia Tech tragedy.

And so it was that Shifter joined this blog. I welcome him thankfully, because he'll surely bring the editorial quality up a notch, and because although it's been fun writing a blog by myself, I am really, really looking forward to blogging with him. He's smart as a whip and an all-around nice guy. And as soon as we can figure out how to automatically add bylines to the blog, we will TOTALLY do that. Honest.

Howdy, Shifter! Welcome on board!

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Target Acquired

Tonight, thanks to a very sweet friend from work, I acquired a television. I don't have it here with me, because taking it home on the Long Island Railroad seemed like kind of a stretch, but the very same sweet friend is going to deliver it tomorrow.

I have been practically TV-less since March 13. March 13 is when I moved to Brooklyn, and I moved here with two duffel bags. Strangely, rather than put a TV in one of those duffel bags, I chose other things (like underwear). Then sometime in June or July (I don't even remember) the movers came and brought my stuff. And they brought my TV.

Since I hadn't yet ordered cable, I thought, well, at least I can watch a DVD on it, so I plugged it in. It exhibited weird behavior for a while, as though possessed by evil spirits, and then settled into a truculent pout. It decided that it would allow me to watch DVD's, but that's all. It responds to no commands--no volume control, no channel-changing, no input selection, and above all, no off switch (it's kind of like Hal 2000 in this respect). Eventually I unplugged it, and since then we've lived in an uneasy detente, where I don't ask it to do anything and it doesn't kill me in my sleep.

But in my heart, I am a TV junkie. I have fought the good fight, watching the end of the last season online (thank you, ABC, for pioneering this--and a big raspberry to NBC for not posting the Biggest Loser on the web--suckers). But ultimately, when I'm sick or down, a mug of tea and a comforter on the sofa in front of the TV is a damn fine luxury. So the evil TV must be replaced.

I was thinking of buying an LCD TV anyway. So sleek. So skinny. So totally right for my very tiny apartment! Finally, fueled by the desire to watch Bones and see the culmination of Barney and Marshal's slap bet, I was driven to purchase a TV. Finding an LCD small enough for my eensy-beensy apartment was no mean feat--my new TV didn't even make the TV wall at Best Buy. But I have to say, it is a thing of beauty. At 26", it is still a larger picture than my old TV, and unlike my old TV, it doesn't have miles of fat ass dragging along behind it. It's also lighter, which my current TV stand would really have appreciated (it's sad and saggy in the middle, and being bolstered by a jar of instant P.G. Tipps). Soon, there will be a new TV stand, too (because you can totally have a skinnier TV stand now that the TV's fat ass doesn't require such an enormous plinth), but I don't want to get too crazy.

Excuse me. I think I need to go to sleep all cuddled up with the extended warranty.

The scale and me

Shifter here.

Ok, well first off let me be clear - this is not Katy posting this. This is me. And since I don't go by my first name I'll use my dorky computer name which is Shifter. Now why is it important, you ask, that I clarify who is writing this? What a good question, savvy reader who probably is only a figment of my imagination! I'll tell you! Or that is, I would tell you if you existed. But just in case I'll tell, uhm, the imaginary reader and go from there!

The reason why it is important that you know it's not Katy writing this is that I'm going to discuss my weight. It is Very Important that you don't confuse my weight with Katy's weight. I have bigger bones. Also taller ones. If you imposed my weight on Katy it would look, well, global? Anyway.

So I checked in with my scale today. Twice. I had just finished a 9.5 mile Hell Run and thought I'd reward myself by seeing how many pounds I had burned off in the course of the Hell Run. One assumes that running through lakes of fire while being flayed by legions of the damned burns a few calories. Or, alternatively, that running in the dark at 4 in the morning in the pouring rain while trying not to run into holes in the sidewalk burns calories. In any case, I had to check. Step on scale. Number flash on the digital readout, as the scale ponders the intangibles of the situation. "197.5" said the scale. Oh. Same as yesterday. No Hell Run Effect. Step off the scale. Pause. Step on the scale. Scale is much quicker this time. "197.5" it says. It says it almost too fast, as if to say "I know you, buster, you were just here and you haven't lost any weight in the last 50 seconds, now get back out to the track!" Hmmm. 197.5 it is. Hell Run Effect strangely missing.

So why did I step on it twice, you ask? Well, because the scale isn't always this savvy. Sometimes you step on it once and it gives you a weight, then you step on it again and it's like "Oh it's you, well for you let's just chop off a few extra pounds." I appreciate that when it happens. But it's also capricious. Sometimes you get in after a really Long Run - the kind that your calorie counter insists has consumed an entire limb off your body - you weren't burning calories, you weren't burning fat, you were burning entire body parts! And you step on the scale and it's like "Eh, 200. Whaddaya gonna do about it?"

So what's wrong with this picture? Well first, it's a digital scale - it's supposed to be accurate. More accurate than analog scales. But I've never seen an analog scale sit there and ponder what it's going to tell me, as if it's trying to figure out how far it can twist the truth. "Would you believe, 199?" It seems that digital is a little too smart. Now it's screwing with you! But the other thing that's wrong with it is this. I'm not fat, and I'm not even overweight (I think - depends on the scale's mood that day). I am indeed big boned and tall. And I'm a guy. And here I am, tall big boned running guy, and I'm still arguing with the scale. Still. And so I figure, if I'm arguing with the scale, who isn't? I mean the Really Skinny people, the ones who get paid to be skinny and gorgeous, or who look like they ought to be, you just KNOW they argue with the scale. Or try to appease it (with small sacrifices, perhaps?), or whatever. And the people who are a little overweight, well they probably either argue with it or avoid it like the plague. Which makes a lot of sense, really. No sense engaging in an argument you can't win! So just about all of us argue with the scale! How screwed up is that? We can't agree on a religion, a government, a foreign policy, or a war but we can all agree we should bow to the scale. There is just something disturbing in that. I'd write more about it but I want to go and see if the scale has changed it's mind.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Meditation is...

Meditation is supposed to be a state of not-trying, not-doing, just being. How do you try not to try? Is a puzzlement.

Even the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal Was Not This Cruel

Dear World,

I thought we had an agreement, you and I. The agreement clearly states that if I don't inflict my singing voice on you, you don't inflict yours on me, except within very specific parameters (see, for example, American Idol).

Since moving to Brooklyn, I can't help but notice that you've violated the policy on MULTIPLE occasions. Among the most egregious violations is the certainty that on any day that falls on a weekend, at least two people walk by my window wearing headphones and singing at the top of their lungs. World, there is just no call for that. Occasionally their voices are not that bad. But most of the time, they are awful. I would pay good money to have them stopped at the end of the block and critiqued by Simon Cowell. Because World, they deserve it.

I deserve it, too. And I know that. But at the same time, I sing only where I am allowed by international law and by the unwritten social laws prohibiting cruel and unusual punishment. I sing (very occasionally, no more than once a week, which I think you'll agree is acceptable) in the shower. Previously, when I had a car, I would sing inside it, but only with the windows rolled up and only when I was either alone in the car, or with another person who was also singing. I have sung, occasionally, in the presence of my dearest friends (or people who were masquerading as my dearest friends, but hey, we've all been there, am I right, World?).

I did recently sing karaoke with a group of people at a private party. But they made me sing, World. I told them about our agreement, and they forced me to sing anyway. I don't think that counts.

Can we please, please publish a manifesto to the effect that owning an iPod does not make you an entertainer? Nor does it convey any special talent.

Or maybe we just have to educate these people on elementary physics. "Just because you can't hear me doesn't mean that I can't hear you."

Just make it stop, World. Just make it stop.


But "Spin" Sounds Like Fun

I've been trying to take good care of myself. It's hard work. I'm pretty high maintenance. It's kind of like having a puppy and then realizing that the puppy needs to be walked and played with every day! Whose idea was this puppy, anyway?

The meditation (which is more challenging than it sounds--my brain wanders so much that it's like trying to teach algebra to a six-year-old inside Toys Backwards-R Us) is just the beginning. I'm also trying to exercise regularly. Turns out that exercise goes a long way toward turning off the committees in my head.

Have I mentioned the committees? I don't usually talk about them because I'm afraid that it'll lead to my being involuntarily committed (ha ha) to some state facility. I should stress that I in no way believe that there are actual committees inside my head. The committees are my way of visualizing (and mocking) the less-than-constructive thought processes that are going on in my head all the time.

There's the "Katy is a moron" committee--usually they favor white boards, but occasionally they get enough funding for 3D modeling and simulations. Their work product ranges from stuff that looks a lot like Father Ted's plan to rescue Father Dougal from the milk float to the 3D animations you see on some of the more fanciful police procedural shows (and the third bullet struck the victim here at this angle, thus conclusively proving that Katy is a moron). There's the "Wow, I can't believe you did something that bitchy" committee. It has a lot of filing cabinets, the better to keep track of every moment where I've unwittingly offended someone--and there are many. You get the idea.

Anyway, exercise seems to tucker them out--the harder, the better. Which is how I started taking spin classes. I say "started taking," but really I've only taken two, and the second reduced me to tears. Luckily I was sweating so much that no one could really tell.

The first spin class was taught by a large Jamaican man. I don't know about you, but I associate the Jamaican men in my life with a very laid-back attitude. Granted, the Jamaican men in my life are Lenny Henry (who is not so much in my life as on my television) and that one guy I used to work with. This man was freakishly laid back and yet intent on torturing me (so more like that one guy I used to work with). He didn't actually bike in the spin class. Instead he just walked back and forth at the front of the class torturing us. "Turn the tension up a little higher." "Turn the tension all the way up." It was a dislocating experience, and it kicked my ass.

Nonetheless, I had gone to the spin class in a quest for endorphins. Endorphins tend to zone the committees out--sort of like I gave them all big fat doobies. Sometimes I even reach the "high" that normal people consider a baseline, where I think I might be an okay person. The spin class paid off big time. The committees sat around all night drinking water and saying, "Dude, I can't believe you just did that." I felt average, which, when the committees have had their way with me for a couple of weeks, is an amazing high.

So I did it again. This time the class was led by an Amazon. Seriously. Wonder Woman and Xena had nothing on this broad. And the class totally kicked my ass, in such a way that the first ass-kicking seemed like a cakewalk. In the first class, I did "okay for my first spin class." This time I was just pathetic. I was working hard and getting nowhere (which should be fitting for a class that takes place on stationary bikes, but you really did have the impression that the other women could ride a bike up the side of Mount Everest, whereas I couldn't ride mine up a steep suburban driveway). Sweat was pouring off me, but I couldn't keep up at all.

The funny thing is that afterwards, I still felt great (I didn't stop, and that's something). I even talked to the spin instructor and asked her if she had any ideas. She explained how to leverage my time sitting on the bike (most of the class stands on the bike for pretty much all the time, but I couldn't even manage to do that for 20 seconds at a time) so that I'd eventually be able to do more and more. She also helped me figure out how to adjust my bike so that I was using the spin class to build up enough strength, telling me that when I was able to stand the way the rest of the class could, I could move my seat to where I'd had it before.

Stay tuned. I think more spin classes are in my future. I might also try boxing, because I could really stand to take out some aggression on a committee member or two.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Another Reason I Must Purchase a TV

Dude. I have got to get a television before this happens.

TWOP Sums Up Slap Bet

At Television Without Pity, Miss Alli (who, incidentally, rocks) has summed up the best episode I've ever seen of How I Met Your Mother. I have watched Slap Bet far too many times--some days it was the only thing that made my day better.

Let's hear it for people who obviously understand that pain is the key to all good comedy. Ever see the episode of the Dick Van Dyke show where Rob goes skiing and tries to hide his injuries from Laura? Hilarious.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

A Meditation On Meditation

So I've been mighty lax about blogging lately. I've started to feel a kind of stress and emotional upset that is familiar to me, and not in that "hale friend, well met" kind of way, but more in that "oh, crap, not again" kind of way. I'm very happy in Brooklyn, and I'm looking forward to spending time in a place with actual seasons, so I'd rather not spend the next few months looking for a reason to get out of bed.

To that end, I've been trying to make some changes. One of the things I'm trying is meditation. I actually got sent to a six-week meditation seminar by my insurance company back when I was in grad school. Apparently my doctor, who was in most ways appallingly negligent, cottoned onto the fact that failing a comprehensive exam (I subsequently passed, but failure is never fun), relinquishing my long-held assumption that I would become an English professor at a venerable institution, and trying to support my mother through open-heart surgery might be just a little much for me. The meditation class was really, really good for me, and although I would not say that it made me happy, I ended up learning a lot about myself, and I followed some of my understanding through with positive changes.

And then I inexplicably dropped the whole meditation thing because I was too stressed. It sounds counterintuitive, but then the whole concept of meditation is counterintuitive. (I'm stressed and I feel like I should be doing something about it, and you're telling me to sit still and relax for an hour every day. If I could sit still and relax for an hour every day, I'd already be a lot less stressed!)

So I've committed myself to trying an eight-week home program of meditation using CD's, and so far (after five days) the experience is mixed, but positive. I've encountered two major problems. The first, which I'd anticipated, is that the second I sit quietly for a moment, my brain decides to interrupt me with about 8,000 things that it's been saving up. "Oh thank goodness you stopped moving!" it says, "now you must have a moment to listen to me freak out about all the shit you haven't done and judge you for a whole bunch of things you might have forgotten and can't do anything about. I've also been meaning to discuss the future with you. It's going to suck."

Trivial thoughts, shopping lists, money anxieties, the fervent desire to buy a condo, and a flurry of thoughts about how worthless I am all jostle for attention in a disorganized but highly effective attack. Occasionally my brain also comes up with a really juicy Bad Thing that happened at work. At least one thing happens at work weekly that makes me livid or embarrassed or ashamed, and my brain enjoys replaying these episodes in loving detail the second I close my eyes. As distracting and depressing as these thoughts are, it's actually easier to deal with them while meditating (where there's a prescribed way to treat the intrusive thoughts) than it normally is. Usually all these things come up when I'm in bed trying to sleep. Not surprisingly, it's been easier to sleep over the last few days, too.

Which leads me to my second problem. I keep falling asleep during the meditation CD. There's something really stressful about falling asleep when you're supposed to be meditating. On the one hand, you're trying to relax, and if you're asleep, well, mission accomplished. But you're also trying to make it through this 8-week program, and if you've bothered with the 8-week program, there is probably something bothering you that you'd like to improve. If it could be improved by sleeping, you'd probably have gotten a prescription for Ambien or Lunesta or whatever, or just had a loved one hit you over the head with a frying pan. In my case, I was terrified that if I slept for even one extra second during the day, I wouldn't be able to sleep at night, so when I fell asleep during the meditation, I the special kind of freakout reserved for the sleep-deprived. You know, the kind where logic is replaced with exponentially multiplying predictions of disaster, even if the "problem" is that you've solved a problem or that you've found a mitten on the ground. Fortunately, my fears were unfounded--I'm sleeping much better this week, even though I'm still regularly conking out during the time I've set aside for meditation.

There is a body scan meditation (where you progressively "experience" and relax each part of your body). It starts at the toes, and if you manage to follow along, I guess it probably ends at the top of your head. I'm guessing, because I haven't made it that far yet. The first time I tried it, I was snoring before I relaxed my ankles. I've been staying more conscious each time. Tonight I didn't actually fall asleep, but my mind wandered off during the last five minutes or so of the meditation. I won't say that it's progress (because meditation is, theoretically, intrinsically goal-free), but it's kind of interesting to watch.

I won't bore you with it a whole lot, but I'll keep you posted. If nothing else it will keep me honest for the 8 weeks if I know someone might ask me how it's going.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Maybe Guns Should Be Required

Maybe the gun advocates are right--but maybe they're just not taking it far enough.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

So How Insane is This

Shifter here.

Ok, so this has been on my mind ever since the Virginia Tech shootings and all the media that came out afterwards. First, the obligatory but true comment that what happened at Virginia Tech was a tragedy, and of course we should do everything we can to 1) make sure something like that is less likely to happen and 2) take care of those affected as best we can. And perhaps some of the things being done afterwards will achieve those goals. Nonetheless, espousing idiocy should not be seen as a good way to honor the dead or prevent future tragedy. Did you hear that, Mr. Bush? But I digress.

There is one thing about the aftermath of Virginia Tech that is just maddening to me. After this guy walks onto campus and kills lots and lots of people with guns there is a lobby, local and national, to allow more guns on campus. People are actually saying that schools should be required to allow students to carry concealed firearms. The argument, which is incredible, is that if more people were carrying guns on campus perhaps a shootout at the OK Corral would have occurred, killing the gunman before more innocents were killed. I have heard some speakers say that "at least former military personnel" should be allowed to carry guns, again so that they can play Wyatt Earp and save the day. Because, as we all know, former military personnel are superior to the rest of us and sure to use the guns to defend others.

So first, let me count the ways this is ridiculous. OK-Corral, lots of people shooting back and forth, nobody else gets hurt. Brilliant! Trained SWAT teams don't always do that well, but a freshman with a 9 millimeter, he'll do great! Next, I don't know if many of you remember college but there are a lot of people there with a lot of problems and a lot of stress and occasionally they get really mad or rambunctious or even (gasp) drunk. In college, typically, that leads to yelling, fist fights, vandalism, bad poetry, and minor legal problems. Now let's add a few guns to the mix, especially those guns that police are not allowed to prohibit (under the Brilliant rules being suggested), and see what happens. Crimes of passion, anyone? Stupid mistakes leading to death instead of bloody noses? Fortunately, former-military people never drink or do dumb things, so if we limit it to them well it's all going to be ok, right? Similarly brilliant. The argument is made that people should be "allowed to defend themselves." Nice, emotional, and probably very wrong. The odds are, more people will kill others wrongfully than will successfully defend themselves. I'm sure there's a statistic on that somewhere - like the gun-in-the-home for defense thing? So if your chance to defend yourself means, overall, that more people are likely to die then sorry, you shouldn't get that chance. Tanks give people a terrific chance to defend themselves, after all, and nobody has (yet) proposed that Virginia Tech students be allowed to drive them to class. But the year isn't over yet.

Now the fact that this whole thing is as nuts as it is has me wondering. Is this, perhaps, some kind of Machiavellian plot? Think about it - another huge shooting, tons of people killed, gun lobby has to be a bit nervous. Here we go again, they think. More anti-gun freaks going to claim that while people do kill people, "guns help" (to quote Eddie Izzard). So what do they do? They decide that the best way to deflect THAT debate is to start a new one! "It goes to show we need more guns!" they cry. And while all the sane people do double takes and try to figure out if they're hearing this right, they grin as they sidestep a potential Killer Issue. Now I know there is a certain "grass roots" feel to some of the pressures out there (see link) but when something this incredibly mindbogglingly stupid gets said on TV this much, you have to wonder a bit, don't you? Or am I being paranoid? Maybe a little wild-eyed? Even dangerous-looking? Good thing you're allowed to carry that gun…

Monday, August 20, 2007

Oh, the Horror!

I have arranged a horror triple-feature. I watched "Vacancy" and "Disturbia," and now I'm starring in a horror flick of my own, called "Packing for a Business Trip." I have just discovered that a) I have forgotten my computer power cord AGAIN at the office and b) I also forgot to charge my blackberry. Yeah. I'm gonna be SO useful over the next couple of days. We're gonna be recording requirements the old-fashioned way. Hell, if I misplace my pen, we may be using stone tablets.

"Vacancy" was a pleasant surprise. As far as casting is concerned, I was excited about one of the two main characters. Luke Wilson is welcome in any movie for any reason (the episode of "X-Files" where he played the bucktoothed weirdo/devlishly handsome vampire was one of my all-time favorites). Kate Beckinsale...well, I'm not her key demographic. She's a lot more fun to watch with a randy 30-something-year-old man. Especially if no actual Kate Beckinsale is available when the lights go on after the movie. (What? It's not technically "leftovers" if the guest of honor never showed up. It's a boon! Say it with me girls: "Boon!")

"Vacancy" falls into the "snuff films are real" sub-genre that's basically making me afraid to stay anywhere other than a five-star hotel (see how that works out?). If these films are to be believed every motel that's more than a block from mainstream civilization is a deathtrap, so naturally the motel where our characters end up is running a successful snuff film business out of the honeymoon suite.

"Vacancy" exercises tasteful restraint in following a formula recently redefined (and not in a good way) by "Hostel" and "Hostel II." The Hostel movies are of the "ten pounds of shit in a five pound bag" school of violence. In "Vacancy," we get enough glimpses to get that horrible sinking feeling of "typical domestic scene goes bad" (the core of a lot of good horror), but for the most part the violence is offscreen, wide-shot, or seen from behind something or someone (saves me the trouble of putting my hands over my eyes) and does not look like it required an advanced anatomy class for the special effects team. It's also (gasp) advancing the plot rather than merely hiking up the body count. Refreshing, no?

The other endearing part of the movie is the bickering between the Kate/Luke couple, who are this close to signing divorce papers after a tragic accident claimed their toddler. Oh, yes...finding out you're starring in a snuff film is THE way to fix a marriage. Everyone should try it. I see a themed marriage boot camp with an ironclad waiver. The insults and the tension and the nasty end-of-marriage dynamic are a great way to make you care that little bit extra about the characters--everyone in the audience is bound to identify with one of them. You almost hope they both survive, just because you just know that argument about the apple doesn't look that important any more, plus, what a teambuilding exercise! ("There's no `i' in `team'--now RUN!")

You can't see a horror movie without exercising your willing suspension of disbelief (well, you could, but you'd be annoying). As far as those things go, "Vacancy" isn't too taxing, and most of the victims in the movie are smarter than your average teeny-bopper-victim. No one spends precious minutes thinking maybe they just can't shoot someone while the killer giggles and gains some precious advantage. We don't spend a whole lot of time losing characters to the "stop kidding around" gambit that you learn not to employ if you survive Victim 101. These main characters aren't virgins, but by God, they're making that extra effort to survive. My favorite part is when Luke Wilson's character starts reviewing the snuff films like Kyle Chandler running game tapes on "Friday Night Lights." Because information is the most powerful weapon of all! (Why do I hear the G. I. Joe theme?)

"Disturbia" was probably a little more satisfying. It's from the "Rear Window Rip-Off" school of suspense (is the neighbor a killer, or have I just been in this house for too damn long?), but it's "Rear Window" set inside a John Hughes movie. Kale is a tortured soul. Since he's a teenaged tortured soul, he acts out and gets sentenced to house arrest. His mother cuts the plug off the television, so Kale is reduced to spying on his neighbors for entertainment, and he begins to suspect that one of them is a prolific serial killer. The house arrest is a neat premise, because he's more mobile than Jimmy Stewart AND he gets to give a nice shout out to Martha Stewart. He's also kitted out with some pretty slick video gear, a sexy girl next door, and a goofy friend named Ronnie ("Disturbia"'s answer to Thelma Ritter--although I'm not sure how much common sense Ronnie has). All these characters are perky and plucky and sweet and reasonable. There are moments when Shia LaBeouf as Kale seems to be channeling John Cusak circa "Better off Dead."

The film's is-he-or-isn't-he villain is played with very little ambiguity by David Morse. Morse has come a long way since St. Elsewhere, and I think he's spent the entire intervening time practicing his threatening face in the mirror. He takes his "cop with grudge" character from "House" and turns the threat factor up to 11. Yeah, maybe a little OTT, but we can't all be Raymond Burr. The one device I wish they'd ripped off from "Rear Window" is the part where Stewart falls asleep and we see Burr and "Mrs. Thorwald" leave their apartment. There's one obvious place to apply it in "Disturbia," but since it's the weakest point in the plot, the screenplay wisely opts not to draw our attention to it that way.

There are some things that don't go anywhere, and there are far more characters than are, strictly speaking, necessary (probably only obvious because "Vacancy" is so cunningly spare--or, some might say, "cheap"). But I love "Rear Window" a lot, so the movie gets lots of points for stealing just enough to prove it's stealing out of love. And extra points for any film where someone has to hop to safety. People are always spending precious time and energy loosing their bonds. Hop, damn you! Hop for your life! When you're in mortal danger, is your dignity really that important?

Speaking of dignity, I think I left that at the office, too. I'm not sure what I have left to pack, but it's gonna be a long night.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

No Sense of Proportion Required

Just when I was feeling guilty about replacing my threadbare green silk purse with something (okay, several somethings--I had trouble choosing) more hard-wearing and squashable, it's the NY Times to the rescue! Today's style section has a feature on affordable foreign fashion. But "affordable" is in the eye of the beholder, with the feature's author blithely declaring that you "won't have to skip your morning latte" to buy a $154 t-shirt or a $170 pair of jeans.

I just have one question. How much does your latte cost?

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Tuned In Makes Me Sad

I still read Tuned In every day, even though I don't have a television. Every once in a while I'm able to follow through on something that intrigues me (yay ABC, NBC!) but lots of the time the thing I'm interested in isn't posted by the networks (boo CBS, which posts a few select shows and removes them after a week, and double-boo FX--what the hell do you have against online airings of Damages and Rescue Me?).

But it's the posts like this one that edge me closer to finally picking up the phone and ordering cable. Especially now that I've actually washed the dishes and read most of the newspapers on my coffee table. I'm not a hipster, and the odds aren't good that I ever will be, but I've got to say, this looks hysterical. Of course, if it makes me wish I had cable, it also makes me understand why people do drugs. Some situations just appear to call for it. (You know, like election coverage.)

Of course, first I'll need cable. And before that, I'll need a TV that obeys my commands. (My current TV has staged a big fat hissy fit and now only allows me to view DVD's and won't turn off unless I unplug it. And if that stops happening I won't need cable, because I'll be living in the Twilight Zone.)