Friday, April 27, 2007

Say it with me, class: "Abulia"

Thank goodness for TV shows about brain disorders or I wouldn't be able to laugh at my life nearly enough. Last week's "House," which I am only watching today on account of not having a television, was kind enough to provide me with a word I've been needing for a long, long time.

"Abulia" is, evidently, the inability to make decisions or act independently. This, unfortunately, describes almost every man I've ever dated.

But more importantly for IT people, it describes almost any community of users. Not any individual user--they usually have some idea of what they want, and if you were going to give it to them in a vacuum where there were no other users, they'd be really, really happy. But the unfortunate thing about any IT enterprise is that its product must be shared by many, many people. And as anyone who has ever attempted to rent a video with more than five people can tell you, decision-making is not generally the strong point of a large group.

It's a really, really useful concept. Abulia.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Stack-Heeled Mary Janes Make Jesus Weep

Read Francis's explanation of Easter in Sweden. I had no idea about the trick-or-treating for Easter there, and the idea of slipping a priest vodka after mass is priceless.


I didn't know this kid, but I have been hoping for him and even watching for him since I got the news that he was missing in September. I know the link is perverse, and that I should really link to something more like this, but I just hope we're more than how we end. I knew in my heart that Paul probably wasn't alive--he seemed like such a good kid, and I couldn't imagine him watching his parents and friends suffer and then just kicking back somewhere. But it was still a shock to hear tonight that his body had been found, and to know that he had killed himself. There are so many things I wish were different about this story. I wish we knew. I wish we could re-write it. I wish his friends and family didn't have to go through their grief and anguish all over again, for real this time, with no safety net of hope (aside from the eternal hope, for those who have it). Mostly I just wish this hadn't been a week so heavy with lost possibilities, and that we didn't have to lose things to know how precious they are.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

I bite my thumb at Windows!

Okay, Bill, here's the deal. Windows has given us many wondrous things. Excel. OneNote. Kudos to you.

But I despise your stinky, stinky media player, and let me tell you why. I go to for news occasionally, and damned if every story I want to "read" isn't a video, as though we were a nation of complete morons who can't read a single word of English. Fine. I'm hardly an intellectual elitist--I watch plenty of bad television, and I'll play along. I'll play your damn video if you're too lazy to write a story about it. That's cool.

But it isn't. Not really.

I have installed the Windows Media Player approximately 937 times. I've got version 11 right here, baby! But every single time I click on a CNN story, it tells me, "Sorry Charlie, you need the Windows Media Player." In vain I yell at it and tell it that I HAVE the damn media player. Look AGAIN! I shout. But no. And daily, I swear on the tattered remains of my mortgaged soul, CNN's content becomes more and more video and less and less text. Because apparently the folks at CNN have no opposable thumbs and have been forced to compose their stories entirely with their index fingers and a remote control. Dang, that Anderson Cooper looked like he had thumbs. Fine figure of a man to be reporting on all manner of world injustice without a single thumb--my hat is off to him, for truly, he is a thumbless inspiration to us all.

(Actually, Cooper's blog is one of the few reliable sources of text, so I take it back. But only the stuff about him--CNN is really catering to feckless illiterates. But only feckless illiterates with Windows.)

So I'm cutting out the middleman. I'm just going to administer myself a powerful electric shock when I go to Because, really, it's just a lesson in annoyance and monopoly, and although it's convenient, it's not as though it's an international symbol of reporting excellence, and for the love of all that is holy, I really don't understand why the site won't just PLAY THE DAMN VIDEO.

In conclusion, I believe that the Windows Media Player and CNN are joint harbingers of the end of days. I await the coming apocalypse. I just hope I don't have to try to watch it on


Inside jokes (just because):
For Natalie, "Why for you no have tattoo?"
For anyone with encyclopedic knowledge of the Dick Van Dyke show, I bet the good folks at CNN have also lost their sense of humor.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Settling In

Today I was looking for something to do outside, since today was gorgeous and tomorrow is supposed to be a rotten day. I've been far too cocoon-y, although this is always the way I get accustomed to a new place. I tend to hunker down and expand my comfort zone slowly, making my home base habitable and relaxing and homey and then working out block by block. It's a sort of punctuated equilibrium--for many days or weeks I'll just sort of cuddle up at home, and then I'll need something and so I'll get out and get familiar with a whole range of places, people and things.

But I was damned if I was going to let this all-too-rare sunny Saturday go to waste, so I sat here with my cup of tea trying to figure out what exactly I wanted to do. The Brooklyn attraction that I'm desperate to see is Green-wood cemetery, which I'm hoping will be a bit like Highgate in London. Highgate has a serene, park-like quality that I enjoy, and there are many fine gardens in the vicinity. Plus, there's the whole cemetery vibe--nothing like spending an hour in a cemetery to remind you where your priorities should lie.

Alas, no tours of Green-wood today, and I'm not up to a self-guided tour just yet. But I did find a tour of nearby Prospect Park that was just the ticket. The Big Onion has a variety of NYC walking tours hosted by graduate students, and our guide was knowledgeable and enthusiastic. The tour party included three long-time Brooklyn residents who gave us a lot of information about what the park was like when they grew up here, which was really nice.

Among the many reasons I will never fit in as a true New Yorker is the fact that I can't feign disinterest in the beauty of the Northeast. There were huge clumps of daffodils dotted around the park (all because no spring day is complete until you have a flashback to your grad school seminar on the Romantics), and other bulbs as well--hyacinths, bluebell-looking things--all very exotic when you're coming to it from Phoenix. The park was full of squirrels, all frisky and chasing each other around, leaping from tree to tree like little acrobats. And I saw a hawk patrolling his little section of the park--just gorgeous. When our tour was over, we ended up in the farmer's market, and it was all I could do to restrain myself from buying a little pot of purple crocus bulbs--I adore them, but they'd be dead in no time flat if I so much as touched them, I'm sure, and although they were cheaper than cut flowers, I just couldn't indulge in that kind of cruelty. I think the crocus is right up there with my favorite flowers.

The same tour company does a tour of the cemetery next weekend--I hope the weather is good. In the meantime, I spent the rest of the afternoon stocking up on tea and comfort to prepare for the upcoming storm. Tomorrow will be a fine day to be indoors with plenty of quarters to do laundry, plenty of varied cups of tea, green nail polish (for a winter pedicure) and a little beer. It'll be a pity to ruin it all come Monday.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

It's just so easy

Women seem complicated--it's part of our charm. But apparently it all boils down to this:

"Say thank you without hesitation. Say sorry without fear. Say I love you without being ashamed."

Well, okay, maybe it's not quite that easy. But you have to hand it to the Japanese for trying. They have established a ten-level scale to establish what makes a good husband. (Level one, love your wife and help out with chores. Level ten, say "I love you" without embarrassment.) Men are also encouraged to keep track of how often they make their wives smile to build up goodwill for when they inevitably do something irritating or unwholesome.

Evidently this trend is gaining popularity as the concept of community property is introduced into Japanese law--women in Japan will now be able to claim up to half of their husband's pension if they divorce. Apparently the divorce rate has been declining, and some experts put it down to women waiting for the law to take effect (one imagines Japanese women counting down the minutes to midnight and then gleefully serving their husbands with divorce papers, like some sixties farce). Men are good and terrified. But honestly, the bar is not that high, guys. Do a load of laundry. Try to make her laugh. Say thank you. Say you're sorry. Say you love her. These are not herculean efforts (although I'm willing to spot them points on the "I love you" thing, because evidently this is a mammoth cultural blind spot).

I'll admit, at first it sounds like it's encouraging underperformance, but on the other hand, I'm sure I could hunt up a few American husbands who wouldn't make it to level one, and these guys seem pretty earnest about it. And when you think about it, earnest is the key. Because we know when you're lying. Again, it's part of our charm.

Mmmm, personal questions

Since the Indian civil service has started asking women to reveal their menstrual cycle, women are protesting and refusing to fill the forms in. (Gee, ya think?)

See, that's not the tack I'd take. I'd write up a questionnaire for the men. I'm sure there are some deeply humiliating personal questions that could be seen as having some tangential bearing on their performance as civil servants.

Then again, maybe they just caught me on a day when I'm bitchier than usual.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Freeloaders. Harrumph.

While I was at work today, someone stole my chair. I went to go help a user post depreciation, and when I came back, damned if my chair wasn't gone. I worked for a few minutes (standing up), and then I asked the gal next to me, "Excuse me, but did you see who took my damn chair?" Oh, yeah, the incredibly important dudes in the conference room took it. Degenerate freeloaders.

I mean, my computer was open and on my desk. There was a half-drunk coffee and a half-eaten croissant. It was perfectly obvious that someone was going to need the chair. I'd love to know exactly which jerk took it. Every time I walked past the conference room I looked inside, looking at all the chairs. I swear to God, if I'd seen a dude sitting in my chair, I would have walked right up to him and told him I needed it back.

Someone's mother needs to hear about this. Ya know, maybe she taught her son to steal chairs from defenseless working women who make several hundred thousand dollars less annually than he does. Maybe she did. Or maybe she'll kick his ass. A girl can dream.

Monday, April 09, 2007

NPR Interview with Kevin Spacey

I always liked Kevin Spacey, and I'll admit I'm not his most critical audience. But when he took over the Old Vic theatre in London, I came dangerously close to actual worship. What a guy. The Brits, perhaps predictably, thought the idea sucked. The reviews of the Old Vic's productions were strident and hostile, and for a while it seemed they'd never forgive him for horning in on their territory. But he just sat back and told them he wasn't leaving no matter how much they bitched, and now he has a hit, with a Eugene O'Neill play (well played--the British love O'Neill almost as much as they like Tennessee Williams). I am almost certainly too darn poor to get to the Broadway show of "A Moon for the Misbegotten," but oh well. Go Kevin! I knew you could do it.

Gay Weddings For Disney

I'll admit, I think of Disney the ultimate breeder empire, so I personally would never have thought of this. But I can appreciate the idea of gay and lesbian couples sharing another stereotypically heterosexual part of the American dream--it's not exactly equal rights, but rock on.

Part of me is thinking about the reactions of some folks back home who are going to have a classic moment of internal conflict--they'll want to boycott Disney, but they just won't be able to, because it's nearly as integral to their home life as their church. Which is not to suggest that Disney and their church share the same actual status in their hearts and minds, because they take their faith seriously and practice it with genuine passion and tolerance, and for them Disney is sacred mostly because the brand provides suitable family entertainment that, if it doesn't support their religious views, at least reliably fails to challenge them. Plus, animation--yay! I'm just saying that an alien anthropologist visiting their home and sorting through the ratio of religious relics versus Disney paraphernalia would have a hard time telling the difference.

My guess is that they'll do what my friend's dad always used to do--say that gays might as well suffer the indignities of marriage just like the rest of us. And if they want to drop forty-five grand at Disneyland to do it, well, they're contributing to the economy, so at least they're making themselves useful.

I just desperately want a Disney gay wedding brochure. I'll treasure it. I promise.

New Yorkers Are...Unique

I totally understand how things like this happen. I talk to my cab and car drivers all the time, and there are quite a few of them who wouldn't mind getting the hell out of dodge for a few days, although I talked to at least one man whose chief concern once he got out of New York was not getting behind the wheel for any purpose.

Still, you have to admit, you're not surprised they're cat people, are you?

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Another Reason I Have No Business Hiking

Well, that's not true. I enjoy hiking, actually. I prefer walking, because it seems more civilized, and it typically requires less specialized gear. Also, there's less of a chance that my survival will hinge on having to eat a spider. And I simply couldn't eat a turtle. Because if I did survive, my cousin would never speak to me ever again. Ever. And life would no longer be worth living.

So it's a damn good thing I'm never ever planning to go hiking in French Guiana.

Read the whole thing, because the money quote is in the third-from-the-last paragraph. Yeah, the one about the amazing spider diet (better than Atkins!) and with cooking tips (hint--if spider were on a menu, there would be a little star next to it warning that it would be cooked to order but that the restaurant wasn't liable for what might happen to you if you ordered it rare).

Something tells me these boys are going to be more grateful than most for their Easter dinner today, even if they wouldn't normally have celebrated the holiday.