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…