Saturday, February 28, 2009

If You Loved Quiz Show, You'll Love Harry Markopolos

I wouldn't normally recommend 60 Minutes, mostly because it sticks in my mind as a show for old people, but on Sunday night, they're interviewing Harry Markopolos, the guy who testified in front of the House Financial Services committee about the total incompetence of the SEC. Markopolos is a true geek hero--at least, he is to this geek.

The opening statement of his testimony to the House committee was controlled and scathing. Markopolos and his team fed the SEC evidence of the Madoff ponzi scheme for years--evidence that would have allowed investigation and successful prosecution long before the scheme achieved the scope it did, defrauding thousands of American individuals and charities of billions of dollars. In his testimony, Markolpolos charged the SEC with being "overlawyered" and with a scorn for true industry experience that amounts to nothing short of hubris. Unsurprisingly, he also notes that the SEC's regional rivalries made them even more clumsy and unresponsive (no shock to anyone who's worked at a large company).

But where Markopolos really shone was in the Q&A. As Rep. Kanjorski asked him questions, Markopolos answered with the air of a guy who's relieved that someone finally asked him. While the opening statement was scripted, the Q&A was a pleasure to hear--idiomatic, richly informed, and personable. When Kanjorski asked who the SEC should be hiring, Markopolos pled for seasoned industry professionals, people "with grey hair or no hair. You'd be perfect." He argued that the SEC shouldn't be a stepping-stone for young professionals, but the capstone to an illustrious career. He urged IT integration among law enforcement agencies, a herculean effort but clearly the key to better law enforcement in the 21st century.

My favorite moment came when Rep. Ackerman asked him what tipped him off that Madoff wasn't legit. Here's his answer:

"It took me about five minutes to figure out that he was a fraud--so it took extensive time and research.... I knew right away by looking at his performance chart, and--I wish I had a white-board and easel here, but I don't, so I'm going to give you a hand signal, and I'm going to show you what his performance line looked like. It was a 45-degree angle. Without any variation. It went in only one direction, up."

Markopolos and his team did this investigation without compensation--when asked why he did it, they said they did it "for the flag of the United States of America" and to uphold the reputation of the capital market system, because one dirty player taints the whole game.

Markopolos is well worth my 60 minutes. I hope his testimony initiates the true sea change that should have come with Enron. What's needed is not a set of regulations like Sarbanes-Oxley. SOX's heart is in the right place, but conscientious companies comply with its spirit, and irresponsible companies can still get by complying with its letter and exploiting loopholes (not just in SOX, but in all of our federal regulations), allowing everything from shameless waste of shareholder dollars to out-and-out fraud. What's needed is a culture where anything less than conscientious and transparent management of investments is vilified and prosecuted with zeal and tenacity.

Listen to the NPR story on Markopolos's testimony here (less than 5 minutes). See video here (much longer, natch--the Q&A begins at ~15:00). And my next question is, what's the new SEC chairman (really, she should get to be the chairwoman) doing with her 13% budget increase?

Have you noticed that WE ROCK?

Yes, imaginary readers, it's time for Katy and I to acknowledge a hard reality. We kick butt. It's not easy to admit, it makes us blush a bit, and yes, we worry about envy from others but sometimes you just have to call a blog a blog and have done with it. You see, lo these many moons ago Katy and I looked out upon the barren wasteland that T&S had become over the past year and saw that it was Bad. Not bad as in content-wise. Well sort of. Bad as in no-content-wise. We were, between us, posting once every 2 months or so. That's like a year of a dog's life, isn't it?

So we had a meeting with all the blog regulars - Katy, myself, the scale, Mich Biehn, the guy who sings One Semester of Spanish Spanish Love Songs and yes, Dr. Horrible (he wasn't here yet but he was planning on his big debut). And after sorting through various suggestions (destroy the world, rap another 5 minutes of Merchant of Venice every week, de donde es la casa roja) we settled on a simple but perhaps brilliant plan. Write more. Write like you've never written before. Write so much, in fact, that you get more done in 2 months than you did in the entire previous year.

And now it's done. Yup, check out the right side of the screen, baby! We've got 46 posts in now, and only 45 in for the entire year of 2008. Some may see that as a sign of patheticness in 2008 but "we remember it differently" (thank you Captain Hammer). We see it as a sign of uber-kicking-buttness. We owe ourselves a beer (or a glass of wine, depending on our sensibilities). And, just like an NPR fund drive, we hope to become Sustaining Members with ongoing regular contributions. And we really appreciate each and every one of our imaginary readers for reading through all of this, uhm, stuff we've been writing :o) Cheers!

This American Life, LIVE!

If anyone else now hears Tom Bergeron's voice every time they hear that an event is "LIVE!" then I'm sorry. I feel your pain.

Anyway, Mike Birbiglia, who I mentioned earlier, is going to be on the April 19th live edition of This American Life at the Chicago Theater (oddly enough, it's in Chicago), and also in the April 23 live show in New York, which will be broadcast to movie theaters nationwide. The last live show was a lot of fun (even though I only got the podcast), and I would definitely have tried to get a ticket to the New York show had I but known (it's already sold out).

Birbiglia is new to the live broadcast, and as you know, I'm a fan. Two of my favorites from last year's live program return this year, too. Dan Savage told a great story last year, and I'm really looking forward to hearing from him again, but David Rakoff had me in tears with his narrative of trying to equal the average American's television consumption after years of not watching any tv at all. His description of the girls on "My Super Sweet 16" had me in stitches.

Dan and David's stories from last year's live show are available with other assorted hilarity here, on the This American Life site, for a mere $.95 download (and it supports public radio--you won't be disappointed). I highly recommend it. If you like what you hear, you might want to sign up at the link above for information on the live show in April.

Friday, February 27, 2009

So what is a "Super User" anyway?

I was listening to NPR today (fund drive is going, call or click online today!) and they were throwing around a term I've heard before: Super User. They meant someone who listened a lot to their programs. They meant it admiringly, as in "wow, he's a SuperUser!" But I was just thinking since when did SuperUsers become cool things? Not a super producer, super contributor, super achiever, or super anything else, a super user. One who makes use of stuff. Nice and all, but deep down, aren't we all superusers? Anyone who is reading this is - you've got a computer, you're online just using away. Super! Did you drive to work today - super, you go user! But I guess what really made me wince was that I've dated a few superusers in my time and, well, it wasn't very pleasant. No, not technology superusers, people superusers. I've always thought superusers were kind of like the antichrist we had to avoid at all costs. As a super-usee I found the experience less than gratifying. But then, unlike NPR, I wasn't getting paid. Ah well - gotta go - surely there's some using for me to do later this evening.

Sad Hour

My new company has been laying people off for a week or so now.  I think in all 75 people are gone (out of a 14,000 employee company, so only about one-half of one percent of our headcount, which is mighty selective in today's economy).  Today our manager got us all in a room and let us know that for now it's over.  That would pull more weight with me if I hadn't heard it before, but that's okay.  I'm pretty sure he's doing the best he can to be honest with us.
What sucks the most is that the folks just get walked out and that's it.  For most of the people I've known who've been laid off, I was able to get in touch with them.  Either I had their e-mail address or I knew someone who didn't mind passing along a message.  But for these folks I'm stuck--I have no way of telling them I'm sorry, and no way of passing along my contacts (they're SAP people, so they'd actually benefit from some of my lists of recruiters or of companies in the New York area who use SAP).  Here's hoping they're on LinkedIn.
It feels like our team needs a Sad Hour.  We definitely need a drink.

Thursday, February 26, 2009


OK, first of all, no telling us we have readers. That's just plain scary.

But don't tell anyone about this clip. It took me a long time to find it.

Still funny. And totally true.

Oh @#!$, we have readers!

It was recently brought to my attention that people are actually reading the blog. Someone, and I'm not saying who, told me that he/she is reading the blog on a regular basis. Regular basis! Now I don't necessarily want to discourage this sort of thing, on general principle, but I just have to point out that neither Katy or I can be help responsible for any boredom, excitement, humor, irritation, ideas, or complete and utter confusion that may arise as a result of reading the words contained herein. In fact, while the idea of readership in the abstract is quite exciting to me, the idea of actual readers, as in real people reading this, is just a little anxiety provoking. What if you, you real readers, don't like it? All the imaginary readers do! Every time! They love it! And they really love the italics. But now that there are real readers, well, that changes everything! I don't know if I dare use italics. Do you like them? Do you hate them? Do you like linux? It's all so confusing!

So I guess it's ok if you read the blog, I mean hey, why not, right? Sure, go ahead and read it. But if it's all the same to you, I'm just going to have to put you in the category of imaginary readers when I think about you. That way I won't have to worry quite so much. Yup, I think that will work best all around, don't you? I imagine that you do :o) G'night!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

You know what Jane Austen needs?

Zombies. That's right, zombies. I was skeptical, too, but then I read the spin on Jane Austen's immortal first line, "It is a truth universally acknowledged that a zombie in possession of brains must be in want of more brains." I'm sold. I think I need that on a needlepoint sampler, please.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Gonna Make You Happy Tonight

I came across this one while strolling down memory lane, well, youtube lane tonight. I really love this one. If you are, or know, a gamer you'll love this.

"It's just that the savepoints are quite far apart in this game..." I'm almost sure I've used that line before.

Get Birbiglia on the Moth Podcast

Mike Birbiglia is really, really funny. I first heard Mike on This American Life. This American Life is one of my favorite radio shows on NPR--sometimes it's sad, but usually it's so funny that you really shouldn't listen to it through headphones on public transportation. You should probably listen to it even when it doesn't feature Mike Birbiglia. At any rate, the first part of this episode was Mike, and it was one of the funniest things I've ever heard--it's about a serious subject, but it's very funny (a little like when Christopher Titus does standup, only without the mother who can kill a man with only her bare hands and a cappuccino machine).

But the This American Life episode contains other material, much of which was frankly disturbing. So to hear Mike without losing sleep yourself, I suggest that you hasten to the Moth Podcast either at their website or at iTunes (home of the evil empire). It's sixteen minutes of Mike, and it's free. Totally free. Download it, forthwith. (Now. That means now.) Quick, while it's still available. If you haven't heard of the Moth, just hasten there forthwith and download it, and at the beginning they'll have a little blurb that explains what the Moth is.

And, as a small public service, it's my duty to inform you that if you live in the NY area, Mike's stage show, Sleepwalk with Me is playing through this weekend. I got to see it in previews on the same night he was on Conan, and I laughed so hard that I was literally holding my sides and wiping my eyes.


Neil Patrick Harris is awesome for way more than Dr. Horrible.  May I direct you to....

Exhibit A:  NPH appears as NPH (not himself, but a crazy version of himself) in "Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle."  Whatever you may think of the movie (I notice it wasn't nominated for an Oscar), I'm a sucker for a star who can make fun of himself.  I loved it when I saw Ryan O'Neal in What's Up, Doc and he made fun of the famous line in his earlier movie, Love Story, a tearjerker whose famous quote was, "Love means never having to say you're sorry."  In WUD, Barbra Streisand lays that same line on him, and O'Neal looks deep into her eyes and says, "That's the dumbest thing I ever heard."  NPH's appearance in Harold and Kumar is like that, only twenty percent more awesome.

Exhibit B:  How I Met Your Mother.  I love this show, even though I sincerely doubt I'm in its target demographic (I've already been married, so I think I'm supposed to be in the "New Adventures of Old Christine" target demographic--well, nuts to that).  True, some of the characters strain our love for them (you know who you are, Lily), and some just strain our patience (Ted is the only person I know who tells a story slower than I do).  But Barney just gets more and more awesome.  Watching the erstwhile champion of one-night-stands lose his heart is just adorable, especially since it's rounded out with Barney's flagrant disrespect for just about everything besides Robin and the Bro Code.  Niiiice.

Exhibit C:  NPH like, knows Stephen Sondheim.  I'm sorry, that's pretty cool.

Dr. Horrible.  If you haven't watched it yet, clearly you don't take this blog seriously.  (Not that there's anything wrong with that.  We want you to read.  We're not yet at the point where we demand total obedience.  But it would be cool if you obeyed, because you'd be entertained--and not by lay people like us, but by real, talented professionals.)  If, however, you already watched it last year when it came out, all I can say is that now the DVD is out, and it has a Musical Commentary Track.  You know you want it.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Dr. Horrible, how do I love thee?

So how much do I love Dr. Horrible, you ask? This much. I no longer think of Neil Patrick Harris (aka Dr. Horrible) as the biggest dweeb on the planet. Now I think he's kind of cool. I know that doesn't seem like much, but I once viewed Doogie Houser (starring the precocious Neil Patrick Harris as Doogie, a teenage genius with an MD on residency) as the most vilely pathetic thing to degrade my television screen. Ever. Like Brady Bunch, without the charm, but with medical school thrown in. Blech. So this transferred onto good old Mr. Harris (who at the time was just Neil Patrick to me, cause he was just out of puberty) and I couldn't stand him. Very judgmental of me, I know. But that's beside the point. The point is that now Mr. Harris is cool! He rocks! He gets beat up by Nathan Fillian (who has always been cool, since Firefly) and plots to kill him and sings great things like "It's a brand new day, and the sun is high, and the birds are singing that you're gonna die!" And he can't decide if he wants to be a social crusader or an evil dictator (ah, how often are we all confronted by that age old dilemma?). It's just cool cool cool!

By the way, I really like the show :o)

The Voices

A friend of mine just started dating a guy she met on, and I was gratified to hear that she's had to contend with "the voices." You know, the voices in your head that tell you you're being a goober in front of somebody that you really don't want to be a goober with.

Let me just say that my friend is not a goober. She's really cool--she can hang out with cool people without spilling something on her shirt, she can go dancing (without irony), she (wait for it) can drink more than one glass of wine. She can do all these things at once and make it look easy. She's a tremendously competent professional who raises money for nonprofits, often by schmoozing celebrities. She schmoozes the celebrities so well that they've been known to get a little fresh with her (you know who you are--oh, wait, the celebrities probably don't read the blog). She loves her friends, is kind to animals, is in no way bipolar or man-hating, and she can cook. No, seriously, like, lived-in-France-and-can-cook-real-French-food can cook, or, if you prefer, can-take-random-ingredients-from-the-fridge-and-make-something-tasty can cook. She is, in short, one hell of a woman.

But the voices don't care. All they care about is that you MUST feel like a moron at all times. So when she invited her dude over for a casual dinner and wore her glasses for the first time, the voices would NOT SHUT UP. They were like, "What, are you undercover as a librarian?"

I'm not suggesting that the voices are only about potential love interests. For example, if a friend invites you out to meet her potential love interest and, say, leaves you alone with him to pick up a pizza, the voices might make you so stupid you can't make intelligent conversation, even if you're given enough conversational legos to make at least thirteen separate intelligent conversations. You should be able to make a veritable Castle of conversation, and yet you can't assemble even a single weenie tower of conversation.

We knew the guy was special when she got back with the pizza and he started telling us a story. This was good, because between the food and his story, we were relieved of the responsibility of giving him a verbal tour of our extremely lame conversational cannon battle scene (ages 5-12). The story starts to get really good, when suddenly he says, "And she's that kind of girl, right, who when she finds something really funny, she cackles like a movie witch!" My friend and I react INSTANTLY. We involuntarily turn to each other, lock eyes, and pause in that way that totally derails his story. Then we struggle to recover. "We don't know anyone like that," I say, "do we?" "NO," she replies, a little too emphatically. "We don't know ANYONE like that." And then we simultaneously pick up our beers and sip them, staring abstractedly into the middle distance.

The truth is that we're both cacklers. We know this because we find each other extremely amusing fairly often. Sometimes there's a sort of cackling arms race where we find each other's cackling amusing. Fortunately, we normally have no shame.

But today isn't normal. I have a brief heart attack, after which my voices say, "Whew! Good thing he's not dating you. It's unlikely that cackling is a deal-breaker for the girlfriend's friend. Also, you'll spend the rest of your life alone. Drink up! Have another slice of pizza." But my friend's voices are going into full Friday Night Lights coach mode. They're frantically scanning through all of her behavior since she met this guy, looking for cackling. "Has she cackled?" "She's probably cackled. Let's go to the tape." [Rewinding tape: squeakysqueakysqueakysqueaky.] Did she cackle when he told her that embarrassing story about his dog?" [squeakysqueaky] "Negative. No cackling at the dog story." "What about at dinner?" [squeakysqueaky] "Negative. There's been no cackling. Now we just have to install the anti-cackle filter, making all her laughter stilted for at least 48 hours. Aaaaaaaaand....done!"

ANYway, we know he's a keeper, because he can shut the voices up. It's a good sign. They need to bottle it and sell it--can you imagine the list of side effects? "Voisuppress is not for everyone. People who take voisuppress may experience gambling urges, recklessness, overconfidence, and dating. Tell your doctor if you're already taking an antidepressant, as some people who take Voisuppress with an antidepressant just experience really, really happy voices." If you're looking for a test subject for a drug like that, you just let me know.

Oh, and by the way, you don't need a boyfriend to turn you into a goober. Because while I was doing research for this blog entry, I found this! How cool is that???? I know. I'm a goober. The voices already told me.

The Linux Box

Ok, this is for all those indulgent tech geeks out there. I, Shifter, have put together a Linux box.

I can't remember if I mentioned that I rebuilt my wife's pc a few months back. I pretty much put in new everything except the case and one hard drive (the original hard drive became a backup drive). The whole thing cost about $250, so I was pretty pleased. The build went really well and I thought from the get go that I wanted it to run on Linux because I didn't want to give any more money to the Evil Empire. For you non-tech geeks out there (who haven't already fallen asleep), I'm talking about the Windows Activation system. Starting with Microsoft XP (or maybe 2000) Windows went to this system where when you install an copy of Windows, it has to be certified online or it will stop running in a week. They did that so that you couldn't install multiple copies of the software on multiple machines with just one disk. When you Activate the software it records that particular disk and won't allow you to activate an install from that disk again. Anyway, the problem with this is that if you say rebuild your machine, as I did, Windows detects that and requires you to re-activate. And in the past they've said that if you build essentially a whole new machine (which I did) that you should buy a new copy of Windows (which I was not willing to do). So Linux, which is free, seemed the obvious answer.

I installed Linux, was very proud of myself as I got it running, got it set up with alternative programs for all my wife's usual software needs, got all the media transferred, and generally ironed out the kinks. But it was not to be. Two things happened. 1, during this whole process I ended up having to reboot to Windows on the new machine numerous times to retrieve files and program settings (like Outlook address books) for the Linux programs (like Thunderbird). Only when I did, I had to re-activate. And when I did guess what happened. It activated. No problem. No "you owe us $200 more for our buggy crap" just BLIP and it was activated. So I no longer HAD to do Linux. But I still WANTED to. But then we hit thing #2. Thing #2 is that my wife didn't like it. You can do most things in Linux that you can in Windows, but you have to use slightly different programs and have to tweak it a lot which my wife, as a non-tech geek, did not want to do. By way of demonstration, my wife would have stopped reading this post at about, oh, the title. That much of a non-tech geek. So learning a whole new OS, even a spiffy one, was not for her. So back to Windows we went.

So what's cool? Well I was so disappointed I went and got out an old pc that was literally collecting dust and has been for the past 6 years. 6 years ago it was an awesome system, and it can still run Linux just fine, so I installed it there and now I've got my very own Ubuntu 8.0x install on an old pc. I'm looking forward to trying out some of the software and learning how to work with the OS. It'll be fun. And you thought my running was twisted. I'll make sure and let you guys know when I'm updating the blog from the Linux box (I just know you're all dying to know).

The nice thing about an imaginary audience is they can be interested in just about anything.

Change Your Life!

Today I found a photo I didn't realize I was looking for. I've had a picture of this piece of the Berlin Wall on my desk for many years. It's your standard tourist photo, and over the years, I've been looking at it forever, until it became less a totem to remind me of the powerful experience of the art, and more and more an unsatisfying emblem of the original artist's message. I was just getting ready to take it to my desk at my new job, when I realized that it's warped inside the frame--which is a bummer, but as I said, it's not exactly the most imaginative photo ever taken. It looks a little like this, only not as exciting (photo from Wikimedia):

I went surfing the web looking for a good print, since mine is pre-Katy-owning-a-digital-camera. If I could find a nice piece of art that reminded me of how I felt when I first saw it, so much the better. What I found was this photo, which restores to me everything I loved about seeing it for the first time. Thought I'd share.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Sleek Technology, Sleazy Technologists

I bought my second iPod a few months ago. It looks really sexy. I still haven't listened to it.

I lost all of my iTunes music when my last computer died and I couldn't find the backup I'd made (a backup is only a backup if you can find it--this one's going right in the book with my CD collection, which I dare not give up, for reasons I'll shortly explain). The iPod gladly accepted all my newly ripped tunes...but I'm having a little trouble integrating it into my life because I have to shop for replacements for all my chargers and cords. That's right--new iPod, new everything. And God forbid you wanted to keep using your old iPod--presumably now I'll have to have two of everything (I'm sure there's no vested interest in making the new technology backwards-compatible).

So then I tried out the Creative player that I bought to go running with. I was going to use it just for podcasts, but there's probably enough room on it to throw some music on--enough that I could wear my headphones and clean the house. Not so fast! Windows Media Player and the Creative MP3 player don't get along.

So I'm back to my iPod mini and my old Creative player (I find it interesting that the old Creative player had no issue getting stuff onto it). I'm sure I can fix all these problems, and I'm sure I'll enjoy these things and become addicted to them in time. But I'm feeling more than a little luddite right now.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Watchmen update: Wil Wheaton likes it

Thanks to my brother for pointing this out. Wil Wheaton, who is something of an icon in the geek world and whose opinion I'll generally trust, saw a pre-screening of Watchmen and completely, totally loved it. I'm surprised but now curiously more hopeful about it. Wil does tend to get a bit well, very very excited about things (at least in the stuff I've read) but this is at least a good sign. It's coming! Thanks to the R man for the link :o)

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Mr. Timothy

I've been making very slow progress through the books I got for Christmas, but I did finish a good one this past weekend, and I thought I'd recommend it. It's Mr. Timothy, by Louis Bayard, and it imagines the life of Tiny Tim from A Christmas Carol.

Tim is a little older and a little wiser...and not so very well off as you might expect. He is, in point of fact, living in a brothel, where he earns his keep by teaching the mistress of the house how to read. From his vantage point (both a part of London's grimy underworld and apart from it) he spies what he thinks is evidence of something more criminal than the consensual activities that go on under his own roof.

For Dickens fans, the book is a gem, touching on all the themes so dear to his heart--literacy, the complex social strata of society and the possibility of movement between them (both upward and downward mobility, by a variety of means), and the plight of the most vulnerable members of society. London, one of Dickens's roundest characters, is well-represented in Bayard's book as well. But even if you've never actually read A Christmas Carol or a single page of Dickens, the thriller is sharp enough to woo a mystery buff or two, and the characters are thoroughly engaging (the requisite ragamuffins are particularly fun, and there's a sea captain who might make you rethink your retirement plans...especially these days).

Project Crazymaker

Every project goes through this phase.  It's the end of design—things are almost locked down, and suddenly, for a variety of reasons, big scope issues come out of the woodwork.  So, you know, you have a little, modest, half-million-dollar project, and suddenly people think they're going to solve world hunger with some tiny corner of it.  Some people figure that by waiting until the last minute to ask you to solve world hunger, it'll get snuck into the project.  Some people genuinely didn't think about world hunger until they saw the almost-finished design and realized it was missing.  And some people just get carried away with how awesome the project is and how much it's going to accomplish, and just let their optimism run rampant, generating a list of crazy blue-sky requirements.  I would say those last people are in the minority.

In a way it's my favorite part of the project.  People get crazy—I get crazy.  Tempers flare.  You work really late with people on your team trying desperately to nail down the corners of the design, only to have each one unfasten itself and flap in the breeze when you go on to nail down something else.  Developers sputter in that exasperated (and entertaining) way as they finally lose patience with explaining technical stuff to the rest of us mortals.  There's a certain camaraderie that builds during these stressful bits of the project that's worth a lot.  

That said, it really is exhausting.  Every day your brain feels like it's been run through a potato ricer.  Whenever anyone asks you a question, you feel like you have to pause to assemble a few of the working bits of your brain into a crude machine before you can answer it.  It makes me want to drink copious amounts of wine, and it makes me want to sleep a whole lot.

It won't come in time to save me, but my move date is set.  Yep, 3/21, that's the big day when I return to suburbia.  Wish me luck...

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Running: I'm back?

Well, for all those who were holding their breaths, longing to know how my running career would turn out after the Hell Run, I can fill you in a bit. I took a week off. You would think that would be easy and it should be but, well, it isn't. It makes me grumpy and antsy and all kinds of other words ending in "y." I confined myself to eliptical and stationary biking for the week. But the upshot was, by the end of the week it no longer hurt to walk at all and so I decided to try running a bit. I got on a treadmill, set it to no elevation whatsoever, and did a quick 5.75 miles. It did hurt, in a kind of sore, stretchy way, but it was not the sharp, twisting pain I had before and it stayed constant throughout, instead of increasing as it did on the Hell Run. In short, it felt a lot better than the last time I had tried to run on it. I took today off to rest my leg and I'll go back and try another light treadmill run tomorrow. I'm hoping that gradually upping the effort will let me get back to my base while still healing. I'm still nervous about it though - I plan on being quite vigilant as I run tomorrow and if I get anything even close to that twinge I'm off that treadmill! So wish me luck.

By the way, I'm aware, on some basic level, how crazy it is to whine (yes, I'm whining) about not running for a whole 7 days. I used to be sane. I used to be normal. I used to think running 5 miles in a month was a waste of a good 2 hours of your life. I can remember that. I just can't do it anymore. Some day I'll get some massive injury that will end the running and then I'll get back to being normal, unless I can find some other activity to obsess on. Until then I'm just gonna keep at it. And for now I'm going to bed.

Tivo Sad :(

One of my cable cards had some kind of seizure over the last couple of days, and so now my Tivo can only record one program at a time until at least Saturday, when the Time Warner cable human will come and take a look at it. I hope he brings extra cable cards.

So far the only casualty has been the new Christopher Titus special. I was really looking forward to it, but hopefully they'll play it again sometime soon.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Gotta Love Stepford

I don't know whether I've had occasion to mention just how much I love "Chuck." It's like a "Get Smart" for the new century--instead of a Karmann Ghia, the spy drives a bug that's the Buy More equivalent of the Truly Nolen mouse.

I like it every week--its fun, it's clever, and the characters, even the peripheral ones, are sweetly compelling. The cast is so darn likable you could just spit--Zachary Levi is the charming nerd, Adam Baldwin's spy is a more abrasive version of Han Solo, and Yvonne Strahovski is the hot girl-next-door spy. Chuck's friends from his job at the Buy More are a cornucopia of weirdness, led by Joshua Gomez as Chuck's best friend Morgan (but I'm always waiting for scenes with Jeff Krinsky, whose beaten-down-stoner character makes me wish I had a quote board, and Vik Sahay, whose character's sleazy machinations are familiar to everyone who, you know, works with humans).

But nothing makes me quite as gleeful as a sinister suburb, particularly as I prepare to move to one again myself. I think "Arcadia," where Mulder and Scully pose as the Petries and infiltrate a suburb where people are killed by a supernatural beastie for violating the neighborhood's by-laws, may be my favorite X-Files episode ever. Tonight's "Chuck" was their version of the suburb that has something scary under the surface, and it was very funny.

Plus, it had Andy Richter. He was the carnie in Bones earlier this season, and tonight he was that neighbor who creeps you out when he jokes about wife-swapping. Andy, I miss you. Kidnap Paget Brewster from Criminal Minds and get yourself a regular time slot. Please?

Sunday, February 15, 2009

This is just cool

Ok, if you're a member of the huge mob of people who follow Shifter's every interest and recommendation, you have to check out this link. It's hysterical. Dougie Houser meets Nathan Fillian in a musical parody of mad scientist meets cheesy super hero. Dougie is "Dr. Horrible" and the leader of the Evil League of Evil is "Bad Horse." It's really cool. Or did I say that. Ok, so stop reading this and go check it out. The link is in the post title.

This just added: If you don't want to follow the link, just click the embedded clip below. You'll see what I mean.


I did get to see Coraline yesterday. Funny story--we accidentally sat in a theater that was showing Confessions of a Shopaholic. I've read the Shopaholic books (well, most of them--I think I dropped out somewhere around Shopaholic and Baby), and I would frankly expect a movie like Bridget Jones Diary. I had already decided not to see the movie once I realized it looked more like Legally Blonde. But here's the thing: the previews leading up to the movie would probably have been okay for a Coraline audience. There were kids in the Shopaholic audience. There was a Hannah Montana trailer, and kids cheered. I'm a little confused, because, frankly, Shopaholic is all about money--it's about spending so much on a handbag that you can't pay your electric bill, not being able to get credit, and having to take a second and third job to get out of debt. Don't get me wrong, the book is funny. But I just didn't think it was aimed at kids. ANYway, once the pumps came on the screen, we fled the theater and ran to Coraline, having missed only the trailers (I really wonder what they were) and the opening credits.

I thought it was terrific--thrilling and full of personality, and an instant classic if you're either a non-parental adult or a parent seeking to raise your kid with any sort of point of view not sanctioned by the Disney empire. I'm not a parent, so I can't say for sure what age it's appropriate for (I'm pretty sure this depends heavily on the particular child in question), but the kids in our 2 p.m. audience seemed to have a blast. (When Coraline goes through a door after she's been warned not to, one little girl shouted, "No, don't!" but I don't think it was a trauma-related utterance so much as an indication of how sucked into the story she was. I mean, they haven't banned panto in England yet, and this is sort of the expected audience reaction there.)

Possible causes for parental alarm include the "darkness" of the whole story (no worse than Harry Potter, The Wizard of Oz, and the entire contents of Grimm's fairy tales), the stage attire of some aging (and voluptuous) performers who live in Coraline's apartment building,* and (apparently--I can't say I noticed) a tendency on the part of young Coraline to take the Lord's name in vain.

I thought it was right up there with the Wizard of Oz as a good "the grass is always greener" tale for kids and adults, with a distinctly Grimm (not grim) slant to it--villains lie and manipulate, appearances deceive, and snap judgments aren't always the most reliable ones we make. The Wizard of Oz was on my mind because of Henry Selick's charming interview on NPR, where he said he'd been looking for a project that would afford him the opportunity to take his audience from one world into another the way that film takes us from black-and-white into color. The effect in Coraline was beautiful--more beautiful than the Wizard of Oz because it wasn't part of my expectation from earliest childhood.

But I think my favorite part of Coraline is the idea that context is everything--not to say that there isn't such a thing as good and evil, but just that our ability to recognize evil and value good is so dependent on our fragile ability to frame it all in the right light (or darkness) so that we see the truth rather than what we want to see. I don't know many adults who can't handle a good story to bring that home every now and again.

*would their attire be suitable for viewing by 4-year-olds if they were Hannah Montana? I'm just asking...

Movie Blurbs

OK, so who out there has seen Iron Man? Come on, at least a few, billion, people have seen it, right? So given that a few billion people have seen it, how hard do you think it is to find someone who has actually seen it to write the movie blurb for Netflix? You know what I mean, the little synopsis that shows up on the disk sleeve when you get it, and shows up online to describe the movie as you browse. To use the technical term, the "movie blurb."

So check out what the blurbers over at Netflix put together to describe Iron Man:

"After ultrarich inventor and weapons maker Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) escapes from kidnappers using makeshift power armor, he turns his invention to good by using it to fight crime. But when he must face the evil Iron Monger, his skills are stretched to the limit."

Ok, so if you've seen the movie did you ever even hear the word "Iron Mongor?" Did you see any actual crime fighting going on? There was some international weapons trafficing being fought, around Afghanistan as I recall, but it's not exactly "crime fighting." I mean, I know that a) Iron Man was not the deepest, most complex movie on the planet, and that b) you've only got 1-2 sentences here so you can't get all that detailed anyway. But still, you'd think they could get something a bit more true to the movie than that. It sounds like Iron Man is stopping bank heists and gambling den's, for Chrissake.

So, two questions, dear readers. First, I know there are other movie blurbs out there much more egregious than this. I've seen em! I just can't, er, remember em. So if you think of any let me know and maybe we can post them and laugh. Second, anyone reading this have any idea how the whole movie blurb thing works? Is there some guy (Fred, perhaps, or Bob) who sits at home and writes a few sentences for every movie he's seen or, in this case evidently, heard about? Or do they get this from the studios? I'm sure somewhere in the T&S's huge readership the answers to these questions are just waiting to burst forth. And once I get them, I'll summarize them here, in a convenient two sentence answer blurb. Something like "After escaping unemployment by creating a make-shift resume, ex-movie critic Fred Bob uses his powers for good by writing movie blurbs to stave off movie ignorance in the Western world."

PS - I'm afraid that this post isn't even remotely funny. But it's Sunday morning and I'm trying. :o)

PPS - I just saw that there's already a blurb for Iron Man 2 on Netflix. The movie is due for release in 2010, so I guess we now know that they do not actually see the movie before blurbing it. Here's the description ...

Wealthy inventor and former weapons maker Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) continues to fight crime as his alter ego Iron Man, taking on villains intent on destroying humanity. But Stark's battle with the bottle may be his toughest challenge yet.

It sounds, uhm, craptacular. But maybe we shouldn't trust the blurbs??

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Happy Valentine's Day (No, Really)

What are you doing for Valentine's Day?

I'm hoping to see Coraline with my neighbors today, too. If I go, I'll let you know how it is (prediction: dark but awesome).

But some of my day will be spent editing a letter to President Obama written by a dude who works in my parking garage. He is a PhD and, I believe, an engineer, and he has an idea for generating green energy at unprecedented levels. I have no idea whether it would work, but he may as well put it out there and see what happens, and it will have a better chance of getting read if we can clean it up a little.

It was nice going to the garage this morning and seeing all the people walking around with flowers and chocolates and what have you. After all, at its worst Valentine's Day is shameless marketing, but at its best it's a day to take a moment to appreciate the people around you. Here's hoping someone takes a moment to appreciate you.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Dating. It ain't always pretty.

But it is, apparently, recession-proof (insofar as the concept "recession-proof" is even seaworthy nowadays).  Manhattanites, according to this article, welcome the advent of a world where everyone admits they're strapped for cash.  A VP in money management claims the recession is forcing men to reevaluate what they want in a partner and encouraging a "return to substance."  From your lips to God's ear, my good man. 


And then this morning I heard a similar spot on WNYC.


I stopped dating a few months ago when I realized that I wasn't enjoying it.  It was pretty depressing, and I was becoming even more cynical than usual.  I had to put the whole thing on hold until I could muster up some optimism, and these stories are sort of encouraging.


I'm the sort of girl who finds thrift sexy.  Granted, a guy can take it too far.  On one of my last dates before I gave up, I met a guy at a wine bar.  We were both having tough times financially--I'd been laid off, and he's in real estate--so I got there early and got my glass of wine and tried to pay for it before he got there.  Unfortunately, even though I asked for the check, the bartender didn't care for that strategy and left my $20 on the bar until after my date arrived.  Then he combined our tabs and gave my date the check.  I appreciate the bartender's commitment to chivalry, but it actually left me in an embarrassing situation.  What do I do with the $20 that's on the bar in front of me?  I gave my date the $20, which he took, and I didn't get any change.  It didn't add anything to the date--but then again, had the guy been a gentleman in other ways, it wouldn't have mattered.


I'll still be spending Valentine's Day quite happily at home alone with Indian takeout. But maybe I'll feel a little less cynical about the folks who are in the restaurants on Saturday.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

It's coming!

Watchmen. The movie. Based on Watchmen. THE graphic novel. If you've never read the graphic novel, well, you probably had more dates in high school than I did. But you missed a really awesome graphic novel. There are those few that invite the cliche statement that this is literature, it's art, it's not just a comic book. Watchmen was one of those.

Which means the movie will probably suck. I hate to be pessimistic, especially when the teaser trailer looked so damn cool, but I just can't imagine how they're going to turn something that complex and multi-layered into a movie without losing the whole point. I mean as an action, shoot-em-up, ray beams from your eyes kind of thing Watchmen was NOT all that great. And if they try to do that with the movie, it will be really, really disappointing.

Don't think I won't be seeing it though. I'll be there. Oh yes, I'll be there.

What 5 year old says this??

OK, so I'm playing Pacman on an incredibly prestigious and well-read blog that has Pacman on the side-bar which shall remain nameless. And my 5 year old daughter comes down to say goodnight. And I say "watch me play this game" and like a 5 year old, she says "sure!" And she watches and listens as I explain the intricacies of the Pacman universe. And then she says "Come on, I need to pick out a book, and I don't want to have to have a big conversation about why I'm late to bed." At which point my jaw drops, I lose the game, I give her a big hug, and she runs upstairs to pick out a book to read in bed and get tucked in by my wife.

All of which is quite cool, but I mean, ... what? Who talks like that at age 5? TV must be getting smarter with this newer generation because in my day I'm pretty sure I didn't know what "conversation" meant at age 5, much less that I wanted to avoid a big one about bed-time tardiness. It's a weird world.

Mea culpa

Yesterday, on my way in to work, I heard about a poll where they asked New Yorker's and D.C. residents whose fault the current economic meltdown is.  Some huge percentage of D.C. folks (I'd link to the poll and give you numbers, but I can't find it, even on lay the blame on New Yorkers.  (New Yorkers, unsurprisingly, fail to blame themselves.) 
When I first heard that, I thought, "HEY!"  And then I thought, "Bastards!"  But then I thought about it some more. 
I blame us, too. 
If I needed clearer evidence, I need look no further than this article from the New York Times, explaining why capping executive pay at a mere half-million dollars is cruel and unusual punishment.  (The Times, it must be noted, tries valiantly to see both sides--but it also categorizes twice-yearly vacations under "living expenses," so don't rely on the Times for any personal finance advice.)  Interviewed at the end of the story is the woman I think of as the poster-child for New York's flagrant entitlement, Candace Bushnell.  What she says sums it up:
"People inherently understand that if they are going to get ahead in whatever corporate culture they are involved in, they need to take on the appurtenances of what defines that culture," she said. "So if you are in a culture where spending a lot of money is a sign of success, it's like the same thing that goes back to high school peer pressure. It's about fitting in."
Okay executives.  It's time to learn something the rest of us learned on the playground.  Fitting in isn't always the right move.  You were probably getting private tutoring or ski lessons or something during that after-school special.  But seriously, who are you trying to fit in with?  Madoff?  Enron?  Carrie Bradshaw?  You do not deserve to live the way you have been living.  Wasting shareholder money is the same as stealing it, and you have stolen enough.
As the Times suggests, move (to Hoboken, please) and get yourself a metrocard.  And put the kids in public school, where they can get beaten up behind the backstop like everyone else.  At the very least, sit them down in front of the after-school special. 
More to the point, ordinary New Yorkers, go make us proud!  This city has a lot of substance under all the style--don't forget that when you need it most.

Learning to Love Coffee

Back when I lived with my cousin, we would both have some trouble getting out of the house in the morning.  I always thought she did a better job than I did, but honestly, I don't remember being late for work all that often when I worked in Arizona.  One of the incentives she used was to stop at Starbucks on her way to work and get herself a coffee.
I've never really been a coffee drinker, so at the time, I didn't get how this would help.  I'm more of a tea girl, myself.  And I'm a particularly perverse tea person.  I like it strong (what the English call "builder's tea") but then I add sugar and milk.  It's sort of the tea equivalent of a latte.  On weekends I allow myself a little luxury and I have a cup of chai--I chuck the spices in with the strongest tea in my cupboard and drink it with fluffy, foamy milk and raw sugar.  There's not enough time to make that during the week, let alone to enjoy it properly.
Because it seems like an insult to my cup of tea to drink it in the car or on the run (and also because my on-the-go "coffee" mug is so narrow that it's unpleasant to wash), I've taken to drinking coffee.  Coffee feels like an on-the-run beverage.  Tea seems at home in a mug or a china cup, but coffee is a more street-smart beverage--it's a cup of civilization that you can take with you into the most uncivilized situations (commuting, morning meetings, requirements cage matches).  Coffee sticks up for me at work.  It says, "Hey, don't worry.  You're not beaten!  You're just...undercaffeinated!"  Tea encourages people at work to push you around a little.  They think of you as grandmotherly, and not as the person who just needs to kick butt and take names until the job is done.  Coffee is the beverage of butt-kickers. 
The Starbucks at work is my fallback position.  I don't know what tasters generate Starbucks blends, but most of them acquired taste that I don't care to acquire.  Don't get me wrong.  I end up at Starbucks a lot.  They're sort of like Disney--they're ubiquitous (there's no neighborhood barista inside my office building, but there IS a Starbucks), and a lot of their stuff is not exactly what you'd choose for yourself, but you have to admit they're good at what they do.
But they're not as good as Gorilla Coffee in Park Slope.  Gorilla is on my way to work, so as I zip by when I'm running late, I can look longingly at the people getting tasty coffee that is 1000% better than Starbucks coffee.  When I actually manage to get out of the house at a decent hour, I can stop in myself for a maple latte, which is the coffee equivalent of my builder's tea--strong and just-sweet-enough, like being slapped in the face with a velvet glove.  My only complaint is that the rush fades a little by the time I get to work, but it's totally worth getting up an extra fifteen minutes early.
So now I get it.  Tea is always going to be my first love.  But coffee and I are learning to get along, too.

Monday, February 09, 2009

New Timewaster

Yes, it's here, another time waster. It's PACMAN! Right here on the blog. Look, just to the right of this post! Look! It's just like the arcade game that we used to put lots of quarters into, that we played an incredibly lame imitation of on the Atari 2600. It's right there. On the blog. For free. Isn't that just weird? But it's a time waster, and it's right there, until Katy tells me to take it off :o)


Well the movie is out now. It had quite a bit of on-line buzz, which I imagine it deserved cause it's a Gaiman book turned into a stop-motion, 3D movie that Gaiman seems excited about. So I mean, how could it not rock? And I've already seen several people writing about it - raving in fact. And, well, I haven't seen it. I just thought I should have a post about it like everyone else. I'd hate to be accused of not keeping up with the internet-equivalent of the Joneses. Yup, gotta keep up with the Blurgszorp679's. Very important. But I WILL see it and then I'll be happy. And, ironically when I do see it I'm unlikely to blog about it. People have already done that, haven't you heard what I'm saying?! Go read one of their descriptions!

Which reminds, me, what about those people on Amazon who rate the book or product before it's even released?! WTF is that? And then they say things like "I just know it'll be terrific so I'm giving it five stars!" Who are these people - George Bush? "Mission Accomplished!" We don't need to see if the war actually ends well, we just know it will, so 5 stars! Sheesh. I think that the correct response to someone's forecast rating is to not buy the product. We're all doing a bit of seeing into the future thing here, right? He just knows it'll be great, he gave it five stars. Ok, I just know that I already got it, read it, enjoyed it, rated it, made my friends read it, spilled wine onto it, and then sold it to Half-Price Books. It was a great experience and now I'm done, all in the space of 10 seconds. This whole "actual experience" thing is highly over-rated in my opinion.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

LIke the moon?

This is one I saw years ago and from time to time it just comes up. There are many times in your life when you just have to sing, very badly, "we like da moon!" If you don't know what I'm talking about, and you're daring, press play! I dare ya!

Hell run

This is going to be a whiny and relatively inconsequential post.

So after getting over being sick, I finally got to start running again. I had taken off about 5 days from running. I know that's not a lot, but when you're a runner it is. I was just so damn itchy to get back out there. I ran Thursday, awesome! Then Saturday decided to go out for a long run (13.1 mile). It's been warm here, so I was going to run outside. I should clarify that "warm here" means "warm" in the Frozen North. So our warm is anything over freezing. We had a whole month where it was NEVER over freezing, so I ran indoors the whole time. So Saturday was going to be a big day - get to do a long run, get to do it outside! You have no idea how boring 15 miles is when you do it 10 laps to a mile on an indoor track. Imagine it. It's more boring than that. Believe me.

So I go out Saturday, feeling confident. First thing I notice is a whole lot of ice on the side walks. You see our town sucks in that they don't do a good job plowing the side walks. They plow the roads, which throws a lot of snow on the side walks, and then they half ass the side walks. So when it warms up, they start to melt, then refreeze at night, and you get big sheets of ice. Which I had forgotten about when I made my plans. So I'm running on ice. Great. Slight crimp in the running, but I'm still positive here. I've run on ice many times, I live in the Frozen North.

About a mile in I notice my leg is hurting, right below my calf. I don't really pay any attention - aches and pains are part of a run. About 2.5 miles in I notice that it's getting worse, not better. I slow down a bit, which seems to help, decide to stick it out. 4 miles in I get this sudden twisting pain that was severe enough I literally swore outloud (pretty loud outloud too) and had to stop. Well @#!$. I try to run a few more steps and it's just no way. Hurts too much. Even walking hurts a bit but running? Forget it.

Now this poses a problem because I'm 2.5 miles away from home (I do a circle thing in there so I'm never more than 2.5 miles away from the house). I mentioned that it was warm, but remember warm in this case is just over freezing, and with windchill it's under freezing, and I'm wearing a light jacket that is damp, a light shirt that is damp, and a hat. This is truly fine for running, because you generate so much body heat you don't need much in 32 degree weather. It's NOT fine, as it turns out, for hobbling home. A good 40 minutes later a very cold, very sore, very grumpy me gets home, with 4 miles of running and 2.5 miles of walking under my belt instead of 13.1 miles of good ol' fashioned running.

Now I had a lot of thoughts on my walk back. The first was I should have brought a cell phone. The next was that running gear really isn't all that warm when you're not running (I had that thought many times). The next was that if this had happened on a cold day, say when it's 0 degrees, I could have been in real trouble. Because when it gets below zero if you're outside in wet clothes for too long you get stuff like frostbite. If it's 20 below, you could die. No crap. Now granted, the whole reason I was running outside was because it wasn't 0, but I've run in 0 and below weather before and this really made me think. So overall I'm lucky, I guess.

Only I'm not feeling very lucky because now I'm not going to be running for somewhere between 1 and 7 weeks, depending on how long this takes to heal, and if 5 DAYS seems bad, let's try 5 WEEKS.

So I apologize for this post - I really do. One thing a blog can be is a kind of diary where you just get your emotions out and bla bla bla. And to my mind that kind of sucks, because why would everyone want to read your diary? There's a reason your diary is private - nobody else wants to see it! I've been thinking a lot about what a blog can be, and what I'd want one to be, and I think at its heart it has to be somehow useful or entertaining. Whining does not meet those criteria. So if I turn my part of this blog into a whiny diary I think I will have failed at this. I guess the only reason I'm going to post it is that the few people I suspect may read this know me and will at least give it a sympathetic read - so thank you. And don't worry, I promise that this type of post will not be popping up in the future.

What I'll Miss Most About Brooklyn

So it's been a while since I posted.  I got laid off in October, and spent the next 3 months looking for a new job.  I started fresh at the beginning of January at a place that's just terrific--organized, pleasant, and financially sensible.  It's not perfect, mind you, but I think it's pretty clearly an upgrade.  I count myself very lucky indeed.

The only problem is that the new job is on Long Island.  I've been driving back and forth each day, but it takes a good 3 hours out of my day and untold bounce out of my step.  When I get home, I pretty much turn on the Tivo, watch ten or fifteen minutes of something, and then pass out, waking briefly and stumbling into bed a few minutes (or sometimes a few hours) later.  So I've made my peace with the idea of moving closer to work.

There's not much out there compared to Brooklyn.  I'm not saying it's a bad thing--it's far closer to my native habitat than Brooklyn, and I'm sure I'll settle in quite nicely once I'm there.  My apartment there will be larger.  It will have more than one kitchen drawer, and big, bright, sunny windows.  I'll have a washer and a dryer and a dishwasher--and a gas fireplace.  (And a guest room.  I'm just saying.)  It's going to be very, very nice.

But tonight, after my neighbors got home from work, we went to Fairway.  Fairway is a magical supermarket (probably because it's the size that a normal supermarket would be in any normal suburb).  It has all kinds of exciting things--my favorite cider, delicious baked goods, ethnic foods of every variety.  Every time I go I discover something else that I can't believe I missed.  This time it was a huge wall of fresh ravioli in every flavor imaginable--yummy. 

We came home and lugged our booty into our respective apartments, and then stood with our feet holding the apartment doors open and passed things back and forth--I borrowed their ketchup and put some on my non-cardiologist-approved french fries, and then passed it back, and they passed me a Haagen Dazs ice cream bar to throw into my freezer for later.  I'll miss all of this--a trip to the supermarket being an outing, an event; the easy camaraderie of knowing that a friend is just across the hall; the closeness that grows out of living too close together in quarters that are altogether too crowded.  I've loved Brooklyn, and I'll be heartbroken when I leave.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

If you happen to live in New York you have to check this out!

I am a shameless fellow. On two counts. First, I'm shamelessly avoiding work while I type this (but it IS Friday night, so shoot me), and second, I'm shamelessly stealing a link. The link is here, and it is to a story about a 130 year old tunnel in Brooklyn that was thought to be filled in but later found not to be. It's much more interesting than I'm making it sound, and they have tours! So if you're in that area you should take a look. The link was shamelessly stolen from Bill Harris's blog Dubious Quality. Happy Weekend everyone.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

On being sick

Well, I've had the bad fortune to be Sick for the past 5 days. Now don't look so shocked, we've all done it. I'm just willing to admit it. I Am Sick. Fortunately, it's a fairly obvious sick. A sneezing, sniffling, pale in the face, squeeky in the voice kind of sick. That kind of sick is nice because nobody doubts that you're sick. You get some sympathy, people cut you some slack when you screw up stuff at work. They assume that you're actually a competent person acting like an incompetent person because you're sick. How little they know. One of my favorite Obvious Sicknesses is when you lose your voice. Very Dramatic, lots of attention, and all it costs you is the ability to communiate coherently. For some of us that's not much of a change in functioning anyway.

The annoying sick is that kind that is not readily apparent. You're hurting, you're tired, you're dizzy, and you look great! Everyone thinks you're ready to party and you're ready to puke. So you have to somehow contrive a way to look as miserable as you feel. Just so they don't think you're just slacking off. Perhaps a slight wheeze to the voice, a pained expression of the face, a hand held theatrically to your forehead. Mumbling softly "I wish I would just die." Things like that. Then they finally get that you, too, are sick, but with a Stealth Sickness. The kind that flies in under the radar. Like flesh eating bacteria without the flesh eating part.

Sometimes, though, it's a relief to be sick at all because you at least have a reason to feel like crap. An even worse phenomenon, than Obvious Sick or Stealth Sick, is Not Sick But Miserable. You get very little sympathy for that one, even if you do all the dramatic things you pull for Stealth Sick. And you can't call in to work Miserable. They just don't care. They figure you're paid to be miserable so you may as well drag your miserable butt in there and be miserable on the clock. You can't skip family gatherings because you don't want other people to catch Miserable either. They all have it already. They just want you to come to make sure yours is at full strength as well. You could miss a date because you're Miserable, but that kind of goes against the whole point of dating, where you're trying to convince your date that you're not a Miserable Bastard. Yup, Miserable often ends up having to be a Stealth condition as well. Which is just, well, miserable.

So I guess when you put it that way, I'm a lucky bastard. Here I am with an honest to goodness case of Obvious Sick. Any misery is biologically driven. Lucky, lucky me :o)