Monday, March 30, 2009

The Language of Movies (a la Katy)

First, let me say that I love, love, love Shifter's post.  The only reason I (a girl, in case the name didn't quite have you convinced) don't quote movies in every single conversation is because some people might not get some of the references.  But I definitely believe film quotes have a rightful place in nearly every conversation.  Part of it is as simple as "Why reinvent the wheel--someone else has already summarized our situation with the perfect turn of phrase."  But it's more than that--as Shifter so deftly pointed out, it's a shorthand that gives you the context, the tone, the feeling behind an utterance.  "Office Space" is the perfect example, conveying at a stroke, "We all know this is unpleasant and quite possibly the stupidest thing we'll do today, but what can I tell you, people, we work in corporate America."  With the right person or group, you can get there even faster with just one Lumbergh-drawled "Yeah."
Popular in most of the offices I've worked in is the phrase (although not exactly a quote) "crossing the streams bad."  Ghostbusters is more useful in IT than you might at first suspect.
And it's not just movies.  I'd throw television in there, too.  Consider, if you will, the value of the following phrases:
"No soup for you!"
"Danger, Will Robinson, Danger!"
The Twilight Zone Theme
Seriously, if you get through the day without these, I don't want to know how you do it. 
I know you can do it, but you're missing out on something valuable.  Yeah, Shifter can tell his team the whole song and dance about how corporate America sucks but he cares about them as people and doesn't want to be a jerk.  All of this can be (and is) true.  He can even (and I truly believe this) make it sound like the St. Crispin's Day speech from "Henry V" every single time.  But you know what?  The St. Crispin's Day speech was so friggin' awesome that hundreds of years later, the Marines were still drawing on it for their recruiting ads (sure, they cut it down a lot, but let me tell you that "The Few, The Proud, The Marines" is pretty much the St. Crispin's Day speech magnificently, brilliantly, and effectively summarized). 
I'm not exactly saying the "Office Space" is the "Henry V" of our time--corporate stupidity may well turn out to be as enduring as war, but war has a way better claim on being hell than life in a cubicle.  But the argument, if one were to make it, is not so far off the mark.  Shakespeare was a popular entertainer who deftly summarized huge swaths of the human experience in ways that were meaningful to his audience--and if you compare "Office Space" to a Shakespeare comedy, you're going to find more commonalities than you might think. 
By using a common reference from pop culture to get your message across, you say more than, "I don't want to be a jerk."  You say, "you and I are the same--we share a common experience and a common culture, and you and I are united against [in this case] our corporate overlords, even though right now we're gonna do what they asked us to."  And that's something you can't do with Shakespeare, because (and this is not a value judgment in any way--I love Shakespeare, but I also love current pop culture) it's not a common experience today.  To get your message across and to really capitalize on a reference of any kind, the reference has to come from a cultural form that carries currency with the humans you interact with--today that's movies and television far more than any other type of shorthand.
The other great thing you can do with a cultural reference is make it as broad or as specific as you like.  You can make a really big one that's widely recognized, or you can keep it to something that only your little special group will understand.  It's incredibly useful, and something that humans have done for centuries with words and symbols.
It's definitely possible to do all of this without quoting a movie or a TV show--but that's something that only very, very special people in a special situation can do with original rhetoric.  We don't all get to be "Ask not what your country can do for you."  We just don't.  But we can all toss out a reference to our "flair" and get through our corporate servitude with just a little more good cheer.  And that's none to shabby, if you ask me.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

The language of movies

A few weeks back a friend at work and I were discussing the way that people (and he said usually guys) can spend entire conversations quoting or talking about movies. He said that a female friend of his was of the opinion that this is because men don't know how to talk about their feelings, so they talk about movies. Aside from the blatant generalization, we thought this was partly right. I am one of those people who can have entire conversations based on quotes from movies and song lyrics. And while I do not feel incapable of discussing feelings, quite the opposite, I do find that movies, songs, pop culture, provide a medium of expression that can be quite handy and even eloquent. I'll give an example. When I'm at work and have to tell my team something to do that I know they'll hate, I'll often find myself whipping out a quote from Office Space, and particularly from the boss in Office Space, Lumberg. "I'm gonna have to ask you to go ahead and get this done by this afternoon, mkay? And if you can do that, that'd be great. Thanks a bunch!" Now I'm not doing that because I can't talk about feelings, I'm doing that because it's a means of talking about feelings - a short hand. I suppose I could say something like "I know you hate this, and I hate being in the position of asking you to do it, but you really have to and I really have to ask you to do it. And I'm worried that you'll think I don't care about how this affects you, or that you'll think I don't know you're already busy. Because neither of these is true. And I'm even more worried that you'll thinkI'm an arrogant prick. Please don't think that." But, frankly, a Lumberg quote works just as well - and it gets some laughs to boot. By alluding to what I desperately don't want to be, and the fact that perhaps what I'm saying/doing could give that impression, I make it clear that I'm aware of it and don't want it to happen.

Now, do I put that much thought into it when I do it? Duh, no! But as I look back on it now that's what is going on. And I'm glad that we have this shorthand language of movies to convey these sometimes complex ideas. By the way, so you all know, Katy is incredibly fluent in the language of movies, which, aside from disproving the whole "only guys can't talk so they use movies" crap hypothesis, is also pretty cool.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

My favorite site for today

I was working on some statistics at work today, putting together some item parcels for a structural equation modeling thang. Anyhoo, I needed to randomize the items for each factor. In the old old days, I would have just written a program in BASIC or QBASIC to do the randomization for me. It would have taken about 10 minutes. But no computers these days have BASIC or QBASIC running (yes, I'm that damn old and very very out of date) and I didn't feel like messing with the Visual Basic interface and, well, I'm lazy. So I did a quick web search and came across Very cool site. All your randomization needs on one site, very easily accessible, free, and just kind of cool. So if you've got a bit of math geek in you, check it out! Oh, and I believe my brother may have suggested this site to me a few years ago - I forgot all about it until I found it by, if you'll forgive me, random chance (ha ha). But props to my bro - he's years ahead of me.

This was fascinating

On the way home from work today I heard this NPR story on the Anatomy of a Bank Takeover. I had never thought about how the government moves in to take over a bank, the actual procedure of it when they walk through the doors and say "you're insolvent, we'll take it from here." As the post title said, it was fascinating. Check it out.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009


Some of the value of morning news is its ability to wake you up by really ticking you off--sometimes before you get out of bed.  This morning I heard this piece on NPR, which really burned my cookies and shed some serious light on why our nation's car companies are failures (even if we haven't let them fail yet).  It talks about how General Motors still supplies a company car (for $250 a month) and free gas to about 8,000 of its white-collar workers. 
The official name of this monstrosity in the budget is the "Product Evaluation Program."  Employees who get a company car are asked to fill out a product evaluation survey, which supposedly goes...somewhere.  Walter McManus, a former GM economist, takes issue with that claim:
"I'm not aware — when I was in market research or in product planning — of anyone at GM ever using the information for any sort of analysis or any product development decisions," McManus said. "No one that I knew took it seriously."
GM argues that their engineers are using the data.  Even if that's true, how critical are you going to be of a new car for which gas is free?  Employees can get a new car every 6 months (it used to be 3--nice belt-tightening, there, GM)--even the worst-built car can usually make it 6 months before it leaves you stranded at the side of the road or needs serious maintenance.  For $250 a month I can get a car that runs for free?  Color me impressed--what's not to like?
This is right up there with going to Washington in the company jet.  In fact, it's worse.  The company jet was less of a slap in the face to all the GM employees who work hard to make the company successful, and who face truly dire consequences if GM can't get its act together (and it doesn't even look like they're trying).  Factory workers in particular put their trust in the white collar employees to direct the company's efforts to produce valuable and desirable products. 
Most white-collar employees have more transferable skills--if you lose your job as a strategist for GM, you can retool your resume to become a strategist in another manufacturing industry (assuming America has any manufacturing left after this travesty).  If you have the right skillset, you can teach in a business school.  But if your entire resume is line work in a factory, you have a less luxurious list of options--and there are a LOT of you who need jobs when a factory shuts down.
I've worked in companies that pushed back when we wanted to buy post-it notes.  I'm not saying that's a valuable use of company resources, but at least we weren't throwing shareholder money around on things that actively shot our company in the foot.  This spending is so irresponsible that I'm not sure the English language has a word for it.
There--I've ticked you off.  I feel better now.

Monday, March 23, 2009

If you've ever wondered what Neil Gaiman would say to Steven Colbert

Here it is. Neil was on the Colbert Rapport, and you can actually see them discussing Tolkein. Check it out! Thanks to my cool sister for forwarding the link on!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Watchmen: Wil Wheaton was right...

Ok, well it took a while, but I went and saw Watchmen. As you know I've had some trepidation about going to see it, because I so wanted it to be great and so dreaded it being filled with suckitude. And the reviews were mixed - some people said it was good, others said it was, indeed, filled with suckitude. And even the good reviews said "yeah, it was good but...". So that didn't bode well. But Wil liked it, and so did my brother, so I gave it a try.

And, well, I'm glad I did. Let me be clear. If you have not read the graphic novel, or did not like the graphic novel, save your money. Even if you like other graphic novels, if you haven't read this one, you probably won't like the movie. The movie was very obviously made by someone who loved the novel, and wanted to be true to it in as many ways as possible. On the one hand, that made some really cool things happen. The characters came alive in ways that really seemed to personify the book. On the other hand, it made things happen that would have been confusing or boring if I didn't know the book. It's like, since I knew the book, when I saw a certain scene I was like "well, there it is - I was waiting for that!" And the movie was true enough to the book that the sense of "waiting for it" was seldom disappointed. But if I didn't have that background, the very same scene would have been like "what the hell is that?" or "why did they even need that?" So that's my long way of saying that I view this as an aficianodo's movie - if you love the book, the movie could do you well. If not, probably not. All of which does not bode well for blockbuster status, but makes for pleased comic book geeks. Yay us.

And yes, true to the book, Dr. Manhattan, who sometimes is 10 stories high, was glowing blue and naked 90% of the time which means that 90% of the time you got to see his glowing blue penis wafting gently in the wind. And yes, if I was to focus on the glowing blue penis, that would have been distracting. But to be honest I was just so caught up in the story and everything else happening that I rarely noticed it. And yes, they did rather dramatically rework the end. But there are two things about that. First, it was entirely necessary. To have kept it the way it was in the book would have taken twice as long to do (they would have needed the whole black freighter sideline which was its own story arc). Second, the spirit of the ending was entirely consistent with the book. Entirely.

So I can definitely see why Wil, a Geek's Geek, liked it, and why my brother, liked it and I'm really glad I saw it. But I can also see why it's gotten mixed reviews and why it is almost out of theaters already (only 1 theater in my area had it showing). And there ya have it.

Ok, let's do the splits

Another running post. Yup, this run this morning is worth multiple posts :o) One thing runners talk about all the time is "what were your splits on that run." What they're getting at is how consistent was your pace - did you run the second half the same pace as the first half, or slower (which is the norm but not ideal), or faster (the famed negative split!). I usually ignore splits. Not that they don't make sense - they do. It's just that they make me nervous. If I try to be all technical in a run I get nervous about it and I don't enjoy it and then I don't want to do it. But this year I'm going to try to pay attention to splits. So by way of example, here are the splits on my4 marathons:

Time for 1st 13.1 miles Time for 2nd 13.1 miles Final Time
1. 2:08 (9:45 pace) 2:30 (11:26 pace) 4:38
2. 2:06 (9:36 pace) 2:51 (13:02 pace) 4:57
3. 2:01 (9:13 pace) 2:03 (9:23 pace) 4:04
4. 1:58 (9:00 pace) 2:07 (9:41 pace) 4:05

That number 2 race really sucked, by the way. I've never actually looked at these laid out like this, but it's clear that the better times are the ones where the pace for the 1st half and 2nd half are pretty close, which implies I was able to maintain a consistent speed without going out too fast and crashing and burning at the end.

So for today's 20 miler,it was 1:28:30 for the first 10 and 1:30 for the second 10. Both were at or below a 9 minute pace, and there was very little slow down between the two. So I guess that's good :o) Hopefully if I can keep my pace down at the start of the runs like I did today I can keep the overall time down to my targets.

Running - I am SO back :o)

/* begin gloat.
Well, today was my first really long run of the season. I did a 17 mile last week, which went ok, but today I went out for 20. And it was awesome! My goal, my quest, my reason for life (well maybe I overstate a bit) right now is to get a sub-4 hour marathon. I don't care if it's 3 hour, 59 minutes, and 59 seconds, I just want it to be under 4. 4 hours is kind of a benchmark in marathons - an "average" male marathoner can do 4 hours. Now you have to put that in context - marathon runners are kind of a weird scary bunch, so being "average" among that group is pretty good. Or at least that's what I keep telling myself. In any case, a sub 4 would require about a 9 minute pace (ok, ok, 9 minutes 6 seconds per mile pace). So in my training runs, my goal is to be able to do the long distance runs at a 9 minute pace. So I need to be able to do a 20 mile and 22 mile run at 9 minutes. If I can, I should be good for the marathon.

But wait, you say, just because you can do it for 22 miles doesn't mean you can do it for 26, does it? Well, I reply, technically no, but running races is very different from running training runs. In a race, you're well rested (you've tapered for a few weeks before the event, you haven't run more than a few miles for like a week, you've eaten your acorns and rutabegas the night before), you don't have to carry your own water (water stations are nice), you've got lots of adrenaline and there are all these people cheering you on. All of this makes your race pace a lot better, usually, than your training runs. Also, I tend to run hilly routes for training, so that I won't be surprised by hills in a race, so the courses are usually easier in the race. All of which means that if I can sustain a 9 minute pace for my longest training runs, I should be able to sustain a pace like that for the marathons.

But I digress (really, me? No!). The point is that I had expected to have to do a few runs at each distance of 17 miles or more until I could get to that 9 minute pace. So a few 17 mile runs, then go to the 20s, and so on. After all, my best race pace for 20 miles was actually right around 9 minutes, and now I'm saying I want that pace for training runs. So I went out this morning and did my 20, thinking I'd get something like a 9:20 or so. And it ended up taking 2 hours 58 minutes which is, wait for it.... an 8:54 pace! That's right by-atch (did I spell that right? I'm trying to be hip)! Sub 9 first time. And on a hilly damn course. So in my first 20 mile training run of the season, I've just beaten my best race pace! Woo hoo! Runners reading this will know the glow I'm feeling. Everyone else will think I'm high. Or boring. But our imaginary audience is just loaded with runners, so WOO HOO WOO HOO WOO HOO!!! I've worked my butt off over the winter doing miles indoors so that I could start strong this season, and this is such a cool way of seeing that it worked! Running around the indoor track 150 times every few weeks has really paid off (thank god).
*/ end gloat.

Friday, March 20, 2009

This Just In, Conan is White!

I'm frantically packing as the move date draws nearer with every hour, and in the background I'm listening to/watching Conan O'Brien being interviewed on Inside the Actors studio. Lipton made him dance (literally, as is his wont), and at the end of his very funny convulsive jig, Conan drew a heron-like leg up and rested his foot seductively on Lipton's desk, pulling up his pants cuff to expose a blinding expanse of Irish calf.

Thank God there's someone out there who's whiter than I am. They must have to plaster that poor man with a quart of flesh-colored makeup just so he shows up on camera.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Belated Insight on Cramer v Stewart

I have been super busy lately, driving back and forth between my new job and my soon-to-be-old home in Brooklyn, as well as catching up on the intricacies of said new job and the new industry and new humans that I need to know to get the new job done.
And that's my only excuse for being so late to point out James Poniewozik's terrific commentary on the Jon Stewart/Jim Cramer smackdown on the Daily Show last week.  James's blog, Tuned In, is one of our links, and I read it as often as I can, because it's funny and astute and has a journalistic integrity that I don't normally associate with media focused on television.  This commentary really underlines those standards, and I would have been really, really proud to have pointed it out in big bold letters the day he posted it.
But I didn't.  So, with shame, I humbly submit that if you enjoyed the smackdown or any of the pop-culture confetti that fell around it, you should really read Jim's comments, because they are, as usual, witty and insightful.

On Chivalry

OK, cards on the table, here.  I'm not a girly girl.  (I'm also not Shifter, in case you were confused.)  I try really hard to be one--I have, over the past few years, learned to wear skirts and even low heels.  I paint my toenails.  I blow-dry my hair.  I don't camp.  I'm plenty high-maintenance--far more high-maintenance than I would like. 
But I'm still kind of a gallumphing, mismatched creature.  I wear the heels, but I walk the same way I walk in my Chuck Taylors, resulting in a hefty, horse-like sound rather than the dainty rhythmic clicking that is normally associated with a heeled member of my gender.  (One pair of shoes has some kind of heel issue that is invisible to the naked eye but quite audible--when I wear those shoes, I sound like a horse that's thrown a shoe.)  My nails are short (I type all day, and I'm not crazy about those digital gymnastics women have to do to hit the right key with long nails) and my cuticles are bitten.  I forget to wear makeup so often that I sometimes wonder why I own it.  I just seem to have missed out on a bunch of the stuff that "girly girls" take for granted.
This leads to no end of embarrassing situations.  Chivalry throws me an awful lot of curve balls.  Actually, that's a bad metaphor--they're straight-over-the-plate gifts to any reasonably coordinated little leaguer, but to me they may as well be World-Series-quality fastballs. 
For example, there's a certain kind of man who holds doors open for women.  It's a sweet gesture, and I'm not really the type of woman to be insulted by it--but I do often get in his way.  If a guy (any guy--your boss, your cable guy, your janitor, whoever) is carrying a bunch of stuff, especially if that stuff includes hot coffee balanced precariously on top of something, or an open laptop, or (God forbid) hot coffee balanced precariously on top of an open laptop, my calculation of the greater good says that whoever is nearby opens the door for that guy, even if the person nearby is a woman.  I act accordingly.  If the guy carrying the coffee is a chivalrous guy, a lot of the time there's a super long pause before he goes through it, which is sort of discombobulating, but generally it turns out okay.
Well, this morning there was a minor chivalry pileup in my office.  I was walking with an exceptionally chivalrous example of the "chivalrous guy" species--we'll call him Captain Chivalry.  We came to a couple of glass doors, through which we could see a gentleman carrying a Dr. Seuss-like teetering pile of breakfast-related objects, including hot coffee.  Naturally, Captain Chivalry is already in front of me as we get to the door, on his mission to open every door in my path.  Again, I'm not complaining--I'm even quite enjoying the novelty.  God knows, after two years of dating in New York, I deserve to be compensated for my various disappointments.  I'm willing to accept whatever payment the male gender can fish out of its linty pockets--I'm just finding it hard to get used to this kind of daily or even hourly respect, and my reaction often leaves a lot to be desired.
So here we are in this situation, and I assume that Captain Chivalry has this door-opening issue covered and I consider myself relieved of the responsibility of opening the door for the dude with the teetering collection of breakfast foods--whew!  What a guy!  But instead of opening the door and walking through it to make room for the breakfast-laden dude on the other side, Captain Chivalry stands on my side of the door and levers both doors open (evidently Dr. Seuss and I are on equal footing according to the laws of chivalry), and then, not to be outdone, Dr. Seuss waits patiently, so now both dudes are waiting for me to walk through the door.  (Whereupon I actually run into Captain Chivalry, because clearly our moral calculus equations weren't in synch and the laws of physics--which don't care nearly as much as we do whether we're male or female, apart from some basics to do with center of gravity and body mass--operated flawlessly.) 
If this doesn't demonstrate why I shouldn't play sports, I don't know what does.  If you can't manage to get through a door with the assistance of two people, you probably don't need to take up soccer.  I'm just saying.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Whedon at TAL Live Show

I know I'm flogging this in a way that might get annoying, but last year's live show was very, very funny, so I feel I have to get in front of this year's program and spur our small but mighty readership to amuse themselves.  The live episode of This American Life (April 23) now includes an appearance by Joss Whedon.  You get Dan Savage, David Rakoff, Mike Birbiglia AND Joss Whedon.  NOW how much would you pay?
The bad news is that I'm at work, and the corporate firewall prevents me from telling you how much you will pay.  (Who knows what mischief employees will get up to if they access information like this at work?)  But get ticket information and find out whether there's a showing in your area here.

Cubicle bliss

For the last few months I've been working at a space slightly larger than a student desk.  Far be it from me to complain--I'm just happy to have a job.  Who cares how small the desk is?
But today they moved us to giant cubicles with windows in the sides.  I can actually hang up my mini desk calendar now--I have been tearing the top page off and hanging it separately from the calendar portion of the calendar for the last two months.  And now I can finally bring some personal items to work, so that I feel a little less like a temp.  It's a fine day in cubicle land, let me tell you.

WSJ Discovers Mesa Verde

Mesa Verde National Park is one of the most fascinating places I've ever been to. The wild beauty of the surrounding country, the spectacular ingenuity of the cliff dwellings, and the majesty of the cliff palace make it a do-not-miss proposition if you're anywhere near Denver. The Wall Street Journal gives a quick overview of the site and its history, together with some truly beautiful photos (don't miss the slideshow).

Thursday, March 12, 2009

This Just In: People Are Really Nice

One of my doctors in New York City just agreed to come into the office once a month on Saturdays so that I can continue my treatment with her.  I know there are perfectly competent doctors on Long Island and I'm sure they're all great, but there are certain types of doctors where, once you have a relationship and they know all your stuff and what your goal is and what works for you and what doesn't, you just hate to leave them and go with another doctor.  I'm really excited about it and I can't wait to pick the treatment up again, because it was helping and I haven't been able to fit it in with the commute on weekdays.
Wow, she rocks.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Why I don't write to authors

Ok, on the whole blogging authors thing. I read the blogs, and quite often I get a sense of liking for the novelists. And I definitely like their work. And then I read all these comments on their blogs, or read them talking about all of the email they've received, and I'm always just thinking "how do they do that?" What I mean is, how do the fans convince themselves to write to the authors? Now I don't mean to put anyone down who does this - some very dear friends have donet his with great success. But I just can't. Pearhaps three reasons for this. First, I'm really shy. Yup. There ya have it. Shy Shifter. Nothing much more to say on that one. It embarrasses me.

Next, I'm always certain that anything that I say to someone like that, someone as visible as that, will have already been said by about a hundred other people, and probably better. And so anything I would say in my email, or comment, will sound like a lame "me 2" or "what she said." In fact, and this is not a joke, I once met an author in my field who I quite admired. I was standing in line for him to sign a book and the person in front of me gushed quite eloquently about how much she loved his work, how much it meant to her, and all that. So then it was my turn, and she had already said all the cool stuff! My mind was a total blank. So I literally looked at him and said "Uhm, what she said" and kind of pointed at the lady who had just finished gushing. He didn't laugh. So I made up some other effusive thing to say and he said thanks and we went our separate ways, both a bit relieved that that was over I think.

As an interesting footnote, I later got to have lunch with this same author (by later I mean 3 years later) and turns out he's a very nice guy who was probably as uncomfortable with hero worship as I was with having a hero. Turns out he did triathalons, big into biking. We talked, it was nice, and then about 3 months later he died. Heart attack, very sudden. Boom.

And that true story brings us to point number three of why I don't contact writers. They die afterward. Here's another true story. The only time I've ever emailed an author was when I emailed David Feintuch. Really great SF writer, in my opinion, especially his first 4 books. And I came across him online, and I felt gutsy, and I sent him an email saying something about how I loved his work, and why, and that I didn't like to write people because I thought I'd sound like everyone else. And he actually wrote me back (which was a shocker) and said essentially "actually, you don't sound like everyone else." And I was thrilled. And then about three months later ... wait for it ... he died. No kidding. Can't remember how he died, just that he died, and no more Nick Seafort books! Doh!

So the final reason I don't write authors is that I don't want to imperil them. I am the unabomber of fiction fans. I am the plague taking first born authors in the night. You don't want me to write Neil Gaiman, or any of your favorite writers. I don't write them, not just for their sake, not just for mine, but for yours as well. To not deprive you of these talented people. You're welcome.

And on That Note

I second Shifter's post--what Kay says is interesting, and it's a topic Neil Gaiman blogs about regularly.

And it reminded me of how much I enjoyed this post by another novelist...blogging (discovered via Gaiman's blog).

Novelists blogging

There have been some interesting blogs and articles put out by novelists about being novelists who blog lately. The most interesting one I've read is here, and is from Guy Gavriel Kay, who is one of my fave fantasy authors. He's essentially commenting on how authors blogging open their lives to their fanbase, with lots of perks and perils arising from there. I check a few author blogs from time to time (Patrick Rothfuss's, Neil Gaiman's, sometimes Scalzi's - can you tell I like sci fi?) and I found Kay's take on the whole idea very interesting. Perhaps in part because I've been working on blogging more consistently to our imaginary readership, so it's on my mind. So if you happen to be someone who reads author blogs check it out. By the way, the article reads exactly as I would expect an article by Guy Gavriel Kay to read.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Get a room, Brooklyn!

This weekend was glorious weather in Brooklyn (in a week that started with a huge snowstorm), and spring was quickening in every living thing, and you know what that means.  Yes, couples everywhere--girls leaning back against their boyfriends on stoops, couples lingering over the Times in coffee shop windows, pairs of happy humans sauntering hand-in-hand along the sidewalks and pausing to canoodle on street corners, and drunk couples giggling and falling against each other on the streets into the wee small hours.  I didn't go to the park, but I'm sure it was lousy with cheery boyfriends and girlfriends.
I'm ashamed to say I found it quite overwhelming.  Normally I'm a sort of benevolent spinster in the face of all this couply sweetness.  But it was just everywhere you looked this weekend, and I had to restrain myself from hissing at the couples shuffling along with agonizing slowness, eyes locked on one another, and all wandering hands.

Who me?  Bitter?  Heavens no.

Running on ice

You know what's weird about ice? I bet you do, but there's something even weirder. It's easier to run on ice than it is to walk on it. I found this out yesterday. I got to go on an OUTDOOR run, which was very exciting cause it was finally warm enough (about 30) and not snowing enough on a weekend that I could do it. So I went for a 15 miler outside. And I went to this park that's usually pretty cleared of snow cause I thought it would be a better running surface. And it was, except for the ice. It's been warm enough that all the snow is starting to melt, and then when it's 30 it freezes, and you have patches of ice on your nice running trail. But I'm in the Frozen North, so we just stoically ignore that shit. Ice? Well yes, I suppose I noticed it but it's not worth mentioning. The stoicism actually goes much farther. My arm fell off? Well, yes, I suppose it did, but I've got another one almost as good. A guy could do a lot with a good left arm. But I digress.

So I'm out there running on the ice. There is a certain way to run on ice, as it turns out. You don't do big strides. Nope. That would result in either a total slip/fall or a rather uncomfortable form of the splits. You do more up/down small strides, which work pretty well. And there are people out walking in the relative warmth (see? Stoic). and I notice they're slipping a lot and I'm just running on by. Which makes me feel superior (in a stoic way). They can't even walk on this stuff and me, I'm running on it. So I finish up well, took about 2 hours and 10 minutes (yes, that's a long cold time, but it felt a lot shorter than the Hell Run last month). And then I'm walking back to my car, and there's the ice. And I step onto it and SLIP. Didn't quite biff it, but it was close. Turns out when you're running you've got the up/down part pretty well built in but when you're walking there's more of a front/back component to it. Think about it. See what I mean? Well the front/back part is what'll kill ya, ice-wise. So now I have to take back all the superior thoughts I was having about the walkers on my run. Sorry slow dudes. My bad.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Mmmmm, Sonic Death Monkey

I have a thing for bath and body products. Maybe it's because I'm allergic to almost every perfume on earth, so the only time I get to smell good is when I have an exciting bath product or lotion. I buy way too many of them. I recently packed more than half my body lotions, and the orphans next to my bed still represent the lotion allocation of a small- to medium-size commonwealth.

So it is with great pride that I announce that I have nearly run out of shower gel. As in, I get to buy more shower gel. This is very exciting--I've been working on a shower gel backlog for about two years now--a store I liked went out of business, and I bought enough of their products to last a long, long time. The only time I've purchased shower gel in that time was when I had a guest who I thought might not appreciate smelling like chocolate. And it turned out I was wrong.

So now I'm torn between Sonic Death Monkey and 13 Rabbits. Well, torn between those and what I'll actually buy, which will probably be something from Target or Walgreens that costs an awful lot less than this does. But even if I do buy something chipper chicken from Walgreens, I'm thinking I might have to CALL it Sonic Death Monkey shower gel, because that makes it 100% cooler.

Let's just assume you're not an idiot...

I have this new idea for political discussions. I think it's exciting and wonderful and regrettably novel in the present climate. Ready? Here goes. Let's assume that people of differing opinions are 1) not stupid and 2) not evil. It just seems to me that if we made such an assumption, then maybe we could actually benefit from multiple points of view instead of slamming our heads into the collective walls of each others disagreement. That last sentence, by the way, was quite a twisted metaphor wasn't it? "collective walls of each others disagreement?" What am I smoking. Anyway.

I have occasion, in my life, to hear what the other "political side" has to say, usually in the media. And when I do it comes across almost always as incredibly derisive, parsimonious, and polemical. It consists of saying "they're dumb and here's why" in lots and lots of ways. Now, being on "the other side" I usually totally disagree with almost everything I hear on these venues (*ahem* Fox news *ahem*). But that's not actually the point. I don't mind disagreeing. The point, rather, is that you can't have a discussion when all someone is saying is "they're an idiot" or "you're an idiot." You can have a fight, perhaps you can have "a debate," but you can't productively discuss crap. Now maybe the news isn't trying to have a discussion, but so often when I hear people (politicians or real people) talking politics it's the same stuff "They're dumb, misguided, greedy, naive, power-mad, bleeding-heart, or whatever." All of which just strikes me as insanely nonproductive.

I really do like to assume that people have good reasons for the things they believe, and that many (not all) people have good intentions. And I do like to believe that those people fall on all sides of political debates. And so what should be interesting, even fascinating, is understanding how people with similar intelligence and basically decent motives can end up with such different ideas. but we so rarely get to try to look at that because we're too busy either trying to convince one side that no, we are not idiots or that yes, they indeed are idiots.

In my experience, two things get in the way of having an open conversation where I'm not assuming "the other side" is insane. First, it's hard. I do tend to assume when someone disagrees with me they just don't get it, or don't value things as I do, and so they must be idiots. So I have to overcome that in myself. The other is that even when I'm trying really hard to take this kind of collaborative stance, a lot of times (not always) the other folks are not. There's nothing like trying very hard to not be attacking, or to hear what someone is saying in a real way, only to find that they in turn don't want to hear a word you have to say.

All of which gets just incredibly discouraging. So I thought I'd whine about it here. Well done Shifter, well done.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Pacman has a new home

Well, since the only voice of protest I heard about Pacman was Katey, and since I know she'll forgive me, I've removed the Pacman game from the sidebar. However, just so that nobody misses our little yellow buddy too much, I've included a link to the Pacman website where you can chomp to your heart's content under the category of "Time Wasters" to the right. He's only one click away, so it'll all be ok. Sorry about the rhyme :o)

Brokeback to the Future

If you haven't seen this one before (came out a few years ago) check out the video below. This is a classic.

Click to Donate to Save the Children

Intel is sponsoring a fundraiser for Save the Children (Intel is working with Save the Children to provide education to children in war-torn countries) and Kiva (which gives micro-loans to support small businesses). I know Shifter and I have relatively little pull with the universe, but I'd like to summon our fan base to exercise their awesome power and click for the children--it costs you nothing. And it costs Intel something, if that's your thing. And kids get to go to school. Click!

Living in Paradise

So, as I mentioned, I've had to clean my apartment so my landlord can show it to prospective tenants.  Now, I'm not a total slob (although I have been lately at this new job--2 hours a day at home when you're not sleeping tends to cut down the amount of cleaning you do).  But cleaning for strangers is totally different than cleaning for yourself.  Admittedly, I haven't been able to clean to my own stranger-standard (I didn't get the dusting done, and the hardwood floors did not get washed), but it's still mighty nice living.  I'm looking forward to Saturday in a way that I don't normally look forward to it, because I can get up and make tea without cleaning everything in the apartment just to get a clean mug, and I can unashamedly throw open my curtains.  I can even have the groceries delivered early on Saturday without fear that the delivery guys will walk in on a big mess.  It's all very exciting.
Which leads me to ask, why are the strangers automatically worth a clean apartment like this?  How come I'm not worth cleaning for?
It may be time to pass a resolution when I move into the new apartment, where dishes get done and surfaces get clean.  Food for thought...

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

What I Won't Miss About Brooklyn

Well, first of all, I won't miss living in Brooklyn and working somewhere else.  I do the "reverse commute" away from the city every morning, and it's still obnoxious.  I don't know how the people who drive into the city stay sane...oh, wait.  Maybe they're all crazy to begin with!  In just a few days (18 and counting) I'm moving closer to work, which means I'll get to eat breakfast when it's not even a weekend, and I can arrive at work fully caffeinated.  Plus I'll be able to get home at a decent hour.  You know you're tired when all your fantasies about meeting a nice man involve sleeping with him--actually sleeping.

But tonight was extra obnoxious.  My carpool buddy and I stayed late (because we totally weren't looking at the clock at 5:30) and I got back to the city at 8:00.  And there was apparently some kind of international conference in the parking garage.  It was awful!  There's really only room for one car in the driveway, and there were cars passing each other going in and out.  The garage staff were parking cars on the sidewalk in an effort to make enough room in the garage for them to drive cars into the elevators.  After waiting patiently for my turn on the street while three different jerks zipped by me and into the garage, I finally left and found a metered spot, stashed my car for an hour at the meter, and came back later when it was less frantic.

But it made me think something that I think a lot, which is that it must be nice to be a complete and utter jerk.  After all, all the jerks got to park right away.

That's okay though, because this morning I let someone merge in front of me to avoid a stalled car, and I got a little wave.  I was pretty sure that the little wave was illegal in New York--indeed, that it was punishable by death.  But no, it's alive and well, at least in Queens.  Which makes up for all the jackasses who cut me off at the parking garage.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Bye bye Pacman?

Oh, by the way, we're considering trying to add a few things to the side bar here at T&S, and if we do we may have to remove Pacman to make room for the stuff. Now I'd hate to deprive any of our imaginary readers of Pacman if they happen to have become addicted to the yellow munching disk, so if you've any objection to the loss speak now (via comment) or, well, don't :o)

Bragging is bad luck

Well, a few days after our triumphant post on how much we rock and the well of our inspiration dries up. Should have kept my mouth shut! Ah well, such is life. I wonder how many other cliches I can manage to pop into this post.

Well, as a random thought, anyone watching American Idol this year? It's not the kind of show I normally go in for (truth to tell, I only watch about an hour of TV a week, not counting obsessions like the good Doc Horrible) but we have a kind of family tradition of watching the final 12 with my wife and my 2 daughters. I tried to watch it tonight and it for some reason bored me to tears. Maybe it's always been that boring, or maybe it's a bad bunch, or maybe there's only so much of a formula a person can stomach. I got in a good nap though, and that's always nice :o)

More inspiring posts to come, dear imaginary readers, never fear. The temperature is going to be above freezing for 2 days in a row this week, and that's sure to get the old creative juices flowing!

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Cleaning for Strangers

There's nothing like it, is there? Tomorrow I'm supposed to give notice to my landlord, at which point an endless range of people from Craig's List will be trooping through my apartment. I know, huh? Kind of unsavory, if you ask me. Plus, if my parents were coming, I'd be done in about an hour (I have laundry all over the floor, and we're a washer down here, so that's gonna take a while, but other than that I'm surface-cleaning away from finishing--dusting, vacuuming, and running a mop around).

But my parents aren't going to steal anything that's not nailed down. Now, granted, I've gone on Craig's List. I've even had one date off Craig's List. (It was kind of fun, and, against all odds, totally safe. It consisted of Indian food and too-frank conversation, which, not surprisingly, killed any further interest we might have had in one another. But I had a good time.) Not every human trolling Craig's List is a kleptomaniac. But let's face it, if you're going to let a bunch of them into your apartment, even under supervision, you'd better stash your small portable electronics and any jewelry you care about.

Plus you have to remove any indications that you're a human. I'll leave that up to your imagination for the most part, but I live alone. There's a bra on the back of my sofa that's been there since one night last week when I was too tired to move and too uncomfortable to keep wearing it. It's a cute one, too. See, I feel that sends the wrong message to a prospective tenant....