Friday, September 30, 2005


My new job is exhausting me. Not that I'm working tremendously hard, yet, I am actually mostly sitting around reading stuff and trying to learn. I even had two days of orientation which resulted in that familiar dead-brain feeling from too many hours in one conference room, sitting and listening to voices drain on and on.

I went out last night to dinner with some friends and lost it at about 8:15 - mind shut down, legs began to cramp, eyes were burning, yawns couldn't stop. This morning was tough. I miss caffeine. I had some decaf tea (hot! as it's freezing in this office, likely due to the recent temp change as everyone around me is remarking on how it's not usually like this) but it's not the same. Need energy!

This will be a good weekend to sleep in!

(Spellcheck doesn't like the abbrieviation "decaf" but offers "deceive" and "teacup" as alternatives. Sometimes the alternatives are more fun than the reality. "I'd like to be deceived by my teacup, please.")

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

My new commute

I now have a 7 minute subway ride. Sounds great, yes? Unfortunately, that's after a 15 minute walk to the station, and followed by a 10 minute walk on the other side (at least until February, when they say they are reopening the Cortland Street station on the R line.) Not so bad except that so far (2 days in) I have had to wait almost 10 minutes for a train almost every time. (Rush hour trains should come every 3-4 minutes, and 10 feels really long. Especially when you are only going to be on the train for less than that.)

(Especially when the underground stations have trapped all of the heat from previous weeks, so despite the glory of a breezy 65 degree morning, the platform is a sweltering 85.)

I complain a lot.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Flight Proof

Two days, two movies. Now wouldn't it have been cool if I could have summed up my vacation this way: ten days, ten movies? But, since I've been on a viewing streak lately, way before my week off, there just weren't 10 new films I still wanted to see this week. And I'd probably die of bloat from all of the Diet Coke if I tried to see one each day. (Essential for my movie enjoyment - Diet Coke and popcorn.)

In the last two days I saw two high profile films starring two high profile actresses: "Proof" with Gwenyth Paltrow and "Flight Plan" with Jodie Foster. An interesting combination. Jodie is my age (just two months younger) and as she was a child actress (I clearly remember identifying with her in "Courtship of Eddie's Father"), I have always thought of her as a touchstone for "my" generation. As an actress, she's smart, strong, funny, and (most importantly, I think), discriminating in her choices. As a person, she's - well, that's my point. We don't really know, because she's thankfully discrete. Now, Gwyneth is 10 years younger, but I think she's of a similar ilk. Yes, she has the rock star husband and the oddly-named child, but she comes across as more normal than, say, Cameron Diaz. She also has the Oscar, which gives her the reputation of being the better actress, although is "View From the Top" really any better than "The Sweetest Thing"? (Side note, of course is that both films co-starred Christina Applegate - who is now a respectable Broadway actress? Sometimes I think I fell asleep and woke up in Bizarro-land.) Enough rambling: my point is that I consider Gwyneth to be one of the few actresses of her age who could conceivably have as strong a career as Jodie. (And, no, Christina Applegate is not in the running, no matter what Broadway success she has. In addition to being in Gwyneth and Cameron's bad movies, she can never wipe away the stink of "Surviving Christmas," "Ron Burgundy" or "Don't Tell Mom the Babysitter is Dead.") I also think that, like Jodie, she's relatively normal. Look at it this way - can you imagine either of them resorting to the bad plastic surgery that Nicole "Frozen Face" Kidman has had lately? Nicole, by the way, is 38, halfway between Jodie and Gwyneth in age.

So, the movies themselves? Oh, yeah. Can you tell I'm not bubbling over with enthusiasm? Don't get me wrong, they were both very good. "Proof" had some great acting from Gwyneth, good supporting cast (Hope Davis as a successful forceful woman instead of the neuortic she usually plays!), and compelling story. Except that, even though I never saw the play, I read/heard about it enough that there was nothing surprising in the film. What you think it's about? Is exactly what it's about. You just watch it play out. So I enjoyed watching, but left thinking, "Oh, that's good" but it didn't stay in my mind for very long.

It wasn't exactly displaced by "Flight Plan," either. Again, another perfectly good movie, a strong thriller with some white-knuckle moments and unexpected twists. Jodie is wonderful, as you would expect. But I didn't walk out thinking, "Oh my god, I have to tell everyone to see this."

I mean, you should. You should see both of these films, if you want some quality entertainment amid the mire of Hollywood crap currently out there. But if you want to be completely blown away by something that will haunt you long after you see it? See "Constant Gardener."

Tuesday, September 20, 2005


I have had two weeks to revise a story to send to my writing group, and in true procrastination mode, I put it off until today, the due date. I had to practically tie myself to the desk, but now, after almost four hours, I am pretty pleased with my revision. Still I think I'll steal an extra day and give it another once-over tomorrow.

Monday, September 19, 2005

This is why I love NYC.

One of those perfect NYC moments. On the subway last night, about 9 pm. Not very crowded, but it's Sunday, most people are home preparing for the work week. A usual assortment of passengers - a male couple just returning from the theater, clutching their playbills and a bag from the Hershey store (they could be tourists, but they are traveling away from the major hotel area, so likely just two guys coming in from Brooklyn to see a show and nab some chocolate.) A large chatty woman in an orange shirt the exact shade as her hair, polling nearby passengers on the best way to get to 2nd Avenue. An older man, eyes closed, folded newspaper in his lap. Two young men and two young women, laughing and jostling. It appears they are trying to lock something down - they make suggestions, argue, agree, compliment each other. One throws out a line from a song in a clear strong voice and the others are, "that's it, yeah, that's it." The orange-haired woman calls down from her seat, "You have a beautiful voice. It's a gift from god, be grateful." The foursome smile and laugh. "He's good," one of them teases him. The woman says, "Sing a song for us." And the group begins to toss ideas back and forth and then settles on a song for him to sing. He starts to clap and they jump in, tapping the plastic subway seat, rocking against a window, building the beat. He sings, a high rich voice, a Michael Jackson song, and two of his comrades jump in on the chorus, harmonizing perfectly. The passengers nearby are all transfixed, smiling, tapping their feet. At the end, the singer jumps into the aisle and spins with a flourish and a "tah-dah!" Everyone laughs and claps. He smiles and goes back to his seat, but not before thanking "my brother Tito," (his friend, who doesn't yet get the joke and mumbles, "I'm not Tito"), "my sister LaToya," and then he turns to me, the white girl across the aisle, and says with a small bow, "My wife, Lisa Marie Presley."

"Encore!" calls the orange-haired woman, but we're pulling into West 4th, where most of us, including the "Jacksons," are getting off. And everyone is smiling.

Yes, people sing in the subway all of the time, but for money, not for joy.

It reminded me of a Tracey Ullman skit (from her long ago Fox show that spawned "The Simpsons.") I have it on tape somewhere - Tracey is under a bus shelter, huddled with other passengers as the rain hits the roof of the shelter. She starts humming to the beat of the rain and passengers around her shoot her dirty looks. One even tells her something like, "Lady, that's annoying." But then another passenger starts humming with her. "The Lion Sleeps Tonight." And one by one, the others jump in, and of course there is a bluesy black woman with a belting voice and a nerdy-looking white man who bursts into a happy falsetto. Everyone is singing, dancing and jumping over the bench, and the bus pulls up, and they climb on. Tracey, in her raincoat and kerchief, still dances. "Hey, lady, are you coming on the bus?" calls the annoyed guy from earlier. "No," she says, "I think I'll walk today."

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Everything is in Technicolor

I'm sorry, my post titles are getting lame...

I saw another movie yesterday. Hey, it's my 10 days off between jobs, I am going to see a lot of them. It's what I enjoy doing - some people like to go to bars and drink, others watch sports, others go to the theater, others gamble - I love being in a movie theater with a fabulous tale unfolding larger than life in front of me. And I'm willing to take the chance that it isn't fabulous, that sometimes it's groan-inducing and the dialogue so predictable I can mouth it along with the actors ("wait, don't go... I... I... love you, too") because then the good ones are all the more special.

And the popcorn. I love popcorn.

"Everything is Illuminated" was one of my favorite books last year. I even went to a reading and met the author, who is in his early 20's and looks about 16. So Elijah Wood looking like - well, a cartoon boy - isn't that much of a stretch to play him. Oops, not him - the fictional "Jonathan Safron Foer" as created by the real Jonathan Safron Foer. (Although I will say that early on there is a scene where you see a young man with a leaf blower and I thought, why is "Jonathan Safron Foer" (the character, i.e., Elijah Wood) doing that? And then he walks away and Elijah Wood enters the frame. I forgot about it until I saw in the credits that the real Jonathan plays the leaf blower.)

I almost wrote "Elijah Wood in drag" in that last sentence. He kinda creeped me out in the beginning - thick glasses that magnify his normally big blue eyes until he looks like one of those scary Margaret Keane paintings, heavy white pancake makeup (Michael Jackson? Johnny Depp as Edward Scissorhands?), and a tiny painted pink mouth (a geisha girl?) In the book, you discover that Jonathan is an unusual person because you have the time to read about him, but since in the film it must be telegraphed visually, this is what we get. I'm not sure what I imagined he looked like when I read the book. Here's how we first see him, through the eyes of Alex, the Ukrainian narrator:
When we found each other, I was flabbergasted by his appearance. This is an American? I thought. And also, This is a Jew? He was severely short. He wore spectacles and had diminutive hairs which were not split [parted] anywhere, but rested on his head like a Shapka. [hat]... He did not appear like either the Americans I had witnessed in magazines, with yellow hairs and muscles, or the Jews from history books, with no hairs and prominent bones. He was wearing nor blue jeans nor the uniform. In truth, he did not look like anything special at all. I was underwhelmed at the maximum.

I don't know... less Tim Burton, more average Joe, I think.

But this passage gives you an idea of the Alex character - Jonathan's "translator" who worships hip-hop culture and hangs out in clubs while dreaming of moving to America to become an accountant. His English is carefully constructed - he avoids the simpler words for those which he believes make him sound more sophisticated. For example, when inquiring if Jonathan and his grandfather were close, he asks "were you proximal?" The film does a great job of bringing to life the humor that jumped off the written page, and the actor playing Alex is very good. The other main characters - Alex's grandfather and his dog, Sammy Davis Jr. Jr. (yes, that's not a typo, it's her name) are also delightful. The family runs "Heritage Tours" for rich Americans who want to explore their Jewish roots in Eastern Europe, and Jonathan is their client, come to Ukraine to find a woman in a 1942 picture his grandfather left him.

It's not a bad film, but when I read the book I was very much invested in the parallel past stories that alternate with the Alex chapters, and they are missing from the movie almost entirely. In the book you dip into the past, from 1791 to 1942, exploring family legends and traditions in between visits with Alex and his hilariously butchered English. By the end, when you get to the final scene, the story that Jonathan is so desperate to hear, you are already familiar with the village and its people and so what happens is that much more chilling. I read this on a train and remember feeling so emotional during that passage that I thought I wouldn't be able to finish reading it. It was one of the most powerful chapters I'd read (since a similar moment in "Beloved.")

The film drops most of the past storyline, leaving only the last and most significant flashback. And I think it suffers because of it. Maybe for other moviegoers, who haven't read the book, it's enough - but for me it was too quick and too sudden. We don't spend enough time in the past to understand how the past "illuminates everything."

I would still recommend seeing the movie - but also reading the book for a truly incredible experience.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Not at all like Heaven

Today I saw "Just Like Heaven," partly because I took an afternoon nap and woke up too tired to trek into Manhattan for the movie I really wanted to see. But also I think I secretly wanted to use it as a litmus test to see if I've numb to bad movies, based on my string of rave reviews.

But, no! It's a really bad movie and I disliked it immensely. Yay, I still have taste! Seriously, I am a softie when it comes to romantic comedies, so I did not go to this film expecting Academy Award material. I don't mind silly escapism. I like a lot of the lighter fluffy stuff: "Two Weeks Notice," "Hitch," "13 Going on 30," just to name a few recent ones I enjoyed. But this film combines the worst of them all: lame story, little chemistry between the leads, gag-me dialog, painfully overly dramatic climax. It has a great message, too: forget modern medicine, all you need to wake up from a coma is a kiss from a cute guy! That's about when my stomach turned, when I realized the film was taking the very serious, very complicated decision of living wills and turning it into a wacky plot point.

My friend M. and I have this thing about Mark Ruffalo - he is like the ugly/pretty girl on Seinfeld, who flips from hot to not from scene to scene without warning. Ruffalo is like that - it's a result of his crooked face and odd smile, which sometimes looks like he's grimacing and other times can be endearing. In "13 Going On 30" he had his cute moments, but unfortunately in this film, not a one. Probably a result of his character's being devastatingly miserable throughout most of the film - oh, until the very end when LOVE! CONQUERS! ALL!!!

And, yes, I applauded at the end of "Fever Pitch" when Drew Barrymore and Jimmy Farrell got together. I'm not heartless. This film just didn't have enough heart, or mind, to make me care.

Old News

Britney Spears had her baby on my birthday. Whoopee. She's not the first famous "person" to do so, though - Brenda Starr, famed reporter of the comic strips, had a baby girl on my birthday sometime in the 80s. Her name was Twinkle.

Twinkle Spears would have been really cool.


This got to me. From past week's This American Life.
I have a feeling in the pit of my stomach that if I start crying the sobs will kill me.

I guess someday it will calm down and I'll be able to just cry like a normal person, but I feel like if I start crying now it will never stop.

If you can listen to her and not cry yourself, you're a stronger person than I am. Click on the link to listen to the archive with this, and other hurricane survivors' stories.


I often dream about houses, although for a long time it was apartments. I would be living somewhere and open a closet or side door and realize there were additional rooms that I'd not known about - or forgotten - and begin to make plans to use them. I could move my dresser in here, and make it a dressing room. I could keep my piano in there, and have a private music room. In many cases the rooms were slightly damaged - there would be missing floorboards that showed glimpses of the scary underbelly of the building or doorless openings that led to a shared basement.

There was one apartment building that kept recurring. It was a modification of where I really live, or at least in my heart I accepted that it was where I really lived even if it didn't look at all like reality. There was a back entrance, up a series of fire-escape like balconies, directly into my apartment, and a front entrance that I never used that led through a large foyer/living room, up a grand circular staircase that wove its way through the apartments on the floor below mine. (Sometimes literally - I'd have to step through someone's living room to catch the next level of the stairs, which was why I didn't usually take that route.) In one dream I learned that my upstairs neighbors (who were my actual current upstairs neighbors) had discovered an attic and we all were staking claims to space in it and I made a nifty little office.

I use the past tense because the apartment dreams have evolved into house dreams, usually the real life house my family is now fixing up. In the dreams it's not an empty gutted shell, but has rooms filled with furniture and secrets. Sometimes, like in last night's dream, there is the familiar unfinished house but behind it another building that I've neglected to ever visit which turns out to be filled with beautiful rooms and antiques. I wander around in amazement and then finally pick my bedroom, for in these dreams I always am choosing rooms to move into. I begin to plan how my real life furniture will fit. Bed here, desk there, couch in the little alcove.

One interpretation I have is that the secret rooms symbolize undiscovered possibilities. I may have read that somewhere, I don't remember. But I'm not as invested in assigning meaning to the objects in the dreams as I am in attempting to distill the feelings I have in them. That is what I think reveals what is in my subconscious. The new rooms make me excited, hopeful, surprised (the rooms/second house have usually been there all along without my noticing), yet slightly anxious (falling through the broken floor, walking through others' apartments.) I have these dreams when something new is on the horizon.

Of course I can't avoid the fact that my family is pretty invested, time and energy wise, in working on the old house, and that it has become the place we most often are all together. So when I talk with anyone in my family the old house is on my mind, and easily becomes night fodder. This week, my birthday week, there are more calls, more closely together, more mentions of the house.

And now I have the new job on the horizon, which is like another undiscovered room just waiting for me.

Thursday, September 15, 2005


Leaving a job, even one I don't particularly like, feels strange. Everything is a last: last time I'll buy my regular lunch at the corner place, last time I'll say "hi" to the morning security guard, last time I'll hit "22" on the elevator panel. Today was weird - I said goodbye to most everybody at a team meeting in Manhattan in the morning, then went back to Brooklyn where there are only 3 of us left in the office. And one's on vacation. So I finished cleaning up files (hardcopy and electronic), packed up remaining stuff, and got ready to go. And felt, oddly, sad. Not sad to leave the job or even the company, although I will miss some of the people. But there's something inherently sad about ending something that is so much a part of my life even as it feels weird to be sad when leaving something I've been eager to leave since the spring.

Leaving my last job was very different. I'd been laid off, my job eliminated, so there wasn't any "hand-off" of responsibilities. I had the mark of death on me - colleagues don't know quite how to treat you in that circumstance, so they just avoid you. My boss was traveling a lot, so I spent most of the past two weeks surfing the internet, going to the gym, and writing short stories. I came in late, left early. On the second to last day, I left at about 4. I had already taken most of my belongings home, but had a few odds and ends in my bag, including a mini flashlight we'd given out at a conference. Thankfully, as will soon become apparent, nothing heavy.

I got on the subway and was breezing along back to Brooklyn when the train stopped. Lights went out. The usual humming you hear when trains are stopped in the tunnels disappeared. Faint emergency lights came on and the conductor's voice told us they were investigating a problem. We sat for maybe ten minutes and then he came back on and said we would evacuate the train because of a power failure. What we didn't know then was that it was a blackout, The Blackout of 2003. We were instructed to walk through the cars to the very first one, which luckily had just pulled into the station and whose first door opened onto the very end of the platform. The conductor stood there, waving a flashlight, offering a hand up. The platform was pitch dark - another MTA employee with a flashlight waved us toward a set of stairs. I remembered my little flashlight and took it out, giving some additional light to myself and those near me. As we went out, the station gradually grew brighter from the bits of sunlight peering down through the entrances, but it still was pretty dark. More luck - we were at Park Place, a stop just across from the Brooklyn Bridge, and so I was able to walk home pretty quickly and easily.

So my blackout story that starts with "I was on the subway when the lights went out!" is actually not as dramatic as it sounds.

But... I couldn't make it into the office the next day, Friday, which was supposed to be my last day, because the building was closed. (Power came on at my apt. early Friday morning, but not til later there.) So I had no official last day. It was fine - I'd already said goodbye to the people that mattered, and I'd avoided the awkwardness of saying goodbye to those that didn't. I couldn't bear the thought of having to stop in on Monday, so I went in on Sunday and left my corporate credit card, id, etc. on my boss's desk in an envelope.

Nothing quite as dramatic today.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Happy Birthday to Me

Lately I haven't been sleeping well. It's the same old story - I can fall asleep quickly and easily, but I wake up in the middle of the night and can't get to sleep again. Last night I was up from about 2 to 4:30.

Since I only have 2 days left in my current job, and nobody is standing there with a whip or a time clock, I've been lazing around and going in when I feel like it. (That really hasn't been as bad as it sounds - I got there at 9:06 yesterday instead of my usual 8:30.) Once I managed to fall asleep again, I figured I'd just sleep as long as I could and not care.

And then, 6:45, my phone rings in the other room. I should answer it - nobody calls at that time of morning, so it has to be important - but I'm half awake and fully annoyed and cursing. So I let it go, and then toss and turn for a few minutes only to discover sleep is not coming back.

Up, to the bathroom, to the kitchen to get breakfast, picking up the phone on the way. Voicemail. Who is it? Who called me at this ungodly hour? It's one of my friends, calling from half way around the world, to wish me a happy birthday!

Now that isn't a bad thing to wake up to.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Constant Gardener

You might not believe I'm a discriminating movie-goer, as lately I have been giving rave reviews for almost everything I've seen. I think it's just been a good summer for movies - although I also might be in a more receptive mood, who knows. But I saw the Constant Gardener last night, and I loved it. It wasn't high on my list to see, but I hadn't gone to a film in almost two weeks, and it was the one thing in my neighborhood theater I hadn't seen (except for the penguin movie, and I don't like animal/nature films.) (See - picky, picky!) But this was so good - visually stellar, with really interesting use of light and color (some scenes were brilliant and clear, some washed out and shimmery) and portraits of Africa that went beyond a typical movie travelogue.

I also was enamored by Ralph Fiennes. I forget how good he is, because he's a quiet actor who seems to melt into his roles, but he really impressed me in this. His character was a loser - not very dynamic, people mostly took advantage of him, and he just let things happen to him without being very involved. At one point someone calls him a "bad liar" and he says that's why he's never really moved up in the diplomatic world, but you get the sense he's also just not very ambitious or maybe even very smart. Near the end there is a section where he travels to the Sudan and the scenes there are so emotionally laden they could be a whole other film themselves. I think it's rare that you actually witness a character change, rather than have the dialogue tell you that he/she has. But during that passage you actually see his character become someone else, so that suddenly when he's repeating the same lines his wife tried to use to convince him earlier, you know that they really are now his own emotions. And somehow, it didn't feel contrived.

If you've noticed a trend in my criticisms, it's that I don't want to feel that something is contrived or that I'm being manipulated. I want to suspend my disbelief and be taken on a journey. The Constant Gardener is a hell of a journey, but worth the ticket price.

Yes. No. Yes. No.

I realize that anyone reading the last two posts would think me a bit schizoid - I talk about not being a person who prays, and then that I was moved by going to church yesterday. Well, it's the Unitarian church - which isn't all about praying, or even necessarily about god. Church members include atheists, secular humanists, and many others with varying beliefs. For me it's a place to sit and think, to listen to interesting discussions, to hear beautiful music (and pretend that I am contributing to it - my voice is "ouch"), to explore ideas about my own life, and to connect with my community. Some Sundays are more resonant than others - yesterday's happened to be so.

Sunday, September 11, 2005


September has always been the month of new beginnings for me. Fall, not spring, is the time of year I feel I'm getting a fresh start. Part of that is the back-to-school feeling, and since I moved 6 times from K-12, in my childhood it often was a completely new experience - new school, new teachers, new clothes, new friends (if I were lucky.)

But it's also because my birthday is in September, so it's the literal new year for me: a step up from 12 to 13, from 20 to 21, from 39 to 40. I like having my birthday now, because it feels the right time of year to celebrate.

Four years ago, nobody was in the mood to celebrate, least of all me. My birthday fell on the Friday after 9/11, and my brother suggested we go out to dinner, because, well, restaurants were open and why not? We had to have some kind of semblance of living again. That was the day we'd finally been able to tear ourselves away from the television and radio, and so while we knew the day had been declared a national day of mourning, we hadn't remembered that people were being invited to step out onto the street at dusk with a candle for a moment of silence. We drove to a restaurant in Williamsburg (because leaving our neighborhood was another way of reclaiming our freedom) and as we wound our way across the borough, started to pass people carrying candles. Because it was unexpected, it was eerie - but also strangely calming. And allowed for a stress-relieving moment of humor - all of this just for me? Do I have to blow all of the candles out?

I had a hard time when people began referring to the tragedy as "September 11th." Your birthday is one of the phrases you say most often in your life, after your name or where you live or what you do. "September 14th" meant something to me, something very special. It was part of my identity. I can't describe why, but I had an almost physical reaction to hearing the similar phrase used to signify something so horrible. That sounds incredibly selfish, doesn't it? But it's more symbolic of how much the events affected me, and how I was unable to keep them from contaminating me. I imagine it's what it must be like to be named Katrina right now.

Today was several new beginnings at our church, as it was both the first day for the interim minister, and the first day back in the large sanctuary after the smaller more casual summer services in the chapel. The new minister had wanted to introduce to us a new tradition, a water ritual, in which each person brought water from somewhere they'd been over the summer, water that held meaning for them. We were first told about it in June (in preparation for those summer beach trips) and so it was planned quite a while ago. Now I'm not sure if this is part of the tradition, (although the order of service gave credit to another UU minister for adapting the story) but the story that was told during the service was that of Piglet stuck in a flood. So what was to be a ceremony of renewal suddenly became so much more relevant, in a way nobody could have imagined or predicted or feared.

These pictures are not from a 9/11 memorial, but from a peace rally in a nearby park before the war.

I'm glad that today fell on a Sunday, that I was able to have that experience. It feels wrong for September 11 to pass without something significant. It feels weird to look down at the date stamp at the bottom of this screen and let it be just a date, like it used to be.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Thoughts, hopes, wishes

These days we are surrounded by sadness, reaching out to us from TV, radio, newspapers, internet, email. And in the middle of all of that another moment of sadness falls - the news that Derek, of one of my favorite podcasts, Skepticality, is seriously ill. His podcasting partner Swoopy recorded and posted a short message explaining what had happened, and even though my heart has cried out this week over and over for so many others, it dropped just a little bit more.

It's not news that internet relationships offer a strange sort of intimacy with people, despite the fact that you might never meet them or know what they really look like, or, sometimes, even learn their true names. Podcast relationships are the same - only it's their voices that reach you, that literally speak to you. Derek (with Swoopy) has been in my ears for an hour or so a week - probably for more time than I spend on the phone with my mother. Like the many other people flocking to the website to share their thoughts, I feel like he is a friend.

Thoughts. It's always been weird for me to be in a position where someone is ill or some tragedy has struck, and not to be able to say "you're in my prayers" because I don't pray, and it seems like the worst thing to be hypocritical over. (I don't even like to say "god bless you" when someone sneezes, but that's another story.) So I stumble over "thoughts" and "hopes" and "wishes," and have to believe the recipient of my message knows that my concern is as heartfelt as a more religious person.

On the Skepticality website, where people are posting their own thoughts and hopes and wishes for Derek's speedy recovery, it doesn't feel uncomfortable to skip the "p" word. It's Skepticality, the home of rational, scientific, critical, and yes, skeptical discussion. But there's no question that every one of those posters cares deeply about Derek and his family.

Thoughts, hopes, wishes - to Derek and Swoopy and Susan and all of their loved ones.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Go 3 blocks, make a left

Last night as I walked home from work, three different people stopped me to ask for directions. I was listening to my iPod, and each time had to pull the earphones from my ears, so it's not like I could have looked all that approachable. And there were a lot of other people on the street.

Maybe it's because I was carrying a plant home from my soon-to-be-ex office. Maybe I looked friendly.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005


I'm of two minds this week. I'm thrilled about my new job - I want to shop and buy new clothes and new shoes and call everyone I know and tell them how happy I am. And my heart aches when I think of all the people from New Orleans who suddenly have nothing - no jobs to go to, no homes, no clothes, nothing.

I visited New Orleans three times. The first was in college, for a sorority conference the summer before my senior year. We stayed in a large hotel and our time was heavily scheduled with meetings, meals, and organized touristy events. I remember a dinner on a paddleboat with jazz music. I also remember being surprised that so many of the girls, especially from the south, were the stereotypical bland sorority girl. In my college, our sorority chapter was filled with the smart girls, the not-perfectly-pretty girls, the nice girls. (We had other names on campus of course, none of which were that nice.) The southern chapters looked as if they were filled with pageant queens, girls with perfect rolled hair and pearls. (Granted, this was the early 80's, and in my preppy northeast private college girls wore pearls with Izod shirts and sweatshirts.) But the kicker was when a girl from somewhere in the midwest leaned over to me at lunch and nodded at the waiter who was taking our plates and whispered, "I've never seen a black person up close before."

My next visit was about a decade later, with my grandmother and cousin. I had my first iced coffee down in the French Quarter - and it opened my eyes to the wonder of cold coffee drinks! Even now, forced to be caffeine-free, I am weak at the thought of a decaf iced latte from Starbucks. The last time was to see a friend who was living there for a few years. We had a different kind of fun - the kind you get when you visit a city with someone who is familiar with it - although my strongest memories are just of being with him and his friends in their apartment.

I looked through my photos, and I don't really have very many of the city. I tend not to take very many touristy shots - I think I was forced to sit through too many "and this is me and Uncle Joe, in front of the Eiffel Tower again" pictures in my childhood. My goal has been to take interesting pictures of the people I'm traveling with, and let them be reminders of the trip.

My grandmother was a real video camera junkie - she spent most of our trip with the camera in front of her face, capturing everything for the future. It drove me crazy - I told her that she wasn't enjoying the city in the present, that she was preserving a memory she wasn't even having. Now I think, gee, Grandma has a video of our trip to New Orleans and I kinda want to see it.

Faces blurred to protect privacy. (Even the dude in the background I don't know.)

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Wandering Wall

I pass a construction site on my way to and from work every day (or at least I will for the next two weeks.) On the familiar blue painted wood that surrounds the deep pit, instead of the usual posters advertising clubs and music releases, etc., someone coordinated a series of painted murals. I don't know who did them - I came by each morning for a week or so and saw the progression of layers of paint, of section after section with very distinct approaches, but I never saw an artist. Maybe they were from area schools? I don't know. But they decorated my walk in a very unique and pleasurable way.

I never took a picture of the entire wall when it was completed, and now I won't be able to. Last week something happened that caused the workers to take down the panels and put them back up again in the WRONG ORDER. Though, it's pretty interesting this way, too - almost like one of those plastic puzzles with the sliding pieces that you rearrange to get the real picture.

Here's a closeup of one of the sections.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

I hate Amazon.

I boycotted Amazon for months, because I was annoyed at their packaging. I'd ordered a CD - just one - and it came in a box big enough to fit a pair of shoes. The box was too big to fit into the mail slot in my building, and it resulted in a comedy of errors at the post office that nearly did me in.

Anyway, I broke down last week and placed an order. It's just too convenient, you know? I still buy books at my cool local bookstore, but for DVDs and other stuff (including a camera battery much cheaper than elsewhere) Amazon is okay.

Yes, well here is the result. I don't think an explanation is necessary, but indulge me for a bit. See the two DVD boxes and the tiny little battery package? See how small a pile they make? Now imagine them wrapped in some protective bubble wrap - even the thick air-filled plastic pillow wrap Amazon uses. Do you think even then they'd fit in something the size of say, a shoe box? Yeah, me, too.

Not the folks in Amazon shipping. This is the size box they chose. Do these people get kickbacks from the cardboard industry? I came into my apartment and saw the box and walked past it, thinking this can't be for me, this is clearly a delivery from Amazon for someone who bought a dozen hardcover books and a stack of CDs. This can't be my little order.

The boycott is back on.

I am so proud of myself.

I fixed my computer finally, ALL BY MYSELF. Really! First, let me clarify that I have been absolutely crazed trying to figure this out. I kept trying every possible trouble-shooting scenario I ever learned or was prompted to do by tech support, even when I didn't know what they were supposed to achieve. I did a system restore, reversed it, did another. I unplugged and replaced all my connections to the router, modem, etc. I looked at every single internet/network setting on my computer - pinged and net viewed along the way, even though I'm not sure what they showed me.

And, the verdict was... damn Internet Security. On a fluke, I just turned it off and EVERYTHING is working again. Internet browser, email, iTunes Music Store... Okay, I didn't LEAVE it off, I changed some of the settings and now all seems okay.

You don't know how relieved I am.

The cable company is still coming to look at the modem. It's working perfectly, of course, but last Saturday I had an appointment and cancelled it because it was working, and then it stopped. Of course. So I'm sticking it out this time. A nice friendly automated voice called me last night to tell me that they'd recently fixed a problem in my area, so if my service was back to normal, I could conceivably cancel my appointment. I chose not to - I'd rather have someone come here and verify that my problem isn't related to something else.

Long ago I promised this blog would NOT be all about my cable modem woes. Oops.

Friday, September 02, 2005


Last night I had major computer problems, cable modem problems, cable tv problems... all sort of at the same time. Not sure if they are all related (the cable modem is okay right now, evidenced by the laptop I'm using which is connected to it via wireless router - but the desktop computer can't access the internet or email at all.) I kept waking up and thinking of ways to fix them and not being able to fall asleep again.

This morning I was overtired and became easily overwhelmed by the tv news coverage of the hurricane. I stopped my usual dressing routine to stare and cry. I felt like a basket case all day - a co-worker and I tried to talk about it, but I kept tearing up. We got wind of a story of the unique way a client service team is reaching out to clients down south, and I started to bawl.

But I have to stop being so self-absorbed, it's not about me. I can cry myself to sleep in my comfy bed next to my private bathroom, half-full refrigerator, running water, air conditioner, working telephone... I don't have cable tv or reliable internet access - what a baby.

Okay, what really pisses me off are all the conservative bloggers who are accusing the "bleeding heart liberals" of making this political and ignoring the human suffering by taking advantage of the opportunity to bash the government. Well, now that Bush has stated that he thinks the government is failing the people in this crisis, maybe they'll just shut up already. It's not just a bunch of people pointing fingers, it's the fucking mayor of New Orleans having to ask the feds to "get their asses" down there. It's not about blame, it's about inaction.

I don't know how anyone isn't be moved by that guy's words. Even the stone-hearted Republicans.

Thursday, September 01, 2005


I just wanted to say that I'm not saying anything about the hurricane because I don't know what I could say that isn't being said. It's not that it's not on my mind.
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