Saturday, March 31, 2007

Spring, as much as I can make it

Sunny but chilly days do nothing to help the feeling that spring will never be here. I tempted fate in a major way by packing away my winter clothes and taking out my spring/summer ones, but I was so tired of squeezing thick sweaters and woolens into my closet. It's a seasonal ritual I love, as it forces me to organize and purge (two things I enjoy doing immensely.) I took two shopping bags to the thrift store after. Another joyous errand.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

We rule.

I forgot another favorite podcast. Grammar Girl is great at explaining correct grammar, without making you feel stupid or illiterate. And grammar geeks rule!

My podcast addiction

Another morning after "American Idol" - will a report air on all the non-AI-airing network morning shows again? I won't know, as this isn't a gym day, so no channel-surfing morning for me. (Hey, it helps make the time go fast on the cardio machines. I have standards: no Fox.) Seriously, the damn show has gotten so entrenched in everything, a mention of last week's show appeared on two different podcasts I listened to last week, both of whom referenced "voting for Sanjaya" without explanation, as if everyone knows who Sanjaya is and what voting for him entails. (You have no discernible taste!) And these were not really the podcasts you'd expect to be AI-centric: "Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me" (the NPR news quiz) and "The Official Lost Podcast" (in a regular interview with the show's producers Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse. I believe it was the pant-less Damon who made the Sanjaya joke.)

My podcast listening has evolved as the nature of podcasts have. At first I was listening to all the home-baked, recorded-in-the-basement, comedy ramblings, who were the original trailblazers of the medium. But I lost interest in some of them - how long can you hear the same "shocking" humor and tired jokes? Some of them, also, have ended, some before their time, some sadly long past. I still listen to "The Bitterest Pill," with the always refreshing Dan Klass, and "Air Ferg" with the talented parody-song and skit writer Ferg and his sidekick and wife (although I can do with less emphasis on the fifth grade toilet humor.)

But my favorites are the NPR podcasts. "This American Life" has now jumped on the free audio download bandwagon, joining the aforementioned "Wait Wait" and Elvis Mitchell's "The Treatment" as my top picks. There are many more, too - including a new discovery, called simply "NPR Movies," which brings together all the movie-related segments of the week's NPR programs, from reviews to interviews to pop culture segments. Oh, and don't forget Harry Shearer's "Le Show!"

You can see that my iPod stays filled with enough to carry me through several gym visits and many daily commutes. And why a week without a home computer to download and sync new podcasts causes severe withdrawal!

"This American Life" is now on Showtime, as well. I've only seen the first episode, which was the pilot, and used two stories that had already aired on the radio. It was odd to suddenly see something play out that you'd only heard before. The shows are so compelling to listen to, that the added visuals weren't necessary, although on a familiar story, still somewhat interesting. I expect it will be different when the episodes air brand new stories, without the old baggage. But Ira Glass? Not at all what he is supposed to look like. I'm waiting for the reveal that the guy you see on the screen (who is, by the way, sitting at a desk in a suit and tie, outside in a field) is merely an actor hired to play the host.

Okay, 7:00 am, sitting in my bedroom before jumping in the shower, and the Today Show pops on, and yeah, Sanjaya is in the opening "Top Stories" segment. Even before Tony Snow's cancer story. We live in a very bizarre country.

Tony Snow was a recent (and funny!) guest on "Wait, Wait" - see how everything I write neatly wraps itself up?

After I posted about the hot "Top Chef," I received several hits from people searching that phrase. You think my invoking the faux-hawked American Idol wannabe is not strategy?

Monday, March 26, 2007


No, I'm not going to write about "Zodiac" yet, either.

I did, however, go for a walk yesterday past an apartment complex that has had a couple of reasonably-priced coop apartments advertised over the past few months. The same apartments, apparently, which begs the question: why are they not selling? One even dropped its listed price on the website. There have been periodic open houses, which I always forget to go to, and so on this weekend, when I was determined to do so, there wasn't one scheduled. Before I contact the realtor, though, I wanted to get a sense of where the buildings are, as they are off my radar a bit, on the fringe of the neighborhood.

I'm not sure how I feel about them, in truth. Tall high rises, their own little enclave, really, but not near anything, not "in" the neighborhood as I am, squarely, now. A little isolated.

Verdict: still not sure. Guess I'll call go ahead and call the realtor. Doesn't hurt to at least establish a connection with one, let her know what I'm in the market for, right?

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Hot in the kitchen

Yesterday, in front of me in line at the box office at the movie theater, was a guy who looked annoyingly familiar - annoying in that "why-can't-I-place-him" way. Was he someone I used to work with, or someone who used to wait on me in a favorite restaurant, or maybe even somebody famous? This wasn't my neighborhood theater, so the options were limitless (and yet, less likely to be someone I'd just gotten used to seeing around the neighborhood, like the guy who always sits in the window at Starbucks with his laptop. Put the Starbucks guy somewhere else entirely, and I'd have much the same head-scratching reaction.) The only thing I was sure about was that he used to have longer hair.

And then, after he and his friend bought their tickets and escaped inside the theater before me, I realized it was Sam from the past season of "Top Chef." The one who was voted one of the sexiest chefs in New York City.* And how is he in person, you ask? Scowling, but still striking-looking.
* So says his bio on Who actually votes on something like that? Do they do sexiest cab drivers and sexiest coffee baristas and sexiest letter carriers also? Ah, apparently, the bestower of such titles is Zink magazine. Never heard of it, nor can you search its articles online.

Now I'm so exhausted from all this auxiliary research that I can't be bothered to talk about the movie I saw. (We saw. Sam and I. And his (male) friend.)

Speaking of "who-is-that-guy" conundrums, I keep passing a guy on my street who is really good-looking and oddly familiar. Finally it dawned on me - he is the host at the sushi restaurant I go to, but used to have long lanky scraggly hair. You know (or should) how I dislike long hair on men. Here is a perfect example - this guy gets a really sharp haircut (short but stylish) and suddenly he's head-turningly hot. I'm not the only one staring at him as he walks by.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Turn the channel

I find it really odd that something that is considered newsworthy on every network's morning news show is what happened on one of their competitor network's previous night's reality show. Yesterday morning, while channel surfing at the gym, I saw NBC and ABC feature bits about Fox's "American Idol" performances the night before. Have they just given up on trying to keep viewers on their own networks? Or is this supposed to assure the viewers that they bring us "real" "news," not just self-serving promotional-lite crap? Oh, wait, they haven't stopped doing that.

I am not an "American Idol" fan, although I'll have it on in the background while I work on my computer or clean or something (if nothing else is on) because I don't mind the music. (Usually. Sometimes it's pretty hard to listen to, and I don't mean the early purposely-bad auditions, which I never watch, but the final rounds, where the performers are ostensibly talented, but there are always a handful who aren't.) I've never voted for a contestant. But then again, I've never bought a lottery ticket, either. I know, I'm a freak.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Odds and ends.

This morning I stepped onto a subway train, and right on top of a folded $20 bill. I stooped to pick it up and then said stupidly, "Anybody drop a twenty?" And nobody answered. So I held it in my hand until I got off (two stops, about 6 minutes) and then slipped it into my pocket. A good way to start the day, although I did feel as if I were an unsuspecting participant in some kind of ethics experiment - how many people will pocket the $20 without a word, how many will aggressively seek an owner, how many will quietly ask the person closest and then feel satisfied they've researched enough to keep the money guilt free. Okay, I was the last.

* * *

I switched from my regular toilet tank cleansing tablet to the blue one. I'm not sure how I feel about blue toilet water. Even though I think it must be fairly common, I don't think I know anyone that has it. It's still a surprise when I glance into the bowl and see blue.

* * *

Another work dinner. This is what kills my best-laid plans for eating well: free, good food at a restaurant I've always wanted to try.

* * *

I got my wish - the time change has enabled me to sleep past 4:30. This weekend I made it to 7 am and 8 am. The downside is that the alarm now has to wake me up, and 5:30 (on gym days) isn't as easy as it was. I'll never be happy, right?

Gray matters.

No, a weekend without a movie. It's okay; I'll survive. In fact, it was a very productive weekend, taking care of a number of overdue chores (cleaning the fish tank!) and getting close to finishing a short story that's due to my writing group on Tuesday.

I even colored my hair. I hate coloring my hair, and procrastinate so long that my gray is glaringly obvious. My hair grows fast, too, which necessitates more frequent touch-ups than I can deal with. My biggest problem is that I can't help but get drops of hair color all over everything, no matter how careful I think I'm being. The bathroom sink, the shower curtain, the front of the sink's cabinet (which sports a long brown drip stain from last year I can't get rid of), the hallway floor (apparently hair dye would make a good wood floor stain, as one large splotch has not faded in four years), my neck, my arms, the toilet seat. Oh, and last night I dropped some on the bathroom floor and didn't notice until I'd stepped in it and proceeded to track dye throughout the apartment. (Part of the challenge is that this particular dye is a yellowish clear when first mixed, so nearly invisible, turning darker brown as it sets.)

I hate doing it myself, but professional hair coloring has been problematic, too. The color is invariably wrong, which grates a lot more when it's $100 expense vs. a $10 box from the drug store. And with salon hair color, my roots grow in along a very distinct sharp line, as opposed to the boxed color, which fades enough that the roots seem to blend in more with the overall gradual gray.

How much longer will I go through this, before giving up and letting myself go totally gray?

Sunday, March 18, 2007


No movie yet this weekend! I have to work on a short story revision, and I procrastinated most of yesterday so need to buckle down today. I could reward myself, if I work hard enough, with a break at the theater across the street - but my choices are "The Lives of Others" (saw it),"300" (are you kidding me?), "Volver" (saw it), "Pan's Labyrinth" (saw it), "Children of Men" (saw it), "Last King of Scotland" (somehow, can't muster up much enthusiasm for it) and "I Think I Love My Wife." So I really might be tempted to see a Chris Rock movie.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

St. Who-now?

Interesting how all bars in the neighborhood are suddenly Irish when St. Patrick's Day rolls around. Strange to pass clumps of smokers on the sidewalks in the early afternoon. It looks almost like the buildings were evacuated, but then you realize, no, these are just people who are out drinking already. Some people at work asked me what I was doing for the holiday, and I may have given the "whuh-huh?" reply of puzzlement. Seriously, is there a manner of celebration that doesn't include drinking or watching a parade? Neither of which holds much interest to me. Oh, yes, there's corned beef, but I don't eat red meat. Not much of a holiday, is it?

I think the parade is pathetic. Year after year they deny gays the right to march "under their own banner." (As they say, because nobody is naive enough to think there are no gays among the bagpipe players, the firemen, etc. ) And the fact that they get away with it, that the parade continues to get all the official permits and associated benefits my taxes help pay for, is astonishing. If the Thanksgiving Day Parade announced that no christian marching bands could march under their own banner, what do you think would happen? I think I've just worked in corporate America too long, where discrimination is illegal and every effort is made to avoid any suggestion of exclusion. We certainly wouldn't have a parade to celebrate that exclusivity. Whoo-hoo! Look at us! Gay-free! Have a beer.

The only other association I have with St. Patrick's Day is a guy I used to date. We went to the parade once (before the ban on gays? or before I became aware of it? or just before I became so annoyingly self-righteous?) and followed it by excessive drinking. We were young, it was fun. We'd started seeing each other when he was transplanted from his home city to mine for a year-long job transfer, and he and his at-home girlfriend agreed to "see other people" while he was away. I was "other people" until his assignment ended and he moved back to his home and to her. They wound up getting married and having several children, but for most of the years that followed our St. Patrick's Day together, he'd send me a card fondly recalling "our holiday." In later years, emails. Once, a couple of years ago, we met for a drink, and wouldn't you know it? He professed to being miserable and "only staying together for the children" and expressed a desire to see me again.

I'm not made of stone, kids, and if there had been any of the old attraction between us, I might have responded differently - not that I'd have jumped into bed with him, but it might have been tempting to spend time with him. But, no, seriously, all I could think was how ridiculous the whole "for the children" excuse is. I'm a child of divorce, you know. If my parents had stayed together, with all their turmoil, I can't imagine how screwed up I'd be. But don't let me get on a tangent here, the point is if he's miserable in his marriage, he should get out, not look to someone else (me!) to make it more palatable for him to suffer through. Nope. Not going to happen.

I did hear from him after that, the usual card or email in mid March. Last year another email came with another hint to get together again, which I ignored. Nothing this year (so far) which is a relief.

I guess I should've said at the start of this post that I do have Irish ancestry. I'm a true European-American mutt, descended from immigrants from at least a dozen different European countries. Ireland is one of the more dominant. One of my standard replies to the "What are you doing for St. Patrick's Day?" query is ignoring it, as my ancestors were Irish Protestants not Catholics. (Which is true - the Catholicism in my background is all from the Italians.) When I was younger I was told that I should wear orange instead of green to show my true heritage. I don't know if that's true, and never had so much curiosity about it to bother looking into it.

I think I'll just spend the day watching the snow melt.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Feeling fishy

To clarify, two hours of loading software and documents doesn't complete everything. The major stuff, yes, but not all. I was up until 1:00 am because I couldn't stop. Today is supposed to be a gym day, so I was up at 5:30 as needed, but am not sure if I can pull it off.

I woke up at 4:00 and 4:30 to intense waves of nausea. Managed not to be sick (refused to get out of bed to get sick, in that half-asleep attempt to will myself not to) and then dozed off again. Hopefully it wasn't the seafood I had last night - a client event at the Tribeca Grill. Now that would be an event for the history books; 57 clients struck down by food poisoning.

Or, I am just overtired.

So happy to have my computer back, again, although feeling very tentative about having it for good. Like it's on loan to me, destined to fail again.

Wow, today a high of 67 is expected - tomorrow it's only supposed to hit 34. And I wanted to put away all of my heavy sweaters and move on, wardrobe-wise!

Last night was really nice. I walked from the office to the event (about 15 minutes.) I passed a little playground that was so swamped with parked strollers it looked like bumper to bumper traffic. So many that I stopped and stared for several minutes, wondering if my cell phone camera could capture the sight sufficiently. (Decided no.)

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Getting back on track

Wow, Gateway is fast. I sent my computer in Saturday, and it arrived at the service center on Monday morning. It's Wednesday and I came home from work and it was here. Which means it shipped on Tuesday. They told me that it would be 5-7 business days, plus shipping.

Now of course, I have spent two hours re-installing software. Again. This is the most annoying part, but at least I have practice, having done it just a month or so ago.


It's getting warmer, but I'm not feeling it. I think it's the early time change: we're experiencing daylight savings time disorientation, but without the usual warmer weather that comes with it. Everything is slightly off. That extra hour of daylight in the evening isn't as enjoyable at 40 degrees as it is at 60.

Today we're promised a high of 69 degrees, but then it will drop back into the low forties for the weekend. I doubt I'll get outside at all today, although I do have to leave for a client event at about 4:30. It will be nice outside my cab's window.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Musing & Music.

I have a meeting so am "hoteling" in our midtown office today. It's a great setup - you call and reserve a spot and are guaranteed a desk/phone/computer hookup for the day. Plus they give you (light) administrative support and complimentary fruit in the pantry. (Like a real hotel.) The weird thing is that I used to work in this very same building, back in 2002-3, for a different company. On a slightly lower floor, but right now I am near the very same windows I used to sit near, gazing at an only slightly altered view that I used to stare at then. And the security guards recognize me, and I know where to go for lunch and a coffee.

And sheet music. My music collection consists of everything I had when I took piano lessons in the early and mid 70's (lots of Barry Manilow) and then a pile of stuff from the years I worked here, just a block from Colony. Whenever I'm in the neighborhood I like to pick something else up.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Good morning.

Last night the clocks jumped ahead an hour, in the earliest grasp at daylight savings time in history. For most, this means a loss of an hour's sleep. For me, it means a loss of an hour lying in bed wishing I were asleep, or an hour sitting here at my computer waiting for the gym to open so I can leave my apartment.

Yup, my body clock, that so gleefully pulls me out of bed at 4:30-5 every morning, let me slumber until nearly 7 today (6 am according to the clocks I haven't yet set.) Yay!

Saturday, March 10, 2007

The Namesake

Today I saw "The Namesake," a film based on the novel by Jhumpa Lahiri, a novel which I liked a lot. That right there is often the recipe for disaster (see "Everything is Illuminated") and in this case, I fear it might be true again. Not to get too far ahead of myself here, but I wonder if I'd have had a different experience with the film if I'd never read the book. No way of knowing, of course.

The novel is structured as long glimpses of the lives of an Indian family in the U.S., with each section jumping forward in time from the preceding. It works, mainly because you then settle in for a relatively long spell in that particular time, with that particular point of view. (The novel swings from father to mother to child.) The film is very true to this structure, in that it slips forward with chunks of time, usually without warning, but the result on the screen is that you are running too fast without really getting too much out of any one of them. Not to say there aren't wonderful moments; on the contrary, the film pauses at certain times to let you take in the beauty of your surroundings, in simple things like doorknobs and airport murals and the stockinged thigh of a young woman. But I kept feeling the noticeable absence of the character depth I'd gotten in the novel.

So I would say I liked the movie, and would recommend it (although maybe just to get an opinion of someone who hasn't read the book) but I didn't out and out love it. There are some truly moving moments, some good acting, and some beautiful scenery. (The Taj Mahal.) The screening I went to, 3:00 on a warm Saturday, was sold out, but I think that's because it hasn't opened wide yet.

This week we had a presentation by one of the executives who oversees our Indian office (yes, like many, our corporation has expanded into India.) He talked a lot about the differences in culture, in an effort to aid us in working more productively with them. He shared stories of his own visits there, as well as some photos. (The Taj Mahal!) I also just finished reading "The Inheritance of Loss," by Kiran Desai, a novel set in India during the 1980's. All of these forces combined to propel me into an Indian restaurant tonight for takeout. I succumbed, gamely ignoring my calorie count for today, and I don't regret it.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Lock me, please.

I'm developing an OCD-like obsession about my gym locker. After I close my locker and get ready to leave the gym, I find myself walking back to make sure the lock is locked. Sometimes more than once. The other morning I closed the lock, spun around the dial, and told myself that I would definitely remember that I locked it this time, so no need to come back. And then finished buttoning my coat, picked up my bag, walked a few steps, and was floored by the overwhelming need to go back and spin the lock again, just to make sure. It was a physical need, despite my brain telling me that it wasn't necessary. So now I'm acutely aware of it every morning, and so I know to fight the urge, but it's still there.

Waiting for a cold.

The other night I kept waking up, unable to swallow from the sharp pain of swollen glands. I haven't yet been sick this winter, but anticipated the worst and started taking cold medicine. Now the sore throat is gone, no more symptoms. Maybe it's lying in wait.

Many of my co-workers swear by Airborne. I've always had an issue with their marketing campaign - "Created by a school teacher." First of all, I hate the phrase "school teacher." Who says that, outside of "Little House on the Prairie?" Don't we just call them "teachers" now? But more important, I don't see why I should be impressed that a teacher (of second grade, to boot) was the mastermind behind this. Yeah, I get the whole "teacher is exposed to so many germs" angle, but wouldn't you rather have something created by a bio pharmaceutical professional?

Most of my co-workers, the Airborne devotees, have been plagued by cold after cold this winter. It's March and I have yet to succumb.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

A hard day's week.

The shipping box/return authorization from Gateway came last night, but I can't send off my computer because I do not have any time to get to a DHL drop off point. I am going in early today for a client event and have too much to carry (including my work notebook computer) to bring the box along, especially as I don't know if I'll have a chance to hunt down a DHL location during the day. Gateway was extremely quick in sending me the box, but this is what slows me down: a busy work schedule that leaves no room for personal daytime-only errands.

This morning's insomnia brought to you by the Beatles and "Hard Day's Night." (Showtime Family, 4:45 - 6:15 am.)

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Afternoon tea.

I went with two out of town colleagues to visit the Pierre Hotel, where we are hosting a client event this spring. Before they left for the airport we decided to have a drink, and were directed to the hotel's rotunda, where afternoon tea was being served. Very interesting to see who was there having full high tea: an elderly woman with a fur coat draped over the empty chair across from her, a middle-aged single man in a suit reading a book, a retired couple giving off a touristy vibe. We passed on tea to have a glass of champagne - although they brought us a complimentary plate of finger sandwiches. I think it's the kind of place that would be fun to take an out of town guest - my mother or better yet, my grandmother, who is more often impressed with that type of thing - although I'd have to hide the menu from them as they would balk at the prices (nearly $50 for tea and sandwich/cakes.)

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

It grows on you

I just saw one of the funniest lines in a Seinfeld episode. It wasn't as funny when it originally aired, but has completely changed since, oh, about 1994. Elaine is dating a guy named Joel Rifkin, the same name as the serial killer who was all over the news in 1993. (Does anyone now remember who he is?) One of the alternative names that Elaine suggests for Joel is "O. J." because of course in 1993 that was a name that held absolutely none of the negative connotations that Joel Rifkin (a killer!) did.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Avenue Montaigne

This weekend I saw "Avenue Montaigne," a French comedy (called "Fauteuils d'orchestre" in France.) Three people, a tv soap star, a concert pianist, and a wealthy art collector, all are preparing for significant events (a play opening, a concert opening, an art auction.) The theater, concert hall, and art gallery are all near a cafe where a young woman, newly arrived in Paris, works. Their lives intersect and overlap, leading up to the big night when the play, concert, auction will commence. It's light and fun, fairly sentimental, but enjoyable. And yet a little bit forgettable.

It's not often that I see foreign comedies, but I enjoy them when I do. The slight difference in sensibility adds something to the humor, to the enjoyment for me. I need to find more.

Hello, Netflix.

I can't win.

This morning there was a train in the station when I started down the stairs to the platform, but throngs of people coming up from the train blocked my descent, and of course, I got to the doors just as they closed. Okay. I waited, finally another train came. Then, on the other end of the trip, I exited to find two packed up escalators and one near-empty stairway. I headed for the stairway, only to be stopped by a uniformed MTA worker who shouted that it was reserved for "Down only" during rush hour. "But there's no one on it!" I pointed out, but she said, "No, there are people. Those are people." All four individuals casually strolling down the long flight of steps must have been proud.

I generally choose stairs over escalators anyway (in the subways they are generally right next to each other) because of the added exercise, but this was super frustrating. Where was the MTA lady when I was blocked from getting to my train in the morning? Sigh.

Sunday, March 04, 2007


Yesterday I was clothes shopping and had a flashback to "hanger rot." When I worked in retail, that's what we called the gray-black dirt that lined your index fingers after you'd spent time moving hangers full of clothing from one display rack to another.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Tech curse continues

Would it surprise you to learn that my computer died last night? You know, the very same one that only recently returned from Gateway's repair center? Well, the monitor won't come on. The computer starts up, makes its obligatory humming and whirring sounds, culminates in the friendly welcome Windows music, all with a black screen.

Luckily, tech support re-activated my warranty to cover the repair, so I can ship it back and they'll fix it, even if it's not related to what they fixed before. Unluckily, I spent 90 minutes on the phone last night, the majority of that on hold at various times, while it was ironed out. It wasn't a toll-free call and I was on my home phone.

At one point the technician put me on hold for about 35 minutes. (He later told me he was on hold with corporate getting approval for the warranty extension.) I couldn't hang up because I knew if I dialed again, I'd get someone who would have no idea of what the other guy said and I'd lose ground. I lay in bed with the phone on speaker, listening to the hold music (actually a decent selection of tunes) and I dozed off. Seriously, I fell asleep for a few minutes.

This morning I went to the gym and then walked over the bridge and to my office, and picked up my work notebook to bring home for the rest of the weekend. I stopped at J&R and looked at the selection of new notebooks, but there is still nothing jumping out at me. Many are just too big. My Gateway is a 14.1" widescreen and I love it. My work IBM is a 14" Thinkpad. J&R has refurbished Thinkpads for only $400-$500, but I can't bear to have an identical computer at home as at work. Is that weird? I just would like to have some work/life separation.

Last night TV options were pitifully bad and I wasn't in the mood for a DVD so decided I'd spend the evening playing the Sims and listening to music or NPR. That's when I found out my computer was on the fritz. I can't load the Sims onto my work computer, so guess that's not happening this weekend.
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