Monday, March 31, 2003

Announcement: M!'s sexuality is not in question. Thank you.

I went to Ikea tonight with M3 and M!. Ikea, while fun, is always sort of a mind-boggling experience. It starts out as a racous good time in the living room area, where you bounce on and off the sofas and sit authoritatively in all the chairs, saying "Make it so, Number One," and "Phyllis, fax these papers over to Smith & Wesson for a signature." Then you move on to the bedroom area, where I always feel a little squidgy about actually lying on the beds, so I do the two-handed bend-'n'-bounce, which proves nothing and makes me look like an idiot in the process. Then it's on through kitchens, where your initial enthusiasm has faded to polite quasi-interest, equivalent to a nod-and-smile conversation you have when you meet your dentist in the grocery store. Escaping the limbo of pseudopine countertops, you head down the stairs into kitchen accesories, where you become lost in a miasma of ostensibly useful utinsils before stumbling blindly through children's furniture and rugs, wishing desperately that there were a couch, a chair, even that stupid wicker ottoman anywhere in sight. By the time you reach lamps you're sure that you'll be lost in Ikea forever, and despite the plethora of light, you cannot see your way out of this mess, and indeed make several wrong turns until you FINALLY CRAWL INTO THE WAREHOUSE where you can actually see the Mecca that is the check-out lanes, where you collapse, exhausted, and somebody has to throw a soda from the food stand in your face to revive you.

Add to this one best friend with a constant excess of energy and difficulty making decisions, plus one excessively sarcastic son of an interior designer, shake and strain over ice into a martini glass, emphasis on the strain. Chase with a shot of Target. Good times for everybody.

Sunday, March 30, 2003

The five o'clock shadow is going to be a weird contrast with all that taffeta

An actual IM conversation M! and I had tonight when I was trying to hold onto my sanity in the face of crippling thesis block. Edited so the responses follow in the right order, but no words changed.

M!: Whatever. He [Ahmad Rashad] kisses Michael Jordan's ass every time I see him, so I can't be bothered.
E: Can't be bothered? You would have been fabulous as a 19th century society matron.
M!: I could say, "Well I never!" with impunity.
E: Hahaha.
E: Snap your fan open and closed.
E: The mental picture is just too priceless for words.
M!: And if something is particularly offensive, like poor table manners or speaking familiarly with the help, I could put the back of my hand on my forehead and ask my nephew Phillip to take me home.
E: Where you can have a polite fainting spell and your major domo will bring smelling salts to wave under your nose. Then you can take off your corset and spend the rest of the day in bed.
M!: I would rule as a 19th c. society matron.
E: Yeah you would. Your hockey playing would probably suffer, though.
M!: Because that is definitely not appropriate behavior for someone in my social station.
E: No, plus you can't breathe deeply enough to skate when you're wearing a corset and petticoats.
M!: That's okay.
M!: The tea/gossip parties would more than make up for it.
E: I suppose. If you like tea.
M!: Eh; it's okay.
M!: I like gossip more.
E: I'm a big fan of gossip.
E: How do you feel about scones?
M!: It depends.
M!: The scones I had in Bath were awesome.
E: Mmm, scones. I like lemon ones.
E: Currants are pretty iffy, though.
M!: Totally.
E: Cranberries are a good substitute.
M!: The ones we had in Bath were plain, but they had a sweetness to them, plus with the clotted cream, they were fantastic
E: Clotted cream is like the best thing ever.
M!: Yeah it is.
E: Ooo, another good thing about being a society matron; you can be really mean and everybody kind of expects it.
M!: Exactly.
M!: And I could henpeck my husband.
M!: Which is pretty solid.
E: Who would be a girly-man, anyway.
M!: Exactly.
E: Yeah. Although you would have to spend all your time with your sisters, mother, and mother-in-law.
M!: Would I be able to push them around too?
E: Depends. If they were single, for sure.
E: Mother-in-law might be kind of scary.
M!: True, but she'd be old and have the consumption or something.
E: Yeah, she's probably not long for this world. And I bet she would have her finger on the pulse of the good gossip.
M!: True dat.
E: Yeah, we need to go back to the days of society matrons.
M!: I think that would be great.
M!: I would just hope that some precocious niece wouldn't come to stay with me, and melt the hearts of the town, including mine.
E: No, your heart is too hard. Or at least your face is too closed for anyone to tell. You are above such things.
M!: I don't know; Pollyanna has voodoo powers or something.
E: You have 20,000£ a year! What do you care! Send her to finishing school on the continent.
M!: There you go.
E: Uppity child.
M!: She doesn't have too damn much respect for her place, that's for sure.
E: You told your sister not to marry that army lieutenant, and now she's got nine brats that she can't take care of, and this one's getting all uppity? It's beyond the pale, indeed.
M!: Not hungry for supper?! Well, I never!
M!: Yeah.
M!: That would be great.

M2 (on being told the conversation topic): Are we all the way sure on M!'s sexual orientation?

Saturday, March 29, 2003

$63 for the kids, right on.

Bowl for Kids' Sake was this afternoon, and it was highly enjoyable for many reasons, not the least of which is my love of the red-and-blue bowling shoes. I bowled a 126, which is close to my lifetime high (shut up). Best of all? I beat M!, who is about thirteen gajillion times more athletic than I am. Totally worth being ordered to "shut yer piehole" for the rest of my life. And hey, free T-shirt. All right.

Friday, March 28, 2003

Note to self: demand tester fee from Tex

I ran into Tex on the way back from class today and he asked me to sit in on a meeting he was having with a professor. He's is being commissioned to design a website for the professor.

I don't know why he wanted me to come—maybe because I'm more or less his unofficial beta tester—, but I know (and love, madly) the professor, so I agreed. This was a mistake. While the situation wasn't uncomfortable, it was pretty clear that I had no reason to be there, so I sort of sat around and listened with one ear while I tried to translate the professor's book titles. Basically I realized three things:

  1. There's no way my German is ready for 10 months in Austria.

  2. You have to read some weird-ass stuff when you're a professor.

  3. Dr. Henze is the cutest man alive. Bar none.

You may not be impressed, but that's more than I sometimes get out of our weekly meetings at work. Good enough.

Thursday, March 27, 2003

Ridiculous with the ahead-thinking

Okay, so I've known about this Austria thing for about 30 hours now, and already I'm making with the absurd plans—shopping for a laptop, checking airline prices, compiling lists of things I'll need to take and things I have to do before I leave.

I don't leave for almost six months! Planning ahead is one thing, but this is insane. Or it's malignant senioritis. Whatever. I must be stopped.

Wednesday, March 26, 2003

Who's the big winner? I'm the big winner!

Woohoo! Today was the best mail day EVER. I got birthday money in the mail from M4 and Sr. Birdman, and G&GK (thanks!) and...I found out that I'm going to Austria next year!

Yes, the Austrian Ministry of Education and the Fulbright Commission came through and awarded me a teaching assistantship for next year. I will leave for Austria sometime in late September and be there until June at least, and you are all invited to visit me. (Unless I don't like you, and if that's true, why are you reading this?) I'll find out my specific posting late next month. If you want more info about the program (and why wouldn't you?), go here.

As for TFA...yeah, I just don't see that happening. I'd be doing pretty much the same thing as I will be in Austria, except more surly and less I'm-in-Europe-y.

Tuesday, March 25, 2003

TFA interview vs. sharp stick in the eye: pick 'em.

Well, that's done, at least. It went fine, no flaming death spirals (sorry to those of you who were hoping). The interviewer was kind of a jerk, but I don't think it was personal. I'll know April 18 if I got in, so stay tuned!
Complex sentences: not at all boring, thank you.

Big interview in eight hours, here, people. Keep me in mind today, even if it's just to wish for me to perform a giant explosive death-spiral-crash-and-burn of a sample lesson.

If I'm gonna fail, I'd rather fail big. At least that way I'll get some blog material out of it.

Sunday, March 23, 2003

In any difference of opinion, pants always beats no pants

E2 called tonight to wish me happy birthday, which impressed me. We talked for half an hour, largely about sports—football, basketball, and baseball—, but also about my sisters and my parents and grandparents.

As I've said and as you've probably noticed, I talk about my family ALL THE FREAKIN' TIME. They make me laugh. Of course, it means I have to end most of my stories with random surprise endings, "And then I found $5," to provide enough interest for my friends. That's why I like talking to my brother. He laughs when I tell the Fat Bird story, even though he was there. He knows that my grandparents don't get along, so he can ask the right questions to set up jokes. Plus, because he's the closest to my age, I don't have to be quite as circumspect with him as I would with my parents or sisters. And teasing him about his flavor-of-the-month is always hilarious, to boot. Our phone conversations are a good time and made for a good birthday present.

Oddly, we only talk about once every couple of months. So, new (birth)year resolution: call my brother more.

And then I stabbed him.
At least the Tracker has never called me fat or played mind games or worn socks with sandals, unlike some boys I could mention

I'm starting to think that cars are like heroines in romance novels: there's only one person who is truly destined to love them.

I say this for two reasons. One, I had to drive a friend's car home from a party tonight, and it was just a weird experience. While her car is cute and fun to drive, I felt very uncomfortable the entire time, like the car was disgruntled that its rightful driver was missing. It defied me by refusing to unlock the doors on the first try and by moving the seat adjustment lever at least three times. It was making me nervous on purpose, I just know it.

The other reason I think cars only have one true driver is because I've watched—on the rare, rare occasions when I've been able to give up control for more than two seconds in a row—people try to drive my car, and it's the same thing. Not only does it make my car upset (I swear it sometimes cries little washer-fluid tears), it makes me feel betrayed. My car is driving around with other people! Other people that don't know it like I do, that don't know how to lock the passenger door in the way that it like and don't know how to make the car purr when it accelerates. Come back to me, my little auto!

Yeah, I just reread that last paragraph, and I think I need to start walking more places, maybe get a bike. I'm too young to make this sort of commitment.

Wednesday, March 19, 2003

Can you say "rally monkey"?

M! and I were discussing this last night: what's up with people who don't like watching sports?

Because the thing is this: a ridiculously high percentage of people in the world actually do like sports, and one of the fastest ways to break the ice with somebody is to talk about it. Sports are neutral enough that nobody gets too seriously offended by differing opinions (British football hooligans aside), but interesting enough that your natural personality can shine through. A Chicago Bear ate your mother? Fine, watch luge instead. Just pick something.

As you all should know by now, I'm pretty much in love with baseball. This doesn't mean I can give you a year-by-year breakdown of Ozzie Smith's batting and fielding percentages as compared to the Cardinals' post-season record, but I can hold an intelligent conversation about whether a sacrifice bunt by the catcher is appropriate with one out and a man on first. I can make fun of chubby, midget infielders named Bubbs. I can talk about how much I adore Baseball Tonight.

But I'm not limited to discussion with other baseball fans. I can argue for hours with E2 about why baseball is better than football, and if you knew how rarely E2 even uses compound sentences in conversation, you'd see what a valuable tool this is. I can have nerdy English major discussions about how baseball is a metaphor for life or how Major League Baseball is a representation of the decline of American morals. I can even argue about fashion: baseball uniforms were way better in the era of pulled-up socks and rainbow jerseys. Baseball is like the Swiss Army knife of communication tools.

I realize that my little spiel probably isn't going to convince anybody who doesn't like sports to actually like one, but I wanted to at least point out that there's more to sports than male bonding and obscure statistics. It's a way to connect with a huge number of people (particularly male people, if you want to get predatory about it, girls). If G.W. and Saddam could discuss the relative merits of the dh vs. pitchers not being big babies, do you think we'd be in this mess right now?

I doubt it.

Tuesday, March 18, 2003

I'm not so sure about this one, Charlie

New color scheme. Modeled on the tasty and hard-to-find creamsicle. Don't get too attached.
Mine! Rrowr.

Okay, people, I realize that the economy isn't dizzyingly healthy, but really—STOP asking me for my job. I'm still working there; my job is still mine, and will be for the forseeable future.

In the past couple of days I've had three or four people ask me how I got my job and if I can give them my boss's contact info. Um, hello? Still here! That's like me asking, "Hey, can I sleep with your boyfriend?" And, also, ew. And to take the metaphor further, even if you said, "Hey, all right," it's not like your boyfriend would necessarily agree, anyway. So calm down and go back to taking "blood donor" off your résumé.

Monday, March 17, 2003

Kiss off, I'm Irish

I received my rejection letter from Fulbright today. I will not be studying post-secondary foreign language pedagogy in Austria next year.

Look for a new color scheme shortly. Perhaps black. Anything but red and white.

Sunday, March 16, 2003

Yeah, I have a 50-page paper to write. What of it?

Here's what I know about procrastination: the older I get, the worse I am about it. There are five basic levels of procrastination, and I'm a master of all of them. Here they are, in order of increasing severity.

  1. Denial Procrastination. Procrastinator ignores task entirely to do whatever she wants. May include napping, shopping, or other unrelated but enjoyable activity.

  2. Assisted Procrastination. Procrastinator would work if others would stop interrupting. Any form of distraction from friends, family, or wandering salesmen qualifies; distractions usually enticing.

  3. Proximal Procrastination. Procrastinator is in general vicinity of work but not actually working. For example, paper-writer may be sitting at computer typing, but exchanging instant messages or composing blog does not count as progress on paper.

  4. Other Task Procrastination. Procrastinator does other unpleasant but unrelated tasks, i.e. cleaning kitchen to put off calling dentist to schedule appointment. Used to assuage guilt of procrastination and provide temporary feeling of accomplishment.

  5. Same Task Procrastination. Procrastinator uses closely related task to procrastinate. For example, doing recommended reading to put off required reading, doing easy homework to put off hard homework, vacuuming to avoid dusting. Sick, sick, sick.

This PSA brought to you by Level 3 procrastination.

Saturday, March 15, 2003

Multiple colors of ink: on a level with sliced bread

This thesis is taking over my life, which you know if you've talked to me in the last week. Fine, whatever, I did this to myself. It's not all bad, though. Mainly because I get to take notes.

I like taking notes, like filling my spiral-bound with page after page of my wildly varying handwriting. Of course I'm a nerd about it, and I try to vary the color of ink that I use so the notebook is as dynamic as possible. I also try to use indents and arrows and stars and boxes so it's not just block after block of loopy half-sentences. Sometimes I highlight, and as I've said before, I include sarcastic commentary if possible. In class with a professor going ninety miles a minute, I will take notes that are interesting to look at. Even when I'm never going to look at them again.

One prof saw the variety of pens in my messenger bag once and said, "Oh, E., with that many pens you're just destined to be an academic." Or a dork, but thanks, professor.
I want snapping fingers at the end of my posts, maybe some light applause

Here is the annoying thing about blogs: nobody likes them if they're not funny or controversial. I don't always feel funny or controversial (some might argue that I never actually *am* funny, and so not feeling that way? No problem.). This needs to be less of a performance all the time. Sometimes I just wanna write "I had a sandwich."


Today I did five loads of laundry, did research, ate dinner with a friend, had an argument about noodles, and now I'm going to bed. Thank you.

Wednesday, March 12, 2003

Even Captain Picard reads books, man

I promised my M4 awhile back that I would weigh in on the whole "e-books vs. real books" debate that's been raging between her and my dad for a good...eight months now.
You see, Sr. Birdman has a PDA. He uses it to take notes, do work, and read books, so it's in his hand all the time. He wrote a column for his newspaper extolling the virtues of reading e-books, saying that reading from a PDA is a better sensory experience than reading a book. He says the light coming off the PDA is a nice glow, and tapping a stylus is as satisfying as turning a page. And that he's saving paper and his eyes.

So my dad's a cyborg, more or less—his PDA seems to be permanently attached to his hand. I'm sort of nervous that one day I'm going to pick up the phone and hear his voice monotoning, "You will be assimilated," because that seems to be his attitude. He thinks that the whole world will eventually be converted to the joys of the PDA, which he regards as an invention on the level of Gutenberg's moveable type printing press. I think he called my mother a troglodyte at one point, saying she was just resisting change out of stubbornness.

Dad? I love you, but no. No, no, no. Your arguments don't hold any weight. Except maybe the one about M4 being stubborn, but that's another story (all I have to say is, microwave much?).

First, the paper argument. Leaving aside the irony of hearing this from somebody who's worked his entire life for one of the largest paper-consuming industries in the world, the paper "savings" of a PDA is only nominal. It's not like paper books are disposable. I don't read them and throw them away, and I don't think very many people do. Librarians around the world cringe at the idea of books being a waste of paper. And any paper "waste" is far out-weighed by longevity; I suspect that my paper books will outlast your fragile electronic device by several lifetimes.

[One argument I will buy (that Sr. Birdman actually didn't make) is that e-books save space. Great, if that's your goal—I personally like to have books around to take up space and clutter things up. It makes me happy and the dust less noticeable.]

Second, the sensory experience. To me, there's nothing colder than reading things off a screen—and I probably spend about 50 hours a week doing it, so the differences are crystal clear. The feel of plastic can't compare to that faint roughness of ink on paper or the flop of a book falling open to its best part, and the tapping of a stylus doesn't equate to the rustle of pages. And a PDA doesn't provide that satisfying smell of paper and glue and ink that ages as the book does—crisp, fresh, almost sharp when the book is new, gentler and mustier when the book is older—more reflective of its owner and travels. E-books don't take that sort of impression. There's no sense of history; just a soulless collections of ones and zeros that resolve themselves into flat words on an even flatter screen.

The eyesight-saving argument? Last time I asked my optometrist, she said reading with proper light doesn't hurt your eyes at all, regardless of what you're reading. Unless it's like, radioactive letters or something, I suppose. Turn on a lamp and don't use plutonium for ink. Problem solved.

So I'm not seeing much advantage to the PDA, here, and I never will. Yes, the PDA is more portable than an armload of books, but the selection is vastly more limited. I'm not going to get my thesis books in e-book format, and even if I could, I couldn't take notes in them like I can with paper books (don't worry, librarians, only in my own books). Even if you want to get right down to the sheer physicality of it, books are more useful—doorstops, paperweights, bludgeons, and interior decoration.

So settle down, Three of Five; I'll stick with my old-fashioned paper books. You should go talk to M4 about a bread machine, though.

Tuesday, March 11, 2003

Is that like ego, or just idiocy?

So a couple of posts ago I wrote about academic reading being reading with "a higher seriousness of intent." I knew at the time I wrote the phrase that I was plagiarising it from somewhere, but I couldn't remember where and figured nobody would notice.

Well, I finally figured it out, and I was right; nobody would ever have noticed. The phrase is from the title of a paper I wrote sophomore year. I plagiarised myself. I don't know if that means my writing ego is huge (because I quite like the phrase, even now that I know I was the original writer) or that I'm just not overly creative. I think it's funny, though.
Spring break: neither spring nor break—discuss; or: we'd like to interrupt your regularly scheduled mood for this hissyfit

I love my jobs, both student and layout editor; I've said it before and I'll say it again. That does not mean I want to be doing either of those jobs over what is supposed to be my only real break in a stressful semester. But I can't afford to go anywhere—in fact, I need the money that 30 hours of work will bring in—and I have to catch up on my thesis, so I'm doing both. I'm not overly happy about it, but I created this situation a long time ago and now I have to deal with it. And I am.

[Warning: flight off handle begins in five...four...three...two...] But.

I'm getting damn tired of having to defend my spring break "plans" to other people. Yes, I know that I'm pretty lame, staying home and working when I "should" be on the beach or in Paris or something, thanks. Hey, I'm a senior and this may be my last spring break ever? You don't say. Fascinating. Run away, now, before I give you a big ol' kick in that well-meaning-but-really-irritatingly-patronizing attitude of yours. So you think I should try to take advantage of fun things to do around here? Good idea, I'll pencil that in right between "finish ten-page paper" and "bite me."

I don't want your pity, I don't want your advice, I don't want your guff. Let me suffer through my spring break in peace; make fun of my evil co-worker with me (thanks Mananda), support my studying with snacks (cheers, M3), or leave me alone.

I'm telling you this for your own good. Now, ah say, go away, boy, ya bother me.

Sunday, March 09, 2003

If midnight is the witching hour, 5 a.m. is the musing hour

I've spent the past two or so hours reading. Not the hurried gulping of leisure reading, but the careful consumption of academic reading that is like wine-tasting. It's reading with a pencil and a highlighter and sticky flags to mark important passages, active instead of passive. Reading with a higher seriousness of intent.

I'm reading Fierce Attachments by Vivian Gornick, or, I should say, rereading it, in preparation for writing the first part of my thesis, on Gornick's ultimate goal in writing her memoir: to separate herself from her mother, to define herself as her mother's opposite. It seems simplistic, until you read her memoir and see that Gornick does not fully perceive her goal and instead sees herself in some ways as her mother's echo. It's a complicated relationship that can't be fully sussed out by my pencil and half-coherent marginalia. I could go on, but this is not my point. My point is that there's a deep satisfaction in this sort of reading, even down to the physicality of it—arranging myself so my right hand is free for note-taking, holding the thin paperback so that I can both read and write. It's precise yet automatic, facilitating thought and reflection.

I wonder sometimes if I will be able to go back to mindless pleasure reading, simply ripping through a novel or memoir without considering deeper themes or subtle motifs. I wonder if I want to.

Saturday, March 08, 2003

It's Spring Break:

To celebrate, I had a nap. Live it up, you crazy girl!

Thursday, March 06, 2003

Plus, it's been cloudy and overcast for a week!

Despite the fact that it's midterms and I'm exhausted, it's been a good couple of days. Yesterday I found out that I was selected to interview for Teach for America (bonus ego points because of an exceptionally large field this year), and today I found out that I am going to be inducted into Phi Beta Kappa. The latter doesn't really help with the whole what-am-I-going-to-do-next-year dilemma, but hey, I need to put something in the "Activities and Honors" section of my résumé. Besides "blogger extraordinaire," I mean.

Wednesday, March 05, 2003

I'm giving up patience for Lent

Do you ever have that thing where somebody does something really small that just annoys you out of all proportion? How do you get rid of that? Help me, people.

Tuesday, March 04, 2003

Okay, make those goggles with your fingers now

Congratulations to Sr. Birdman for his recent promotion to General Manager of the Norfolk Daily News.

Frankly, I think this job title makes it sound like his office should be three feet below the level of the newsroom floor, with him leaning against the corner of his door making elaborate hand gestures and spitting. But that's just me.

Monday, March 03, 2003

Raisin bran, asparagus, cat litter, Valium, milk...

I have a ton of homework tonight, but instead of doing it, I decided to go grocery shopping.

What? I needed groceries.

Oh, all right, I just like grocery shopping. And besides, I was out of milk. Milk is kind of the limiting agent of my grocery reaction. Milk is to groceries as underwear is to laundry: once you're out, you *must* get more.

Now, we all know that I don't have much money, but this is actually what makes grocery shopping fun. It's a win-win situation. When you don't buy something that you want, it's an admirable act of self-control and willpower. When you do buy something that you don't really need, it's delicious self-indulgence that you deserve for being so thrifty all the time. Of course, sometimes this works out oddly: tonight I denied myself coffee and therefore justified the purchase of a new coffee grinder. (I shop at SuperTarget, if you're wondering why both those items were available at one grocery store.)

I'm pretty good at keeping the grocery bill down; I don't go shopping when I'm hungry and I don't buy a whole lot of useless crap that I don't need. I eat Ramen on occasion. I only commit one cardinal sin of budget shopping: I don't make lists. I only end up leaving them places, and I'm basically afraid that they'll end up here, just asking people to make fun of me and my grocery shopping. Not that I don't deserve it.
Most exciting thing in my life right now:

Spring break starts in five days. I don't have any big plans for it—working and writing my thesis, maybe going to the beach one day—but it's the principle of the thing. Nine days of freedom from class is really as close as an undergraduate can get to heaven without mind-altering substances being involved.

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